We’ve been raising Cornish Cross chickens for many years now.
It has become a ritual in Spring, with the preparation of our brooder room, and ordering the chicks. We always order them from a hatchery several 100km away from us.
Our local Farm Store gets the delivery, then we pick them up from there.
Raising Cornish Cross Chickens for meat is a lot different than raising layers, or other birds.
Because they have been bred for meat, their disposition and eating habits are very different from other birds. The fast growth of Cornish Cross birds can also lead to health problems.
They are not the most fun bird to raise. They eat like crazy, and if you don’t take some extra care, they can end up dying of heart attacks before they reach butchering maturity.
They are also prone to leg injuries, so feeding them the proper way is essential.
What Are Cornish X?
Cornish Cross meat chickens are a hybrid breed that resulted from crossing a Cornish with a Plymouth Rock.
They are a fast-growing, large breed chicken that is a cost-effective investment with good feed conversion.
They are not genetically modified as some suggest, but they are hybrid, meaning they would not produce true offspring. If they would be able to produce offspring at all.
Cornish Cross chicks are only raised for meat. They could potentially lay eggs, but because of their heavyweight, they struggle to walk after a certain weight.
Some have had success with slowing their growth by feeding them less protein and letting them forage for their food. Even then, they do not have a long lifespan.
If you want homegrown meat, raising these birds is great for homesteaders, big and small.
Even though they have a bad reputation with some, we have found them to be the most cost-efficient way of meat production.
Benefits of Raising Cornish Cross Chicken
They grow fast
Do you dislike the thought of being tied up to animals all year round? Then raising your own meat birds is a great way to test the waters of homesteading!
They only take 2 months to raise, so that gives plenty of time to go on vacation the rest of the time.
The meat tastes great
It’s hard to beat the taste of Cornish Cross Broilers. When raised right, they are delicious.
The meat is not tough at all and makes great soups and suppers. We once butchered a young leghorn rooster and cooked it. It was so tough and stringy.
Now granted, leghorns are layers and not meant for the dinner table, but it was almost inedible. The dog got a treat that day!
How To Raise Cornish Cross Chickens
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Order Your Birds
Depending on the hatchery where you order your chicks, you might have to order a month ahead of time.
Early spring is our favorite time to buy chicks. We like to get our chicks at the end of March, the beginning of April. This means we can process them before the worst heat of the summer.
I like to order in February already, taking into considerations shortages, etc. It’s better to be prepared, than not.
One year we got our chicks on March 30. That night the temperature outside fell to -40C (-40F). It was crazy cold, and very hard to keep our brooder warm that first week.
We heat the brooder with heat bulbs, but that week we had to add a propane heater as well. They survived, thankfully.
Constant moderating is key.
Set up a Brooder Space.
The quality of your brooder room and the consistent temperature that you are able to achieve will help your success rate.
You will need a heat lamp, bedding, and the right feeders. Setting the correct temperature in your brooder changes over the weeks, so make sure you know what you are doing.
Once you get your baby chicks, they will live in the brooder for several weeks. We usually move them out once it’s warm enough outside.
To learn more, read this article about raising baby chicks.
A good rule of thumb is once they are completely covered with white feathers, to move them out of the brooder, and into the coop.
Prepare Your Chicken Coop
Your chicken coop is separate from the brooder room, as there is usually more airflow.
Also, chickens need a place where they can go outside. Fresh air will help them greatly.
Your chicken coop needs a feed trough for your cornish giants (because they eat a lot!), and a large waterer.
You want the correct feed for cornish cross hens. In the beginning, when the chicks are small, you need Chick Starter. This feed has a protein ratio of 19-24%, and it is also more nutritious.
We feed them this for 3-4weeks, after which they need Grower Feed Ration. Grower feed contains slightly less protein (16-18%), and less calcium.
Our preferred method of feeding Cornish Crosses is to make our own chicken feed.
We usually start them on Chick Starter and then switch to homemade chop. However, this is not always an option and we have fed them grain from the store for many years.
You can also feed them your table scraps (produce), although they are slightly pickier than other chickens.
2 weeks before you plan to butcher them, start feeding them Finisher. This chicken feed contains 21% protein and provides basic nutrients.
Water and Feed Them Consistently.
Cornish Cross chickens will eat themselves to death. Literally.
Overfeeding them causes them to gorge themselves until they fall over from heart failure.
What we usually do is fill their feeders in the morning, and take away any food that is left in the evening. Overnight they get no food, only access to water.
In the morning, we refill their feeders and give them to them.
They usually come flying towards the food like they are starved. But this prevents them from overeating.
Overeating and a lack of exercise also cause leg issues.
One tip for raising Cornish Cross Chickens is to separate the feeders and waterers by at least 6 feet. This means they have to get up and walk to get either one. This helps to strengthen their legs.
Knowing how to feed cornish cross chickens is important to prevent overgrowth and fatality.
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How Much Feed to Raise Cornish Cross Chickens
Because Cornish Cross is a fast-growing bird, they use slightly less feed than slow-growing birds. On average, a Cornish Cross will eat about 15lbs of feed per bird.
This means for our 30 meat birds, we will need about 450 pounds of feed.
It also depends on how big you want the birds. If you intend to butcher them at 8 weeks old, they might use only 10-12 pounds of feed.
We prefer our meat birds bigger, and like to raise them slower and for longer. Usually, we butcher them at 9-10 weeks of age, which means we use a bit more feed.
If we mix our own feed, the protein amount is slightly less, meaning it takes longer for them to grow.
They need fresh, clean water daily.
Meat Chicken Feed Schedule
Week 1: Chick Starter, as much as they like.
Week 2: Chick Starter, unlimited.
Week 3: Chick Starter. Feed 12 hours on, 12 hours off.
Week 5-7:Chick Grower. Feed 12 hours on, 12 hours off.
Week 8-9:Chick Finisher. Feed 12 hours on, 12 hours off.
When to Butcher Cornish Cross Chickens
Deciding when to butcher your chickens depends on your personal preference. What size bird do you prefer?
We prefer a bigger bird, so we wait until the live weight of the bird is 8-9lbs. However, if you prefer chickens that are 4-5 lbs, butcher them when they have a live weight of 5-6lbs.
Meat birds will never be consistent all the same size. Weigh your biggest bird and your smallest. If the average is in the range that you like, go ahead and process the birds.
I would not recommend waiting longer than 12 weeks of age though, because they can start having heart issues left and right.
You don’t want to lose your birds after feeding them for that long.
Butchering at 8 weeks is very common. They are usually average weight by then.
How Big do Cornish Cross Chickens Get?
Cornish Cross Chickens are huge meat birds. They can easily grow to 9lbs live weight.
They can grow to 9lbs in as little as 9 weeks, making them one of the fastest-growing meat birds. They are big enough to feed our whole family,
We use about 30 Cornish Cross Chicken per year, as a family of 7. These meat birds provide us with Homemade Chicken Fingers, Honey Garlic Chicken, and everything else!
We are blessed in being able to grow most of our meat ourselves and like having a freezer full of sausage, chicken, and beef.
Can you Breed Cornish Cross Chickens?
Can you breed cornish cross chickens? The answer is Maybe.
If your hens grow to a maturity where this is a possibility, they would need to have been put on a strict diet. And even then it’s not to say that the rooster would know how to get the job done.
I would love to be able to be self-sufficient with chickens and be able to raise them ourselves year after year. However, breeding Cornish Cross chickens is a whole other ball game.
Have you tried it? Let me know in the comments below.
We have been raising cornish cross chickens for many years. We’ve had our share of mishaps and accidents along the way.
One year, we lost many chicks due to overheating. It’s devastating when you lose half your flock. In other years we have had much success.
Giving them access to fresh air, clean water, and good feed will help reduce a healthier birds.
Every year is an adventure.
A mans’ heart deviseth his way, But the Lord directs his steps. -Proverbs 16:9
Learning how to raise your own broiler chickens will help you become more self-sufficient. It’s a skill that anyone can learn if there is a willing heart behind it.