Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cornish cross vs Buff orpington at 5 weeks

At 5 weeks of age:
This is a cornish cross chick on the right, and a buff orpington chick on the left. They're exactly the same age. At this point the cornish cross weighs about 3x what the buff orpington does.

at 2 weeks of age:
My guess is that the cornish cross eats about the same amount of feed per pound of chicken produced as the heritage breed does, but that it does it in a shorter amount of time. At this point we're on feed restriction for the cornish cross.

Feed restriction prevents the cornish from eating themselves to death. If given all of the food that they want they'll completely stuff themselves and die, probably of flip.

Flip isn't a problem with heritage breeds who grow much more slowly and seem to regulate their feed intake better than the cornish cross. For me this is one big advantage with the heritage breeds. You put them out on pasture, make sure they have food and water, and walk away. They'll happily grow and forage without any work on your part for the next 6 months.

The cornish aren't nearly that self-sufficient. Part of the reason that people raise them in pens that you move is that it's easier than cleaning a coop of manure, and it encourages the cornish cross to forage. Otherwise they'd pretty much stay glued to their feeders.

"free range"
There are various huge chicken producers that produce "free range" chickens. It would be more accurate to say they're "barn raised". One producer simply cut doors into the side of their broiler barns and during the last 2 weeks of the chickens life opened the door. Of course, since chickens are territorial, and broilers in particular want to stay close to the food and water, it's not unusual to find that not one chicken ever goes outside. In a rather cynical move, some of the producers have little lawns they maintain between the barns so that they can claim to be "pasturing" the chickens. None of the chickens actually get on the grass, but theoretically they could.

For my chickens they're out there on the ground, pecking and scratching and doing what chickens are meant to do.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what an eye opener. I've never raised the CC but have ordered some this year for the first time. Good tip on the feed rationing! I am considering trying to keep some to maturity and breeding them with some of my heritage breeds. Have you ever tried that?


Bruce King said...

They really don't do very well once they're older; they have weight problems, and problems with their feet, and they suck as laying chickens.

My biggest issue with the cornish cross is that they grow so fast they end up being pretty darned bald. So I'm always reluctant to put them out early in the year for fear they'll be too cold.

They're a hybrid betweeen a white rock and a white cornish, and as a hybrid won't breed true; to make more broilers that are about the same you'd need a flock of those two birds. The genetics of the parent flock is pretty closely guarded; you can buy the hybrid chicks all over the place, but you can't find the parent flocks. The hybrid chicks are the result of thousands of generations of careful breeding and study.

Undergroundfarmer said...

So how much feed do you give per bird at about 4 weeks old? We have our Cxr's in a pastured poultry pen out in the field, should that affect how much feed they get if they have access to forage?

Undergroundfarmer said...

How much feed to you give per bird at about 4 weeks old? We have our cxr's in pastured poultry pens, should that affect how much feed they get?

Bruce King said...

Some pastures the birds find tastier than others. Putting them on pasture will reduce your feed consumption a bit, but you won't notice it unless you pen some of the same flock and compare. The difference is around 10% for me. I notice a flavor difference when the birds are on pasture, and I much prefer moving the pen to shoveling manure, and the grass seems to like it, too.

As I've mentioned, you have to do feed restriction on cornish cross towards the end of their span or they have a chance of developing flip. So what I do is feed them twice a day, but only enough food that they can clean it all up in about 10 minutes. That gives them a full stomach and craw, and reduces the mortality. They really will die if you put them on full feed.

Anonymous said...

i am going to cross them cornish over white orphington

Anonymous said...

Very neat photo! I love the visual proof of the info I've been reading over the last few months. I was wondering, do you have any past experience or current proof to prove your statement "the cornish cross eats about the same amount of feed per pound of chicken produced as the heritage breed does" I hope that is true because I am raising 50 buff roosters for meat this year and all the feed mill folk tell me I am wasting my money on feed and should go with the Cornish Cross, but I am skeptical of any hybrid that will eat itself to death, sounds like a malady that should stay within the human species.

Anonymous said...

We have a Cornish Cross that we decided to keep. He's a year old now and is a Godzilla of a bird. He was the only one that survived to a normal life span. He was lonely and was following the goats around so we bought him a couple of leghorn hens. Much happier now. The notable difference about him from the other CXers was that although he has full access to as much food as he wants, he eats from the feeder only occasionally, and prefers roam. Their feed is a crumble not the pellets. The hens eggs are fertilized despite the assumed physical disparities. Pete

Windygirl said...

Theoretically you don't need to know the magic cross that makes these birds. You take the hybrids...IF you can get them to make it to maturity and breed, even on a limited could hatch those eggs and you'll get a variety of offspring...some more like one breed, some more like the other...some more middle range with different strengths and drawbacks. You'd then have a good idea of the parent breeds and you'd also be able to select for the traits you'd like...perhaps good size rapidly without them killing themselves, perhaps better egg laying so you could more easily reproduce them. Then you'd breed these birds together and continue to select in the offspring for the traits you are looking for. You could have a perfectly serviceable bird in a handful of years. Genetics 101. In fact at some point i may try it myself.

Unknown said...

What did you eventually produce my friend I am interested.