The Cornish Cross
The Cornish Cross is the best meat chicken to raise for the homesteader. They take up very little space, grow super fast, and ready to harvest in only 8 weeks. And…they are simply delicious!
Cornish Cross on the Homestead
As a homesteader on a 1 acre farm, the Cornish Cross chicken was an excellent meat source on a small piece of land. Sure, we had egg layers that we could use for meat, too many of them to be sure, but they take much longer to mature and are nowhere near the size of the plump and juicy Cornish Cross chicken.
How to Free Range the Cornish Cross
Since the Cornish Cross is meant solely for the freezer, we wanted to raise them naturally for a much healthier choice to feed ourselves and our family. And what better way than with what nature provides, grass and all of those delicious bugs. Of course, the grass and bugs alone isn’t enough to sustain them, so two feeders were filled twice daily, yes, twice daily, along with fresh water at all times. With that in mind, we needed something light and portable that would give the Cornish Cross protection from the elements along with fresh grass and bugs on a daily basis. The hoop house was our answer.
Raising Cornish Cross in a Hoop House
Look closely. Behind the Hoop House is a trail of brown grass revealing the trip the Cornish Cross had been taking. Every morning the Hoop House was moved onto fresh grass, the waterer cleaned and filled and feed buckets replenished. These little buggers (the Cornish Cross chickens) have been bred to eat, grow fast and they do their job well. So well that the roost was eventually removed in order to give them more head space. Which they didn’t care because they got so heavy they are unable to fly up on them anyway.
In the Hoop House above, 24 Cornish Cross lived comfortably but things do begin to get crowded toward the end because they are just big birds. Fortunately, they really don’t care as long as there is ample food. At butcher (8 weeks), you can expect to have a dressed 5 lb. bird. I do highly recommend weighing one of the heavier birds at 6 and/or 7 weeks of age to see how their growth is going to schedule the butcher date correctly. They lose about 1-1/2 lbs. at butcher.
Butchering at the right time is extremely important. If you let them go too long their little legs can break from underneath them because their bodies outgrow their legs become unable to hold the massive weight of the bird. They have also been known to fall over dead from heart failure if left too long and allowed to get too big.
Can the Cornish Cross Chicken Reproduce?
No! The Cornish Cross is a meat chicken only and bred for that purpose alone. Because they grow so fast and get so large, they are physically unable to reproduce. This is the only downside that I have found in raising them as a homesteader.
When It’s Time to Butcher the Cornish Cross Chicken
A clean crop makes for a much easier day of butchering. So the night before your scheduled butcher day, hold back the feed. They’ll be even more excited than ever the next morning to see you but don’t feed them. The morning before your butcher day will be their last meal. This is important! And the reason being is because if their crop is full, you’re going to have a much more difficult time pulling it through the bird when cleaning.
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How Many Cornish Cross Chickens Do I Need?
These are the questions you need to ask yourself:
- How much do we like chicken?
- How often do we eat chicken?
- How much freezer space do we have to store chicken?
I highly recommend purchasing a new freezer if it’s at all possible. We found a small chest freezer at Lowe’s Home Improvement for $200 and it almost held the 48 Cornish Cross chickens that we raised. The few extra had to go in our stand up freezer but it worked out great. So begin looking for sales, in the stores, FB Marketplace, secondhand store, etc. You may just find one where someone is moving and it down’t mean that much to them. Who doesn’t love a bargain!?!
Secondly, with the way many things are backordered, it’s a really good idea to get your order for Cornish Cross chickens in sooner than later. But don’t get ahead of yourself. Make sure you have enough time to get everything ready before the birds arrive.
We ordered all males so they will naturally be larger and grow at a more consistent rate. Therefore, when dressed, the weight of the birds will be much closer in size than if there were females (smaller birds) in the mix.
Find More Tips & Tricks in the Garden and Around the Homestead
- How to Homestead with Only an Acre of Land
- How to Create a Garden and Happy Chickens
- Rich, Delicious, & Easy Chicken Stock
- About Us
- How to Make a Sourdough Starter
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Until next time…Happy Homesteading and God Bless!
If you ever have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask. I love to hear from you!!