The Cornish functions as a single-purpose fowl bred specifically for meat production. It
produces meat more efficiently than any other chicken and lays at the foundation of the
commercial chicken industry worldwide. They reach a dressing weight of five pounds at five
weeks. The Cornish lacks the typical hairy feathers left over after plucking other breeds—a
fact which saves processors the energy and time of singeing the carcass prior to butchering.
The breed shows little desire to forage and generally handles confinement well. A sad sight,
most Cornish crosses used in commercial production cannot support their own weight and will
either have broken legs or lameness.
|Cornish farmers describe the breed as loud and intractable. The roosters readily show
aggression. The Cornish chicks at times manifest cannibalism. Health problems associated with
their rapid growth prevent the kind of activity common to most chickens. The high feed
conversion ratios give farmers a narrow margin of error in feeding. Underfeeding yields fowl
prone to predation. Cornish farming works well in a commercial production under highly
monitored conditions but will most likely fail in a backyard coop.
|The Cornish chicken presents as a broad, muscular fowl on widely spaced yellow legs.
They manifest in three basic colors; Dark, White, and White Laced Red. The Cornish breed
has short feathers that leave parts of the body bare. They sport a pea comb, no crest, and
small wattles. Their protruding brow, piercing eyes, and curved beak support their
reputation as a predatory bird. Most of the commercial growers breed Cornish with white
feathers and yellow skin.
|Feed carefully. Many Cornish cross breeds break their legs or grow lame as a result
of their rapid weight gain. Ulcers develop in lame birds forced to sit in their own
feces. Consequently, they require wire pens to keep their bodies away from ammonia rich
feces. Cornish fowl fed too much can die of heart attacks. Those fed too little display
predation. The backyard breeder would do well to stick to the hardier Cornish chickens
or the new hybrid called the Colored Ranger rather than the commercial Cornish cross.
Pasture the chickens as much as possible. Pen any who go lame. Move their run often to
encourage exercise and discourage parasites. Provide a warm, draft free coop for these
short feathered fowl.
|One must distinguish between the Cornish chicken and the Cornish/Rock cross.
Cornish chickens derives its name from Cornwall, England. The American Poultry
Association recognized the Cornish chicken as a breed in 1893. They existed in
England long before 1893. The Cornish/Rock, a genetic hybrid, comes from secret and
scientific double-cross breeding techniques developed in the 1930's. The backyard
farmer cannot produce a Cornish cross by breeding a White Cornish with a White
Plymouth Rock nor can he reproduce the breed by breeding the offspring from the
commercial line. In essence the Cornish/Rock represent a hybrid chicken not a
chicken breed. Cornish game hens sold in the supermarket are the commercial
Cornish/Rock crosses butchered at two pounds.