Pastured Poultry

We’ve been very happy with our Cornish Cross broilers.  If you would have asked me last year if we would ever raise Cornish Crosses for meat, I would have said “NEVER!”. However, after talking to several people I know who have raised them with positive results and visited a farm that pasture raised them, I found that chances are if we changed up their ration some and did not allow them access to fee choice high protein food, they may do very well. And very well they have!

I’ve read who’ve called them “frankenbirds”. I don’t agree with this, they are nothing more than a cross. I happen to like my white chicken and turkey meat, anything that gets me more of that by crossing 2 breeds is fine by me! It would be no different than taking a horse and a donkey and creating a mule. Mules are sure footed and while some may say they are stubborn, they just know how not to get themselves in to trouble. Cornish Crosses were selectively bred for quick gains and good food conversion. While ours are not/will not be ready in the 5-7 weeks they claim before they are butcher weight, we certainly aren’t starving to get them to get them to a good butcher weight by 9 weeks.

They have not been the “Jurassic Park” birds some people claim them to be with the desire to eat (and eat each other) and nothing more. At least not ours! Their breasts are not so big they drag on the ground and the birds definitely have no  issues walking. It’s not uncommon for them to try to fly out of the door on the top! We also let them out of the roving coup to forage. It’s pretty comical to see that they all like to try to fly, which amounts to the same as a regular chicken trying to fly!  I’m sure it feels good for them to get out of the “confines” of the roving coup.  How are they doing in the heat and humidity you ask? Haven’t lost one yet! They seem to be taking the near 100 days well and the humidity has been nothing short of awful for several days and still yet, they are healthy and growing.

Between 0 and 3 weeks of age they did receive an 18% protein mix free choice and they always had access to clean fresh water. In another post I referenced several links for custom mixes and nutritional info. If you want to make your own custom mix, what’s available to you may dictate what you put in your own. We can get wheat, alfalfa meal, barley, oats, soy meal, bone meal, corn…pretty much most of what goes in to a standard mix for broilers and then some so it’s fairly easy to make a custom mix and stay away from certain grains like corn and soy due to GMO’s if you so wish.  Tweaking your ration will depend on what kind of protein, fat, vitamins, etc. you’re wanting in your ration to total.

By 3.5 weeks they were ready to go out on pasture in the roving coup where they are moved 2-3 times a day depending on what the ground beneath them looks like. They DO forage, and they DO like greens and so if the ground looked well eaten over, they were moved to completely new ground. (This ground will sit a year before other chickens are put on it). We have a variety of plants in our pasture to include, but not limited to: Brome, prairie grass, orchard grass, cheat, yarrow, dandelion, chickweed, and many other pasture plants. They eat the good majority of it. They LOVE the tops off of grass blades and ants so while they may not have a feeder full of regular ration at their beckon call, they do have access to all the pasture vittles they want!

They are fed the broiler ration morning and night. How much per bird varies with their age, I up their total ration a little more each day. They have access to free choice water which I fill several times a day with water from the well . We’ve installed a nipple system for them which seems to be working really well, before they were on a 3 gallon tote. They go through about 10 gallons of water a day.

They are let out of the roving coup daily, I like to sit out there with them especially in the evening. They are actually quite docile and while they will peck at shiny things (think rings, OUCH!) they seem to like to be pet and like to hang around. My layers don’t even do that! Being hand-fed, they follow like gaggle of geese when we walk away. It’s quite comical really.

They DO NOT get antibiotics in their water, they do not receive any growth hormones, just good clean water, a good brioler ration, fresh air, bugs and pasture!

roving coup

cornish rocks

In just about a week they’ll be off to freezer camp. What are they weighing in at? The roosters are obviously larger than the hens. This photo is not accurate of their size, I don’t think, or at least what people have said after seeing these photos and then seeing them in real life only a couple of days later. I weighed a rooster who came in 6.6 lbs. at 7 weeks old, I’m happy with that!

If you were to ask me now if we’d ever raise them again, my answer would be yes! So far, I’ve been happy and impressed with them! We’ll see what they taste like here pretty soon!

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