So 7 weeks or so ago I received my shipment of 30 Cornish X chickens. As with layer chicks, they arrived in the usual cardboard box, not much bigger than a shoebox.
Like layer chicks, they were something like a living marshmallow peep. And when I got them home I dipped each little beak in the waterer and then placed them gently in the wood shavings.
There the similarity pretty much ends.
Oh, they have two legs, two eys, and a beak all right. But they are chickens in the same way that a Hummer is a family sedan.
When I bought the chickens, I had two choices for a straight meat bird (ignoring dual-purpose options): something called a hybrid broiler, or Cornish Rock X. I read all kinds of warnings about the Cornish X - they are subject to "flip over" (sudden heart failure), they develop leg problems from growing too fast, they are boring... But Frey's hatchery, the one my local feed store orders from, has only Cornish X and a hybrid meat bird, in terms of pure meat birds. And a friend raised 25 of the hybrid birds last year and wasn't impressed.
After much deliberation I ordered the Cornish X, 30 of them, and hoped for the best.
After 7 weeks, and 10 bags of feed, they were starting to look like small turkeys. And I understand what some people mean about them being boring. They are not fulfilling like a nice layer hen. I have had a handful of layer breeds, and they all scratch around in the yard and cluck contentedly, streak after flying bugs... but the meaties were more like big white pillows with thick legs.
To be sure, the first day I let them out into their new run, they sat and stared at the door. After an hour, three or four stuck their heads out and nibbled at a blade of grass. But after a few days, I had a dozen or so that reliably went straight out and did their best to forage.
They don't scratch up the ground like other chickens, they waddle from spot to spot, plopping down after a minute or two. They eat the grass around them, stand up, and then waddle, waddle plop! in other spot. They are at least getting some forage, the odd insect, and some exercise. They also keep the pen cleaner by leaving some of the manure outside, and fertilize the ground.
In the late evening I sometimes go out and sit beside the run, and they come over to me out of curiosity. And then, they start to act like real chickens, foraging in the grass, and making contented chicken sounds. And I enjoy them, I really do. I think if I had had the run ready when they were younger, they would be more active. And I can test that theory next year, now that I have everything built.
Tonight while I sat watching them, a hen and a cockerel walked down to the far end of the run and discovered a small blackberry bush. They ate the budding berries and then tucked into the foliage, gobbling it down with obvious delight. The hen also snapped at some small moths that flew by, and the cockerel muscled up to the chicken wire when my dog got close to the hen.
They ARE chickens after all.
Tomorrow: the first taste of my Cornish X meaties!