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Butt ugly

June 1, 2009

But very tasty.  I have no expectations that these chickens will cavort like the hens in Chicken Run.  I do not expect them to free range and fend for themselves.  I will do my best to make sure their short life is as comfortable as possible.  Ample food, clean water, and  once they get out to their field pen, fresh grass.  The Cornish will not go wanting…


We raise Cornish Cross meat chickens for our own use.  And I am very used to defending that choice.  Many people feel this hybrid breed grows too fast, and are too ugly.  I can’t argue with the ugly part, but as for growing fast, and being efficient converters of grain to meat, and supplying a goodly amount of nitrogen rich manure for our pasture or garden are enough reasons to continue to grow them.  They are frugal in their own way.  Does it make sense to raise a slower growing bird that eats more feed, and drinks more water during its short life and therefore uses more resources?

If I pasture them carefully, I end up with tender, tasty birds for my freezer, golden schmaltz, and gelatinous broth for health enhancing cooking. 

Weather permitting, I like to move the birds outdoors to their field pen at about 3 weeks.  We like the Salatin style, 10′ x 12′ x 2′ the best.  A pen this size will easily accommodate 75 broilers to finish.


Trying to avoid stress, we corner small groups of chicks in the corners of the brooder.


We catch and carry a few at a time.  Held upside down, they are quiet and not likely to flap their wings and hurt themselves.


This is their first inspection since they arrived in early May.  We need to look them over, and see if we are doing a good enough job.  Here I’m looking for blisters on their feet, which would indicate not enough bedding during the brooding phase.  You should smell an aroma of chicken manure, but it should not be offensive at all.  If it is, add more bedding.  The lower the carbon ratio, the more smell.  Sawdust and shavings are high carbon, more expensive, but you can use less.  Straw and hay are much lower carbon and tend to cap with manure.  Not a good choice unless you bed twice a day.  I started these chicks out with 6″ of sawdust and did not add any in 3 weeks.


Another place to check is the breast area.  These birds sit down a lot, and their undersides can easily get caked with manure.

We count them at this time and look for any signs of illness, or impending heart or leg trouble.  Only one chick, who was half the size of the others, looked poorly.  As I write this, she is on the list to be cat food.  She is weak, and I will put her out of her misery tomorrow.  She will be the first loss out of 75.  But a lot can still happen, now that they are outside.


Checking out the new digs.


Finding the water. 
When the chicks move outside, we move the food outside too, and store it in barrels nearby.  Having the feed nearby makes the chore of feeding feel less like, well, a chore.  The barrels have lids or some type of cover to protect the feed from rain and wild birds.  Also make sure your fences are secure.  Founder and bloat are real concerns if your horse or milk cow gets into this high protein feed.


These guys are tired of waiting, they are headed out the door.



All present and accounted for.


More water.


A recycled 5 gallon food grade plastic bucket supplies water via gravity to the hanging waterer.


The waterer is suspended from a chain with an S hook.  As the chickens grow, I can raise the water to keep it clean.


Time for lunch.


Shelter, food, water, and fresh grass.  Next post, how to move this contraption.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2009 1:43 am

    REally interesting post. Nice chicks too. ARe there some black ones there too?

    • June 2, 2009 4:12 am

      Thanks TC, the black are my replacement pullets for eggs. They are the same age – look at the difference in the size.

  2. June 2, 2009 4:11 am

    They are ugly but I bet they are awful tasty. We haven’t done it yet but this year we are definitely going to raise our own meat chickens. I hate to buy chickens in the store. It just is not very good. I buy frozen chicken breast and that is it. We had fresh chicken last year that we had bought from a neighbor but this year it will be our own!!

  3. June 2, 2009 4:34 am

    What a great idea for watering your chickens, I may have to try that.

    • June 2, 2009 5:03 am

      For $25.00, the waterer is a great purchase. We started out with the galvanized 2 1/2 gallon model. They were shot is a few years and very hard to manage, and they cost about the $25.00 too.

      We have had these for 10 or 12 years and they work great. Plasson is the brand. Easy to clean, not too many working parts, and very durable.

      I haven’t forgot your clabber question – time has just gotten away from me.

  4. June 2, 2009 5:04 am

    Perfect picture for a perfect post! =)

  5. June 2, 2009 5:47 am

    I’m always ambivalent about food animals period because I can’t help but get personally connected to them, but I totally support raising the meat that we eat at the same time.

    Puts me in a bit of quandry, no? LOL.

    Your choice in breed is just that, your choice. And if it is more efficient all the way around, then who can fault it economically. Perhaps I feel a bit bad that they never grow up, really, but they certainly have it good while with you! No question!

    And there really isn’t anything at all to compare to a well raised chicken in taste, is there?

    • June 2, 2009 6:57 am

      Christy, I know what you mean, I get somewhat attached to the cattle, but that is a two year proposition so I can get a little more initimate with them.

      I guess one way to look at it is, these chickens would probably be hatched anyway, at least this way they won’t be a group of 50,000 for 6 – 8 weeks. A short life, but maybe a better one?

      No, I don’t think the taste can be beat – no additives required!

  6. June 2, 2009 6:35 am

    Great post, how did you secure your hose to the 5 gallon bucket?

    • June 2, 2009 6:58 am

      Tim, just a hole drilled in the bucket that is a little smaller in diameter than the tubing. I’ll take a pic and add it to the next post. It’s so simple it is almost criminal 🙂

  7. Tami permalink
    June 2, 2009 8:07 am

    I got White Rocks this year, in March. They are definitely slower growing and seem to be taking forever! I am chalking it up as another learning experience. Each additional day they take to grow is more food, water, like you said and also the chance that something could happen to them and it would all be lost. I think it’ll be back to Cornish X for us next year. I would also be interested in close ups of your waterer. Do you eventually switch to a different type of feeder too? My feeder fell apart after 3 weeks and now I just fill up a bunch of pans, not good…

    I made your rhubarb bars the other day, wow! Thanks for that recipe!

  8. June 2, 2009 8:23 am

    You do a really nice job of being just what you say you are—matron of husbandry!


  9. June 2, 2009 8:48 am

    So that’s what butt ugly means! Thanks, now I have a photo to show the kids when they ask.

  10. June 2, 2009 5:09 pm

    They are really tasty. John put 20 in the freezer last week and has about 17 left to go in this week. Only problem, running out of freezer. Arggg! He bulit a plucker which I plan to have him post about real soon. It was slick, made the job much easier. I like your idea with the 5 gallon bucket, I will show John that.

  11. June 3, 2009 4:02 am

    I’m learning so much from you, Nita. I do know what you’re saying by having our own homemade broth with all that gelatin in it…I don’t know what it is about it, but we feel SO good cooking this way and are getting spoiled to it that it’s hard to swallow processed stuff any more

    🙂 Robbyn

  12. June 3, 2009 11:15 am

    What a great idea using the bucket for a gravity watering system. I’ll have to rig something like that up!

  13. Mael permalink
    June 12, 2009 11:14 pm

    Do you need to scrub out the hanging waterer every so often, or do you just give it a rinse? Could you add apple cider vinegar too?

    • June 13, 2009 4:25 am

      Mael, the waterer will stay clean as long as it is hung high enough that when the chickens drink, they don’t lose some of the material from their crops. So as they grow, we raise it a little each week. If you see feed in the water, then you know you need to raise it. You could add ACV, but it is one of those things that isn’t necessary if all the birds other needs are being met.

      If I do have to clean it, I use a handful of grass as scrub brush 🙂

  14. navneet permalink
    August 30, 2012 2:55 am

    do cornish x forage ..i heard they dont .. and can we mix them with other breeds during raising? also do you feed them medicated or non medicated feed? pls reply

    • August 30, 2012 4:40 am

      Navneet, they do forage but not as much as lighter breeds, you can mix them if they are the same age. I feed non-medicated feed.

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