Successfully Raising the Jumbo White Cornish Cross Broilers for Your Table
With the recent surge in awareness of how our food reaches our grocery stores and, ultimately, our tables, many of us choose to raise our own poultry. Today I want to share my learning curve with raising the Jumbo White Cornish Cross broiler from Meyer Hatchery. I’ve raised the Jumbo White Cornish cross broilers for approximately 12 years. Over that time, I’ve learned a few things; they really cannot thrive if they get wet and/or cold, they eat a LOT, and the quality of feed matters greatly.
Depending on the time of year and the weather outside, we move our broiler chicks outside to their moveable tractor at around 2-3 weeks of age. Sometimes they will still need supplemental heat outside, especially at night. They really cannot handle getting wet and cold at the same time. They are subject to hypothermia because they are no longer able to regulate body temperature when they get wet. When heavy rain is expected and your housing may allow the birds to get wet, covering the pen with a tarp, moving the birds into a garage or barn, or other means to keep them dry may be necessary.
They Eat A Lot!
Be prepared for how much food a batch of Jumbo Cornish Cross Broilers can eat. In the first 5 weeks, each chick will eat about 10 pounds of feed and can grow to a weight of 5-6 pounds. Once the chicks are out of the brooder and into their grow-out housing, allow at least 6 inches of feeder space for each bird. There are several poultrymen who swear by a 12 hours on, 12 hours off feeding schedule to control their broilers’ growth to help minimize losses, but we have good success with allowing full access to feed. Feed quality matters also. While I am not making a specific brand recommendation, I can say from experience that the cheapest feed is probably cheap for a reason. Quality ingredients make for a healthier animal and better-tasting end product on your table. If you are experiencing problems with higher than expected losses, leg problems or poor weight gain, take a look at your feed. I have good success with a 20% protein feed fed for their entire lives with very rare losses.
Keep Them Healthy
Cornish cross broilers can be subject to issues with their hearts and legs because of their rapid growth. If you see signs of difficulty breathing (panting when it isn’t hot outside), or combs turning slightly bluish or purplish, those are signs that the bird may be in the beginning stages of heart failure. If they are showing those signs and they are anywhere close to an acceptable processing weight, we often choose to process early so that we don’t lose the meat. Also, occasionally a bird will have trouble with leg joint injuries because of the rapid weight gain. Even though they can often live with an injured leg, they gain weight poorly and can even lose weight as they use up muscle mass trying to stay alive without eating enough. Again, we usually decide to process earlier rather than try to manage an injured bird.
Ready To Process
The Cornish cross birds are generally ready to process in 6-8 weeks for an average 5-pound finished product, but if you want a larger roaster, they can be kept until about 8-9 weeks for an average 7-pound finished table bird. Because of their rapid growth and possible resulting health issues, we recommend processing the Jumbo White Cornish cross broilers by 9 weeks of age.
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