Cornish Cross chickens are the most popular breed of meat chicken in America. They’re known for their high growth rate and good meat. So the obvious question for most chicken breeders is, “can you breed them yourself?” Sadly the answer is negative.
It is not possible to breed Cornish Cross Chickens from a Cornish Cross hen and rooster or by interbreeding other chicken breeds. Cornish Cross is the result of decades of intentional breeding and a tightly controlled genetic line.
In this article, we’ll explore the history of Cornish Cross chickens, how they’re bred, and whether or not there are any good alternatives.
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What is the Cornich Cross Chicken?
Cornish cross (also known as Cornish X) is a hybrid chicken originally bred by crossing a commercial Cornish chicken with a White Rock chicken. With their very fast growth rate, broad breasts, and big thighs, they are very common meat (broiler) chickens in industry and backyard keeping alike. They are also known for their feed efficiency which has kept the price of chicken meat very low.
However, when you cant to raise Cornish Cross, you will have to buy baby chicks from a poultry producer, which is why many chicken keepers want to know if you can breed them yourself and become self-sufficient in these excellent broiler chickens.
Why It Is Not Possible to Breed Your Own Cornich Cross
As the name implies, Cornish Cross chickens are not a breed in their own right. Instead, it is a cross between two breeds: the previously mentioned Cornish and White Plymouth Rock.
The Cornish is a heavy chicken characterized by a very muscled body and large diameter legs. The White Plymouth is known for its excellent meat quality and a color that makes it look appealing in the grocery store display freezers.
The Cornish Cross was bred in 1948 by crossing these two breeds. The resulting offspring won the “Chicken of Tomorrow” competition intended to bring focus on producing great broiler chicken, and they have since become the most popular meat chicken in the industry.
If you have both breeds, they can produce offspring that are 50% Plymouth Rock and 50% Cornish, and you may even get a good result. However, after decades of intentional breeding, today’s Cornich Cross is very different from the original birds. And that’s not all; now there are several Cornish Cross strains with different genetics, and their breeding is veiled in secrecy.
As it is a hybrid, it is not possible to breed Cornish Cross chicken by breeding two Cornish chickens either. They will not produce as consistently good broiler offspring.
Why Should I Consider Buying Cornish Cross Chickens?
If you are not trying to raise the chickens for your own meat supply and instead want them for their more rapid growth, then Cornish Cross is often a good choice. They mature in about eight weeks instead of the normal three to four months, so you can produce twice the amount of meat in the time it takes to grow heritage chickens.
Cornish Cross also produce more meat per pound of feed than any other breed currently on the market. Meaning it will be more profitable for you to raise them.
But it’s not just about money. They also have the most recognizable meat. Meaning, consumers are used to its taste, look, and texture. If you are selling meat to people who have are not interested in chickens and only ever bought meat from the shop, you are more likely to get complaints about the “funny” taste and look of meat from your heritage breeds.
Alternatives to Buying Cornish Cross
While you are probably reading this article because you like the many benefits of the Cornish Cross, you may also want to know about alternatives.
If you want to take up chicken crossbreeding as a hobby, perhaps you could try and develop your own “Cornish Cross,” but you may also want to experiment with crossing true Cornich Cross with other breeds or mixing entirely different breeds. Perhaps consider which breeds have your preferred characteristics and then cross them.
This can be a lot of fun, and you may find that the benefits of your new breed even outweigh those from Cornish Cross – at least according to your definition of a good meat birds.
If you are not dreaming of spending your time experimenting with crossbreeding, many pure breeds have somewhat similar characteristics as the Cornish Cross. None are as industry-friendly as the Cross in terms of growth rate and feed efficiency, but many would argue that you can get better tasting meat or other advantages.
Below are three examples of great heritage meat chickens that you can breed yourself:
Bresse Meat Chicken
The Bresse chicken breed is renowned for its delicious and very tender meat. They are most commonly white and rather large in size. These unique birds are loved by many chefs and foodies, as they are known for their great flavor that is sure to meet your gastronomic expectations.
As a Bresse keeper, I can absolutely confirm this reputation to be true. Bresse chickens are a great alternative if you’re looking for heritage meat and want the best of what’s available.
Technically, only Bresse chickens bred in France can be referred to as “true” Bresse chickens. However, unless international designation of origin protection regulation is important to you, the name doesn’t really matter. But they are not available in most hatcheries, and you may have to look around for a breeder.
The Orpington is a large dual-purpose breed raised for both eggs and meat. It has been one of the most popular backyard chickens in America for years because they are very easy to keep and breed.
These birds grow quite fast; they have strong health and are hardy enough to handle most climates and weather conditions. The meat is tender and flavorful, and they are good egg-layers. Great for the backyard or self-sufficient homestead, these are a favorite among poultry enthusiasts.
Orpington can’t compete with Cornish Cross in terms of cost-efficiency (no heritage chickens can), but you can still make some extra money producing and selling their meat.
Sussex chickens are a good all-purpose bird to have on your homestead. They’re effective meat producers that mature relatively quickly and grow to full size fast as well. Sussex hens make strong egg layers and have an excellent disposition. As a child, my favorite and most loving rooster (by the imaginative name of Mr. Rooster) was a Sussex.
A dual-purpose breed, these birds are a good choice for any chicken keeper looking for suitable large fowl with hearty appetites but great meat too. It used to be a very popular meat bird before the Cornish Cross was introduced.