Sometimes you can see something over and over again…..yet it still doesn’t seem right. This is how we felt about the Cornish Cross broilers…everyone says this is the only production meat bird to use if profit is your interest. Well, have you seen these birds? We see them at the county fair and they just don’t seem quite right. It also seems odd that the commercial confinement bird and the pastured bird of choice would be the same one.Well, as one to stare good advice in the face and promptly turn the other way…our first batch of birds were not Cornish Cross. We went with Red Broilers. We ordered through Phinney Hatchery and discussed the benefits of the Red Broiler; mainly, no leg problems or heart attacks. They take a couple more weeks to grow out but for a first run it sounded worth it. We ordered 75.
They arrived on schedule at the Post Office. The shipping case was split up into 4 compartments. One died in one of the compartments and the others certainly made of mess of him. All of them had a bloody beak and were clearly the most aggressive once we mixed them all together into one population. Another came in alive but crazy deformed- I’m sure if they would have noticed at the hatchery it would not have been shipped. We had to take care of this one the day it arrived. The rest were fine for the first couple of days. One developed curled toes and was walking around on his knuckles. We isolated this guy for a couple of days but continued to get worse until this one was put down as well.
One other chick; name SpecialT by the girls, had balance problems and huge feet. We isolated this one and the girls took great care of this chick. They took it for walks in the garden and gave it all the love it could handle. After about 5 days the chick started to get it’s body over it’s feet and was doing much better. The chick was returned to the general population and has been doing well – Good Job Girls!
After two weeks the brooder was way too small and pecking and fighting was getting out of hand. We moved the lot into the field pen and things got a bit better. We were not ready to move them out to pasture yet so they were mainly on pea gravel. There was plenty of room – and now entertainment that they started getting along better- save the fourth quadrant who remain aggressive (so we think- hard to keep track at this point). We lost one more – to heart trouble we assume. I checked on them in the morning before work and Anita checked them a bit after and found a goner. It was a large one and felt like a pounder. The flock in general looks great so we are not sure what happened.
So, we lost 4 and saved 1 out of 75 in the first 3 1/2 weeks. We moved them out to pasture today and oh sweet grass….instantly, heads were down digging, chests were rubbing in the dirt, and worms were meeting their makers. Chickens on pasture….it is like butter dripping off a hot biscuit…it just looks right.
In general, we think we will try the Cornish Cross next time. The Red Broilers are very flighty and aggressive. If we move a bit too fast or come in from the top instead of the sides of the pen they go nuts. Pecking is a problem and there were bloody backs on several. All this and our losses were still higher than we have heard folk getting with the Cornish Cross. We still have a over half way to go so we will see what happens out on pasture.