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When To Butcher Cornish Cross Chickens And Get Them To Weight Fast

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When I raised these cornish cross birds for 4-H we had a very tight window for getting them to the weight they needed to be in order to show well at the fair.

The awesome thing about cornish cross chickens is that they grow REALLY fast.

When To Butcher Cornish Cross Chickens: The ultimate goal is to be able to butcher cornish cross chickens by the time they are 9 weeks of age because their growth rate dips and they start to lose feed to meat conversion ratio.

In this post, I am going to share with you everything from where to get your cornish cross chicks to the best tips and tricks to get your broiler chickens to the weight you want them to be as quickly as possible.

header image for blog post when to butcher cornish cross chickens

This post is all about when to butcher cornish rock chickens and my top tips to get them to butcher weight.

The Average Weight Of A Cornish Cross

When you go to budget meat birds you would lose about 1/3rd of the live weight. So if your bird weighs 9 pounds live then you would end up with a 6-pound harvested bird.

Now, remember this is going to look different for everyone and it depends on how close you monitor your chickens.

Here is a guide on how much your chickens should weigh at a minimum by week.

  • >2 Weeks Old: Under 1 Pound
  • 3 Weeks Old: 2 Pounds Live Weight
  • 4 Weeks Old: 3 Pounds Live Weight
  • 5 Weeks Old: 4 pounds Live Weight
  • 6 Weeks Old: 4.5-6 Pounds Live Weight
  • 7 Weeks Old: 6-8 Pounds Live Weight
  • 8 Weeks Old: 7-9 Pounds Live Weight
  • 9 Weeks Old: 9-10 pounds Live Weight

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Should You Butcher Them Yourself Or Take Them To A Butcher

This is something that you have to evaluate yourself. If your goal is to save money and pay less than you would for chicken at the local grocery store then you will want to learn how to butcher them yourself.

Here is a quick overview of the steps to butcher a chicken.

  • Place the bird in a killing cone and make an insition from one corner of the chicken’s ear lobe to the other. (or simply chop the head of)
  • Let the bird hang until the blood has slowed down to almost nothing comes out.
  • Then Place the bird in scalding hot water (about 155 degrees) for just a few minutes. The feathers should be very loose and almost “wipeable” and they would come off the bird.
  • Then chop the legs off at the knuckles and remove the head if you have not already done so.
  • Make an insition in a circle around the anus. Be sure not to cut too close. Wider is better so you don’t kick the gut.
  • Losen the skin around the rump so you can reach in and basically slide the internal organs out. Most of them should come out pretty easily.
  • The only organs that are attached to the wall of the bird’s chest cavity would be the lungs and kidneys.
  • Once the bird is clean let it sit for about 24hrs in a cooler with water and ice that is refrigerator temperature. DO NOT freeze it until the rigor mortis has gone away. The bird should be flexible and loose.

If you think you are willing to go through that process then give it a go. Just remember that once you get started there is no turning back. You can’t take half plucked or dead chickens to a butcher for them to finish.

If you want to find a butcher just google poultry butcher in your area.

Which “Breed” Is The Fastest Growing

There are lots of different meat bird breeds out there and some are developed for different reasons. Breeds like the freedom rangers are meant to be able to reproduce which the cornish crosses can’t do.

The cornish rock cross is the one you want to get. Now for the most part I am a hard nose about only ordering chicks from a hatchery. You can find out why here.

cornish cross chicken

Where To Get Your Meat Chickens

These are the only ones I think you would be ok buying from a local farm supply store instead of a hatchery. The main reason we are raising them is for meat production and that’s it. We aren’t concerned with confirmation or anything like that.

If you want to order them from a hatchery. Cackle hatchery I my recommendation. You can learn more about ordering chicks online here.

Dule Purpose Breeds

It can be easy to confuse different breeds that claim to be a meat breed as the fast growing meat bird. But I am here to tell you that just because something is a “meat bird” that does not mean it will grow as fast as the commercial cornish chicken.

These breeds are not going to grow as fast as the cornish cross hybrids and if you chose one of these it will cost you more money and take way longer to get them to butchering time.

  • Red Rangers
  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Wyandotte
  • Orpingtons

Cornish Cross Broilers Are MESSY

The one thing you need to know before you get into raising this type of chicken is that they are extremely messy. They poop all the time and have a different smell to them compared to other breeds of chickens.

The Best Ways To Get Your Cornish Cross Breed Of Chicken To Weight

I have raised meat chickens and meat turkeys (Broad Breasted) about 6 years in a row and it was the most fun thing I have ever done. We learned so much doing this project in 4-H. Both the success tips and the not-so-successful things that will cause your birds to not make the weight you are hoping for.

Best Time Of Year To Raise The Cornish Breed

You should wait until your average nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees at minimum. The reason for that is their internal energy sources seem to only be able to focus on one thing at a time.

Growing or staying warm.

You can provide them with a heat source like a heat lamp but the problem with that is there are still going to be drafts that cool them down. It is a total waste of feed if you are not able to keep them at a nice warm temperature of 85-90 degrees for the first 4 weeks and then you can do ok with 75-80 for the last 4-5 weeks.

The reason they will not grow as well in anything below 75 degrees is because they have few feathers than the typical egg layer. Often times their keel bone (chest area) can even be bare in some spots.

young cornish cross chickens

How And What To Feed Your Meat Chickens

These are the key things you need to know in order to feed your meat chickens so they will be nice and big when you are ready to butcher.

Feeding Chicks Under 1 Week Old

If you have ordered your chicks from a hatchery this is doubly important. There are two things you should give your chicks when you first get them and for the first few days after you have them.

Electrolights

If your chicks seem stressed, have poo stuck to their rear end, or seem lethargic give them some water-soluble electrolights in their water. If it is more of an emergency for you then using sugar will do on short notice.

Chick Grit

These are very small shell and rock pebbles that stay in the chicken’s gizzard when helps them digest food. If a chick is being raised by its mother it will get this naturally from the ground but since you are raising them yourself you have to provide this for them.

High Protein Feed

You want to feed them at a minimum of 25% protein poultry feed. If you can find 30%+ that’s even better. If you don’t have at least the 25% you are going to extend the growth time by almost a third.

Here is a 30% protein feed at Tractor Supply.

Use something like this open-topped feeder so it makes it easy for refining but you can switch to a large rubber feed pan like this one when they are a bit bigger and you feel like you have to fill the feeder every other hour.

Feed Them Free Choice

Pump it in baby. It might feel like you are pouring feed in but that is a good thing. If you are doing all of these other tips I am teaching you the chickens should be growing extremely fast.

A Warning About Feeding Kitchen Scraps

While these birds will eat almost anything and it can feel like a good thing to save on feed. You are not doing yourself any favors by filling them up with low-protein feed. You will just slow down the growth process.

If you don’t have all that much to feed them then once in a while (like twice during the 9 weeks you are raising them) won’t slow the growth process down.

Fresh Water

This goes without saying but meat birds don’t seem to have as good of immune systems as egg-laying chickens. So keeping their living area as well as their water clean and fresh will keep them healthy.

When you first get your day-old chicks you want to use something for water that they can not get into. These birds easily stress out and even at this early age anything that causes them to slow down growth for even a short period will cause them to be smaller on butcher day.

I would recommend this kind of waterer when you have baby chicks all the way up to about 4 weeks old. Then switch to something bigger like this rubber feed pan after 5 weeks but also make sure to keep the waterer at chest level so they are not tempted to get in the bowl.

Keep A Light On For 18hrs

It doesn’t have to be a heat lamp unless you need it for a heat source but the longer the birds are awake the more they will eat. The most daylight we get is around 14hrs of light. So if you can keep them up for a few more hours they will increase their feed intake.

Housing Options For Meat Birds

For the first 2 weeks, they can do fine in plastic tups but after that, they need to go out into some other kind of brooder. Remember they will grow 3x as fast as fancy chickens or the “normal” hens.

A chicken tractor is ok if you have 5 or less but they will destroy your grass. So if you care about your own I would not do this.

The best thing we found to raise them are those big cardboard containers where pumpkins or watermelons are shipped in and sent to the grocery store. If you ask for them most of the time they have them on hand and are more than happy to get rid of them.

pumpkin container for raising chickens

Be Careful About Free Range

They are an easy target: You have to babysit this breed very well because they are not going to be able to get away from any danger or know to watch for it. They do not have the speed that a dual-purpose breed does and they will be the perfect snack for a hawk or other wild predators.

They could overheat: Cornish crosses are not going to know to get out of the summer heat. They are just focused on eating. That could cause heart issues and or slow their growth rate.

Top Health Problems With Meat Birds

Here are some things you need to watch out for that will cause early damage for your birds or could cause damage and you might have to butcher early.

Heart Attacks

Because of their rapid growth rate, they can have heart failure. The best way to keep them from having this issue is to keep stress at a minimum.

Leg Issues

This is more likely to happen after they are 5 weeks old or so after they have put on so much weight. It might be tempting to leave them on a plastic surface for easy cleaning but this will cause them to slip and possibly break their legs.

If you have something that is a slick surface make sure to have a thick layer of pine shavings to give the chickens a safe.

If it is your first time raising your own meat chickens look at it as an experiment. Learn what you can and don’t feel bad if your meat chickens don’t quite reach the butchering size you would like.

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