Two summers ago we raised several Cornish Cross Meat Chickens. Meat chickens were a brand new adventure for us and even though we lost a couple and taking them to the fair was a disaster, we had fun, and they tasted GREAT! I blogged about the whole experience and you can read each weeks post starting here.
This year my girls wanted to take meat chickens to the fair again but didn’t want to take Cornish Cross. I did some research and Ranger Broilers seemed to be the next obvious choice. They are bred to be a fast growing meat chicken just like the Cornish Cross, but they are good foragers; unlike the Cornish Cross that like to sit in front of the feeder and stuff themselves. I am excited about comparing these two breeds.
We ordered 15 chicks from Meyer Hatchery and they arrived June 11th. When we got them home we realized that they had sent us an extra chick. A few days later, I began to suspect that the extra chick was a Cornish Cross. A few days after that I was sure of it, now I can compare the two breeds while they grow!!
All 16 chicks were active, cute, and very entertaining. All of us agree these are the quietest chicks we’ve ever had.
At 2 weeks they are still pretty cute but that doesn’t last for long.
As you can see the Cornish Cross sticks out like a green bean in a fruit salad…..ok, that was bad, but I was trying to come up with something other than “he sticks out like a sore thumb” and well, that’s the only “appropriate” one I could think of.
We weighed them at 4 weeks.
The Ranger broilers weighed in at an average of 2 pounds 6 ounces, and the Cornish Cross weighed 2 pounds 10 ounces. At 4 weeks they have eaten about 60 lbs. of feed. As soon as I think they are big enough we will let them out for at least a couple hours every day so they can forage for grass and bugs. So far, other than growing just a bit slower than the Cornish Cross the only difference between the two breeds is that the Rangers seem to be more curious and friendly.
I’ll post an update in a few weeks and then a final post after we butcher them at the end of August. Thanks for following along!
Back in April the girls picked out 4 bantam chicks at the feed store. Oh what cute little fluff balls they were! (click here to see pics) Those chicks are now four months old and will be going to the fair next month. I didn’t want more than one rooster and that’s what we ended up with. He is a very handsome (obnoxious) little guy and the three little pullets are just adorable and sweet. The only problem we have is we’re not sure what breeds they are. So I’m going to share some pictures and if anyone out there knows what breed they are the girls and I would LOVE to here from you. I did do a little research and I have a few guesses but I would like to know for sure. It would be great to have the correct breeds to write on the entry forms for the fair!
Meet Chocolate…..better known as Little Pecker.
This is Tiny, she is so very sweet.
This is Rayven, she is very gentle and just beautiful!
This is Peep, she is loud and can fly farther than any of our chickens!
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the homestead,
Not a creature was stirring, they’d all been well fed.
Digger was comfy half asleep in his chair,
While sounds of Duck Dynasty filled the air.
The kids laid out cookies for Santa with care,
Then brushed at their teeth and combed their hair.
My day was done so I snuggled into bed,
As visions of chickens danced through my head…..
Okay, That’s enough of that!
I’m not lying though…..I really do have visions of chickens dancing through my head! Recently I have received a couple chicken catalogs in the mail and even though the weather outside is frightful, I’m dreaming of a green spring and dozens of baby chicks in the brooder! Ho hum, soooo many choices and so little coop space. 😕 We have 12 laying hens right now and even with the nasty, cold weather they are still giving us 8 to 10 eggs a day! I really should be content with that…..right? Well, I am for now but there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead, making a wish list and saving money for more chicken coops. 😉 Right now we have one breed, they are all Golden Sex Links……
I’m thinking we need a little more color introduced to our flock. Some Barred Rock, Black Australorp, and Columbian Wyndotte are my favorite picks of very good egg layers. While these will add color to my flock, they will not add color to my egg basket.
Not that there is anything wrong with big brown eggs, I love my big brown eggs, but a little variety would be nice. This is my frivolous wish list of colorful egg layers. A Blue Ameraucana will lay blue eggs, an Olive Egger will lay green eggs. White Leghorns will lay lots of white eggs and Blue Copper Marans will lay beautiful dark chocolate colored eggs. I also promised the girls they could pick out a couple Bantams, and of course I want to raise meat birds again (not sure what breed yet). There you have it, my complete wish list! Like I said, all I need want now is more chicken coops. 😉
Have you made your chicken wish list yet? Are you also in need of more coop space? A word of caution to those of you wanna be chicken owners……chickens are addictive!
Meyer Hatchery and Murray McMurray Hatchery have great sites that you can browse through, and learn lots about different breeds of chickens. I have ordered from both hatcheries with VERY good results. Now is the time to pre-order to make sure you get the breeds you want delivered when you want them. Just make sure the breeds you are picking are conducive to your climate!
Merry Christmas Everyone! Be grateful for what you have, but remember there’s nothing wrong with a little wish list. 😀
I am very excited to announce that this is the VERY FIRST guest post here at the Red Double Wide. The best part is, that it was written by my husband! I had a blast reading this post even though I had already heard the story first hand. If you enjoy it too, please leave a comment to let him know!
Hello! I’m the husband of the “Queen”. Here she calls me “Digger”, elsewhere she calls me other things. If you haven’t guessed; I’m a subgrade contractor (think heavy equipment) and I dig for customers all over this county, but this story isn’t about me. A good friend of mine was helping to finish excavation of a painfully slow trench on Saturday while I ran some errands. He’s a contractor as well, and we have been working together quite a bit the last few years. So much so the girls have taken to calling him “Uncle Tom”, but this story isn’t about him either.
I returned to the jobsite from home near noon; a twenty plus minute commute, several miles of which is gravel and none to smooth. I parked next to the customers shop and followed the trenchline down the hill and through the trees to where Tom was still digging. He seemed content enough to keep scratching away at the dense clay subsoil, so I headed back up the hill for tools to level a transformer pad. That’s when I saw the chicken…
Now please understand that my brain didn’t process what my eyes were seeing straight away. My eyes are used to seeing chickens running around all the time, especially this particular breed of chicken, but I’m thinking about the work at hand. It’s Saturday (a day I prefer to spend with family), half my day was ate up due to prior obligations, and Tom is here trying to help me get caught up before the utility company shows up Monday morning to install.
As my feet carried me several steps closer to the truck, my mind was thinking; “Huh,… someone around here has the same breed of chicken we do.” My next thought was the fact that “around here” was nothing but woods. No close neighbors, no buildings aside from the customers new shop, and most notably there are no fences. Nothing but overgrown pine, scrub oak, and now a loose chicken accustomed to a free range life. Uh oh…!
I tried to call Grace thinking she could count her chickens and tell me if one is missing (or more to the point, hoping one isn’t), but no answer. I called the owner of the property (who lives 2,000 mi. away) to ask if he’d ever seen chickens roaming around this place, but he was sure he hadn’t. The small flicker of hope I’d had vanished. I told him “I think I have a problem. One of the Queens’ chickens stowed away on my truck, and I’m staring at it right now.” His immediate laughter made it clear he understood just how much fun trying to catch a chicken in the thick brush covering this hillside would be. The small pine and oak had grown like dog hair, and,… well,… you do the math.
When he stopped laughing we touched briefly on the project, and then he asked a favor. Would I mind disposing of some fruit he’d left in a cooler outside the door the week before? “No problem”, I said, and immediately filed that little chore away for later. I had to figure out what to do with this dang chicken!
I knew what had happened. There’s a fair gap between the bottom of the dump bed and the top of the fuel tank between the frame rails on my truck. Just about the right height for a chicken. For some reason OUR chickens feel compelled to jump up in there periodically, scratch around at nothing I can see, and bail out again at their leisure. I don’t know why; they’re chickens! They do all kinds of goofy stuff I can’t explain. Typically they leave when I start the truck, so no problem. Anyway, that’s HOW she got here, (and boy howdy that must of been some ride) but now what do I do about it?
I briefly considered how much trouble I’d be in with Grace when I got home if I simply ignored the bird and went back to work. Yea, right. Capture was a must and I knew it, but I couldn’t just walk up and catch the dang thing; I had to corner it somehow. This was looking like a two man job. I took a deep breath, glared hard at the chicken (willing it to stay put), and let out a sigh of resignation. As much as I didn’t want to interrupt Tom’s progress I headed back down the trenchline to recruit his help. When I explained the situation he laughed out loud… Why does everyone think this is funny?
By the time we got back up to the truck the chicken was gone (of course). Tom went right, and I went left hoping to surround the general area we thought it must be in. This is about the time Grace decided to return my call. She was still in town and not yet finished shopping. I explained what was going on,… SHE didn’t laugh. I’d already been considering just what to do with the little bugger once caught, but the options were few, and there was NO WAY I was turning a chicken loose in the cab of my truck. I asked if she could bring the carrier we use to transfer critters out to us after she got home. “Sure, fine”, but she wouldn’t be home for a few more hours. As my eyes searched the acres of woods for the small brown bird I said, “This could take that long.”
I heard it! The sound came from the direction Tom had gone and I followed it through the trees. I saw the little trouble maker just before I saw Tom… Now, to better understand what I was seeing, you need to know that Uncle Tom is not a small man. Well over six feet tall and something beyond two hundred pounds,… on his hands and knees crawling through the brush making chicken noises! Not only that, but the sounds he was making were remarkably convincing. It occurred to me that what I’d heard may not have been the chicken at all. I struggled to stifle my laughter not wanting to alarm the bird, and began maneuvering to trap it between us.
An hour or so later, having repeatedly tried and failed to grab the dang thing (picture headlong, prostrate dive), we resorted to steering our quarry through the trees with long sticks back down the hill toward the truck. Every cluck was a taunt! This chicken was laughing at us, and it wouldn’t shut up! We finally managed to push it out of the brush next to my trailer where it immediately took refuge. It didn’t take long to realize retrieving her out from under the trailer with sticks was hopeless. At this point Tom and I agreed that spending a beautiful Saturday afternoon being outsmarted by a chicken wasn’t our idea of recreation. I shared that I was wishing one of my daughters were there. She’d just call “Here chick, chick, chick.” and the thing would come a runnin’. Or maybe my dog? Nah, he’d fail to see the point. A gun!… Now there’s a tempting idea.
We sat on the trailer awhile considering options when I remembered the little favor the customer had asked of me. The FRUIT!!! Why had I not thought about the dang fruit until now? I went and brought it back to the trailer where we set some out as bait a couple feet beyond the birds new sanctuary. Tom sat on the trailer above it laying in wait. Oh yea,… She wanted that sweet smelling fruit bad. Really bad… But this chicken was quick and cunning. Several failed attempts later we decided to let “her” rest awhile. (Well,… it was hot! She needed a break!)
I told Tom, “You know this chicken is going to be given a name when I bring it home.” Tom knows the story of Stinky and is aware of a few other birds at my place that have been named and why. He thought a moment, then looked at me with a grin and simply said “Traveler”.
FINALLY!!! With an impressive snatch Tom had her! The little beast was contained! Victory was ours! The intellectual prowess of two middle aged contractors had ultimately prevailed! Umm,… So now what do we do with her?… I hadn’t heard from Grace, and there was STILL no way that chicken was being set loose in the cab of my truck,… So,… “Let’s hogtie her”! Tom had some string in his truck, and she really didn’t struggle all that bad while I tied her feet together. He set her down next to the fruit and water, at which point she immediately stood up and started to quickly hop away. Brilliant!… I took a longer length of string and tied her to the trailer as a lead so she couldn’t get far. In a few moments she succumbed to her defeat, realizing any attempt to escape was futile and settled for a feast of overly ripe peach and plumb.
I was finishing a couple small things on the project when Grace called. She was still some while off and it was looking like I’d have to come back the next day to finish the trench anyway, so I told her to stay home and I’d be along soon. I figured the bird could ride in the bed of my truck hogtied and tethered, but the Queen wasn’t very pleased with this suggestion. I told her I’d figure something out and went back to finish up so “Traveler” could go home.
I wound up stealing the small Styrofoam cooler the fruit had been in from my customer, and still hogtied put the little pain in the butt inside. She rode back with me without complaint on the passenger side floorboard; a piece of plywood for a lid kept her trapped, and yes, Traveler was very happy to be home.
Uncle Tom kept digging for a few more hours after I left, and I finished the excavation Sunday after church (a day I strongly feel is for faith and family). The family agreed with “Uncle Tom” as to what the perfect name for this chicken should be, so it remains…
The last days of summer went out with unusually hot temperatures, and the first days of fall came in very wet (for around here anyway). September brought lots of changes with me going back to teaching at our local Christian School, and the girls going back to school there. My poor garden has been severely neglected, (it’s more like a jungle than a garden) but as you can see we are still harvesting the benefits of our early summer work.
Saturday has become my, baking/laundry/blogging/gardening/chicken coop cleaning day! I am trying to learn how to plan meals ahead of time and get as much done on the weekends as i can. I want to keep cooking real food from scratch as much as possible with this new schedule. This is a big challenge for me, as my organization skills are MINIMAL! (just ask my husband) Good thing my girls are big enough to help and the men in the house are patient. 😀
I have learned that gardening is all about NEXT year. So many things I want to change and do better next spring. I guess that’s part of the excitement of a garden. 🙂
This past month I posted about butchering our Cornish Cross chickens and then I wrote a story about Stinky going to the fair. After that post I had several people express concern about Stinky someday ending up in the cook pot. I want to assure everyone that Stinky will live out her free range life here at the Red Double Wide with no fear of ending up in the cook pot! 😀
This is a post for all you Stinky fans out there. If you’ve never heard of Stinky and want to know how Stinky got her name and why she is so special to us, click here.
When my girls picked out the hens they wanted to take to the fair. Stinky was an obvious choice. She is the most docile of all our chickens (given her history) and very easy to handle.
Over the past few weeks Jo, has been packing her around, singing to her, and training her to stand on the picnic table. When you show a chicken they should stand on the table in front of you without being held there.
A few times while Jo was “training” Stinky I would hear her firmly say “Stinky, you stay right here, I’ll be right back”. She would leave the chicken on the table, run in the house to tell me something “exciting” or grab something “important” and then run back out. That darn chicken would stay right where she was told every time, and Jo seemed to have absolute confidence Stinky would be there when she got back every time!
When fair time rolled around, I was not worried about Stinky. 🙂
Here she is taking her first bath in preparation for the fair.
It must have been an exhausting experience because as soon as the bath was over she had a snooze….. 🙂
We started our drive to the fair with the hens in a kennel. Stinky however, would not behave herself and kept picking on poor Goldie. She wound up riding on Jo’s lap… (I suspect a conspiracy here!)
Jo made sure Stinky got plenty of outside time and they both met new friends.
Meet two of Stinky’s new friends: Fire and Afro 😀
Show time was a little nerve-wracking for both of them. But all that “training” paid off!
We always knew she was a blue ribbon chicken!!
After four eventful days at the fair Stinky was VERY happy to be home with the rest of the ladies!
I have to admit that after the turmoil during fair week, I was very ready for butchering day. Out of the 15 birds that we bought, we had 13 make it to butchering day. The five my parents raised and eight out of ten that we raised.
The evening before we butchered it POURED down rain while we were packing up at the fair. By the time we got home they were soaking wet out in their little chicken tractor. So we brought them in the shop to dry off. They quickly dried and we kept them in for the night in case of another down pour.
We took the feed out 12 hours before butchering time; this is so the crop and intestinal tract has time to clear.
I weighed a few of them that morning and they were all around 7 pounds.
We put them in a couple of kennels and headed to my parents house. They have raised turkeys in the past and have a better set up for butchering than we do.
We don’t have any killing cones so the guys used a chopping block and an axe. I think next year we will buy or make some cones. Especially if we have more than 13 chickens.
For scalding we kept the temperature between 145°and 150° F. and scalded them for 1 minute. It worked great! I couldn’t believe how easy they were to pluck!
This is me, my mom, and one of my sisters plucking.
Digger skinned a few of them to see if it was faster than plucking. Skinning was definitely faster. Here are a couple pics of a skinned chicken, this was before it was gutted and cleaned. Check out all that meat!!!
This is the gutting, cleaning, and wrapping station. After they were cleaned we wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in zip lock bags. They were all around 5 pounds. 🙂
The whole process only took about 2 hours for 13 chickens despite the fact everyone was exhausted from the fair. I was surprised at how smoothly it went and that it didn’t bother me at all. I was very pleased with the sizes of the dressed out birds. My parents were pleased too and have decided to stick with chickens instead of turkeys from now on. Mom already said she wants 20 more next year! I’m sure we will get more next year too. I’m thinking I’d like to try some freedom rangers, just so I can compare.
All said and done they cost right at $9.00 each. Not to bad for five pound, pastured chickens!
We ended the month of August with the county fair.
September will be bringing many changes. I have decided after much thought and prayer to go back to teaching at our local Christian School and the girls will also be attending there. This means lots less time at home. I am hopeful that I can keep up with cooking from scratch, gardening, and my blog!
Thanks for stopping by the Red Double Wide!! Hope you are all getting to enjoy this harvest season. 😀
If you’ve been following along on our Cornish Cross raising adventure, brace yourself for an eventful week 7! If you are new to our little adventure you might want to check out the first six weeks: week 1 – week 2 – week 3 – week 4 – week 5 – week 6
My girls ages 9 and 10 chose to take two of our Cornish Cross to the fair this year and sell them at the market livestock sale. Our family has always shown and sold sheep, but with a lack of fencing and the fact that chickens are far less expensive to raise, we encouraged chickens this year…..a mistake?? Maybe….
Our 4-H leader, who knows WAY more about chickens than we do, advised that we pick a couple of our roosters to take to the fair because of their size. So on Wednesday afternoon the girls each picked out a rooster and we set to work getting them cleaned up. The girls also took two laying hens to the fair, which made a total of seven baths that afternoon…..four chicken baths then three people baths, getting chickens clean is a dirty job!
I was dreading this part, but other than a few soggy, soapy chicken wings slapping us in the face and one mom and two girls chasing a soaking wet hen around the yard……it went very well. 😀
It was a nice, warm, day so it didn’t take them long to dry off….and we were off to the fair!
Both Cornish Cross weighed in at 6.6 pounds (to sell they have to weigh between 4 and 7 pounds) and after a vet check we settled them into their cages. They were the only Cornish Cross in the barn…we live in a small county! I noticed right away that they didn’t really like walking on the wire cages, it was very different than our lawn. The poultry barn was hot, and this breed doesn’t do well in the heat. They plopped down in their cages, spread their wings out away from their bodies and started panting. (this is normal; this is how they act when they are hot) I was a little worried, but It was starting to cool off by then and I figured in a couple hours they would be fine….and they were. The next morning they looked great and we kept an eye on them throughout the day.
Thursday night I received a phone call that I was to immediately remove my daughters chickens from the fair grounds. The vet said they were sick and not going to make it through the night! As I approached the barn I saw the vet outside and asked him what the problem was. He said that our chickens had bloody wings, sores on their feet, their feathers were falling out, and they couldn’t stand up!?!?!?! My brief attempt at defending this breed and these birds in particular was oddly met with “I know, I know” and some reference to PETA. In short the vet made it very clear that he had made a decision, it was his call, and the birds had to go. Yes, I argued….no, I did not scream, yell, cuss, kick, bite, or hit, like I was tempted to do at that moment. (we’re talking about some major restraint here folks)
I removed the chickens with tears in my eyes and two little girls full of questions I couldn’t answer. 🙁
When we got home I took the kennel into the shop and opened the door. Both chickens walked out and I began checking them over. I had the Vetericyn out to spray any hurt wings or sores…..there was no need for Vetericyn. I was relieved to not find any sores, but at the same time was very frustrated!
After we took some pictures we put the chickens back in the pen with the rest of the meat chickens. The next morning, the chickens “that weren’t going to make it through the night” were just fine. When I opened the gate to give them breakfast they all ran to me. (Well, as well as Cornish Cross can run anyway) In fact, four days later as I write this they are still fine!
By the time we got back to the fair grounds the next morning our 4-H leader had heard about what had happened,… and she was none to happy!! We ended up filing a grievance with the fair board and attending a board meeting on Saturday morning. (This filled me with some measure of anxiety by the way, I am not one for confrontation) The board was very kind to listen to our complaint. I stated that I believed the whole situation was handled poorly and I didn’t want this to happen to more kids in the future. They said that everyone needs more education about this hybrid chicken, and market chickens should have cages on the floor so they don’t have to walk on wire mesh.
I agree with the board that more education is needed,(like how to tell an ugly, hot chicken apart from a sick or injured chicken) and maybe some misconceptions about this bird can get cleared up. (at least at our little county fair) I intend on writing several more posts about Cornish Cross and we will be making several educational posters to hang up at the fair next year….. whether we enter Cornish Cross or not. The fair was not a total bust, the girls had tons of fun showing their hens and hanging out with friends. They are already talking about next year. 😀
Next week I will share about our last week and our very first butchering day.
I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to our wonderful 4-H leader Linda. She was so much help in our meat chicken raising experience and is always available to answer our questions. She helped with 4-H books, the fair entry process, and when things got crazy at the fair, she stood by us, helped with the grievance process, and even went to the board meeting with us. Linda….YOU ROCK!!!! 😀