Coming soon to a field, then dinnerplate, near us
Welp, I have placed my meat bird order yesterday. We should get them in a week.
So: did you know that Cornish game hens were simply really young chickens, and not necessarily hens at all? As a kid I was under the impression that these precious tiny things on our dinner table were something very exotic. Nope; we were just eating babies! Cornish chickens were developed around 1870 in Cornwall, England, out of a couple strains of southeast Asian chickens and some local heavier-bodied birds: in the breed’s native Cornwall, they are called Indian Game birds because of their heritage. “Game” birds, in chicken parlance, mean cock-fighting birds. Asils and Malays, the predominant Cornish ancestors, are skinny, big-boned, fight-inclined things with powerful long legs. Cornish chickens are heavy, long-legged, upright birds with close feathers and a fat and fleshy breast.
Most of the roasting chickens you eat are white Cornish cross birds, or Cornish X. The cross is usually white Plymouth Rock. Why white, you ask? Well, aesthetics, mainly: white feathers if missed at the plucking won’t look as disgusting as dark ones. The birds we’ll be getting are someplace along this tangled line of crosses with crosses. The Hubbard White Mountain Broilers (who comes up with these names, anyway?), like all the Cornish X birds, have been bred to go from hatched egg to your table in as little as 4 weeks. They are the ultimate production bird.
Chicken history is rather fascinating. It’s more interesting than garden flower history, and at least as interesting as vegetable history, in my humble gardener’s opinion. The hand of the breeder is so very evident in everything that we eat and that we plant.
Now, considering my slow lifestyle and insistence on DIY everything and heirloom breeds of vegetables, why in the world would I consider the most processed of processed bird breeds for my first batch of meat chickens? I ask myself this all the time. I suppose the only answer I can give is that, first time around, I want to make sure it’s a relatively easy process for me (as it is me, myself and I who will be killing, gutting and plucking these creatures). So the very idea that these guys have been bred for such a short lifespan does have a certain appeal. Sorry, babies.