Baby Huey and company

But Mama he’s breaking my arm!

So, the meat birds are three weeks old now, and they are gigantic.

Where to begin? Sigh. I have lost three chicks, with two more separated into their own infirmary to see if they’ll get stronger. These five just never seemed to grow well. In point of fact, they never seemed to be able to walk, so they got trampled by the other birds in their hurry to get to the grub. I called a local feed store to see if I could get some replacements. The owner, who gets his birds from the same hatchery, said he wouldn’t be getting more in for a while, but, more importantly, it never should have happened! He told me to call the hatchery and explain the situation. So I did, and I will be getting a credit toward my next order. (This is what I wanted; I didn’t want 5 new baby birds now, and I didn’t want a rebate.) It was nice the hatchery stood behind their product.

But it’s the freaky nature of these birds to mature so darned quickly. Yes, thank you all for warning me: I did know what I was in for. Of the two sick birds, one seems to be able to hop around now, and the other is just not thriving at all. I have them on regular (non-grower) feed, along with boiled eggs. Tom asked if I was going to euthanize them. I said I might have to. Otherwise these birds would be the veal of the chicken world: no exercise, penned up, little meat blobbos.

They’re almost all feathered out, so they’ll be going out into the tractor soon. (I need of course to build the tractor. Maybe this weekend.) When it has been warm, they’ve been out in a small pen in the yard. It’s fun to throw them worms and watch them fight it out. But in general these big babies don’t exhibit typical chicken behaviors like scratching or dusting or roosting. Could be they’re still too young but I seem to remember my egg birds doing this at their age, easily.

I guess the proof will be in the eating if these guys are really worthwhile.

Despite her expression, she still thinks they’re cute

12 responses to “Baby Huey and company

  1. We raised Dark Cornish a couple of years back and didn’t experience any of the normal issues other people experience with the cornish crosses and meat bird types. And they could forage for themselves and behaved chickeny. The did have bigger breasts, but still not as ginormous as the store bought types. But the meat was delicious, so we didn’t mind!! 🙂

  2. we’re trying the standard cornish this year too. i started with a batch of cornish crosses early in the season, and you’re right, there’s something not quite right about it, in my opinion.
    my cornish crosses (some of them) were already starting to have leg issues when it came time to butcher. poor things.
    hopefully, the standard cornish will be a better choice for us!

  3. Yup, that’s why I go with the slower growing crosses. They’re still just as ugly, but they’re still chicken like and not quite so freaky.

  4. I am more confused : ) I was waiting to see how your broiler experience goes. They are really that big in 3 weeks? wow! Not sure what to do…My neighbor had them for few days in the tractor. I looked to the yard this morning and they are GONE! Already butchered! I was feeling bad that they had no roost set-up…now I read that they dont even roost. How badly have they been modified in their genes? Let us have feed-back (pun intended) on how they taste…: )

  5. Angie: Hi! Ginormous is the right word with these little guys. I got straight run and even counting maybe 50% female (and I certainly can’t tell who’s who) they are all big. So we shall see. I would love of course to support a heritage breed; maybe next year’s batches of birds.

    Jayedee, let us know, okay, if the standards turn out better for you, will you?

    Danielle, I’m really going around and around with this whole issue. I completely see the convenience aspect of having birds that go from egg to table in 8 weeks. At 3 wks these babies are still in their minicoop and they’re fine in there (but they won’t roost; they still prefer the chickpile). So with my task list ’round here I wonder if I even need to make the elaborate tractor. But then I intend to have turkeys in the next batch, and maybe a straight run of a heavy bird like Australorps, so I will need housing for those babies. Will the next batch, at 12-16 weeks, eat as much as these blobs do at 8? Who can say! It’s all a grand experiment.

    WF: I have tasted them! This is the breed that my favorite meat farm uses. And they’re tasty AND meaty. I still think the best bird I have yet prepared was an old laying hen (NOT one of my girls) that I cooked with a lot of leeks in a kind of Cock-a-Leekie. She was somewhat tough, but my gosh, was that some chicken. Maybe these babies are still too young to roost, is what I am thinking. They have been out on grass when it’s warm out and they don’t do much grass-eating. Ah. We’ll see.

  6. you know i have to tell you that i just love your daughter! the expressions you capture with your camera are just priceless!

  7. humm, waiting for your verdict. as a non-farmer, they remind too much of supermarket turkeys (shudder), and my experience eating them was from confined organic birds , so it doesn’t equate with what you’re doing.

  8. Jayedee, she is what they call “a character”! I hope she is strong enough to always be one.

    Hayden: Like I said, they are tasty…I am very familiar with the way the ones I ate were raised. I am using the same feed even, so I hope to get the same results. We shall see!!!

  9. I don’t know anything about farming — esp. animals – but I have been really enjoying your blog and just learning about what you’re all doing. It’s fascinating – thanks!

  10. at what week they will be pullet a la cream : )?

  11. The slow crosses are a pretty good size by 12 weeks; I don’t keep them any longer than that. For me, it’s a pretty good compromise: a bigger bird than the heritage breeds and more to consumer taste, shorter rearing time than heritage which take about 16 weeks, still do really well on pasture, and don’t suffer all the health problems of the standard crosses.

    Personally, I prefer the taste of the heritage breeds, but they’re not as easy or as big, and we’re getting to the point as a family of 5 of needing two of them for dinner rather than one slow cross. So, that’s my dilemma. If I can get my heritage breeds to start hatching their own clutches, it would weight my decision back in their favor for our own use, though I’d probably still raise the slow crosses for sales.

  12. WF: Who knows! Somewhere around week 8. A few of them really are quite huge so they may go a little bit earlier…

    Danielle, thank you for your words of wisdom. I knew this would all be a learning thing for me, and am quite open to it. We’re just really curious if these babies will taste as good as the birds we’ve gotten from our meat guys, considering they’re the same hatchery, on the same feed, etc; those were great. Family size DOES certainly matter, what with your three growing kids and all, I’d opt for one plucking gutting and cooking too. There’s only three of us, the third still being a little thing, and one of those chickens lasts us a LONG time (easily 4 meals plus soup/broth). Do keep us up to date if you can get your heritage birds to clutch and rear their own. The more of you who do, the better it will be for all of us, except maybe the Cornish X chickens!

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