Backyard Chickens

The Cornish Chicken

The Cornish chicken breed has in its background infusions of the Malay breed, together with other oriental breeds. The Cornish originated in Cornwall, a county in the south-west of England and was originally called the Indian Game.

The Cornish comes in several colours including Dark, White, and an attractive White-Laced Red. The Dark Cornish Game is a dark blue-green. The hens have brown patterning. Another variety is the Jubilee Cornish Game which are generally light wheaten in colour and have light brown patterning. There is a bantam version of this breed.

Cornish ChickenCredit:

The aim of cross-breeding Asian game birds was to create a better fighting cock. However the end result was a very superior meat bird. Its reputation did not become well established until after the breed had been in the United States for some time.

The Cornish has short legs and a wide muscular breast. Because of the wide distance between the hips, it sometimes suffers from leg problems. It is rather slow-growing but is popular as an exhibition specimen. When crossed with a breed such as the Sussex or Dorking, an excellent backyard meat bird can be raised. On the down side they are very poor layers, cited as averaging only one egg per week. They also need large amounts of feed. When slaughtered, the bulk of the meat is white and has a fine texture. It is the most popular breed for producing meat chickens.

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The Cornish is often regarded as the ultimate in meat birds and has played a large role globally in the development of the broiler industry. Extremely popular for broiler and fryer markets is the Cornish/Plymouth Rock cross as the latter is a much faster grower. It has an excellent carcass shape with good development and distribution of muscle. Also popular because of its delicious meat and smaller size is the Rock Cornish game hen.

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The Cornish is large and stocky. Cocks reach ten pound in weight and hens eight. The body is broad and well muscled with widely spaced, very solid legs. The aggressive nature of the roosters is suggested by the rather cruel expression which is brought about by the deep set eyes. The brows project over the eyes and, with the strong, slightly curved beak, the expression is very severe. The feathers are short and sometimes areas of skin are exposed so it needs to be able to access adequate protection during very cold weather because of the lack of insulation provided by its plumage.

It is an impressive looking bird, heavy with wide but compact bodies. Natural mating is not easy for these birds and they often have poor fertility levels. They need space and exercise if they are to develop muscle and bulk. The hens do go broody but results of natural incubation are not always satisfactory. The hens are unable to cover many eggs and, while they are very protective, they tend to continually walk with their brood, resulting in tired and lost progeny. The chicks are also prone to cannibalism.