Cornish chickens (also called Indian Game) are one of the most popular broiler chickens in the world. While not known as good pets or egg layers, they are widely bred due to their wide breasts and delicious meat.
If you’re interested in raising these chickens, then you’re in the right place! In our complete guide to Cornish chickens, we will share everything you need to know about this wonderful breed. That includes its history, characteristics, behavior, health, and lots more. Let’s get started!
The Cornish Chickens and its Origins
The Cornish chicken is known by a few different names across the world. It’s called Cornish in the United States, but interestingly, Australia and the Poultry Club of Great Britain refer to it as Indian Game.
We say interestingly, as the chicken was developed in Cornwall, UK. People from Cornwall are called Cornish, hence where the chicken got its name. Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert, a British East India Company army officer, created this breed in 1820 when he crossed a red Aseel hen with a black-breasted red game rooster.
He chose the Aseel hen for its strength and the game rooster for its speed. His actual goal was to create a chicken breed that was ideal for cockfighting. However, when the two were crossbred, he found that the chicken had no appetite for fighting.
Soon after, this chicken made its way to the United States, and its name was changed from Indian Game to Cornish to make sure people didn’t associate it with cockfighting.
Qualities of the Cornish Chicken
If you’re interested in caring for these chickens then it’s important to know what they are like to keep. Here we’ll check out their size, temperament, and behavior to give you all the info you need.
1. Size and Appearance
The Cornish chicken hen usually weighs around 9 lbs with roosters being a couple of pounds heavier than that. Although they have a slender appearance, these chickens are meaty due to their broad breasts, which is why they became immensely popular.
With a short neck, broad skull, and well-spaced legs, the Cornish chicken has a stocky appearance. However, this can be an issue for them as they age as they can struggle to carry their own body weight.
Their feathers display a mix of colors such as greens, browns, and blue, but they can also come in white and buff.
One thing that sets them apart is their piercing, almost menacing appearance. Their eyes seem razor-sharp, and their features can convey an angry or agitated demeanor. This reflects their temperament to some extent, as they were bred for game-fighting purposes.
These chickens were originally bred for fighting because of their aggressive nature. However, despite efforts to make them into fighters, they weren’t entertaining enough in the ring. They can still have this aggressive streak which means they aren’t great options for small backyard coops.
This is important to avoid developing stiff legs and them becoming more irritable. Although they tend to be gentle towards their handlers, they still require more room than average chickens.
Cornish hens are known to be excellent mothers, but they can become aggressive if they feel their young are being threatened. They also tend to be broodier than other breeds and may sit on a nest without eggs or even on a rock. However, they can only cover a few eggs because they lack tail feathers.
Cornish chicks have a tendency to be cannibalistic, which starts with feather pulling or pecking. This may even escalate to aggressive pecking if one chick becomes injured. Removing any injured chicks from the flock for separate veterinary care can help with this behavior.
Although Cornish hens are not known for their exceptional egg-laying abilities, they still possess a strong maternal drive. Often, they become broody, desiring to raise chicks. However, their close and tight feathering often doesn’t provide sufficient insulation, so you may need to care for them during cold weather if you wanted to raise chicks.
Broodiness is not a quality you want in a chicken, especially if you are hoping to claim their eggs. But as they only produce 150 small eggs per year, they are very bad egg layers when compared to other breeds.
With all of this factored in, it is generally accepted there’s only one reason to keep Cornish chickens, which is for their meat.
Health Issues of the Cornish Chicken
Cornish chickens are generally healthy, but they can experience leg problems. These issues include torn ligaments, joint degeneration, and chronic pressure sores on their hocks and feet.
It is important to seek veterinary care promptly if you notice joint issues. While these problems are often caused by their weight, they can also be a sign of an infection. If they do have torn ligaments, then euthanizing the bird is usually necessary in most cases.
However, for obvious reasons, this isn’t usually something to be concerned about. Broilers are usually killed for their meat between 7 to 9 weeks old. However, if you are keeping a Cornish chicken for other reasons, there is another health issue to consider.
Impacted crops are another common issue in Cornish chickens. The crop is a small pouch-like organ at the end of the esophagus. Cornish chickens tend to keep eating despite being full, which can cause the crop to become swollen.
If you notice a swollen pouch in the chicken’s lower neck area, it’s crucial to call a veterinarian since the crop needs to be drained. Improper draining can be fatal, so a trained professional must perform the procedure.
Provided you maintain healthy living conditions for your Cornish chickens, they can live as long as most other chicken breeds at around 5 to 8 years.
Cornish Chickens and Meat Production
Cornish chickens are well known for their excellent meat quality due to their large breasts and overall meaty physique. The meat is tender and rich in flavor, which makes them one of the most popular broiler chickens in the world.
Compared to modern broilers, it takes longer for these chickens to completely mature. Once they reach maturity, these chickens can reach a market weight of 6.5-8.5 lbs.
Another popular way to use Cornish chickens for their meat is when you breed them with a White Plymouth Rock to make Cornish game hens. These are Cornish game hens are slaughtered at a young age before reaching market weight. These are commonly used in restaurants and gourmet food stores.
Raising Cornish Chickens: Quick Tips
If you are keen on taking care of the Cornish chickens, that’s great! With that, here are a few tips you can follow to successfully raise them.
- Carefully Manage Their Grazing – These chickens are not known for their foraging skills, so they are best raised in controlled environments. If you let the Cornish chickens forage, you will need to carefully manage their grazing to prevent soil degradation.
As mentioned earlier, you need to carefully control your diet to prevent overeating. If being raised for their meat, it’s best for them to have a high-protein diet.
- Provide Sufficient Durable Fencing – These chickens are generally active and alert. With that, they tend to become escape artists if not properly kept. To avoid such issues, it is best to use sturdy fencing in your area.
Be sure it is at least six feet tall and secure enough to stop these chickens from escaping. Having high-quality fencing will also help to keep predators out.
- Control Breeding and Avoid Inbreeding – Cornish chickens are typically raised for meat production so they often have a short lifespan. However, if you decide to breed your chickens, it is crucial to exercise caution and manage it carefully. Doing so will help avoid issues such as inbreeding.
- Slaughter Regularly – Typically, this chicken breed is slaughtered around 6 to 10 weeks of age, depending on their weight and size. With that, we suggest having a regular slaughtering schedule to ensure the chickens are appropriately harvested.
- Manage Brooding Periods – These chickens need full and careful management during brooding. This is to guarantee their well-being and health. To do this, you can give them a draft-free environment that is both warm and dry.
Cornish chickens are one of the most popular breeds in the world. While originally bred for fighting, they soon become known for their delicious meat. If you’re keeping them as broiler chickens, then it’s best to keep to a regular slaughter schedule.
If you’re not keeping their chicks for their meat, then it’s important to control their environment, prevent any inbreeding, and check for any health issues. We hope we’ve given you all the info you were looking for about this amazing chicken!