Many different breeds can produce excellent meat, and the time needed for them to reach an appropriate size varies depending on the breed. While we do not specifically produce meat birds, one of the most common birds raised specifically for meat production is the Cornish Rock Cross. A hybrid bird, this breed is genetically programmed to grow extremely quickly and produce a traditional meat chicken body. These birds grow so rapidly that they can be ready for processing in less than 12 weeks from the time they are hatched. Before purchasing this breed for the first time, be sure to do some research on their care because they can have some special husbandry needs, including living in hot conditions, overeating, and medical issues due to their size.
Before deciding to purchase birds for meat purposes, it is important to know that you have the proper skills, education, equipment, and desire to actually process the birds. There are a few commercial processors available who will slaughter and package birds for you, but be sure to locate a provider well before you purchase the birds to make sure you can count on them to work with you later; one may not be located in your area. If processing yourself, it is important to be educated on the proper way to handle the birds before, during, and after harvesting them to insure humane treatment as well as food safety standards. Please note that if you purchase these specific meat birds and then decide later not to process them, birds that are kept longer can develop signifiant health problems due to their tremendous size and growth rates; they cannot be kept in a coop for years like other breeds of chickens.
If you decide to purchase Cornish Rock chickens, here are some facts about the breed:
Temperament: Calm and easy to work with, docile
Egg production: No
Used as meat birds: Yes, exclusively
Size: Extra large, males to 12+ pounds, females to 8+ pounds in 9-12 weeks
Listed by The Livestock Conservancy: No
As always, we recommend researching the quality of the breeder facility, the care required for keeping chickens in New England, your local laws and regulations for keeping poultry, and the many different breeds available before purchasing any birds. If you decide to process meat birds, be sure to learn the specific food requirements and legal constraints in your town and state. Please especially note that birds that are home processed cannot be legally sold to other individuals for food unless processed in an approved USDA facility, so producing chicken meat for sale may require additional information and compliance with regulations. Check with your local farm bureau for information.