Can You Keep Cornish X Chickens as Laying Hens?

6 month old Cornish X pullet.
6 month old Cornish X pullet.

 To find out the fate of this pullet, visit this post.

Cornish X Chickens for Meat

Cornish X chickens have been hybridized for fast growth and economical meat production, making them unsuitable for keeping as pets or laying hens. They usually grow so big, so fast that their legs and hearts are unable to withstand their bulky size. Normally it isn’t a good idea to keep them much past their suggested butchering age of 8 weeks.

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Comparing the Cornish X pullet eggs to duck eggs.
Comparing the Cornish X pullet eggs to duck eggs.

 

 But Can They Lay Eggs?

Now, having said that, the Cornish X hens are capable of laying eggs like any other chicken. They have all of the proper anatomy for the job. If you raise your meat birds on a normal chick starter feed, rather than high protein meat producer feed, they won’t grow as quickly. Allowing them pasture to roam will also keep them in better shape so that they can act more like a normal chicken. It is possible that these changes will produce a chicken that is better able to survive and lay eggs like your normal laying breeds.



Would I advise keeping Cornish X chickens for laying hens?

No, normally I wouldn’t. But then I have a tendency to forget my own advice. This spring I raised a batch of Cornish X chicks for our freezer. As they grew, I noticed that one little pullet was pretty small. At 7 weeks, when most of them were butchered, the runt wasn’t big enough to process. She was about twice the size of a normal chick but maybe half the size of the other Cornish X chickens. You can read more about her in my post The World’s Dumbest Chicken.

 

My Cornish X pullet at about 10 weeks.

 A Breeding Experiment

I put off butchering her and waited for her to grow.  I started to wonder if this pullet could be worth keeping as breeding stock for my own home hatched meat chickens. I don’t want to purchase the Cornish X chicks any more, because of the inhumane conditions in many hatcheries. So I’ve been toying with the idea of hatching out more mixed breed, dual purpose chickens. The extra roosters will be butchered at about 5 to 6 months and the pullets used for layer replacements. Perhaps this pullet will provide the genetics for a larger sized chicken.


Brutus, the rooster.
Brutus, the rooster.

But would she lay eggs? Would the rooster accept her as a normal hen and mate with her? Will she die of a heart attack or some other complication stemming from her larger size? I figured it was worthwhile to find out and assimilated her into the rest of the flock.

Well, the first question has been answered. The Cornish X pullet is laying an egg almost every day at the age of 6 months. She has been laying for about 3 weeks and the size of the egg is a bit larger than most pullet eggs.

Now we just have to wait to see if the rooster will mate with her. So far, Brutus is not interested in taking part in this experiment.

Update: I never had any success hatching eggs from this hen. However, some of my readers have successfully hatched Cornish Cross eggs…please see the comments below.

Have you ever kept a Cornish X chicken as a layer? What was your experience?


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