If you come out to our farm for a tour, the first thing that you will notice is that there is not one Cornish cross chicken anywhere on our farm. This is the typical meat breed of chickens that you find in the grocery store and raised by most small time farmers.
In the past, we also raised these chickens because there was nothing else desirable to raise for meat. Yes there was the heritage roosters such as the Rhode Island Reds and the Delawares to name a few but these birds took at least 17 weeks and they were still not like what most customers are accustomed too.They were in my opinion boney and they did not have a nice size breast that most people want in a chicken. I have to admit that they were flavorful.
The Cornish cross is a hybrid engineered chicken that is developed through breeding certain traits in chickens until you get a bird that will produce a large amount of meat in a short period of time, usually 6-7 weeks at a 2:1 feed to meat ratio.
Since the Cornish cross grows so fast, the heart, the legs, and the wings do not develop like they are suppose too. These birds are known to have heart attacks when they are stressed such as summertime temperatures. The legs and wings of these birds are weak and a lot of times the legs are so deformed that the chickens are not even able to move around. I have noticed that if you are not careful, the weak ligaments in the wings will allow the wings to dislocated during the killing process and restraining cones are a must with these birds.
So I know that you are now wondering what types of meat chickens we raise on our farm if we do not raise the Cornish Cross or the Layer roosters.
We raise the Freedom Rangers also known as Rainbow Rangers, Redbros or Tri Colors. These chickens were developed back in the 1960's over in France through their Label Rouge program. They made their way over to the States back in 2010 and we have been raising them on our farm since 2011.
I can tell you that after raising these chickens we will never go back to Cornish cross chickens . They are far superior to the so called Franken birds aka-Cornish Cross. Heck, they even look like a normal chicken! These chickens do not have the leg problems associated with the Cornish Cross and I have yet to see them having heart attack when the temperature rises above 90* which is typical in our part of the country in mid summer. I have also notice that their wings are much stronger than than the Cornish and don't fall apart if they flap too hard or in the plucker.
Yes they do take longer to raise, usually about 9-12 week are normal for a 3-1/2-5 pound chicken but this in my opinion, raising them longer helps to develop a tastier chicken.
The freedom rangers are also much more active bird. Unlike the Cornish cross chicken which just sits around in one place usually near the feed dish munching on grain all day, the freedom Rangers are very active and just loves to search for their food. They are also excellent foragers and will eat a lot of grass and insects if given the chance to do so. They also look so natural that it is almost impossible to tell them apart from a New Hampshire Red layer.
So I will ask you, what type of bird would you like to see on your dinner table?