When deciding to add a new chicken to the flock, we must choose based on the chicken’s breed and our purposes. Are we looking for a meaty hen who will feed the family and still have leftovers for the next day? Do we want an egg-layer who will lay an egg every day for us? Here’s the scoop on the Cornish chicken.

chicken divider Quick Facts about Cornish Chickens

Breed Name:Gallus gallus domesticus
Place of Origin:Cornwall, England
Uses:Meat farming, chicken shows
Male Size:Standard: 7.93 lbs; Bantam: 4.4 lbs
Female Size:Standard: 5.95 lbs; Bantam: 3.3 lbs
Color:Dark, white, white-laced red, buff
Lifespan:5–8 years
Climate Tolerance:Mild to warm only
Care Level:Low to moderate
Production:Good meat production, low egg-laying production

Cornish Chicken Origins

Black Austrocorp chicken scratching on grass
Image Credit: Natalie Board, Shutterstock

In Cornwall, England, the Cornish chicken was initially bred by Sir Walter Gilbert of Bodmin. They were intended to be gamecocks but had no skill in fighting. Thus, their large size has become popular amongst meat farmers who want to produce giant chickens.

The Cornish chicken was initially referred to as the Indian Game chicken but has been renamed to the Cornish chicken to better reference its origins.

Cornish Chicken Characteristics

Cornish chickens are incredibly bulky and stocky. They can weigh in at upwards of 9 pounds and feature broad, deep chests. The Cornish chicken is likely the source of any chicken breast meat that you cook.

Nowadays, the Cornish chicken is bred for meat and showing. Some Cornish chickens bred for showing have such deep chests and short legs that render them functionally infertile. Domestic Cornish chickens do not have this problem.

One prominent feature of the Cornish chicken is their high resistance to common poultry diseases. However, they’re not universally impervious to illness and are susceptible to parasites. So, Cornish chicken owners should watch their chickens for any infestations.

Cornish chickens do not fare well in the cold because of their thin feathers and lack of down feathers. They’re highly susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite when exposed to cold temperatures. Farmers who live in cold-weather areas will need to invest in heat lamps to keep their coop warm to raise Cornish chickens.

Additionally, Cornish chickens lay eggs very infrequently. Farmers who need a chicken for egg-laying will want to invest in a chicken more suitable for that task. Cornish chickens are meat chickens through and through, and the average Cornish hen will only lay about 60–80 eggs a year.

Cornish Chicken Uses

The Cornish chicken is primarily bred for meat farming because of its stocky and bulky physique. Their broad, deep chests provide a lot of usable meat; however, they are considered poor egg-layers, laying only 60–80 eggs per year.

Cornish Chicken Appearance & Varieties

England recognizes three colorings of the Cornish chicken: the original dark, the Jubilee, and the rare double-laced blue. In the United States, four colors are recognized: dark, white, white-laced red, and buff.

The dark Cornish chicken is by no means a chicken supermodel. The feathers are many colors, including iridescent greens, browns, and blues. The thin, stiff feathers give the chicken a slim appearance despite its bulky physique.

Cornish chickens are famous for crossbreeding meat chickens. The Cornish Cross, in particular, is a renowned meat chicken that takes the bulky physique of the Cornish chicken and crosses over the faster growth rate of the Plymouth White.

Population, Distribution, & Habitat

Cornish chickens are extremely popular worldwide. They can be found anywhere where chicken meat farming is widespread because of their high meat yields. They’re usually crossbred with other chickens to create hybrid broilers or fast-growing game hens.

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Is Cornish Chicken Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Cornish chickens aren’t perfect for small-scale farming. They don’t produce many eggs and grow as fast as crossbreeds like the Cornish Cross. The Cornish chicken will see the most success on farms with a lot of space and can wait for the chickens to grow to their full size.

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Final Thoughts

Cornish chickens are famous worldwide for their meaty builds and unique appearance. While they may not be suitable for small-scale farming, they have an important place in our global agricultural industry.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels