Cornish Cross Chicken Breed: Your Guide to a Champion Meat Bird

The Cornish Cross Chicken breed, also called the Cornish Rock, is widely popular in the poultry industry.

While they sound similar, Cornish Chickens and Cornish Cross Chickens are different breeds. The Cornish Chicken is a heritage breed. The Cornish Cross Chicken is a cross-breed that we will discuss in the history of this popular meat bird.

Whenever someone mentions a “broiler bird,” the Cornish Cross chicken is typically the bird they are referring to. Without this popular breed, we wouldn’t have quite the large poultry industry we have today.

Broiler Chicken lying on the ground

Several qualities make this breed unique, including their fast growth time, meat quality, and usage in crossbreeding.

This blog post dives into the many characteristics of this breed, exploring its origins, identifying features, and the unique advantages of using these birds for market.

If you’re interested in learning more about this magnificent breed and its effect on the poultry industry, then you came to the right place!

Historical Background

When it comes to the origins of the Cornish Cross chicken, there’s quite a story behind it. It started with the 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow Contest, where the goal was to create a bird that would grow larger, faster, and hold weight in all the right places.

The 1948 “Chicken of Tomorrow contest” first runner-up was a White Plymouth Rock chicken bred by Henry Saglio from Connecticut. One of the other top broilers was a Red Cornish crossed with a New Hampshire Red from Vantress Hatchery.

This bird was created through selective breeding between the Cornish Chicken, known for its meat quality and compact body shape, and the White Plymouth Rock chicken, a fast-growing, robust chicken breed.

Illustration of broiler chicken’s development over the years (photo credit from University of Wisconsin-Madison Livestock Extension)

The end goal when developing the Cornish Cross chicken breed was to create a meaty bird with rapid growth rates, and this bird did just that.

Over the years, breeders have fine-tuned these birds to shave off growth time while building more muscle. Without this breed, the commercial poultry industry would not be what it is today.

While they have taken the meat industry by storm, they are a less common breed for backyard flocks. However, if you want to raise these birds, they are not impossible to come by!

Physical Characteristics

When it comes to the Cornish Cross chicken breed, there are three different main commercial lines, which are the Cobb 500, the Ross 308, and the Ross 708.

All three of these strains have the same look to them. They are round, plump birds with white feathers, yellow legs and skin, and single red combs. However, the Ross 708 is more of an evenly weight-distributed bird instead of being breast-heavy like the rest.

It is important to remember that this breed is raised for commercial meat production. Therefore, Cornish Cross chickens’ bodies are large and round. At maturity, they average 6 to 8 pounds.

The Cornish Cross chicken breed has been bred to reach maturity quickly and reach market weight and maturity as fast as possible. Most Cornish Cross Chickens are butchered at around eight weeks.

Much like most chicken breeds, when it comes to the difference between the roosters and hens, the roosters tend to be larger and more robust than the hens.

Since the Cornish Cross Chicken are bred for their meat quality, there are few differences between the males and females. Getting to market size fast is the purpose of their breeding rather than distinct appearance differences between the sexes.

Behavioral Traits

Ensuring that they are docile is essential when raising birds in large quantities. The Cornish Cross chicken is just that. They aren’t overly focused on pecking order. They are very social and docile birds.

Despite being docile birds, overcrowding can cause aggressive behavior. Make sure that they have enough space!

This breed is known to be way less active when compared to other chicken breeds. You can let them free-range more successfully if you follow specific guidelines. However, free-ranging is optional when raising Cornish Cross chickens.

Meat chickens enjoying time outside

These birds focus on one main thing-eating and eating and more eating.

Due to their large body shapes and laidback personalities, other chicken breeds within your flock may bully them. Therefore, you’ll want to ensure that you keep an eye on them.

Nutritional Needs

Since Cornish Cross chickens have been genetically bred to gain weight as fast as possible, these birds can eat. Seriously, THEY CAN EAT.

One of the main things these birds need is protein. Protein helps build muscle, and they will rapidly be doing that. During their starter phase of life, their feed contents should be about 22-23% protein. You can reduce protein to 18-20% in their grower phase.

Your birds are going to need a diet with balanced carbohydrates and fats so that they can have enough energy throughout the day.

One of the most crucial ingredients in their diet is calcium. Their body grows astonishingly, and they need calcium so their bones can hold all the muscles.

Generally, for each pound they gain, Cornish Cross chickens and other broiler chickens eat about 2 lbs.

Access to clean, fresh water is necessary for their digestive health; they will eat a lot and need a lot of water.

Remember, your Cornish Cross’ nutritional needs can depend on several factors, including if you want to raise them for meat or just as an addition to your flock.

Housing and Space Requirements

Providing adequate space and housing for your Cornish Cross Chickens is essential for their health and well-being.

Cornish Cross chickens need an adequate amount of space per bird. A standard coop sizing guideline for these hens and roosters is at least two square feet per bird.

With any chicken coop design, you’ll want to ensure proper ventilation. These birds will do a lot of sitting, thus leading to litter buildup. You’ll want as little moisture buildup as possible so that it won’t lead to respiratory problems.

Although Cornish Crosses are not known to roost like other breeds, they can still benefit from low-to-the-ground platforms to perch on. They are not flyers and falls can cause keel bone injuries.

They tend to be way less cold-hardy than most chicken breeds. So, you must properly maintain heating measures during harsher winter. If you need help with ways to ensure your Chickens’ well-being in the winter, you can always check out our article here.

They are also not very heat tolerant. These hens are prone to heat stress; providing water and shade is crucial for their well-being.

Continuous low lights are recommended for your coop when raising broiler chickens, like the Cornish Cross. Phillip Clauer, Former Associate Teaching Professor, 4-H Youth, and Poultry Coordinator, suggests that you “Provide one 25-40 watt bulb per 100 sq. feet.”

Health and Well-being

As with any poultry breed, Cornish Cross chickens come with common health issues. However, their rapid growth rate can make them more susceptible to these health issues.

Respiratory Problems Cornish Cross chickens can be more susceptible to respiratory issues because of their fast growth. It’s essential to watch for infections such as mycoplasma and viral infections. Good hygiene and ventilation practices are important to combat these issues.

Leg Problems Their rapid growth leads to leg problems and deformities, including lameness and splayed legs. Maintaining a proper diet and managing your backyard chickens’ growth rate is crucial for their well-being.

Heart and Cardiovascular Issues Their fast growth rates can strain their hearts and lead to cardiovascular problems. To combat this, you’ll want to ensure they have a balanced diet, manage their weight, and monitor for signs of distress.

Farmers holding and showing off their Cornish Cross Pastured Chickens

Signs of a happy, healthy Cornish Cross Chicken include but are not limited to:

  • Active and alert behavior.
  • Smooth, clean feathers.
  • Clear and bright eyes. (Mareks Disease)
  • Good appetite and hydration
  • No signs of respiratory distress (e.g., coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge).
  • Proper body weight and mobility.
  • No signs of leg deformities

Vaccination Recommendations

When keeping your flock healthy, consult your local poultry veterinarian for vaccines against Coccidiosis, Mareks Disease, New Castle disease, and Infectious Bronchitis.

Pros and Cons of Raising Cornish Cross Chickens

With any other chicken breed, there are pros and cons to raising Cornish Cross chickens.


Fast Growth Rate: If there is one thing that the Cornish Cross is known for, it is its rapid growth rate. They reach market weight in an astonishing 6-8 weeks. This swift turnaround is essential for those seeking meat production efficiency.

High Meat yield: They quickly grow and have a high bone-to-meat ratio. This means you get more meat from each bird than other chicken breeds.

Feed Conversion: One of the most incredible things about these birds is their feed conversion abilities. Birds raised for the Commercial Industry are said to have a 2:1 conversion ratio. While the average backyard flock is closer to 3.5:1. This is crucial for profit potential.

Broiler Chicks


Specialized Diet: Since these birds will gorge themselves to death if given the opportunity, you will want to put them on a specialized diet with a strict feeding schedule.

Health issues: While their growth rate is incredible, it can lead to several health issues. Sometimes, their body can’t keep up with how fast they are growing. Unfortunately, this means this breed experiences higher mortality rates than most other breeds. As well as they tend to have additional structural issues, including leg issues.

Egg Production: Because these birds are meat birds, they are not good egg layers. They tend not to be very broody. And it’s not uncommon for them to have trouble laying eggs because of their size.

Ultimately, it truly depends on your priorities and goals whether raising this breed is a good fit for you. If you want a bird proficient at gaining weight for market, they are the bird for you. However, if you’re looking for an active bird that will give you lots of eggs, there are better choices than the Cornish Cross.

Economic Considerations

Suppose you want to raise Cornish Cross Chickens for market. In that case, you’ll be pleased to know that their rapid growth time tends to cost you less because of lower overall feed costs than slower-growing breeds that require more time and resources to reach the same market weight.

While the market for Cornish Cross chickens can be competitive, there is always a high demand for their white tender meat, and there will always be this demand.

The economic considerations for raising Cornish Cross chickens depend on many factors, including your specific intentions for raising them, resources, and current market conditions. While they offer advantages in rapid growth and efficient meat production, there are also potential setbacks related to health issues and ethical concerns.

Tips for Raising Cornish Cross Chickens

Raising Cornish Cross Chickens successfully requires careful management and attention to their specific needs. Below, we listed some tips for you and your flock!

Feeding Schedule

  • Adhering to a feeding schedule ensures that your hens don’t over-gorge themselves, preventing digestion issues.
  • We recommend using a high-quality commercial broiler feed formulated for Cornish Cross chickens.
  • Lots of protein, calcium, and vitamins for your birds
Broiler chickens at a feeder

Monitoring for Health Issues:

  • Performing regular health checks to monitor for signs of respiratory issues, leg problems, and any other health concerns is a great way to ensure flocks’ health.
  • You want to pay attention to their gait and posture to detect signs of lameness or leg deformities.
  • Maintaining a clean living environment with proper ventilation reduces the risk of disease and infections.


  • Quarantine new birds before introducing them to your existing flock.
  • Limit access to your poultry area to authorized personnel, only reducing the risk of contamination.
  • Regular cleaning of your chickens’ living space.

Raising any chickens, especially Cornish Cross chickens, can be rewarding. However, because of their unique characteristics, they require great attention to detail. You must be prepared to address any health issues, provide a balanced diet, and manage their living conditions to ensure their well-being and successful growth for your flock.

Broiler Rooster standing in a yard

It’s impressive how far the Cornish Cross Chickens have come. These birds have significantly impacted the commercial poultry industry, renowned for their rapid growth and high meat yield.
This breed has single-handedly reshaped how we produce and consume poultry meat, meeting the demands of an ever-growing population.

As homestead poultry owners, it is our responsibility to find a balance between efficient production and the welfare of our birds. Cornish Cross chickens can be great birds to raise with proper nutrition, care, and management.

Do you raise birds, like the Cornish Cross, for meat?
Let us know in the comments!

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.


  1. I raised Cornish hens this year for the first time, I did half my flock of rustic rangers the other half Cornish cross. I found the Cornish hens were a lot easier to process over the rustic rangers and yes, much more nice white meat on these birds as well. I am presuming that my family of 4 can get 2 meals out of a Cornish hen the rustic rangers only one meal.
    They do need a lot more attention I health checked them every day. I noticed around 6 weeks the larger (male) were starting to wobble when they walked. I made sure I have water at one end and food at the opposite so they could get exercise. And I made it a point to let them out into the pens everyday to walk around and get sunlight. I also found that the Cornish hens were ALWAYS HUNGRY! The rustic rangers started to display this behaviour as well when housed with the Cornish. I was planning of keeping one Cornish to renewed however decided against it as my eggs flock already had experienced a loss in the coop and it upset them very much they started picking their feathers out! So maybe for next year I will just get more Cornish hens and build another coop just to breed meat birds.
    Till next time thanks for all the useful information.
    Bonnie Munday from Muskoka Ontario canada

  2. Good article. I have laying chickens but am considering meat chickens. I would keep them separate but when is the best time to start, now or spring.

  3. I will have grown and processed 150 Cornish Cross super roasters by the middle of October. The hatchery I use hatches on Wednesdays, I pick up on Thursdays. I started my first group of 30 mid May and 3 weeks later moved them out of the brooder to an outside covered hoop coop.Temps were cool at night, and their feather patterns are different than regular chickens at this age. They look like they have bald patches, but it’s just the way their feathers grow. To combat the cool night temps I put a heat lamp in the hoop coop on a timer to come on at 9pm and off at 9am. This group was ready to butcher at 6 weeks 3 days old with 7 roosters weighing over 9 pounds, hens 8 to 8.5 pounds. When i butchered the first group my 2nd group of 30 chicks was 3 weeks old. Essentially every 3-4 weeks I got 30 1 day old chicks, rotating chicks to the outside coop once the previous group was processed. I don’t keep them longer than 6 weeks due to their large size and health issues should they gain more weight. They are, by far, the best tasting and ridiculously easy to care for than any other birds I have grown.
    I feed a 22% protein starter/grower commercial crumble available 24/7, only limiting feed the night before butchering so crops are empty.I have found that 30 birds at 5 weeks old will consume 20 pounds of feed and 10 gallons of water in a 24 hour period. They really never stop eating that last week. All 13 roosters from my 3rd group were over 9 pounds, and each of the 17 hens were over 8 pounds.
    At the present I am growing groups 4 and 5 with 28 5 week old chicks in the hoop coop and 40 2 week old chicks in the brooder. I’m done for the year after the 5th group, but will start again next spring.

  4. My first meat chicken group I ever got was end of September 2022. I brooded them and ended up keeping them in the barn. I had 30 and didn’t anticipate how large they get so fast. I butchered at 6 weeks because they were running out of space and I didn’t want health issues because of it. This year i built a covered hoop coop with upside down cattle panels and started in mid May. 30 chicks in the brooder in the barn for 3 weeks, then outside coop for 3 weeks. I put a heat lamp in the hoop coop for another 7-10 days as a supplemental heat source, but they probably would’ve been ok without it. They generate a great deal of their own body heat by that age. I feed 22% starter/grower and go through 8 50lb bags in 6 weeks.2nd group this year I grew was the most difficult in terms of temperature. It was July and HOT. Next year I will start earlier and take a break during end of June and resume again in August. I will still process approx 150 birds, just not in the summer.

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