Our experience with a surprise Cornish X aka Ms. Big Bird or Bigs…
We ended up with 6 random chicks from a farmer friend of a friend two weeks before the mail order chicks arrived. The farmer had picked up 200 chicks and saved 6 for us. He wasn’t sure what kind they were but was pretty sure they were all hens. Which with as much as we knew that was good enough. We brought these little ones home and started guessing at what kind they were as they started to grow and feather out.
But there was one little chick that was twice the size of the others. I felt like we were in the mother goose story. This chick did not fit in, she had huge yellow legs, big fluffy yellow fluff. She started getting white feathers when everyone else was turning brown/red. We started thinking she was a he but “he” never got a big comb and wattle. Weeks went on and we didn’t put much more thought into it. She was a very sweet big chicken, that grew on us and we loved. Anyways, long story short, due to some ragged looking feathers and some investigating, we found out she was a Cornish X. This explained the rapid growth rate and the lack of self cleaning she did. Well, when we found this out she was right about 8 weeks old…which is prime butchering age for these chickens. They tend to have heart failure and die early anyway. This was the worst news we could have gotten! We were so attached to Ms. Big Bird and she seemed to be happy and moderately healthy, we couldn’t cull her now!!
So we made the decision to keep this “little” hen as long as she wasn’t suffering. So on we went. Biggs seemed happy and even started laying a very very pale pink(brown) egg every other day or so.
She did however start to get a pink bum along with very messy feathers, almost like a diaper rash. So, I brought her inside and gave her a butt bath and clipped the messy feathers from her rear end. Since it was February, she spent the night in the garage under a heat lamp while she dried completely through the night.
Lets just say, the husband wasn’t thrilled with butt baths in our soaking tub so from then on she got butt baths in a bin in the garage until it was warm enough to spray her with the hose in the summer time. So far this was the only health problem we noticed with her.
She even survived a coon attack – ripped up but made a great recovery. I’ll detail that more in another post.
Winter soon came to an end and summer came up slowly. The chickens were back to free ranging full time and enjoying the fresh supply of bugs. Big Bird stayed closer to the coop where there was always fresh food, water and shade. She didn’t go out on big adventures with the rest of the flock. But that was fine. She seemed happy and content.
Most people say their Cornish X’s only lasted about 6 months before dying of a heart attack! Wow, Go Bigs!! However, two months after her first birthday Ms. Big Bird started showing signs of heart failure. Her comb and wattle started turning purple and slowly shrank down and became shriveled. I knew the time was coming and was hoping not to have to make the move to cull her. About a week had passed and one day I saw here in the coop with her eyes slowly closing, like she was so tired she just couldn’t stay awake. I figured this was probably the last interaction with her so i gave her a big pat and hug and said good bye. Sure enough, in the morning our sweet big chicken had passed away.
I will always have fond memories of that chicken. She looked like a oversize airplane taking off when she ran, she always made goofy squawking noises when she got excited, but I would never raise this breed of chicken again unless it was just for meat. And I’m not sure I would do that either. I do NOT recommend these birds as backyard pets. I dont think we did her wrong by letting her live, i don’t think she suffered, but it was very clear that she was not meant to be a free range hen on a farm – she was a production animal for sure.
RIP Ms. Big Bird!