Frey’s vs White Rock

Chickens: Frey\'s vs White Rock

At this point, it’s safe to say that I’m no fan of White Rock Cornish X chickens. Without a doubt, they convert feed to meat incredibly…efficiently—compare the lone Frey’s Special Dual Purpose at the top center of the pic, surrounded by hulking, waddling White Rocks two and three times its size. What they gain in meat, they lose in basic chicken-ness… This first flock of mine are lumbering birds, with no taste for the outdoors, no built-in scratching skills, they’re definitely not up for dust baths or foraging through tall grass. They sit around, eat like crazy, drink, and, here and there, just kinda spontaneously DIE. I’ve learned a lot from this first go-round with meat birds, and I haven’t entirely rejected the White Rocks—I’m saving my final…evaluation for after they’re off to the slaughter in 2-3 weeks. More to follow…

25 thoughts on “Frey’s vs White Rock”

  1. I think that you should get a few friendly laying hens!  I just read about a friendly breed in a magazine, but I’m not sure if they are available in Canada…Have you read Carrots love Tomatoes yet?  I will bring it out next time I come out if you want!  It is really great!

  2. Mike,
    You’re having the same feelings I had last year about the chickens.  I did find however that the hybrid broilers will forage more on pasture if they are put out early and always.  I put mine out at 3 weeks and kept them in chicken tractors (google it) made popular by Joel Salatin.   They would eat a fair amount of green stuff it seemed.  They did however die very easily and seem quite sensitive overall.  On the other hand, they taste really good and reach 4 lbs by 8 weeks.  The Frey’s dual purpose weren’t 4 pounds even at 15 weeks and by that time had eaten a LOT more feed than the broilers.  They tasted good in the end but needed to be slow cooked only (pressure cooker or slow cooker) and definitely didn’t look like what people are used to in a meat chicken.  They had very yellow fat and a lot more dark meat.  We found the taste was quite good in the end, but the meat is definitely more “textured”, by which I mean chewy.
    I second the thought on laying hens.  They are a joy to raise compared to the broilers.  I have 50 this year of various breeds.  They’re easy to raise and it seems like it won’t be hard to sell the eggs.

  3. I had raised the White Rock Cornish for 3 years.  I hate them for just being fat and lazy but you can’t beat the feed to meat ratio and they taste pretty good!  This year I heard of Freedom Rangers, grow like the rocks but more chicken like (forage etc)…went online looking and found the company went out of business this year.  Sadly I ended up with the rocks again.

    • Freedom Ranger Hatchery in Pennsylvania is still open for business. I get hundreds of birds monthly from Arthur
      Call them. 717-336-4878

  4. I have been there on the cornish/rocks. They can’t be beat for feed conversion and length of time to raise them. If you want the qualities, why not just get a Cornish rooster and a few white rock hens. White rock hens are a nice bird and bred with a rooster produce really nice meat birds.

    That way you would have real chickens, meat birds, and plymouth rocks lay quite well. It does involve a small incubator but I have built incubators and it is quite a simple task to build an incubator. Some aren’t even that expensive. Hatching chicks is awesome for kids too.

    • Kelly: Thanks for the ideas. That’s something I’ll almost surely try. The efficiency of the White Rocks is hard to forget, but so is their unsettling lumbering around and unchicken-like behavior. I also want to try getting White Rocks outside from an early age, instead of just constantly feeding them.

  5. I have 5white rocks n 5black rocks this year
    mainly as thats what the feed store had
    they do seem to gain fast however I did buy for eggs layers so hopefully they don’t poof off too fast  I don’t eat my chickens lol so dang if they die fast will try a diff breed next year, they do go out and often spend the night ou in their safe pen, have had only 1 possum attack brusing one bird but she seems to be recovering slowly the rest are pretty spritely, the blacks seem much smaller I bought the run and hoped for a rooster n bought 5 sure hens in the white lol looks like the blacks are all hens and 2 roosters in the white sheesh

  6. Pingback: Behaving like chickens! | How to make a Vegetable Garden
  7. I thought the exact same thing!  They’re monsters… I felt bad raising  them since they had no vigour.  They seemed to get tired just walking around and would flop down to the ground.
    Now remember, these are the cross-bred chickens.  A ‘plain’ white rock is a great meat bird.  But these Cornish X Rock blends are just wrong.  Nice feed to meat ratio, but I felt like I was losing the raised humanely aspect.

  8. i to, have raised the dreaded hybred, jumbo cornish X.  the last batch i did was a night mare…..the worst case senario……with over 40 chicks in my shipment, come butchering time, i had only 21 survivors.  the   batch before that  was a 100% success, and the first batch only 3 deaths.  next week i will recieve 25 dark cornish, and i cant wait.  after that i would like to try perhaps, white rocks, maybe some freedom rangers, perhaps some new hampshire reds, or red or black broilers.  so many choices out there if you look around.  i agree, the cornish Xs just seem like a cruel joke.  ya cant help but feel sorry for em.

  9. I raised Cornish Rock X this year as well. I found that if I pull the feed for an hour or two in the mornings after moving their “tractor”, they forage a bit better and get more exercise. Does this help them? I don’t know; but I feel like I am encouraging them to be more chicken-like. At 10 weeks our chickens were 6 – 7 1/2 pounds, dressed! Great taste, very tender, even the thighs are “whiter” than commercial chickens.
    We called them Franken-chickens!! 
    My husband keeps reminding me – they are bred for this purpose. :-/

    • That was my experience exactly with my second White Rocks. Their feed was measured daily, and after they’d polished it off in a feeding frenzy, they headed out. A few weeks in, and they were bursting out the chickenhouse door in the morning, couldn’t wait to get out and about. I saw them running – lumber-running – around with worms in their beaks. I think the exercise helped a lot, because I didn’t lose any this time, compared to a dozen or more out of 40 in the first round. With foraging, they weighed around 7 lbs at 10 weeks or so, about a pound less than when they were all-feed, but since none died, that turned out net better. And it was just a lot more satisfying to raise them, they seemed happier – happy – instead of just freakishly expanding Frankenbirds. :)

  10. when do the Cornish/Rock’s crops start to redden? I have a mixed flock and i need to know so that i don’t accidentally butcher one of my tetra tints…

  11. Hi Mike,

    I often find your blog when searching for small farming info. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

    I especially like your recent response to Ginger from October 2011. This is very useful. We are planning to give it a try this year.

    How much did you feed per day per chicken?

    Thanks again!

    • I don’t recall the exact amount, but probably whatever is their recommended daily by age, maybe 10-20% little less. The idea is not to let them overeat to the extreme, and get discouraged from moving around by having endless food sitting in front of them. I don’t think they get that much from foraging, limiting feed is mostly to encourage them get exercise, and top up with a healthy variety of food, like plants and insects. I would also give them vegetable culls and the like. They still get the majority of growth from the feed. As always, experimentation is good, taking into account how long you intend to keep them, and how much area they have to roam in, as the smaller the area, the faster they will go through what’s around. And always remember to have plenty of clean water available, and shade.

      Glad you like the blog. :)

  12. This is our third year growing the CornishX, and we too find them somewhat un-natural, but there are not many alternatives out there for a fast growing specific ‘meat bird’. I am very interested in the Freedom Rangers, but cannot find a source for them here in Canada. Ours are out on pasture from 3-4 weeks old depending on the weather. We use the Joel Salatin pen and method, which has worked very well for us, and once the chickens adjust from the move to the great outdoors, they also seem happier. We are planning to get some heritage Dark Cornish and try breeding our own, as we do with our laying hens. A work in progress :)

    Thanks for the great blog by the way. Will definitely check out some of the suggestions from the other replies!

  13. I raise the lumbering chickens. I think it is kind of cute the way they lumber around. I have ordered them many times as a streight run. I order a dozen and a 100lbs bag of feed. The 100lb bag of feed last till I butcher. I butcher them out at 8-10 weeks at 6 1/2 lbs or so, or till the bag is gone. Sometimess they are not even fully feathered out.This time I did not free feed, only twice a day. I feed them about a 1/2 cup a day per bird and at 8 weeks old they are smaller then usual, more active too. They now have a small pasture to rome around in all day long. They love worms, finding bugs, eating greens, and scratching and digging in the dirt. They might not be like my free range chickens, however they are who they are and what they are bred to be. A very big delicious bird. This year will be my first year trying to keep a few of the smaller hens. I am looking forward to the adventure.

  14. Hi.

    I realize that this is an old posting, but had to comment.

    Cornish X’s, or meat chickens really should not be raised unless you plan butchering them at 7 1/2 weeks or less. They are not bred for their chickenness and at some point I do not believe they have a happy life. We have raised and butchered over fifty of the birds, and have 25 growing now. When butchering the 7 week old birds we found that most of the birds had congestive heart problems (the sack around the heart fills with fluid and makes it difficult for the heart to beat, eventually killing them). This is painful in humans so I am sure it is also for them. We have found that after two weeks letting them sleep at night than butchering them at 5-6 weeks we get 5lb dress out and hardly any loss of the birds. They seem somewhat happy up to that point also. That said, we also have a 30+ layer flosk that is loads of fun. They forage, run around, and are very chicken like. We have found that if you have a broody hen and let her sit on a clutch of eggs for a couple of weeks you can order chicks from the breeders and put them under the broody hen in the night (removing the eggs) and let her raise them. The chicks seem to be healthier, happier, and more inquisitive. The hen really does teach the chicks. BTW we have Wyandott layers.

    I hope this helps some of you. Good luck.

  15. Maybe it’s not the bird, but your methods? The CX forage better than any DP or layer breed I’ve ever owned if put out on free range at 2 wks and fed only once or twice a day. They are friendly, active and very industrious on forage, traveling constantly over 3 acres of land and foraging further afield than any other breed I’ve known.

    Fed on simple layer ration and whole grains that have been fermented, these birds have amazing potential for hardiness and good health…I have zero mortality rate when I raise them and no smells in the coop while using the fermented feeds and deep litter. I can show videos of what I am attesting to if there is any doubt.

    Another lady I know used my methods and had 0% mortality also, processed at 10 wks and had birds at 13-15 lb live weights. They were free ranged and fed fermented organic feeds and were the biggest birds I’ve ever seen. Healthy through and through with all livers and hearts in excellent health upon examination of the organs.

    And…just a thought..but maybe you could change the title of the blog? What you have pictured are not White Rock chickens..they are Rock Cornish Cross chickens and are vastly different from the Plymouth White Rock breed, though the WR breed was used in the genetics of the CX.

  16. Not sure what you all are doing wrong….this year I’ve raised 15 Cornish x and all survived and did quite well. I however am very careful and have a strict schedule, (feeding, cleaning, putting outside after 2 1/2 weeks etc.) Just feeding them all their little hearts desire is just asking for a heart attack. After 3 weeks I only feed them twice a day, as much as they will eat in fifteen or twenty minutes each feeding and at noon they get cracked corn to help them not feel like they’re starving to death. Ask a reputable hatchery and they can give you tips like they gave me to make sure you have as many as possible survive to butchering age! I swear just doing these things helped A LOT, it takes a little more effort but it’s worth it to have all or most make it to your table.

  17. I have raised Cornish X for over ten years and have never had an issue with them keeling over suddenly. I first thought I could raise them like my egg layers to free range and roam the barnyard, but the meat was tough and too many ended up getting injured and breaking their legs. That’s when I graduated to using chicken tractors because I refused to keep them cooped up in a barn without fresh air and real ground. I usually raise 25 at a time and I do lose maybe 1 or 2 from day one to week 8 or 9, but that can happen with my egg layers as well. They are kept in 4 groups split into my four chicken tractors which are 6’x6′ each. I move the tractors twice a day so that they have plenty of access to clean bare ground and I feel eventhough they still dont run around a ton, they have a good balance between cage life and complete free range.


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