Last year, we reserved three of the Freedom Ranger broilers to see how long they would survive, whether or not they would lay eggs, and perhaps whether or not we could breed our own meat chickens. I would never expect a cross to grow as fast as a ranger broiler, but that’s alright… I’m not afraid of an older bird.
With Cornish Cross broilers barely able to survive the few weeks it takes to get them to processing age before their legs break or their hearts burst, I didn’t have too many expectations for these three hens.
But here we are, a whole year later, and they’re all still alive and well. They are just as active as they were 8 months ago, show none of the aggressive characteristics that the ranger roosters demonstrate, and are laying extra large, long, pointed eggs several times a week with a beautiful yolk just as orange as the other gals in the flock.
The next step will be to see how they reproduce. Our rooster is a Black Australorp. When we set out upon this experiment our rooster was a Buff Brahma, a big handsome and friendly fellow whose genetic contribution we hoped would tame down some of the aggressiveness the rangers, yet prevent the size of the offspring from being downsized too drastically. Well he was carried off by an owl one night in the middle of last summer and the largest dual-purpose breed the hatchery had in stock was the Black Australorp, so that’s what we went with. So far he hasn’t harassed the children and he seems to be very attentive to the gals, but not very large at all. If something happens to him, I would probably go back to the Brahma rooster or if these chicks turn out healthy, see what a Jersey Giant might do.
Ultimately, I’m keeping my expectations very low. My curiosity though is very high and that has worked out in the favor of these gals who would otherwise be feeling very naked and very cold (in the freezer) right now. I’m glad to know that the meat chickens we raise could be capable of living to adulthood, something that no one expects could ever be a reality for a Cornish chicken.