I am sad to have to report that Carin – the most healthy of my Cornish Cross hens – has died. We have had some extremely cold weather here over the last three weeks and on one of the nights the temperature reached 16 degrees. I was not surprised to find one of the “three’ Cornish cross hens dead the next morning – she had looked like she was experiencing heart problems for a few days before and I think her grossly over-sized body could not handle any more strain. But Carin’s death the next day was a surprise. She had obviously had a heart attack although she was the most active and healthy of the Cornish Cross hens. She continued to make daily rounds with her sisters and Mom and kept up in all aspects except flying (she could not fly at all). I guess that all that selective breeding and manipulation finally caught up with her – and will catch up to the remaining two hens eventually. Its sad – but these hens are only a few months old and have not even started laying yet. They should be at the prime of their life – yet they are dying of old chicken maladies.
This experience has just re-enforced my belief that natural and heritage is better. While man has been shaping animal physiology to his liking since the dawn of domestication, we never before have had the ability to so control an animal’s life as to render it entirely unfit for a normal life and lifespan. There is something wrong with manipulating a species that far – wrong ethically, morally, and I believe we will someday come to recognize something wrong physically.
At some point I feel it will be necessary to put down the other two Cornish Cross hens rather to see them weaken from heart disease. Already their combs are too dark on some days and their breathing too labored. No more Cornish Cross for me – but instead I have on order 15 Dark Cornish chicks – the Heritage ancestors of my Cornish Cross hens. The Dark Cornish as slower growing and not as large – but they do forage, fly, and live normal lifespans. I hope these Heritage birds will have a better life than my poor hens.