Posted Jan 22, 2015
Selma came into my life about two and a half years ago. The couple I was renting a barn from had purchased a dozen white meat hens (broilers, or Cornish Rock crosses) to raise for eating. These quickly became ill with something and each and every one of them died. Except for Selma.
We thought Selma had died as well, finding her in a limp pile in some hay, but she amazingly resurrected herself! Since no one know what had made these birds so sick, their owners were afraid to eat them. And they were no longer interested in keeping the lone surviving hen.
Given that Selma was abandoned in the barn I used daily, I started to feed and care for her. She recovered from her ailment and grew fat, strong, and even started laying a few eggs! Her eggs were huge and pale pink. I think she played about a dozen total throughout her life. She was easily twice the size of my heritage breed hens of the same age, and was heavy as a bowling ball to lift!
Winter came and the rest of my hens retreated to their coop. Selma stayed in the barn. Being on her own and not terribly hardy for such cold weather, she contracted pneumonia. I nursed her through that and borrowed a rooster from the coop to keep her company and give her warmth. Amazingly, she once again recovered and survived the season.
When the snow melted, Selma packed her bags and marched across the barnyard to the coop. She had clearly decided she wanted to live and to be a normal chicken. She moved in with the rest of the flock and there she has stayed to this day!
I’ve read that these birds are designed to reach slaughter weight by 8 weeks, and rarely live much beyond 12 months. But Selma is now two and a half years old and weathering her third winter! She lost a couple of toes last winter, not being agile enough to get high up and roost with the other birds, but otherwise was fine. This year she is doing just as well and shows no indication of growing old or being ill!
While I don’t plan to buy any more of this breed, if she’s any indication of what they offer, the Cornish Rock is an easy going bird, not overly hardy and somewhat cold sensitive. They are also prone to illness. Exceptional meat producers, but also a very pleasant bird to have as a pet should you choose not to eat them.
I don’t normally keep unproductive animals on my farm as I have to be practical. But every now and then one gives me reason to rethink my rules and Selma is one such animal. Her drive to live and be a normal chicken is so impressive that I couldn’t even think about slaughtering her just because she hasn’t laid an egg in over two years. She’s a pet, the farm mascot you could say.