Delaware Chickens vs. Cornish Cross: A Short Comparison for Meat Birds

When it comes to choosing the right breed of chicken for meat production, backyard farmers and homesteaders often find themselves weighing options. Two popular choices are the Delaware chicken and the Cornish Cross. While the Cornish Cross is widely known for its rapid growth and meat yield, the Delaware chicken offers unique advantages that make it a favorable choice for many. In this blog post, we’ll explore why Delaware chickens might be a better fit for your needs compared to Cornish Cross chickens.

Growth and Meat Quality

Cornish Cross: The Cornish Cross is renowned for its fast growth, reaching slaughter weight in just 6-8 weeks. This breed has been selectively bred for maximum meat yield, particularly in the breast area. However, this rapid growth often comes at the cost of the bird’s overall health and welfare.

Delaware: On the other hand, Delaware chickens grow more slowly, taking about 12-16 weeks to reach a suitable weight for slaughter. This slower growth rate allows their muscles to develop more naturally, often resulting in tastier and more tender meat. Additionally, Delawares are less prone to health issues associated with rapid growth, such as heart problems and leg weakness.

Sustainability and Feeding

Cornish Cross: These birds have a voracious appetite, consuming large amounts of feed to support their quick growth. This can lead to higher feed costs over their short lifespan.

Delaware: Delaware chickens, while also good eaters, typically consume less feed relative to their body weight over their longer growth period. This can make them more economical in terms of feed-to-meat conversion, especially if you value a more sustainable and less intensive farming approach.

Temperament and Management

Cornish Cross: The Cornish Cross breed is generally less active, spending most of their time eating. Their lack of activity and fast weight gain can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, requiring close management to prevent health issues.

Delaware: Delawares, in contrast, are more active and enjoy foraging. This not only contributes to their overall health but also allows them to be more integrated into a diverse farm setting. Their hardiness and ability to forage can reduce feed costs and provide them with a more natural diet, which many believe contributes to the flavor of the meat.

Ethical Considerations

For those concerned about animal welfare, the Delaware chicken often presents a more ethical choice. Their natural growth rate and active lifestyle align more closely with traditional farming practices, avoiding many of the welfare issues seen in the intensely bred Cornish Cross.


While the Cornish Cross is an efficient meat bird, the Delaware chicken offers a compelling alternative. Its slower growth rate, sustainable feeding habits, active lifestyle, and the quality of its meat make it an excellent choice for those looking for a more traditional, ethical approach to raising meat birds. Whether you are a small-scale backyard farmer or a homesteader, Delaware chickens can be a rewarding and responsible addition to your meat production efforts.

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