The Secret Life Of The Cornish Game Hen

It looks like a chicken and tastes like a chicken, but it’s not….. exactly, well maybe. I was fooled once by the fingerling potatoes that I mistook for small potatoes harvested from the ground before they grew big. I want to make sure I’m not fooled by these baby chickens called Cornish Game Hens so I decided to find out the secret behind the name Cornish Game Hen. 

Why ARE they called Cornish Game Hens? My first thought is that they originated from Cornwall, England. Most food items originating from that part of England are called “Cornish.” I’m sure you’ve heard of the Cornish pasty (pronounced pah-stee) – little meat and vegetable pies created for the miners to take to work for lunch. Interesting story of how the housewives would send these pasties to work with their men can be found on Wikipedia. I’ve eaten them in Cornwall (in the township of Looe), England and they are very tasty. It’s a must try if you are in the Cornwall area!

Back to our Cornish Game Hens. The United States Department of Agriculture describes the Rock Cornish Game Hen or Cornish Game Hen as “a young immature chicken (less than five weeks of age), weighing not more than two pounds ready-to-cook weight, which was prepared from a Cornish chicken or the progeny of a Cornish chicken crossed with another breed of chicken.”

And just to confuse you further, here’s what Wikipedia says:

“In the United States, a Cornish game hen, also sometimes called a Cornish hen, PoussinRock Cornish hen, or simply Rock Cornish, is a hybrid chicken sold whole. Despite the name, it is not a game bird. Rather, it is a broiler chicken, the most common strain of commercially raised meat chickens. Though the bird is called a “hen”, it can be either male or female. A Cornish hen typically commands a higher price per pound than typically sold chickens, despite a shorter growing span of 28 to 30 days, as opposed to 42 or more for regular chicken. The Rock Cornish game hen or Rock Cornish hen is a cross between the Cornish Game and White Plymouth Rock chicken breeds.”

Is that clearer now? But wait, Food Reference has this to say,

“The Cornish Game Hen, often called the “Rock Cornish Game Hen,” was originally bred by Jacques and Alphonsine Murkowski in Connecticut in 1950. The Cornish Game Hen was a result of crossbreeding the short-legged, plump-breasted Cornish chicken with various other chickens, including the White Plymouth Rock variety.

Tyson Foods, Inc., was instrumental in the development of the Cornish Game Hen domestically. In the early 1950s, Tyson founders began raising Cornish Game Hens and by 1980, the company was the largest domestic grower of the product.”

So alas, it has nothing to do with Cornwall, England as I had originally thought. Sorry, Cornwallians – I love your little seaside towns, but can’t give you credit for originating these chickens, hens, or whatever they are categorized as. I’ll just have to settle for a pasty when I visit next time.

We used to eat Cornish hens more in the early days of our marriage (BC – Before Children) and then had to be more practical – one of these hens did not feed a family of four and the cost was usually 2-3 times more than a regular chicken. 

Recently we had a store coupon and just had to pick one up. And we shared this Cornish Game Hen so made the purchase more economical. Empty nesters now, we can splurge on things like this once in a while!

Hard to stuff the interior with lemon and rosemary. There’s not much room in there!

This seems like such an indelicate view of the Cornish Game Hen but wanted to you know I was able to get the lemon and rosemary stuffed inside. 

Oiled and garlic tucked in and around, ready for baking. To be correct, I should have tied the wings and legs, but my theory is then I would just have to cut them once the bird was cooked, so I let it cook in its natural state. After all, I had just stuffed a lemon wedge and rosemary in its gut, it was the least I could do for the poor bird. 

Served with garlic green beans and homemade pasta, it turned out to be a delicious dinner. I wouldn’t recommend making this for a first date, there was a lot of garlic breath after consuming this meal!

I pretty much followed the recipe from, and in case you want to view the video of how this was made by AllRecipes click on Video.


5 thoughts on “The Secret Life Of The Cornish Game Hen”

  1. Bravo, Christina! I cannot believe these birds aren't actually Cornish after all. Bet this meal WAS yummy.
  2. Thanks for telling the truth!! I tend to roast my poultry (we don’t eat cloven hoofed meats), It seemed somewhat disingenuous that large corporations “pretend” that this is a “wild-killed game” poultry! Anyway, will suffer the poor, killed, 5 week old chicken, with apologies, and serve it for New Year’s Eve …prob. Leave out the garlic! But will “stuff” with fresh rosemary and lemon…great idea!! I tend to bake and roast poultry at 300 degrees F, a little longer time, so that the meat breaks down slowly and doesn’t toughen…… will do a run through… Will serve wild rice with walnuts and sautéed mushrooms, and also roasted broccoli and cauliflower, plus some spiced apple rings and parsley for color! Dessert..our friends are bringing ! May our New Year be more peaceful than the last!!

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