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In the United States, a Cornish game hen, also sometimes called a Cornish hen, poussin, Rock 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 Plymouth or White Rock chicken breeds. This breed develops a large breast over a short period of time compared to game hens. Rock Cornish game hens weigh about 2.5 pounds after four to six weeks, at which time they are slaughtered.
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."
Most sources credit Alphonsine "Therese" and Jacques Makowsky of Connecticut for developing the small bird in the mid-1950s. A Saturday Evening Post article from July 1955 credited Mrs. Makowsky with coming up with the idea to breed the Cornish game chicken, a small bird with short legs and a plump, round breast that she had discovered in a book. The Makowskys began cross-breeding the Cornish game cocks with various chickens and game birds, including a White Plymouth Rock Hen and a Malayan fighting cock, to develop the Rock Cornish game hen, a succulent bird suitable for a single serving.
The musician and comedian Victor Borge was both an investor and promoter of the Rock Cornish Game Hen in its early years. His personal popularity helped change the bird from an exotic menu item into something a housewife might prepare herself.
In a Season 3 episode of Louie, Louis CK goes to his doctor to treat a new rash and vomiting. When the doctor asks what he has been doing differently, Louis recalls eating Cornish hen with his opulent uncle, Uncle X, at the Russian Tea Room a few nights prior to his sickness. These symptoms turn out to be psychosomatic, as Louis dreads visiting his father, something his uncle urged him to do insistently at the dinner.
In Eraserhead the protagonist carves a cornish hen which immediately starts to bleed and wriggle.
In Team Fortress 2, the Spy will comment "I am going to gut you like a Cornish game hen" when taunting with the knife equipped.
In the Tournament of Kings in the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, Cornish Game Hens are served as part of the meal that is provided during the show (the whole meal is eaten with the fingers.) On the Fun Facts section of the Tournament Of Kings part of the Excalibur website it has stated that Excalibur is the number one purchaser of Cornish Game Hens in the US.