Cornish hens are more expensive than most of the chicken you’ll find in your grocery store or local meat market simply because it’s more expensive to produce.
As with most products, the price comes down to the simple economics of supply and demand.
Cornish hens are not in as much of a demand as chicken. Therefore, there aren’t as many Cornish hens being reared, so it’s more expensive to do so.
How Much Do Cornish Hens Cost?
If you want to buy Cornish hens ready for consumption, looking at a few sellers online you’re going to pay somewhere in the region of $6/lb, which works out at about $12 for a bird as most weigh 2 lbs max.
If you compare this with the price of regular chicken, which is around $3-4 lb, there is a huge difference in price.
If you want to buy Cornish hens to raise yourself, however, you’re not going to pay a lot more than other chicken breeds.
The main problem is that Cornish hen hatching eggs, chicks, or even pullets are rare.
I checked a couple of the online hatcheries I use as I’m writing this, but I couldn’t see that they stock Cornish hens.
They sell some similar varieties, like Cornish bantams, Cornish crosses, and a range of game birds - but not Cornish hens.
Related - A look at how Cornish hens were created.
What Is Special About Cornish Hens?
So, if Cornish hens are so much more expensive than regular chicken on the dinner table, what’s so special about them?
Well, outside of the economic reasons why Cornish hens cost more, there is the taste.
Cornish hen tastes a lot like chicken - because it is chicken - but it’s much more tender, juicier, and has a more subtle chicken flavor.
There isn’t a huge difference, as long as you’re comparing Cornish hen with a quality slice of chicken.
It’s more so that Cornish hens are small enough to be served up whole for one person that is most of the appeal.
It provides a much more desirable dining experience having a whole chicken, you’re able to pick it apart and eat different parts.
Is Cornish Game Hen Better Than Chicken?
This is something I see asked a lot, especially by people who really enjoy chicken, is Cornish game hen just better?
I hate to not give you a clear answer to this question, but it’s really not possible to say either way for sure.
When comparing most foods, it really comes down to how the chicken is prepared, and what you prefer.
I will say that Cornish hen is more of a delicacy than chicken. You’re much more likely to spot it on the menu at high-end restaurants, and obviously, it’s more expensive.
If you’ve never tried Cornish hen, I can’t recommend you do strongly enough. Not least to taste it for yourself so you know if you prefer it over chicken, but also because it’s delicious.
Is Cornish Hen Fancy?
Some people call luxurious or rare foods ‘fancy’, so I guess you could call Cornish hens fancy.
Cornish hen is usually on the menu at what I would call 'fancy' restaurants, so it’s definitely meat that’s seen as a treat.
As far as treat foods go, it’s not that expensive though. If you want to treat yourself and try something a little fancy, you should pick up a Cornish hen next time you’re out shopping.
If you’re in need of some ideas on how to season and prepare a Cornish hen for maximum flavor, the New York Time Magazine covers some of the classic recipes.
Are Cornish Hens Baby Chickens?
I feel like I have to clear this up because I’ve heard people referring to Cornish hens as baby chickens on more than one occasion.
Cornish hens are not baby chickens.
They are slaughtered young at around 5-6 weeks of age, but this isn’t too dissimilar to broiler chickens that are reared for meat.
Cornish hens are fully-grown when they end up on the table, they are just a small breed of chicken that looks more like a baby chicken than an adult one.
Cornish hens may be expensive compared to what you’re used to paying for chicken, but it’s more than worth the cost.
If you like chicken, which I’m sure you do, you’ll love the taste of Cornish hen.