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I will always love the bigger animal breeds. Maybe because I’m 5’11” and I don’t want to reach too far down to pick up my animals… Who knows… There are some awesome big chicken breeds out there and the largest chicken breed recognized by the APA (American Poultry Association) is the Jersey Giant. There are some other pretty large birds out there but they are also the tallest chicken breed.
So I will be focusing on those in this post but there are also some other breeds that can be pretty good size as well that I will give you a rough overview later.
We have had two Jersey Giants and they were both good-mannered and were pretty passive chickens. One of our church staff members was moving out of state and couldn’t keep their chickens so we took them in because we had a pretty small flock at the time. They had several cinnamon queen hens as well as a few Rhode Island red hens…. I wasn’t too thrilled with the breeds because I knew they could be REAL JERKS.
Eventually, they settled in and worked out their differences with our existing flock. BUT a few months later my mom asked if I wanted to take the white jersey giant rooster she had. We didn’t have any roosters at the time so I decided to take him…. Weeeeelll, let’s just say the poor fellow had to either buck up and tell the new lead hen to chill or just settle for second place.
They fought for at least an hour before the hen backed down and I think at first he was in disbelief that she was that fisty. She beat the living daylights out of him and I thought for sure she might even do him in.
But what could I do?! They had to work it out or one of them had to go. And you can’t just make chickens stop fighting. They have to settle it on their own. So yes Jersy giants are a pretty chill birds for the most part and don’t really want to squabble unless they have to.
Jersey Giant chicken facts
- Jersey Giant chickens are one of the largest chicken breeds in the world.
- Originally bred in Burlington County, New Jersey.
- There are three color varieties — There are black jersey giants, white Jersey giants, and blue Jersey giants.
- Jersey giant hens weigh about 10 pounds and 16-20 inches tall.
- The roosters can weigh as much as 13 pounds and grow to be 22-26 inches tall.
- The breed can lay on average 180-260 eggs a year. Which is pretty good for big birds.
- They are dual-purpose birds that are known for their meat and egg-laying abilities.
- The hens do like to set on eggs so make sure you gather the eggs regularly.
Jersey Giants are also known for their cold tolerance which is a good thing for colder climates.
Another thing to consider before you get this breed is while they are fun due to their massive size they are going to eat quite a bit more than other breeds and they tend to lay medium eggs instead of large eggs like you might think. So you are going to end up “paying” more in feed for the same amount of eggs if you would have gone with a smaller breed that was developed to lay eggs.
But if your goal is to be self-sufficient on your homestead they are one of the better breeds to choose that will lay eggs well, make great pets, and grow to a decent size for meat.
Other Giant Chicken Breeds
If you’re interested in raising giant chicken breeds, Jersey Giants are not the only option out there.
There are several other breeds that are just as impressive in size and stature.
Brahma Chicken Breed
Brahma chickens are typically the breed that people think of first because they are just more common. They are REALLY CLOSE to the same weight as the Jersey giant but the one difference is the Brahmas are not quite as tall.
One of the largest chicken breeds, known for their muscular and sturdy build. They can weigh up to 12 pounds and are around 2 feet tall.
Their feathers come in three main colors light brahma which is a mostly white body with black tail and saddle feathers and black around the neck as well. The dark Brahma is mostly black with some shading. And buff brahma is marked like the light Brahma but instead of white feathers, they have golden colored feathers instead.
They also have distinctive feathered legs and feet.
Brahma chickens are really calm and docile making them popular among backyard chicken keepers and a good option for kids.
Aside from their personalities, Brahma chickens are known for their egg-laying proficiency. Their eggs tend to be large, and they are prolific layers during the winter months, making them a popular choice for egg production during colder seasons.
This is our main breed that we have now and I really do love them. They are a good size breed but their feathers make them look much bigger than they really are. They are a shorter and stocky breed that has a really good calm temperament and it has become a popular breed for backyard chicken keepers.
Cochins have a distinctive appearance that includes lots of feathering on their feet and legs. Their feathers also tend to be soft and plushy, making them look almost like they’re wearing a down jacket.
With an average weight ranging between 8-12 pounds, they are heavy birds but not as tall as some other large breeds.
They are not as good of egg layers as other breeds often laying less than 200 eggs a year.
Cochin chickens come in a wide range of colors, including buff, black, blue, partridge, and silver laced, all displaying their distinct feathering.
Most often called buff Orpington but the right name is just Orpington. Buff refers to color.
I have had several of these over the years and honestly would be one of my top breed choices.
Orpingtons are a heavy daul-purpose breed, with roosters weighing up to 10 pounds and hens up to 8 pounds.
Their height ranges from 18-22 inches, making them slightly shorter than some other large breeds.
One of the defining features of Orpingtons is their soft, fluffy feathers that feel almost like silk.
They come in various colors, including black, blue, buff, and white.
Orpingtons are known for their docile and friendly personalities, making them a great choice for backyard flocks. They get along well with other chickens and humans, often seeking out attention and pets.
In terms of egg-laying abilities, Orpingtons are considered good layers, producing 200-280 large brown eggs a year. They are also known for their cold hardiness, able to withstand freezing temperatures and snowy conditions.
Issues You May Have With Large Breeds
As much as having large chicken breeds can be beneficial, they come with specific challenges that require extra attention from chicken owners.
Large chickens require more space because they are bulkier than smaller breeds.
These birds also eat more so it is not as cost-effective if you are trying to have a self-sustaining homestead. But if you are raising chickens for fun and this is not an issue then it’s not as much of a concern.
However, you should always be intentional with any animal or project you start on your homestead because your bank account can only finance so many “it’s for fun” projects.
Your coop’s too small.
If you realize that your coop is too small to accommodate your Jersey Giants, here are some adjustments and modifications that you will need to make.
- Make sure that your coop space is at least four square feet per bird if you are still going to let them free-range.
- Your coop’s chicken door should be large enough to allow the birds to enter and exit the coop without dipping down too much or they will look for somewhere else to roost. The doors should be at least 14 inches wide by 18 inches tall.
- Nesting boxes need to be at least 18-inchs wide. You should only need about 1 box for every 3 hens or so.
While most standard chickens need about 12 inches of roosting space your larger breeds may need closer to 18 inches just because they are wider than most. Lower roosting bars might be a good idea to prevent injuries caused by jumping from high places.
They don’t do well in the heat
Jersey Giants are a heavy breed of chicken that don’t do well in the heat due to their large size.
The excess heat can cause their body temperature to rise, leading to dehydration and overheating. To protect your birds from heat-related issues, you’ll need to take some preventative measures.
Providing shade is one of the most important things you can do for your giant breeds during hot weather. Direct sunlight can cause them to overheat quickly, so it’s essential to create some shade in their coop or pen. You can use a tarp or an umbrella to provide shade if you have no other choice but trees and brush do better to keep them coo.
Fresh water is also critical in hot weather. Make sure your birds have access to clean, cool water at all times.
If you live in an area with hot climates, you may want to consider a heat-hardy breed. Breeds like the Leghorn or Ancona are known for being better adapted to hot climates.
They eat a lot more than smaller chicken breeds.
Giant chicken breeds such as Jersey Giants require more food compared to smaller chicken breeds. This is due to their larger size and increased energy needs. If you are wanting to have a few larger breeds but don’t want to be completely irresponsible consider getting a few larger breeds of chickens and then get smaller breeds that will meet the goals you have for your homestead.
Pros Of Having Large Chicken Breeds
These birds, often referred to as “heavy breeds,” are known for their size, larger eggs, and meat production.
While some people may see them as intimidating, they are more often than not very friendly birds.
Most large breed chickens are dual-purpose breeds so they have a larger and more filled-out body making them good for meat as a secondary purpose. However, they will take much longer than cornish rock chickens to get to weight so they shouldn’t be purchased solely for meat.
In general, larger breed chickens lay larger eggs. This makes them a great choice for those who want larger eggs for breakfast or for baking.
Cold Weather Hardy
Large chicken breeds tend to do well in colder climates due to their size and heavier feathering. They are able to withstand colder temperatures better than some smaller more slender egg-laying breeds, making them a great choice for those living in colder areas.
Have you ever heard the expression “short man syndrome” meaning the short guys tend to be more fisty? Well, the same goes for chickens as well. The little guys tend to be pretty scrappy.
Despite their size, many large chicken breeds have docile and friendly personalities. This makes them an excellent choice for families looking for chickens that are gentle around children and easy to handle.
Large Chicken Breeds Are Less Likely To Get Attacked
This is just my logic but larger chicken breeds, such as Jersey Giants and Cornish Chickens, are less likely to get attacked by predators due to their size. These giant birds can weigh up to 13 pounds and stand up to 26 inches tall, making them formidable prey for most predators.
Thinks like hawks and coons want a meal that is easily handled and that they can take off with them. Hawks are only 3-4 pounds or so themselves so while sometimes they are brave they aren’t likely to go after something that looks too big to handle.
The Giant Chicken Breeds Are Not The Best For Production
While large chicken breeds are often impressive and make for great show birds, they may not be the best choice for those seeking high egg or meat production.
Larger birds require more feed per pound of body weight and may take longer to mature, leading to increased costs and a longer wait time for meat or eggs.
Larger birds may require more space and larger nesting boxes, making them less practical for smaller backyards or coops.
Giant breeds are not prolific egg layers
If you’re a chicken owner who prioritizes egg production, you’ll want to choose a breed that is known for its egg-laying capabilities and Giant breeds are not it.
Some of the most prolific egg layers include Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Sussex, and Plymouth Rocks. You can read more about good egg layers in the post below.
They are not fast-growing meat birds
If you’re looking for a fast-growing meat chickens, Jersey Giants may not be the best option. These birds can take up to eight months to reach their harvestable weight, making them one of the slowest-growing breeds of chicken.
Additionally, Jersey Giants require more food than other meat birds to reach their marketable weight, which can make them a bit more expensive to raise.
However, if you’re willing to be patient and put a bit more effort into raising your birds, Jersey Giants are excellent roasting birds.
Their slow growth rate allows them to develop a deep, rich flavor that can’t be found in faster-growing breeds. So it’s up to you to measure the pros and cons.
People with small farms should always have a purpose behind what they are doing. Have a clear goal for every single thing you raise or grow on your homestead so you can check in with yourself often to make sure that you are in alignment with what you set out to do.
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