Many people start a backyard flock because they want their own supply of farm-fresh eggs. However, raising chickens for their meat is another popular choice. Just like when you raise chickens for their eggs, choosing the best breed for your needs is important.
Pay attention to the weight and processing times of different breeds. You should also take the temperament and hardiness of your birds into account.
Expanding your backyard flock to include meat chickens can be an enriching experience, further fueling your self-sufficiency and enhancing your understanding of sustainable farming. When choosing meat chickens, aspects like growth rate, mature weight, hardiness, and breed temperament come into play.
Considering these, let’s look into the top three breeds below.
Think about a chicken breed that gains weight so rapidly it’s deemed the poster child of the broiler industry. That’s the Cornish Cross, a standout among meat chicken breeds, for you. Alternatively known as Cornish X or Cornish, this hybrid among chicken breeds is a meat production superstar and finds itself at the forefront of commercial chicken farming.
When you scan the poultry aisles of supermarkets or menus in restaurants across the globe, you’re likely encountering one of the most common meat chickens, this breed.
Origins of the Cornish Cross
The Cornish Cross, one of the champion meat chicken breeds, isn’t the result of nature’s whims but human ingenuity. The magic of selective crossbreeding between two distinct chicken breeds (White Cornish and White Plymouth Rock chickens) gave birth to this wonder among meat birds.
The mid-20th century saw the fine-tuning of this crossbreeding, resulting in a chicken that hits the scales at slaughter weight. That’s around 4-5 lbs for hens and 6-7 lbs for roostersin just 6 to 7 weeks!
Cornish Cross Physical Appearance and Behaviors
A chicken breed with a chunky physique and a broad breast, painted in the colors of white, unmistakably indicates a Cornish Cross. These meat birds aren’t exactly Olympic athletes, showcasing poor flying skills and a predominantly docile nature.
And with the primary purpose being meat production, they live short lives – mere weeks to a few months, before ending up as meat chickens on the dinner table. Egg laying is not their strongest suit, as they yield fewer eggs compared to most other chicken breeds.
Role of the Cornish Cross in the Poultry Industry
It’s indisputable; the Cornish Cross breed has profoundly influenced the poultry industry, revolutionizing chicken meat production on a global scale. However, the same rapid growth and attendant health issues have sparked an interest in slower-growing heritage breeds among small farmers and those preferring a homesteader’s lifestyle.
Cornish Cross chickens may serve as a dual-purpose breed for meat and egg production.
How to Care for Cornish Cross Chickens
Caring for a Cornish Cross, or any of the meat chicken breeds for that matter, can be unique. Primarily, they require high-quality feed with ample proteins to support their swift growth. However, ration their intake to avoid obesity-related issues. They need continuous access to clean water, as hydration is key.
Remember, they’re not great with extreme temperatures, so provide shade during hot weather and warmth in colder climes. Even if you’re raising them as a dual-purpose breed, their care remains paramount.
The Jersey Giant, one of the heaviest chicken breeds, hails from the United States. These colossal birds are often sought after for their meat. However, their slower growth rate makes them less common in commercial production.
Despite their size, these docile creatures make excellent backyard chickens, producing a substantial number of eggs annually. Their unique characteristics and dual-purpose nature make them stand out in the world of poultry.
Origins of the Jersey Giant
The Jersey Giant is an acclaimed meat chicken breed that originated in the United States, specifically in New Jersey, during the late 19th to early 20th century. This chicken breed is renowned for being one of the largest and heaviest, with males capable of reaching up to 13 pounds and females often weighing around 10 pounds.
Their substantial size was deliberately developed for the purpose of producing hefty chickens for meat.
Jersey Giant Physical Appearance and Behaviors
The Jersey Giant is a unique chicken breed available in several color varieties, including Black, White, and Blue. Their robust and upright posture, long, broad back, and a deep, full breast are their defining features.
With single combs and wattles that are bright red and eyes that are typically a dark brown color, they stand out among other chicken breeds. Their strong, sturdy legs and yellow feet complete their distinctive appearance.
Role of the Jersey Giant in the Poultry Industry
The Jersey Giant’s considerable size would suggest it to be an ideal meat chicken breed. However, they grow slower than many commercial breeds, and it takes about six months for them to reach market weight.
Consequently, they are not widely used in commercial chicken meat production. They are favored among the best meat chicken breeds by backyard keepers and small farms looking for a sustainable, dual-purpose breed. Besides their meat, Jersey Giants also shine as commendable egg layers, producing around 250 large brown eggs per year, making them one of the best meat chickens that also deliver in egg production.
How to Care for Jersey Giant Chickens
Caring for a Jersey Giant, a standout among best meat chicken breeds, requires specific considerations. Due to their size, they need ample space and a diet that can support their growth. They are generally hardy birds, capable of handling a variety of climates, although they do best in temperate conditions due to their large size.
Regular health check-ups to catch common poultry health issues early are essential. The care for this chicken breed should never be underestimated to ensure they remain healthy and productive.
Red Broilers, also referred to as Red Rangers or Freedom Rangers, make a mark in poultry farming as an admirable breed of chicken. With their characteristic reddish-brown hue and larger size, these birds showcase an excellent adaptation to diverse environments and systems.
They’re known for their efficient growth, docile temperament, and exceptional foraging skills—ideal traits for raising chickens.
Origins of the Red Broiler
This breed of chicken has carved out a niche for itself in pasture-based poultry operations. They’re recognized for their healthy growth and efficiency, particularly in free-range or pasture-raised systems, where they have a natural knack for foraging and are more active.
Bred primarily for their flavorful and tender meat, these birds also lay eggs if they are allowed to live beyond the typical slaughter period. Their meat quality, a product of their slower growth rate, stands out against more commercial broiler breeds like the Cornish Cross.
This combination of versatility and resilience makes them a popular choice for those interested in small-scale farming operations, making them an excellent breed for homegrown chicken.
Red Broiler Physical Appearance and Behaviors
Red Broilers, named for their distinctive reddish-brown feathers, can exhibit some color variations. They tend to be larger than many breeds raised for meat, with males typically tipping the scales at around 6 to 7 pounds and females at 5 to 6 pounds in just 9 to 11 weeks.
They generally have a docile and calm temperament. Combined with their adaptability, this makes them easy to handle, even in free-range situations.
Role of the Red Broiler in the Poultry Industry
Red Broilers, part of the preferred broiler breeds, are primarily raised for meat. Their slower growth rate than other commercial meat breeds, like the Cornish Cross, translates into a more developed flavor and firmer texture. The white meat is notably tender. Although they aren’t prolific layers, hens will produce some eggs if kept beyond the usual slaughter age.
How to Care for Red Broiler Chickens
Known for their hardiness, Red Broilers are adaptable to various environments, making them a fitting breed for various climates and farming practices. They thrive in free-range or pasture-raised systems, showcasing their natural foraging skills.
Nonetheless, like any livestock, these meat chickens require regular health checks and a balanced diet to ensure their overall health and productivity.
In today’s poultry landscape, the Cornish Cross, Jersey Giant, and Red Broiler chickens hold significant places as meat-producing champions. With its rapid growth and broad breasts, the Cornish Cross is a testament to commercial efficiency.
The Jersey Giant, on the other hand, offers a robust size and a slower growth pattern, allowing for flavor development and versatility. Meanwhile, the Red Broiler, thriving in free-range environments, delivers textured, flavorful meat and exhibits excellent adaptability.
These chicken breeds for meat provide high-quality protein and contribute to a diverse, sustainable, and vibrant poultry farming industry.
Once you’ve chosen the best chicken breeds to raise for meat, it’s time to get your backyard coop started. Find all the supplies you need, including your chicken processing equipment, at Stromberg’s Chickens.
Which valuable breeds do you have in your flock? Share your favorites with us in the comments!