Jersey Giant chickens are known for being the largest purebred breed of chicken. While their size is notable, they are also strong egg layers with a calm personality. With all these characteristics, it's understandable why they are a popular dual-purpose chicken.
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Jersey Giant Chickens get their name from the state they originated in, New Jersey. This breed was developed between 1870 and 1890.
Jersey Giants are a crossbreed between Javas, Langshan's, Brahmas, and Orpingtons.
This breed was created with the intention of replacing Turkeys. This certainly explains why this breed was bred to be so large.
In the 21st century, Jersey Giants are considered dual-purpose as they are productive egg layer as well as a large enough bird to produce meat.
Heritage or Hybrid?
Jersey Giants are a heritage/purebred breed.
They were accepted into the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1922. Since their initial acceptance several other variations have been accepted as recently as 2002.
Jersey Giants can come in a variety of colors including Black, Blue and White. However, they do all have common features that unite the breed.
A few common features of this breed include:
Large Single comb
Comb is bright red
Medium bright red wattles
Bright red earlobes
Roosters weigh between 13 and 15 pounds on average, hens are closer to 11 pounds on average. This makes them double the size of an average chicken breed as the average rooster is 6 pounds and a hen weighs 5.7 pounds.
As shown in the picture, Jersey Giants have certainly been named appropriately. They are substantially larger than other full-grown chickens.
Since Jersey Giants can be used as meat birds, it should be noted that these chickens tend to live shorter lives of 2 to 3 years due to decreased production as they age.
Egg Color & Production
Egg production starts between 32 weeks and 52 weeks (8 to 12 months), which is later than most breeds.
This is because similar to Cuckoo Marans, Jersey Giants mature slower than most other breeds of chickens.
You can expect 2+ extra-large brown eggs a week. In their first year, they can produce 150-200 eggs with proper diet and care. Note that egg production does decrease by 10 to 15% per year as chickens age until they stop laying altogether.
Jersey Giants are one of the few breeds of chickens to lay extra-large eggs. This makes them an excellent choice for anyone looking to add interest to their egg cartons.
Jersey Giant chickens are known for their broodiness and instinct to sit on a nest. Their fluffy bodies and strong maternal instinct make them great mothers.
The downside is because they are so large, have been known to crush eggs.
Jersey Giants are able to and breed naturally without human intervention or insemination. However, some recommend removing feathers around the vent area to ensure breeding can occur.
Jersey Giants are known for being very cold hardy.
In the winter it is important to ensure they are warm, have access to clean water, and are not showing signs of frostbite on their combs, wattles, or feet. They likely will not require accommodations such as a heater or brooder in the winter unless there is extreme cold.
Due to their fluffy feathers and large body, Jersey Giants can have difficulty in hot weather. In heat, they do need access to shade.
For more tips on keeping your chickens cool in hot weather check out our article.
Jersey Giants are highly resistant to diseases and are not ailed by any notable illnesses. Of course, it is still possible for them to get parasites and other general illnesses, so it is always good to keep a watchful eye on your flock.
We provide our chickens with vitamins in their water as a precaution to ensure they do not have any deficiencies. This is especially important for younger birds still integrating into the flock.
The most likely illness this breed will experience is heat stroke. In extreme heat can be difficult for them as they have an abundance of feathers.
As the largest breed of chicken, they are considered to be excellent for meat production. Jersey Giants are often said to be delicious and have a pleasant lingering flavor.
Since Jersey Giants mature slowly, they require a longer time to reach optimal butchering age at 9 months. Note that the popular broiler chickens are slaughtered at just 8 (eight) weeks.
Jersey Giants are considered a quiet breed as far as noise is concerned. This makes them a good candidate for more urban farms in populated neighborhoods.
While the hen doesn't make an abundance of noise, roosters will crow and can be generally noisy. We would definitely not recommend this breed of rooster for densely populated areas.
In our experience they make noise from time to time, primarily when we collect eggs due to their broodiness.
Calm and docile are words often used to describe Jersey Giant chickens.
In our experience, Jersey Giant Hens have never been aggressive towards us. In fact they are a more cuddly breed that enjoys being held similar to Silkies.
With their calm disposition, they would do well around children.
While by nature the roosters are rarely aggressive, if the ratio of hens to roosters is not appropriate, they can be aggressive with each other roosters. A farm near us had to process their roosters due to these roosters fighting.
An ideal rooster to hen ratio for this breed is 1 rooster to every 6 hens. Note most smaller breeds are 1 rooster for every 10 to 12 hens.
As large sized breed Jersey Giants require 6 to 8 square feet per bird in the coop. Note most chickens require 4 square feet in the coop.
Due to their large size, it is important to ensure your coop has adequate space and height to ensure your birds are comfortable.
In an enclosed run, 30 square feet per bird is recommended for happy and healthy birds. This is three times the average as most chickens requires 10 square feet of run space.
During hot sunny weather we keep our chickens in a roofed run with lots of airflow and free access to the coop which tends to be shady and cooler. This was sufficient for days that got upwards of 90 degrees and sunny.
Since this breed is prone to heat stroke it is important to ensure they have appropriate shade and accommodations in hot and sunny weather.
Are They Right For You?
Jersey Giants can be a suitable option for beginners due to their docile temperament, cold tolerance, gentle personality.
Ultimately the purpose of the chicken is a key factor in this decision. Jersey Giants produce an abundance of meat, and produce a less than average number of eggs a year once matured. Not to mention they mature significantly slower than other breeds and may not lay eggs for their first year.
If you are looking for extra large eggs, a friendly breed, a chicken that does well in colder climates, or produces a significant amount of meat Jersey Giants may be for you!
On the other hand, if you live in a hot climate, are looking for a strong egg producer, or have a small coop and run it may be worth considering other breeds.
In fact, we are considering adding Jersey Giants to our coop as we start our flock of meat birds.
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