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    Best Meat Chicken Breeds

    Authored by Jemma Petts

     A big part of building your flock is deciding what your chickens are going to be raised for. You may have started with just raising birds for eggs and are moving into raising meat poultry, or you may just be looking for some different breeds to add to your meat birds. Whatever brings you here, we’re here to help.

    Hybrid or dual-purpose chickens

    Raising poultry for meat can be done either by raising hybrid chickens or dual-purpose chickens. Depending on what you want from your flock will determine what kind of chicken you will want to look for. The differences:

    Hybrid chickens are bred to produce a large amount of meat in a small amount of time, normally growing rapidly in a few months.

    Dual-purpose chickens provide eggs and can be used for meat. These birds grow slower than hybrid chickens, reaching maturity around six months.

    What to consider when selecting meat chickens

    You will still want to consider your desired chicken temperament – docile, active or flighty – but there will be other things to consider when raising chickens for meat. How large of a body are you expecting? Do you want to stay away from breeds that are bred to grow quickly (this can cause health issues for the birds)? Taste and appearance are also factors. Let’s take a look at how things may affect your meat chicken breed choice.

    Temperament – This comes down to how hard you want to work to catch your bird on processing day. If you are choosing dual-purpose chickens and are spending a bit more time with your bird, research the temperament you’d like best in your flock.

    Growth and size of bird – Fast-growing chickens, or chickens bred to develop quickly for commercial processing, can come with health problems that will turn some flock owners off. Heart and respiratory issues can cause death before these chickens will make it to processing time.

    Size of the bird is also important. It’s best to stick with standard boilers if your table desires more meat with a good bone ratio. If you’re okay with less meat, take the heritage chicken breeds for a test drive.

    Taste and appearance – When you head to the grocery store to pick up a chicken, you are most likely getting a Cornish Cross. These are the standard birds for the dinner table. Trying different birds may be surprising at first, as the appearance and taste may differ from what you are expecting.

    Best chicken breeds to raise for meat

    Finding that right bird can take some time. Here are some of the most popular chicken breeds to raise for meat.

    Broilers:

    • Cornish Cross - Fastest growth rate, docile temperament, most common table bird, ready around 6-8 weeks
    • Rangers - Alternative to Cornish, bred for pasture feeding, reaches market weight in 10-12 weeks

    Heritage chicken breeds:

    • Jersey Giant - Large bird with slow growth and large eggs, were bred to replace turkeys, takes about 16-21 weeks for processing
    • Orpingtons - Docile with good egg production, smaller with good flavor and tender meat, ready somewhere between 18-24 weeks

    Dual-purpose chicken breeds:

    • Rhode Island Red - Known for egg production, has good meat flavor, can be confined or free range, ready in 6-8 weeks
    • Russian Orloff - Cold hardy and moderate egg producer, can be confined or free range, ready about 24 weeks
    • Barred Rock - Heat and cold hardy, can be confined or free range, takes 16-20 weeks for processing
    • Wyandotte - Heat and cold hardy, moderate egg producer of large eggs, can be confined or free range, mild meat flavor, typically ready in 16-20 weeks
    • Turkens - Heat and cold hardy, high producer of large eggs, can be confined or free range, takes about 11-18 weeks for processing
    • Buckeye - Cold hardy chicken with moderate egg production, free range and active bird, ready in 16-21 weeks
    • Silkies - Slow grower and smaller size, tender meat with a gamier taste, black skin, ready between 21-26 weeks

    Once you’ve decided what breed of meat birds to bring home, it’s time to keep them safe and healthy until they are at weight. Find out more about chickens to raise for meat, and start shopping for your perfect breed.