Over the years we’ve raised a variety of chicken breeds. I preferred specific breeds over mixed flocks because you get to experience the true breed characteristics.
Back in 2012 we brought in a hundred Jersey Giant Chicks. We choose this breed for their size and because they were recommended as a good dual purpose bird.
The Jersey Giant is a breed from the 19th century, named from their state of origin and their large size. Jersey’s are the biggest chicken breed; the idea was to replace the turkey. These chickens were primarily raised for meat during that time.
This breed was a cross between the Black Javas, Black Langshans and Dark Brahmas.
The Black Jersey is the most common among breeders; you can also acquire white and blue, which look similar to grey. This breed will grow much slower than others; roosters can weigh as much as 13 lbs and hens around 11 lbs.
We chose this breed because we wanted a larger bird that would scare off sky predators. We had just come out of a drought season, the pastures were weak, we had lost many of our previous chickens to sky predators and it was time for something new.
It was unanimous we needed to raise a bird that was dual purpose. After doing some research we agreed to bring in a batch of these Jersey Giants. Since they weren’t traditionally available we had to purchase from an online hatchery.
Where to Purchase
We purchased our flock through Cackle Hatchery and we received a price break by purchasing in large quantities. We went for the gusto and ordered 100 females which ironically we also got our rooster in this batch.
100 chicks is a lot to deal with at one time so it was a wonderful day when they finally were old enough to free range, this was around 2-3 weeks.
Meat production was interesting because it takes about 12 to 18 months before they’re full grown. We processed a few at different ages but I didn’t really like the texture of their meat.
They also had a lot of fat which was another negative factor. Because we were seeking a dual purpose breed I knew that we’d eventually sell these birds and try again.
The hens have really strong mothering instincts; we had several broody gals that incubated the next generation. This was so much fun and made me realize that natural incubation is the best way to hatch chicks.
The hens are heavy the chicks need to bed removed after they hatched and placed into a brooder. They live in the brooder for a couple weeks before bringing them back outdoors to discover nature.
Our setup involved several mobile chicken coops for night resting but for some reason there was a group that would roost on top of our old pump house and then other groups would sleep on top of hay bales. This created problems and eventually we worked them back into their coops at night.
Jersey’s have a mind of their own and pretty strong willed when it comes to what they want; this is when things got interesting.
They loved being free and we definitely didn’t have a bug problem while they were here; they also enjoyed eating mice. My husband thought that was pretty amazing; I thought it was a little creepy.
Jersey’s are not a chicken that should be locked up. They really embrace outdoor living and make the most of every opportunity around them.
Because they were so large they did detour sky predators. We didn’t have an issue with ground predators because our farm is fenced and we have several guard animals.
Giants in the Garden
These chickens and gardening didn’t mix and I discovered this with my fall garden. I planted my garden twice and both times these ladies ate my plants right down to the base.
My garden wasn’t fence in at the time and needless to say I was furious. This is when my husband came over with an old chicken run and together we created the covered raised bed. Or as he would say, “problem solved!”
Eventually I did sell off all these birds and found my favorite breed, the Buff Orpington. Would I recommend the Jersey Giant for others?
Absolutely because they were amazing free rangers and their eggs were outstanding. It was a fun experience to raise a chicken nobody else was interested in until we started talking about them.
In a way we brought a little awareness to the Jersey Giant in our area. So, If you’re thinking about adding this breed to your farm or homestead remember they do best as free rangers and protect your garden before they arrive.