10 Best Meat Chicken Breeds
People are nowadays very careful with what they eat as they know the consequences of their diets. Since you cannot be too sure of the safety of the foods you buy, one of your best choices will be growing your veggies on the farm or in a small backyard garden. However, you also need some protein in your diet from meat and eggs.
Keeping some chicken to ensure a constant supply of eggs and meat is your best choice to control every step of your food production journey. For meat, you specifically need to get meat chicken breeds, commonly called broilers. These grow faster than most chicken breeds raised for egg-laying or the ones meant for meat and eggs.
While there are multiple breeds you will come across when looking for meat chicken breeds, below are the ten best ones for your venture.
1. Cornish Cross Chickens
Cornish chickens are among the most popular meat breeds. In fact, most of the domestic chicken breeds kept nowadays are part-Cornish. Cornish crosses are hybrids of Plymouth White and Cornish Game chickens. The birds grow quickly and reach approximately twelve pounds in only six to eight weeks.
Males weigh about 12 pounds, while females weigh approximately 8 pounds when fully grown. The Cornish Cross is renowned for having a lot of breast meat with minimal muscle.
Its thighs and legs are also quite large with appealing pearl-white skin making them perfect for your table. The bird’s harvest time is 4-6 weeks because its fast growth and large build predispose it to health issues when left to grow past this timeframe.
The Cornish Cross is active, aggressive, and loud, so it is not routinely recommended for a small backyard or beginners. One of its biggest downsides is overeating to support its rapid growth. An average-sized flock might need up to fifty pounds of feed every few days.
2. Free Range Chickens
This breed was initially meant to be pasture-fed for those looking for pesticide-free chicken. Free Rangers flourish on low-protein diets and can scout for their foods better than Cornish Crosses, so they are versatile eaters that will not cost too much to feed. Free Rangers reach six pounds in about 9-11 weeks and are ready for harvest at this time.
Male Free Rangers will reach adult weights of six pounds while females reach five pounds. The birds are exceptional foragers that are quite happy when left to roam large fields. They are active, so they will not be content with small pens like those you would have for Cornish Crosses. Though the meat of a Free Ranger tastes great, there isn’t much of it.
3. Red Ranger Chickens
This breed was derived from a European and American heritage breed in the early 1960s. The Red Ranger is a hybrid chicken kept for eggs and meat rather than exclusively for meat. The birds grow faster than most dual-purpose breeds and are ready for harvest within 12-14 weeks. At around ten weeks, the males weigh six pounds, and the females weigh five pounds.
The Red Ranger is docile with humans, energetic, and thrives when left to forage. Its independence and love for foraging mean that its dietary needs are cheaper than those of most broiler breeds. However, it would help if you supplemented its forage with 20% protein feed so that it grows quickly.
4. Delaware Chickens
This is a dual-purpose breed raised for its respectable amount of meat and ability to lay about 280 eggs annually. The Delaware is a crossbreed of the New Hampshire Red and Plymouth Rock. The bird reaches an approximate weight of 7-8.5 pounds for roosters and 6 pounds for hens by its harvest time at twelve weeks.
The Delaware is an inquisitive bird that loves free-ranging. It is also noisy, friendly, and relatively assertive. Its noise levels make it a less-than-ideal option for people with close neighbors. You should supplement the feeds your bird forages with 20% protein feeds until it turns sixteen weeks, after which you can change to a crumble or 16% layer pellet.
5. Cornish Game Chickens
This is sometimes called Indian Game though it originated in England. The Cornish Game is a big bird with feathers in different colors. Females weigh around eight pounds, while males can reach 10.5 pounds. The Cornish Game is quite hefty and muscular though it has a slim body build. The bird is harvested at seven months, something that informed the rise of the Cornish Cross that is harvested earlier.
Though Cornish hybrids do not free-range well, the Cornish Game can scrounge around your yard very well and fit in with other free-ranging birds. Other than forage, include feeds that contain not less than 20% protein into your chicken’s diet.
The Cornish Game has an aggressive temperament hence its frequent association with Asiatic fighting cocks. However, it is still relatively calm, friendly, and easy to handle.
6. New Hampshire Chickens
This is not a pure breed but rather was established from the Rhode Island Red breed. It is so-named after its origin in New Hampshire in the U.S. The New Hampshire is a dual-purpose breed that produces a prolific quantity of eggs and tasty meat. The bird lays 200-280 eggs annually, even through winter. It grows to a weight of 8.5 pounds and is ready for harvest in 8-10 weeks.
Though its general temperament is docile, easy to handle, and friendly, the New Hampshire is also aggressive. Moreover, it is pretty competitive for food, so it is not the best choice for a mixed breed flock. Allowing your chicken to roam freely can lower your feeding costs while improving their feed quality. Supplement the forage with quality poultry feed for healthy birds.
7. Naked Neck Chickens
This is also called the turken since it looks like a failed attempt at crossbreeding a turkey and a chicken. Like a turkey, the naked neck has no feathers around its neck. The breed is exceptionally adaptable to climate changes and will thrive in cold and hot climates.
Owing to its adaptability, the naked neck gains weight quickly. The male weighs six pounds, and the female weighs four pounds at harvest time when the birds turn 11-18 weeks.
Naked necks are very quiet, calm, and friendly birds that will handle confinement well, thus their popularity among those with little space. The birds can be raised in confined and free-range systems, although the latter has lower feeding costs while allowing your bird to have more balanced nutrition.
Either way, include quality commercial feeds into the diet of your turken to guarantee its health.
8. Kosher King Chickens
This meat chicken breed has a gorgeous appearance with its white and black striped plumage. The breed attains adult weights of five pounds within its harvest time of 11-12 weeks. Though the males often grow more than the females, the latter are decent layers.
Kosher kings are healthy and voracious foragers that make perfect additions to organic farms. They are robust and, in general, energetic birds that are easy to handle. The birds are easy to feed because all you need is a quality commercial feed to supplement what they forage.
9. Silkie Chickens
Though considered a small bird, the silkie is an ideal choice for a broiler. The bird is so-named because of the fluffy plumage that makes it look like a cuddly toy. The silkie is renowned for its black skin that is thought to have magical and medicinal benefits. Furthermore, its bones are used in Chinese medicine.
The silkie is a friendly and docile bird sometimes kept as a pet. It grows to 1.5-2 pounds for females and 2-3 pounds for males within 10-12 months. A silkie will eat about 0.25 pounds of feed daily. The standard 16% layer feed will suffice, supplemented with fresh greens.
10. Jersey Giant Chickens
This pure breed has its origins in the U.S and is thought to have been bred to replace the classic turkey. While this has not happened, the Jersey Giant is among the popular broiler breeds nowadays. The male reaches 13 pounds, with the female growing to ten pounds by their harvest time at 16-21 weeks.
Owing to its slow growth rate, the Jersey Giant can consume a lot of food and prove expensive for those who do not grow their feeds. Moreover, the bird’s large size means that it will need more housing space. These qualities make Jersey Giants more popular for domestic than commercial chicken coups. The birds are docile and calm though the males are slightly aggressive.
Before taking a leap to raise one of the above meat chicken breeds, you should consider your current setup and resources. Though the setup does not differ much when raising meat and egg-laying birds, meat birds often need more space than the latter.
Furthermore, you should carefully evaluate if you are ready to handle the reality of slaughtering the birds when they are ready for harvest.
To guarantee the best quality meat, pay close attention to your chicken feed. Most experts recommend mixing commercial feed with forage and giving the birds enough water to get tender meat without lots of fat.