Meat Chicken Breeds

By Chicken Pets on
Meat Chicken Breeds

Ready to dive into the world of meat chicken breeds? In this blog post, we’ll explore the top breeds perfect for meat production, along with their unique characteristics. Say hello to a happier, healthier flock!

Meat Chicken Breeds

Meat chicken breeds are types of chickens specifically bred for their meat production capabilities. These breeds usually grow faster, have larger bodies, and produce more meat compared to egg-laying breeds, making them an ideal choice for backyard farmers focusing on meat production.

Top Meat Chicken Breeds

With numerous meat chicken breeds available, it’s essential to choose the right one that fits your needs and preferences. Here, we’ll discuss some of the most popular and highly-regarded meat breeds to make your selection easier!

Cornish Cross

The Cornish Cross is a well-known and highly popular meat breed in the backyard farming community. A hybrid breed, the Cornish Cross, is a result of the Cornish and White Plymouth Rock breeds’ crossing. Let’s explore some unique characteristics of the Cornish Cross:

  • Fast growth: These birds grow rapidly, reaching a harvestable size in 6-8 weeks.
  • Large breasts: Due to their large, broad breasts, Cornish Crosses yield a sizable amount of white meat.
  • High feed conversion rate: These chickens have an exceptional feed conversion rate, meaning they require less feed to gain weight and produce more meat.
  • Suitable for beginners: Their hardiness and adaptability make Cornish Crosses perfect for those starting in backyard chicken farming.

Ranger Broilers

Ranger Broilers, also known as Red Rangers or Freedom Rangers, are another excellent choice for meat production. With their slow growth rate, these birds require more time to reach maturity, but they’re well worth the wait for some backyard farmers. Here are a few characteristics associated with Ranger Broilers:

  • Free-range performance: Unlike the Cornish Cross, Ranger Broilers are better-suited for free-ranging, as they actively forage for food.
  • Darker meat: They produce a richer flavored, darker meat, often preferred by those with a taste for gourmet chicken.
  • Longer growth: Ranger Broilers take 9-11 weeks to reach maturity, but they require less attention and care than many other fast-growing breeds.
  • Adding diversity: If you’re already raising a flock of Cornish Crosses, adding Ranger Broilers can provide a different meat type for your family or customers.

Jersey Giant

As the name suggests, this breed originated in New Jersey and is known for its massive size. The Jersey Giant is an American breed, making it an excellent choice for those looking to raise heritage birds. Here are some notable characteristics of the Jersey Giant:

  • Slow growth: This breed takes around 16-21 weeks to reach a good harvestable size, making it a slower option for meat production.
  • Extra-large size: Jersey Giants have the potential to be the largest purebred meat chickens, with males weighing up to 13 pounds and females around 10 pounds.
  • Dual-purpose: In addition to meat production, these chickens fair well as egg-layers with hens capable of laying up to 260 large, brown eggs per year.
  • Backyard-friendly: Jersey Giants are known to be calm, gentle birds, making them a perfect addition to your backyard.


Originating in the United States, the Delaware is a friendly and versatile addition to any backyard flock. As a heritage breed, Delaware meat has a richer flavor than some modern meat breeds. Let’s explore what sets the Delaware apart:

  • Dual-purpose: Beyond meat production, Delawares are excellent egg layers, providing 200-280 large brown eggs per year.
  • Fast growth: Delaware chickens grow rapidly, reaching harvestable weight in as little as 8-12 weeks.
  • Sociable nature: These gentle and friendly birds integrate well with other chickens and are easy to handle, making them ideal for families.
  • Winter hardiness: The Delaware breed is well-suited for colder climates, as they possess a dense feathering that keeps them warm during winter months.


Hailing from France, the Bresse chicken is often referred to as the “queen of poultry” and the “poultry of kings.” Bresse chickens are known for their unique, delicious flavor and excellent meat quality. Here’s what you need to know about Bresse chickens:

  • Superior taste: The Bresse breed is renowned for its rich flavor, tender texture, and well-marbled meat – a gourmet favorite!
  • Distinct appearance: Bresse chickens are easily identifiable, with their white feathers, red combs, and blue legs – resembling the colors of the French flag.
  • Free-range foragers: Bresses are exceptional foragers, making them perfect for free-ranging in your backyard.
  • Dual-purpose: Alongside their meat production, Bresse hens lay about 200-250 eggs per year.


Originally from England, the Orpington is a classic, versatile breed prized for its tender, flavorful meat and friendly disposition. Its striking appearance and hardiness in various climates make this breed a favorite among backyard farmers. Let’s discuss some of the Orpington strengths:

  • Dual-purpose: Orpingtons are great meat producers and dependable layers, producing about 175-200 eggs per year.
  • Great disposition: These friendly, docile birds are great with children and make excellent pets as well as meat chickens.
  • Weather versatility: Orpingtons are cold-hardy, thanks to their dense feathering, and can tolerate heat with proper care and management.
  • Attractive birds: Orpingtons are available in various colors, such as black, blue, lavender, and the popular buff.

Considerations for Raising Meat Chickens

Now that you’re familiar with the top meat chicken breeds, it’s crucial to consider some essential factors before starting your backyard meat production journey:

Space Requirements

Ensure you have adequate space for your meat chickens, particularly if you plan on free-ranging. Calculate the size of your coop and run based on the number of chickens and specific breed requirements.

Feed and Nutrition

Proper nutrition is essential for chickens, especially those raised for meat. Research the nutritional requirements of your chosen breed and provide a high-quality feed. Your meat chickens will need the right balance of protein, fat, and essential nutrients for optimal growth.

Health and Well-being

Keep an eye on your flock’s health, addressing any issues quickly. Be aware of common health concerns for meat breeds, such as leg issues with fast-growing birds. Regularly clean and maintain your coop, provide fresh water, and practice good flock management to ensure happy, healthy birds.

Local Regulations

Be aware of your local regulations regarding raising backyard chickens, including limits on flock size, coop location, and acceptable breeds. Also, educate yourself on slaughter requirements and proper processing techniques if home-processing your birds.

With this knowledge at your fingertips, you’re now prepared to choose the perfect meat chicken breed best suited to your backyard farming goals. Enjoy the journey, and happy farming!

Additional Tips for Raising Meat Chickens

Armed with information about the top meat breeds and basic considerations, you’re now ready to dive into raising your backyard meat chickens. Here are some additional tips and advice to help you navigate the process for a successful venture:

Choose the Right Breed for Your Goals

Keep your goals in mind when selecting the appropriate meat breed for your backyard farming needs. Consider factors like growth rate, meat quality, and chicken temperament to determine the breed that best aligns with your objectives.

Starting with Chicks or Pullets

Decide whether you want to start with chicks or pullets (young hens). Raising chicks requires additional care, such as providing a brooder, heat source, and chick feed. However, starting with pullets can be more expensive, and you may have limited breed options.

Proper Coop and Run Management

A well-built, secure, and clean coop is essential to raising healthy chickens. Ensure adequate ventilation, predator protection, and space for your flock. Additionally, a spacious run or free-range area away from harmful chemicals will provide a stimulating environment for your growing birds.

Vaccinations and Disease Prevention

Talk to a knowledgeable veterinarian about the appropriate vaccinations for your meat chickens. Implement biosecurity measures, such as regularly cleaning shoes, tools, and clothing, to prevent disease transmission from wild birds or other flocks.

Establish a Routine

Having a daily routine can help you manage your flock more efficiently. Regularly check for signs of illness, injury or issues, clean the coop, refill food and water containers, and monitor the overall condition of your birds.

Plan for Processing

Research processing options in advance, as some opt to process their chickens at home while others prefer to use a professional facility. Regardless of which route you choose, educate yourself on proper and humane processing techniques, ensuring compliance with local regulations.

Keep Comprehensive Records

Maintain accurate records of your flock, including the number of chickens, their breed, age, growth rate, feed consumption, and medication, to help evaluate efficiency and areas for improvement. Regularly reviewing and updating these records will help you make informed decisions at every stage of your backyard meat production journey.

By incorporating this advice and diligently caring for your meat chickens, you’ll set yourself up for a successful and rewarding backyard farming experience. Enjoy raising your chickens and the satisfaction of creating healthy, delicious meals from your own backyard!

Frequently Asked Questions

As you venture into the world of raising meat chickens, you may have questions on your mind. We’ve compiled a list of common questions along with their answers to address your concerns and provide a comprehensive understanding of meat chicken breeds.

1. Are meat chicken breeds suitable for first-time chicken keepers?

Yes! Meat chicken breeds like the Cornish Cross are perfect for beginners due to their fast growth, hardiness, and adaptability. Start with a manageable number and choose breeds that are easy to care for.

2. Can meat chickens also lay eggs?

Yes, many dual-purpose breeds like Buff Orpingtons, Delawares, and Jersey Giants can produce meat and lay a decent number of eggs per year, making them versatile for backyard farms.

3. What is the average lifespan of a meat chicken?

Meat chickens reach their harvestable weight within 6-21 weeks, depending on the breed. Fast-growing breeds, like the Cornish Cross, can reach their ideal weight within 6-8 weeks, while slower-growing breeds like Jersey Giants may require 16-21 weeks.

4. Can I raise meat chickens together with egg-laying breeds?

Yes, you can raise meat chickens alongside egg layers. However, be careful in managing their different feed requirements and monitor for any aggressive behavior between birds.

5. What is the ideal coop size for meat chickens?

Meat chickens generally require around 2-4 square feet per bird inside the coop, while an additional 10 square feet per bird in the run is ideal. Adequate space is crucial for keeping your flock healthy and comfortable.

6. How can I provide a healthy diet for my meat chickens?

Feed your meat chickens a high-quality, protein-rich diet that meets the nutritional requirements of your chosen breed. Regularly provide fresh water, and consider supplementing with vitamins and minerals when necessary.

7. Can I free-range my meat chickens?

Some meat chicken breeds, like Ranger Broilers and Bresse, are excellent foragers and thrive in free-range environments. Ensure adequate space and protection from predators if you decide to free-range your chickens.

8. Do I need permits or licenses to raise meat chickens at home?

Local regulations vary, so always check your area’s zoning laws and restrictions concerning raising backyard chickens. Some locations may have limits on flock size, coop location, and acceptable breeds.

9. How do I protect my meat chickens from predators?

Ensure a secure coop with solid walls, a strong door, and no gaps for predators to enter. In the run, use predator-resistant fencing, and consider installing electric fencing or an automatic coop door for added protection.

10. How often should I clean my meat chicken coop?

Perform daily spot-cleaning for droppings, refilling feeders and waterers, and removing any soiled bedding. Deep clean your coop every few weeks, and disinfect the area to prevent disease and infestation.

11. What are some common health issues with meat chickens?

Fast-growing meat breeds may experience leg issues, heart problems, or ascites. Monitor your flock for signs of disease, injury, and keep an eye on their overall condition. Consult a veterinarian for proper care and treatment when needed.

12. Can I butcher my meat chickens at home?

Yes, but your area’s regulations may dictate specific guidelines for home processing. Research proper and humane processing techniques, ensuring compliance with local laws, and prioritize the well-being of your chickens.

13. How do I find a veterinarian who specializes in backyard poultry?

Contact local veterinary clinics to inquire about avian or poultry specialists, as they can provide valuable resources for maintaining the health of your meat chicken flock. Websites of organizations related to poultry can also be helpful in finding the right veterinarian.

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