Do you want a backyard chicken that has a sweet nature, can get along with its flock mates as well as its human family, and is BIG? The Jersey Chicken might be the right match for you!
Jersey Chickens are known as Jersey Giants. They are the largest purebred chicken in the USA and arguably worldwide – the “Great Dane” of the chicken world.
History of the Giant Jersey Chickens
Jersey Giants were first bred in Burlington County, New Jersey, USA, in the late 1800s. John and Thomas Black created the breed in an attempt to equal the meat capacity of a turkey, by crossing Dark Brahmas, Black Langshams, and Black Java chickens. The resultant Black Jersey Giant was a heavy-breasted roasting bird, and the breed was added to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1922, followed by the White variant in 1947 and the Blue variant in 2002.
The popularity of the Jersey Giant declined later in the 1900s and it was listed by Livestock Conservancy as critically endangered in 2001. In 2017 it was moved to a “watch list” as the popularity for raising heritage breed chickens has flourished over the past decade.
The Jersey Giant is one of the heaviest chicken breeds in the world. In the past, the birds were heavier than they are now, and they were predominantly bred as meat chickens. Much slower-growing than most commercial meat birds today, they are not generally used in the industry.
Appearance and Characteristics of Jersey Giants
Jersey Giants are a calm, friendly, and docile chicken, and even the roosters are rarely aggressive towards other birds. They are cold-hardy (depending on the size of the comb and wattle – the smaller the better) and quite robust, and they are suited to large backyard runs and free-ranging. Jersey chickens do not tolerate heat and humidity well. They are very happy to forage for grubs and other food, which is a good thing as they require a lot of feed to reach their full size. There are Bantam varieties of these chickens, but they are very rare.
Jersey Chickens do bear a strong resemblance to the Australorp, however, the Jersey Chicken is much larger.
In Terms of Appearance:
- Roosters average 6.0-6.5kg
- Hens average 5.0kg
- Roosters are more than 2 feet (66cm) tall; hens stand just a little shorter
- There body is long, deep, and wide with a rectangular, blocky appearance
- The back is broad and flat
- Tail is short
- Feathers are neat, trim, and sit close to the body
- Eyes are dark brown
- The beak is black with pale yellow at the tip
- Skin is yellow; comb and wattle are red
- Black legs with no feathering
- Four toes per foot with yellow soles of feet
- Black Jersey Giants have a greenish, iridescent sheen in sunlight. Black Jersey chicks are black with creamy white patches.
- White Jersey Giants have yellow beaks and soles and willow-colored legs
- Blue Jersey Giants have black shanks; feathers are slate blue with darker lacing
Egg Laying: Jersey Giant hens lay a good supply of large pale brown eggs, up to 200 per year, and are good winter layers. They are prone to going broody but with little success, as the hens’ large size results in regular egg breakage.
Does this Breed Suit You?
Jersey Chicken Pros:
- Easy to raise
- Gentle, calm, and tolerant of other chickens
- Acts as a flock mediator; will neither be aggressive nor picked on by other birds
- Great with children; an ideal feathered pet
- Are not flighty and cannot fly (no more than a flap just off the ground) – so easy to keep confined
- Less likely to be preyed upon by hawks
- Lay all year; 4 large eggs per week
- Great mothers if allowed to raise their chicks
- One of the healthiest breeds to raise
- Long, productive outdoor lifespan when cared for properly
- Ideal for free-ranging
- Great choice if you wish to raise chickens for meat
Jersey Chicken Cons:
- Needs a lot of space – double what most other breeds require
- Requires significant feeding to raise to maturity – much more feed than most other breeds
- May intimidate some other more timid breeds due to its size alone
- Can be very noisy – especially roosters
- Slow to mature
- Egg-laying does not commence until the bird is around 6 months of age – significantly later than for other breeds
- May be prone to bone and muscle weakness (due to its size). This includes issues with the legs.
- Can be prone to obesity – it’s important to have a large run, to not overfeed, and to enable free-ranging as much as possible.
- Does not cope well with heat and humidity
- Roosters can sometimes be overenthusiastic when breeding, leaving hens’ backs bare of feathers
To get the most from your Jersey Chickens, accommodate their needs. This includes providing a larger coop and run, plenty of yard to freely explore and forage in and providing lower, studier perches within the coop for easy access and to support their weight.
The Jersey Giant loves a snuggle! If you’re looking for an all-rounder chicken for your flock that will also be great with your kids and you don’t mind some size and weight behind it, this is the chicken for you.