Many chicken enthusiasts will recognize the Jersey giant chicken. This breed is known for its large size—larger than almost any other chicken—but also for its gentle, friendly personality. Chicken owners searching for a good-natured breed may want to consider the attractive Jersey giant chicken as the next addition to their flock.
Background and History of Jersey Giant Chickens
The Jersey Giant is the largest chicken breed in the United States, and one of the largest in the world. Originally, the breed was created as a possible replacement for turkeys. Some chicken owners thought that if they bred chickens large enough, they would supply the demand for large roasting birds.
For some time, Jersey giant chickens were used as meat birds. However, because a Jersey giant chicken takes eight to nine months to reach its full size, which is much longer than most chicken breeds, and because turkey became more readily available, the demand for the Jersey giant as a roasting fowl died down.
Today, the breed is generally used as egg layers or interesting additions to a flock. Because the demand for it died down so much, it was at one point in the early 2000s considered to be a critically endangered breed. Since 2017, the breed has grown and is now only on the watch list for endangered chicken breeds.
The breed originated in New Jersey in the late 1800s and was mostly cultivated by Thomas and John Black. To create the large chicken breed, the farmers bred together Black Langshan chickens, dark Brahmas, and Black Javas. Originally, the breed was known as the Black Jersey giant chicken. This name was given to them, however, not because of their dark coloring, but because of the last name of the farmers who created the breed.
The original creators of the breed were unconcerned with the bird’s color, so the Jersey giant ended up with a variety of feather variations. Today, the Jersey giant chicken is recognized by the American Poultry Association as having three colorations. The original black breed standard was recognized in 1922. In 1947, a white variety was added to the breed standard. A blue variety was added in 2002.
Although Jersey giant chickens are still much larger than many other chicken breeds, they have actually decreased slightly in size since the breed was first created.
Jersey Giant Chicken Breed Standard
- Females weigh around 11 pounds, males weight between 13 and 15 pounds
- Black, white, and blue color variations
- Red comb and wattles
Originally, the breed standard for a Jersey giant chicken was a large frame, yellow skin, and a single comb. Jersey giant chickens today are somewhat smaller than their ancestors, but they are still incredibly large birds. Males can weigh between 13 and 15 pounds and usually stand between 22 and 26 inches tall. Females weigh about 11 pounds and stand between 16 and 20 inches tall.
Black Jersey giant chickens are, as the name suggests, black in color. This includes both the feathers and the legs. Their feathers have an iridescent green or purple sheen to them in sunlight. A white jersey giant chicken has white feathers and cream or willow colored legs. Blue Jersey giants have darker, nearly black shanks and are grayish-blue in color.
All Jersey giant chickens still have the yellow skin described in the original breed standard. They also all have red wattles and combs. These chickens have brown eyes. The beaks of the birds should either be pale yellow or black, depending on the feather coloring.
The Jersey Giant chicken has a muscular body and feathers that lie close, so the bird has a very neat, clean appearance. There are no feathers on the legs. In addition, the tail of the chicken is relatively short.
Personality and Temperament
Aside from their impressive size, the Jersey giant chicken is often sought after because it is so friendly and docile. Many people keep them simply because they are excellent backyard or barnyard pets. These chickens are also considered to be quite calm and are generally unruffled by disturbances.
Because of their gentle temperament, these chickens are thought to be a good choice when choosing a bird that will share space with pets or children. They also work well as an addition to established flocks as they tend to get along well with other chickens and do not peck often. Their large size can make them seem quite imposing, but they usually do not use that size to intimidate other animals. In actuality, they are thought to be a non-aggressive breed.
Despite the fact that they are not aggressive, Jersey giant chickens often work well with chicken breeds that are aggressive, due to their intimidating size. Most chickens prefer to stay out of the Jersey giant’s way. In addition, hawks do not prey on Jersey giant chickens, as the chickens are simply too large for a hawk to carry away.
Jersey Giant Chicken Egg Laying
- Jersey giants produce between two to four eggs per week
- Eggs are brown in color
- Eggs are larger than those of the average chicken
According to The Livestock Conservancy, Jersey giant chickens tend to lay more eggs than other large breeds. Although they were bred to be meat chickens, these birds are actually considered to be fairly good egg layers. They will produce, on average, between two and four eggs each week, for a total of between 150 and 200 eggs a year.
The eggs themselves are light or medium brown in color. They tend to be quite a bit larger than the average chicken egg, which is to be expected given the size of the Jersey giant.
Jersey giant hens are often considered to be good mothers to their chicks, and they seem to enjoy taking care of their eggs. However, because of the size of the chicken, if left to brood the eggs, Jersey giant hens often accidentally crack the eggshells with their weight. Because of this, it is important to remove eggs as soon as possible. If chicks are desired, the eggs can be placed under a hen of a different breed for brooding.
It takes slightly more time for Jersey giant chicks to develop. Because of this, it takes chicks between two and six days longer to hatch than other chicken breeds.
Health Issues and Care
The Jersey Giant chicken was bred to be not only large but also robust. Because of this, Jersey giants are considered to be healthy birds that are not susceptible to many illnesses.
One of the only potential health issues Jersey giant chickens face is leg injuries. These injuries can occur when the bird flies or jumps from a high space. Due to their weight, the landing can injure a bird. Placing perches closer to the ground can reduce the risk of such injuries.
Due to their size, Jersey giant chickens require a good amount of space to roam. Allowing these birds to roam freely is often the best option. However, if free-ranging chickens are not an option, they should ideally be offered eight square feet of space per chicken. However, in tighter areas, four square feet of space is adequate.
The Jersey Giant chicken can eat a staple diet similar to other chickens, but will obviously require more food. They are also good at foraging for themselves when they are allowed to roam free.
3 Tips for Raising Jersey Giant Chickens
- Excellent cold weather birds
- Vitamins and minerals help Jersey giant chickens develop their size
- Perches must be placed low to the ground
Jersey Giant chickens have feathers that lie tight to their bodies. This, combined with their robust structure and overall vigorous health, means that they are hardy birds. These chickens do especially well in cold weather climates. However, they may not fare as well in hot weather climates.
It is important that these chickens receive an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals. This can help the chicken reach its full growth potential. It can also help the chickens grow stronger bones, which can help to reduce the risk of potential leg injuries.
Adding vitamins and minerals to the chicken’s food is a good way to ensure that the bird is receiving the proper diet. However, allowing Jersey giant chickens to roam free and forage also helps. When foraging, chickens have a more varied diet and generally take in more vitamins than they would from standard feed alone.
When creating a space for Jersey giant chickens, it is important to remember that their perches should be placed low to the ground. This not only assures that the chickens will be able to easily reach the perches, but it helps to reduce leg injuries caused by the Jersey giant’s weight.
For many, the Jersey giant chicken is an excellent addition to a flock. Although it can take some time to mature, many people praise the bird for its meat. Others enjoy the gentle, friendly personality and good egg laying temperament. Either way, Jersey giants are a popular choice for many chicken enthusiasts.