Breed choice is one of those topics that every chicken keeper has definite feelings about. As sustenance farmers, we choose dual purpose breeds for meat and eggs. We consider these to be the best dual purpose chicken breeds for backyard flocks everywhere.
Picking the right breed is just as important to success as is the location, style, and construction of your coop and yard.
The climate you live in affects your choice since some breeds do better in colder climates than others. Some tolerate heat better than others as well.
If you don’t want to butcher your chickens for meat, then you wouldn’t be concerned about dual purpose as much. We try to raise or produce as much for ourselves as we can, so dual purpose breeds are our choice.
Benefits of Raising Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds
- The dual purpose chicken breed provides meat and eggs efficiently.
- Many dual purpose breeds are hardy heritage breeds which have better health and dispositions.
- These breeds are more productive and have longer lifespans.
- These dual-purpose breed birds can be free-ranged with little to no commercial feed.
- The meat to feed ratio and the egg to feed ratio is very economical.
- Dual-purpose chickens get broody and can hatch out and raise at least 12 eggs twice a year. We had a hen hatch out and raise 24 eggs! She was a Black Australorp hen.
- You can have more than one commodity to barter with if needed.
I was speaking about the breeds we choose and the way we feed them when a lady in the group asked a question about my breed selections. As I was answering her, a man said, “I am sick and tired of hearing people talk about the ‘old timers’ and how they did things. We don’t have the same birds or feed they did.”
I must admit he took me back a little. In my best southern voice, I replied, “Well, bless your heart.” Being from the south, he understood exactly what I meant!
The truth is, when we choose heritage or rare breeds, we are carrying on the preservation of the very same breeds that many of our ancestors had. I have two breeds that my grandmother had and yes, I do feed them the way she did.
She did not have GMOs, or organic vs non-organic to be concerned about like I do. What feed I do buy is non-GMO, organic feed just like hers was and they get most of their food from free ranging and garden waste, just as hers did.
So yes, you can have the same breeds and feed them the old timers’ way. Besides, I don’t think chickens change with the times…just sayin’.
That being said, what breeds are the best dual purpose birds and why? Remember, these are my choices. I don’t mean to leave out your favorite girls!
Best Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds For Backyard Flocks
1) Black Australorp
This breed is classified as one of the true heritage chicken breeds. With its beautiful black feathers, this bird ties for my favorite and is a great addition to any flock of dual purpose chickens even in cold climates.
I love this friendly bird as did my grandmother from when she had them as a girl in the early 1900s. The hens set a record for egg laying – 364 eggs out of 365 days (lots of eggs)! They did it without help from heating and lighting.
This great breed is one of the best setters and mothers I have ever had and the rooster is very watchful and protective of the flock adding to their free range prowess. When talking about breeds of chickens, Black Australorps are often seen as meat chickens since they are large birds, but they are so much more!
This is one of the larger birds in the dual purpose catecorgy. They will dress out between 5-8 pounds depending on whether it’s a cockerel or hen. They are one of the best free-ranging breeds I have seen, good foragers and very alert for predators.
They start laying large brown eggs at around 5 months of age. We find them to be the best winter layers we have and egg abnormalities are rare with them even when young. Their ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) status is “recovering.”
2) Speckled Sussex
This bird ties with the Black Australorp chickens as my favorite. They are beautiful and friendly. Sussex chickens running around with baby chicks is so entertaining.
The roosters are colorful heavy birds and very protective and watchful. The hens lay large light brown to beige eggs starting at 5 months of age. They barely slow down in the winter months and I’ve never had one be egg-bound.
They will dress out between 7-9 pounds depending on whether it’s a cockerel or hen. They are very active foragers. Their ALBC status is “recovering.
3) Rhode Island Reds
These are the other dual-purpose birds my grandmother had. I am so glad I added them to our flock. They are awesome egg layers.
To me, they start to lay a little earlier than the others, but only by a week or two. As great layers of brown large eggs, they lay well in the winter too.
While they are a heritage breed developed here in the United States, in Rhode Island, they are not a rare breed as the other two are.
They are friendly birds and excellent foragers. It’s easy to see why Rhode Island Red chickens have been a favorite backyard dual-purpose breed for generations. As a meat bir they are equal to the other two breeds. They dress out between 6-8 pounds depending on if it’s a cockerel or hen.
1) Buff Orpingtons
No other dual-purpose breed more quintessentially says “British breed” than the Buff Orpington.
Orpingtons are beautiful birds and no other breed is as much a docile bird as they are. They are a popular breed because some say they make great pets. They are a heavy breed that’s good with small children. They are also used as easy show birds for 4-H and fairs.
They tolerate confinement well, as they are not great at free-ranging. They don’t seem to be great at foraging and do not do well in the rain.
The hens lay around 250 per year putting them under our choices for best dual purpose chicken breeds.
As for meat production, they are excellent. The will weigh in between 8-10 pounds when mature, relative to hen to cockrel. They are table-ready at around 20 weeks.
2) New Hampshire Reds
The New Hampshire Red differs from the Rhode Island Red in that it produces more meat but less eggs at only 175 a year. It’s faster to grow and feather out than the RIR and is table-ready around 16 weeks.
3) White Leghorn
The Leghorn breed of chicken originates from Tuscany, in central Italy. They were first exported to North America in 1828.
Some breeders have been working with this breed to increase egg production and ratios. The popular pearl white leghorn is a product of selective breeding and has one main goal: excellent egg production, cheap and fast, at the highest quality.
Pearl White Leghorn pullets weigh 4 lbs. at maturity. They start laying at 5 months with a high resistance to disease. Best of all, the feed to egg ratio is excellent which help in holding down the cost of your egg production.
If you want a pullet that will lay white eggs with the highest grade, size, shell, and highest interior quality with the least amount of feed, they might be for you.
Here in the United States, these birds are not considered a good dual-purpose bird anymore because of the focus on egg laying.
The Brown Leghorn is also an excellent egg layer but not suitable for meat birds for the same reason. The main difference between the two is the white feathers.
4) Jersey Giant
This is the original Jersey Giant developed in New Jersey in the late 19th century. It was developed by crossing some of the large, dark Asiatic breeds: Black Java, Dark Brahma, Dark Cornish, and Black Langshan.
They are a little larger than the white giants and usually referred to as the biggest chicken breed in the world.
Even though they are the largest meat bird you’ll see on the homestead, their feed to meat ratio isn’t good.
They don’t mature as fast as the best meat bird breeds but with time to free-range and some of our tips on feeding your chickens, you can make this breed work on a small farm.
They are good egg layers laying around 200 extra large brown eggs a year.
5) Barred Plymouth Rock
The Barred Rock is one of the favorites of my childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of collecting fresh eggs while watching Plymouth Rock chickens run around the yard.
An excellent choice and one of the best dual-purpose chicken breeds.
Developed in New England in the early 1800s by crossing Dominiques and Black Javas. This breed has spread to every part of the world.
They have excellent egg laying ability and meat production. They reach maturity at 20 weeks. Because they are excellent foragers, they make a great option as a dual-purpose backyard breed.
6) Black Stars
Black Star chickens are a new breed cross between a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire rooster and Barred Rock hen. They are like the Red Star in many ways and are sex-link chickens. They are easy to raise and have a good feed to egg conversion ratio.
Hens are excellent layers and start laying around 22 weeks of age. Pullets weigh in around 6 lbs at maturity.
While there is no way for us to determine which of the dual purpose chicken breeds is right for your homestead, we hope these recommendations help you choose wisely and with confidence.
In our book, “Choosing the Right Breed To Succeed On The Homestead”, we examine 28 different breeds we consider to be the best breeds for any backyard chicken keeper. We provide photos and detailed information about each breed with over 60 pages of content.
Our goal is to give you all the information you need to choose the breed that fits your needs and lifestyle.
What breeds do you have and why? Would you choose them again?
What breeds are your favorite and why?