Chickens come in all shapes and sizes.
The most popular chickens tend to be either bantam or standard sized but what about the giant breeds?
Giant chickens are those that weigh over 9lb. Unfortunately lots of people shy away from keeping them because their huge size makes them look rather intimidating.
However most giant chicken breeds are docile and very friendly.
There are many reasons why people love these larger breeds but perhaps the best reason is their jumbo eggs.
Keep reading to learn our favorite 7 giant chicken breeds…
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7. Dong Tao
The Dong Tao (or Dragon chicken) is a rare breed that is limited to a fairly small area in Vietnam where it is raised as a meat chicken.
They thrive in this micro-climate and do not do well in cooler climates.
Dong Taos are large and very unusual chicken.
The hens are a wheaten color while the roosters have a black breasted red plumage. They have a pea comb and large wattles which give them a slightly Neanderthal appearance.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect is their legs – they are thick and scaly and can grow to the thickness of a human wrist! Boys weigh 12lb and the hens will come in around 9lb once they reach maturity.
The Dong Tao was once raised only for the Vietnamese Royal family but they are now raised for those that can afford it – a pair of Dong Tao chickens can cost around $2000!
Hen are cyclic layers meaning they will lay for a while then break for a rest. In this manner she will lay around 60 eggs per year.
They are slow growers, very good natured and friendly with humans.
The Malay game fowl is one of the most ancient breeds around – it is thought they have been around over 3500 years ago!
This is a very tall breed that can stand 26-30 inches tall.
Roosters will weigh around 9lb and hens around 7lb.
As they are so tall they appear fairly slim to look at. Their neck and legs are long and they have a very erect carriage.
Interestingly they are one of the few breeds with a strawberry comb!
They are mainly bred as meat chickens but just remember they are very slow growers.
Hens are poor seasonal layers.
Other uses of this breed have been as a breeder bird to produce other breeds since they have a robust genetic profile and add vigor to the receiving breed – one such breed was the Rhode Island Red.
Unfortunately the Malay has a combative personality.
Roosters have been known to kill their own offspring and they will often fight other adult Malays.
For this reason the roosters should never be kept together.
They are a hardy and active breed that does better in the more temperate climates. They are good foragers and enjoy free ranging – keeping these chickens in confinement makes them more likely to fight.
The Cornish was originally known as the Indian Game hen and in the UK it is still known as the Indian Game.
Like most of the other giant breeds in our list they were created in the mid 1800s.
Sadly the intention was to create a fighting bird like the Asils and Malays. However the Cornish lost most of their aggression through the breeding process.
It did however fit into another category as a meat chicken.
Their temperament is calm and friendly but they do have an aggressive streak too.
Hens are poor egg layers and at most will lay 3 eggs each week.
The Cornish rooster can weigh up to 10lb and the hens can attain reach up to 6lb.
Like all of the breeds mentioned here they do well as free ranging chickens but the Cornish will tolerate confinement better than most. They are slow growers with large appetites so letting them free range will help reduce your feed bill.
Despite their size they can be quite delicate.
They are also known for trouble with their legs as the hips are widely spaced.
The Cornish is probably better known for being used to create the Cornish Rock. The Cornish Rock is the most popular meat chicken in the world and was created using Cornish and Barred Rocks.
The Australorp is an offshoot of the Orpington breed.
Orpingtons were shipped to Australia in the late 1800s where the Australians began to modify them. They crossed them with Rhode Island Reds and eventually the Australorp was created.
This is a large chicken with roosters weighing 8-10lb and hens weighing 6.5-8lb. They have a very upright stance which makes them appear even taller than they actually are.
There are several color varieties available depending on which country you live in. Australia accepts black, blue and white but here in the US the American Poultry Association only accepts black in the breed standard.
Surprisingly when you first meet this breed they will be shy. However as they become used to you they will become friendlier.
Their personality is best described as calm and sweet.
They are fairly fast growing dual purpose breed.
Hens can lay five large medium brown eggs each week and can tolerate confinement fairly well. They are not as broody as their Orpington ancestors thankfully and they make good attentive mothers.
The Maline (or Coucou de Malines) is originally from Belgium.
Just like other giant breeds they were created in the mid-1800s without a planned breeding program.
Their original purpose was as a meat bird but they also turned out to be very good egg layers too. Weight wise the roosters can weigh 12lb with the hens coming in at around 8-9lb.
Hens will lay 3 buff colored eggs each week which are extra-large in size. They also make great mamas but are not overly broody.
Just like the Jersey Giant this large and imposing chicken is actually a very gentle and easygoing soul. They rarely get flustered and have a calm and stable temperament.
This breeds love to forage and enjoys the exercise of scouring the yard for tidbits.
If this breed cannot range they will do well enough but tend to overeat and become obese.
Their plumage is a barred or cuckoo pattern (also called herringbone) and they have feathered legs too. The black and white barring is great camouflage for them when they are out in the field foraging. There used to be other color varieties of Malines but they seem to have faded into obscurity sadly.
Even barred Malines are rare now and as a result they can cost up to $60 each.
Chicks are auto-sexing but the differences between the sexes are not readily apparent until they are a few weeks old.
The big and beautiful Brahma is another giant chicken breed.
They were discovered around the mid 1800s when many were imported from Shanghai – at this time they were known as Shanghais.
This is one of the breeds responsible for the hen fever that gripped Victorian society in the UK and the US in the late 1800s. During this time they were bred with various other breeds to improve their looks and conformity and eventually became known as the Brahma.
They are a large chicken and stand at around 30 inches tall with a wide and imposing stance.
Small children can be fearful of them initially because of their size but the Brahma is a sweet and gentle bird.
They are a friendly and docile breed that are not aggressive and are very easy to handle.
You will find this breed in three colors: dark, light and buff. Whilst there are other varieties they are very rare and hard to find.
Brahma boys will weigh around 10lb and hens will weigh 8lb.
The hens will lay around 3-4 brown eggs a week and prefer to lay through the cooler months (October-May).
They love to range and are good foragers which helps to keep pests at bay in the garden.
Like the Jersey Giant you need to make modifications to the coop to accommodate their size and weight (more on this later).
1. Jersey Giant
The Jersey Giant is an American bred chicken.
They were first bred in the late 1800s in the state of New Jersey (which explains their name).
At the time they were bred to be a dual purpose chicken.
Back in the late 1800s large families were the norm and there were few table chickens that could feed a large family.
Turkeys could but they were expensive so the Jersey was born as an affordable alternative.
This giant chicken stands around twenty four inches tall and can weigh 11-15lb.
Whilst you might expect such a large chicken to be a bully to other flock members, she is in fact very gentle. This peaceful giant is quiet and docile and prefers to stay away from trouble and coop squabbles.
Jerseys spend most of their time foraging and they are very good at it – this helps cut down on your feed bill.
The Jersey comes in three colors (black, white and blue) with black being the most common.
Just remember these chickens needs larger coops. The doors should be taller, nesting boxes larger and of course more coop space per chicken.
As a heritage breed they do take time to fully mature but after they naturally mature hens will lay roughly 150-200 light brown eggs per year.
Benefits Of Keeping Giant Chickens In Your Flock
You could certainly be forgiven for thinking that there are no advantages to keeping large breeds – they eat a lot and grow slowly.
Those traits are seen as negatives in today’s busy world.
However these traits can also be a very positive thing.
Large chickens that are raised naturally on pasture lay eggs that taste much better than a barn raised chicken. Their egg yolks are much yellower and the egg itself contains many more good things than a battery hen egg.
Also large chickens tend to lay large/jumbo sized eggs!
Another benefit is pest control.
These chickens love to free range and in doing so will remove all sorts of nasty bugs from your yard – mosquitoes, Japanese beetles, grubs, slugs and ticks. They are very good and efficient at removing these critters and you will thank them for it.
They will also supply you with lots of compost.
Mix it well with other garden waste and you have your own super compost that you do not have to pay for. Some folks even make money out of selling chicken poop compost!
Finally these large chickens help with your land.
Turning chickens loose in the pasture can keep the pasture free from maggots and flies since the hens will eat them all.
Tips For Keeping Giant Chickens Healthy
Free Ranging: These are large chickens with large appetites so your feed bill is going to be larger too. Allowing them to free range lets the chicken supplement their feed with tasty fresh morsels from the yard. This will reduce your feed bill and also lets them exercise which in turn keeps them fit and healthy.
Accommodation: You will need to make certain modifications to the coop for large/giant sized chickens to make their life more comfortable. Make their access doors wider and a bit taller – if you aim for turkey sized doors that will be enough (30x19inches).
Perches: You will also need to modify your perches. They will need to be sturdy as most of these chickens weigh 10lb so six chickens on a perch will be around 60lb. The perches will also need to be fairly wide to allow for bigger feet. Most importantly the perches should be lower to the ground (around 18-24 inches). This helps to prevent any foot or leg injuries when they jump down from higher perches.
Adequate Space: You need to give them plenty of space inside the coop. They have large wingspans and enjoy flapping their wings so make sure they have enough room. An absolute minimum of 5 square feet per chicken in the coop – 6-8 is better. Also if you absolutely have to have them confined then you must allow at least 10 square feet per chicken in the run. As always the more space the better.
Raising giant chickens is really not much different from raising standard sized chickens.
There are a few things in the coop that you have to modify but they can be done easily and quickly.
Perhaps the biggest reason why most of of these breeds are unknown is the fact that many of them are slow growing and take longer to mature.
It seems these days everything needs to be done as quickly as possible.
If you decide to raise some of these birds then you will be helping to keep the breed line going as some of them are critically endangered.
Most of the breeds are gentle giants and will provide you with jumbo sized eggs.
Let us know which giant breed is your favorite in the comments section below…