In the world of poultry homesteading, several factors come into play when choosing which breed is the best for you.
Some factors to consider are egg-laying abilities, if you want to raise them for meat production, or if you want them to be cuddly and sit in your lap.
Dual-purpose birds are breeds known to be prolific egg layers and have excellent meat production capabilities.
In this post, we will go over ten of the best dual-purpose breeds! If any of them pique your interest, then, as always, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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Criteria for Selecting Dual-Purpose Breeds
When selecting dual-purpose breeds, several factors include egg-laying capabilities, meat quality, temperament, adaptability to various climates and settings, and care requirements.
A breed without good egg-laying capabilities can’t be considered an excellent dual-purpose bird. Some dual-purpose species are better than others, which we will discuss in this article. It is important to remember that with any prolific egg layers, you’ll want to add sufficient amounts of calcium to their diets, whether that be through oyster shells or other methods.
It’s essential to assess the breed’s body size and growth rate for meat quality, for this will impact the breed’s meat production.
When determining what type of meat bird you’ll want, meat quality, such as taste and texture, are essential factors.
It’s vital to consider the temperaments of the breed you’re looking to keep, especially if you plan on housing them with other breeds, want to raise them around small children, or if you plan on raising them in more suburban areas that don’t appreciate a lot of noise pollution.
If you want to handle your birds often, finding a more docile and non-aggressive breed is best for you.
Determining if a breed is the best fit for you also requires seeing if they are well suited for your climate. Some breeds are more cold-hardy than others, while others thrive in hotter climates.
Some breeds will also need much space to roam and live a free-ranged lifestyle, while others thrive in more confined settings.
1. Plymouth Rock (Barred Rock)
The Plymouth Rock, also called the Barred Rock, is one of the most popular breeds for dual-purpose uses. They are known for having excellent egg-laying abilities and great meat quality.
The Plymouth Rock is one of the first breeds bred in America. It is held near and dear to poultry enthusiasts’ hearts. The breed was first produced in the mid-19th century by crossing various breeds, including Cochins, Black Javas, and Dominiques.
The Plymouth Rock is a large-bodied bird with a triangular body shape and a full chest (a plus for meat production). The most famous variety of this breed is the Barred Rock, whose feathers have a distinctive black and white barring. Other colors include buff, white, partridge, and silver.
Roosters typically weigh 8.5-9.5 pounds on average, while hens weigh around 6.5-7.5 pounds, making them rather large birds.
Plymouth Rock hens lay medium to large brown eggs.
The great thing about these birds is that they are known for having a consistent egg production cycle. These birds can lay 200-280 eggs yearly, or 3-6 per week!
Due to their size, Plymouth Rocks produce a lot of meat per bird. Their meat quality is also highly sought for its great taste and texture.
Plymouth Rocks produce meat with good taste and texture. It is flavorful and tender, making it suitable for consumption.
The ideal age for harvesting Plymouth Rock chickens is around 5-7 months, for this is when they have reached a suitable size and their meat is tender.
As if being an excellent dual-purpose hen wasn’t enough, these birds are also friendly with their human companions! They are known to have a more docile temperament and to be quite close with their human counterparts. As well as they tend to do well around small children. Not only that, but you can house them with other birds, for they integrate well with mixed flocks.
Feeding: Plymouth Rocks have average feed requirements and do well on standard poultry diets. It’s essential to ensure you provide access to fresh, clean water.
Space Requirements: For optimal comfort and health of your birds, each chicken needs at least 2-3 square feet of room inside the coop and 8-10 square feet of run space for free-ranging.
Health: Luckily, the Plymouth Rock is generally a hardy bird; however, that doesn’t mean they can’t be susceptible to common poultry diseases. It’s always a good idea to reach out to local vets and to ensure that your birds receive proper care and appropriate vaccinations.
The Sussex chicken breed comes to mind regarding old, trusted breeds. This chicken breed has been around for quite a while and is a favorite for many chicken enthusiasts.
The Sussex chicken breed gets their name from the region in England where they came from (Sussex). The Sussex is one of the oldest breeds, originating in the early 19th century. They were shown in the first poultry show at the London Zoo in 1845. They were bred to be an excellent dual-purpose chicken breed.
The Sussex breed has a distinct appearance. They are medium to large birds essential for adequate meat production. This breed can come in standard and bantam sizes. Their standard weights are 6-7 pounds for hens and 8-9 pounds for roosters.
They have a deep chest that rounds out their abdomen and typically have a single comb that stands upright. The dark red of their comb contrasts beautifully with their crisp white feathers. Typically, they are an all-white breed with few black markings down their neck. However, they can also come in other varieties, such as red and speckled.
The Sussex chicken is known to be an excellent egg layer. They lay medium to large brown eggs. Depending on environmental conditions and the care of these birds, they can lay 250-300 eggs per year, 4- 6 a week!
Due to the Sussex being a larger bird with a rounder chest, their meat production is also a lot better when compared to other backyard breeds. Their meat is known for being tender and having great flavor.
When harvesting, the ideal age for a Sussex chicken is typically between 4-6 months when the desired weight and flavor profile are reached.
Suppose you’re looking for a docile backyard chicken typically tolerant of human touch. In that case, the Sussex might be the bird for you! They usually get along well with other chicken breeds and are not particularly aggressive; however, their roosters will protect their flock if they feel threatened.
Because of their docile nature and willingness to be held, the Sussex chickens make great fits for families with young children.
Maintenance over the breed is similar to any other backyard flock. It involves several aspects, including proper housing, feeding, and general care.
Feeding: When it comes to feeding your Sussex birds. They have relatively simple diet requirements and tend to do well on standard poultry diets. You can always incorporate fun treats into their diets, such as fruits and veggies; however, this should always be at most 10% of the breed’s overall diet. It’s essential to ensure you provide access to fresh, clean water.
Space Requirements: For optimal comfort and health of your birds, each chicken needs at least 2-3 at least 2-3 square feet of room inside the coop and 8-10 square feet of run space for free-ranging. You’ll need at least one nesting box for every 3-4 hens.
Health: Luckily, the Sussex is known for being a hardy bird; however, that doesn’t mean they can’t be susceptible to common poultry diseases. It’s always a good idea to reach out to local vets and ensure that your birds receive proper care and appropriate vaccinations.
The Orpington chicken breed is another breed that has been around for some time now; it was developed in the late 1800s by William Cook. The breed was named after the town they originated from, Orpington, in Kent, England. William Cook’s goal was to create an excellent dual-purpose chicken.
This breed is well known for being large and very round. They come in various color combinations, including buff, blue, black, and white. Their plumage is very soft and fluffy, adding to their plump appearance. Their legs are usually a willow color.
As I mentioned, they are a relatively large chicken breed, with their hens weighing about 7-8 pounds and their roosters ranging from 10-12 pounds.
These birds will give you fewer eggs than the Sussex; however, they will still provide around 200-280 per year. They lay large light brown eggs. They are also relatively broody birds, which is excellent if you’re trying to breed them.
The meat from the Orpington chicken is known for being tender and considered one of the best-tasting chicken breeds. Typically, they are ready for harvest around 22 weeks of age for optimum flavor and tenderness.
Like the previous two chicken breeds, the Orpington is known for its docile nature. They are peaceful birds who can integrate with other breeds, with problems being few and far between.
This breed enjoys human companionship and loves being cuddled, making them a good fit for families with small children.
Maintenance of this the breed is similar to any other backyard flock. It involves several aspects, including proper housing, feeding, and general care.
Feeding: When it comes to feeding your Orpington birds. They have relatively simple diet requirements and tend to do well on standard poultry diets. You can always incorporate fun treats into their diets, such as fruits and veggies; however, this should be at most 10% of their overall diet. It’s essential to ensure you provide access to fresh, clean water.
It should be noted that they are not avid foragers. The less work they have to do for their food, the better.
Space Requirements: For optimal comfort and health of your birds, each chicken needs at least 4-5 at least 2-3 square feet of room inside the coop and 8-10 square feet of run space for free-ranging. You’ll have at least one nesting box for every 3-4 hens.
Health: thanks to their thick plumage and large body, the Orpington is pretty cold hardy; however, this breed is not a good breed for hotter climates for the same reasons. They can easily suffer from a heat stroke. Therefore, keeping them nice and cool during the summer is important.
They are more susceptible to lice and mites due to their thick plumage.
The Wyandotte has quite an interesting background. This chicken breed is an American breed that was developed in the late 1800s to be able to withstand harsh northern winters. Their name derives from the Wyandotte Nation of Native Americans.
Like many known breeds today, the Wyandotte chicken is derived from several other breeds, including Brahmas.
This breed is nothing short of magnificent. Their feather patterns are very unique and quite stylish. They come in an assortment of colors. However, the exact number of recognized colors depends on your country. Some of their recognized colors are White, Gold laced, Buff, Partridge, black, and silver penciled.
These chickens are a large breed with yellow legs with four toes on each foot. Their roosters weigh about 8-9 pounds, while their hens range from 6-7.
While they are less prolific egg layers than some birds in this list, they will still give you around 3-4 eggs each week.
They lay large cream or brown eggs, depending on the color. They are not known for being broody, but they tend to make great mothers when they are.
Once again, being heavier birds aids in meat quality. Their meat quality is rather tender, with a mild chicken flavor.
They take a little longer to reach harvesting age, around 5 to 6 months.
One notable thing about this breed is that while they are friendly and docile, they tend not to do well with other chicken breeds. They would rather stick with their own kind than with other breeds.
These birds thrive when they can roam free range and forage for their food. They will get antsy without free-ranging, leading to bad habits such as feather picking.
While they like to come up to their human counterparts for treats, they are indifferent to companionship.
Feeding: Regarding feeding your Wyandottes, They have relatively simple diet requirements and tend to do well on standard poultry diets. You can always incorporate fun treats into their diets, such as fruits and veggies; however, this should never exceed 10% of the breed’s overall diet. A starter diet should have no less than 20% protein. It’s essential to ensure you provide access to fresh, clean water.
Space Requirements: For optimal comfort and health of your birds, each chicken needs at least 4-5 at least 2-3 square feet of room inside the coop and 8-10 square feet of run space for free ranging; however, if you can provide more, they will appreciate it. You’ll need at least one nesting box for every 3-4 hens.
Health: The Wyandotte is cold-hardy and relatively tolerant of summer heat thanks to its thick plumage and large body. Due to their thick plumage, they are more susceptible to lice and mites; therefore, it is essential to look for these problems.
5. Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island reds are one of the most popular chicken breeds. Most homestead owners say their personality alone is one of the best reasons to raise them.
The history of this breed goes back to 1854 when Captain Tripp brought a Malay rooster with him. He paired the rooster with some of his other chickens and, in turn, created offspring that laid more eggs.
Afterward, he set out to make the best poultry breed for egg-laying purposes and meat production. He, Mr. Macomber, and Mr. Tompkins developed the breed we know and love today.
The Rhode Island Reds are known for their distinct appearances. Their primary coloring is a shiny chestnut red. Occasionally, this breed will have black plumage on their tail and wings. Their feathers sit compactly, similar to the Malay breed used to help create this chicken.
There is such a thing as a Rhode Island White, But they are considered to be a separate breed.
Their body has more of a rectangular shape to it. They are more of a medium to large breed, with their hens weighing around 6.5 pounds and their roosters around 8.5.
Surprisingly, this breed can have either a single or rose comb.
Their egg production will depend on the Rhode Island Red strain you get. Reds from the production strain will produce around 5-6 eggs per week, which is in that 250-300 per year range.
Heritage strains tend to lay less eggs at only 150-200 per year, or 3-4 a week.
They tend to lay consistently throughout the year, except for really hot or really cold periods.
They produce medium to large light brown eggs.
Rhode Island Reds are typically primarily known for their egg production. However, their meat quality should be noted as well. They have a great texture and tenderness to their meat.
The ideal age for harvest is around 4-5 months, which is longer than some backyard breeds. Their meat is tough, and they require more feed.
One key note about this breed is that they are full of personality. Be warned, If you have neighbors, these birds like to use their voices loudly and proudly.
They are relatively docile and friendly with other breeds of similar disposition; however, they tend to be higher on the pecking order. Around humans, it varies based on each bird. Some would rather stay away, while others are approachable and enjoy human interaction.
Their roosters are known for being quite obnoxious and should be kept away from small children.
Maintaining Rhode Island Reds involves similar considerations as other breeds in this list.
Feeding: It is essential to provide a balanced diet appropriate for their age and production purpose. A good 16% layer feed will do the trick with them. They would rather have free feed, meaning they like to help themselves when they want to eat.
Space Requirements: This breed does not enjoy being cooped up in small spaces. They’ll need an average of 8 inches of perch space per bird. Regarding roaming space, a minimum of 15 square feet is recommended.
The Australorp chicken breed is a breed that originated in the early 1900s in Australia. It was developed by breeding Black Orpingtons. Australorp is an abbreviation for Australian Black Orpingtons! The original goal of Orpingtons was to create a prolific egg layer, and the Australorp is just that!
This breed has an all-black glossy plumage with a greenish shine in direct sunlight. They typically have a single medium-sized comb.
The beak of an Australorp is black, while its legs range from light to dark versions of a slate color.
Their hens weigh around 5 to 7 pounds, while their roosters weigh 6 to 8.
They are known primarily for their egg production; however, they still can produce decent meat quality. They are on the more medium size when it comes to backyard chicken breeds; therefore, you will get less meat from them. Their meat is said to be less flavorful than others, but it still can be used for various dishes.
The Ideal age for harvest is around 4-6 months old. At this age, they have reached a reasonable development of sufficient meat.
Like most breeds in this list, they are known for their friendly and docile temperament. They tend to enjoy interacting with their human companions and will become accustomed to being handled.
They integrate well with other breeds. They make an excellent choice for families with small children due to their friendly nature, ability to integrate, and egg production.
Feeding: Feeding this breed requires no special requirements. They will do well during the laying season with a standard 16% layer pellet. Supplementing calcium and grit is vital to their health and well-being.
Space requirements: these birds don’t require excessive space but will need about 2-3 square feet of coop space per bird and 8-10 square feet of outdoor run space per bird.
Health: Luckily, the Australorp is generally a hardy bird; however, that doesn’t mean they can’t be susceptible to common poultry diseases. It’s always a good idea to reach out to local vets and ensure that your birds receive proper care and appropriate vaccinations.
7. New Hampshire Red
The New Hampshire Red chicken breed is an American-bred poultry breed that originated in New Hampshire.
The ultimate goal was to improve the Rhode Island red’s meat quality and hardiness.
They are uniform in color with an all-around deep reddish brown plumage with black feathers on their tail. They typically have a single comb that stands erect.
Their legs and beak are yellow.
Hens for the New Hampshire Red weigh about 6-7 pounds, while their roosters reach 8-9 pounds.
Egg Laying Capabilities
The New Hampshire Red chicken breed is a less prolific egg layer than other chicken breeds in this post. They tend only to lay around 200-250 eggs per year. Their eggs are medium to large and brown.
These birds are also known for being particularly broody.
Their meat quality has excellent taste and texture, and they excel in production. Their meat is considered very flavorful and well-textured.
They are typically ready for harvest around 5-7 months or when they reach adequate size for meat production.
New Hampshire reds are very docile in temperament. They love human interaction and are quite approachable, as well as they tend to get along well with other breeds when integrating them into the flock.
Feeding: Feeding this breed requires no special requirements. They will do well during the laying season with a standard 16% layer pellet. Supplementing calcium and grit is essential to their health and well-being. Provide Fresh and clean water for them at all times.
Space Requirements: these birds need at least 2-3 square feet of coop space per hen and 8-10 soiree feet per bird in run space. Their coop should be well-ventilated with enrichment such as nesting boxes and roosting bars.
Heath: Luckily, the New Hampshire Red is generally a hardy bird; however, once again, that doesn’t mean they can’t be susceptible to common poultry diseases. Contacting local vets is always a good idea so your birds receive proper care and appropriate vaccinations.
They are rather cold and heat-hardy, but providing adequate housing equipment to protect them from extreme weather is always a good idea.
The Dominique chicken breed is a bared feathered chicken breed with a history behind it. They are sometimes called pilgrim fowl because some believe the pilgrims brought this breed to America.
It is also thought that their ancestors came from the island of San Domingo.
Like the Barred Rock, this chicken breed has black and white barred feathers cascading across their body. This barred look is nothing short of breathtaking. The roosters and hens share this look; however, the roosters are usually larger and more robust.
Their legs are yellow, and their wattles and rose comb are bright red. The hens weigh around five pounds, while their roosters weigh about seven.
Egg Laying Capabilities
These hens, on average, lay around four eggs per week, producing about 200 eggs yearly. Their eggs are medium to large and brown. They tend to lay year-round.
They are considered to be an excellent dual-purpose chicken breed. Their meat is rather flavorful and tender. However, due to their sizing, they produce less meat than some other birds in this list.
On average, they are ready for harvest around 16-20 weeks, when they have reached maturity and before their meat becomes too tough.
These birds are known to be docile and very gentle. They are generally friendly and allow handling. Often, they are considered to be a good choice for families. They are gentle and get along well with other breeds.
As long as these birds are kept happy, they won’t cause much fuss, meaning their noise levels will be minimal.
All in all, this breed makes a great beginner breed.
Feeding: proving a balanced diet is necessary for this breed to thrive. They will do well during the laying season with a standard 16% layer pellet. They love to forage and will find joy in getting treats that way. Supplementing calcium and grit is essential to their health and well-being. Provide Fresh and clean water for them at all times.
Space Requirements: You will want to allow 2-3 square feet of coop room per bird and the standard 8-10 square feet of run space per bird.
Health Care: Generally, this breed is healthy with no specific health issues. It’s always a good idea to reach out to local vets and ensure that your birds receive proper care and appropriate vaccinations. They are rather cold and heat-hardy, but providing adequate housing equipment to protect them from extreme weather is always a good idea.
The Faverolles chicken breed is quite the stunning chicken breed. They have feathered feet and a huge beard, making their faces fluffy. This breed originated in France in the mid-19th century. They were officially recognized as a breed in 1998 in France.
These chickens are known for their distinct appearance. They come in various colors, including Mahogany, black, buff, and blue salmon; however, the American Poultry Association only recognizes white and salmon.
They have a single comb that sits upright.
Egg Laying Capabilities
Faverolles will give you around 4-5 large light brown eggs weekly. Even though they are not prolific egg layers, their eggs are larger than other breeds.
This breed is considered an excellent dual-purpose breed, with its flavorful and tender meat. They are typically ready for slaughter around 16-20 weeks of age. This is when they will be full size, and their meat is the most tender.
The Faverolle has a reputation for being lovable, goofy, and particularly curious. They enjoy being companions with their owners, making them a good fit to be around families with young children. They make great additions to already integrated flocks.
Feeding: proving a balanced diet is necessary for this breed to thrive. They will do well during the laying season with a standard 16% layer pellet. Provide Fresh and clean water for them at all times.
Space Requirements: Like several other breeds, you will want to allow 2-3 square feet of coop space per bird and the standard 8-10 square feet of run space per bird.
Health care: Generally, this breed is healthy with no specific health issues. It’s always a good idea to reach out to local vets ensuring that your birds receive proper care and appropriate vaccinations.
Since their legs are covered in feathers, you’ll want to ensure that you groom regularly to prevent leg issues.
10. Jersey Giant
Last but certainly not least, we have the well-loved Jersey Giant on this list. This breed is known for being the largest chicken breed there is. John and Thomas Black, of New Jersey, set out to create a large chicken breed that would be comparable to the size of turkeys. The breed was developed by crossing Black Javas, Black Langshans, and Dark Brahmans.
As if the name didn’t give it away, this breed is giant. Their hens weigh around 11 pounds, and their roosters reach up to 15!
They have three color varieties recognized by the American Poultry Standard, including black, the first variety recognized in 1922.
Each type has different leg colors: black with black shanks, white with willow-colored shanks, and blue with black shanks.
Egg Laying Capabilities
Jersey giants are more known for their meat production capabilities. However, they still produce around 150-200 brown eggs per year. While they aren’t known to be prolific egg layers, they can still add to your egg supply often.
Jersey Giants were bred for meat purposes and excel in that matter. Their meat is known for being flavorful and having a good texture. The ideal age for harvest is around 16-20 weeks.
Jersey giants are gentle giants in that they are relatively calm and docile. They get along with their human companions and relatively well with other chicken breeds.
Feeding: these chickens have a low feed conversion ratio and will need more feed to fill their bodies.
Space Requirements: Jersey Giants need much more space than the other birds in this list. They will need approximately 6-8 square feet of coop space each.
Health Issues: due to their large frame, they can sometimes develop leg problems caused by jumping from high perches. You’ll want to ensure that their perches are lower to the ground.
When it comes to the word of homestead chicken flocks, finding the perfect breed for you and your family is crucial. Therefore, knowing what you’re looking for in a chicken is vital.
There are advantages and disadvantages to all poultry breeds. We have several articles that will go further in-depth on these breeds.
Do you have any of these breeds? Or did any of these breeds pique your interest?
Let us know in the comments below.