Chickens

How to Raise Jersey Giant Chickens

Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other master farmers & gardeners. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by Samantha Rainwater.

When I think about the Jersey Giants, the term ‘gentle giant’ comes to mind.  This breed of chicken is exceptionally large, the largest purebred chicken in the U.S. 

Originally bred to compete with the turkey, Jersey Giants can get to be around 13-15 pounds for the males, and around 11 pounds for females.

They aren’t likely to be taken by a hawk! 

Some might be worried about the intimation factor that the Jersey Giants might bring to their flock.

Surprisingly, they are, in fact, very docile.  The Jersey Giant can make a great addition to any flock.  

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Jersey Giant Origination

The Jersey Giant was bred from a mix of Orpington, Java, and Langshan crosses.  Back in the 1870s, the demand for large waterfowl, such as turkeys, was high.  The Black brothers set out to develop a chicken that could compete with larger species of birds.

What did they end up with?  The Jersey Giant!

The Jersey Giant was originally developed in New Jersey, hence the name.  When the breed was first introduced, they were known simply as ‘Giants”. 

Sometime around 1900, the name ‘Black Giant’ emerged, to honor the Black brothers who developed the breed.  Then, around 1917 the term ‘Jersey Giant’ was ultimately coined as the standard name for the breed.  

When they were first developed, the Jersey Giants were a large variety of colors and had no true standard.  Early in the 1920s, another breeder started to work on breeding a more consistent bird.  In 1922 the ‘Black Jersey Giant’ was officially accepted into APA as a black bird.

White Jersey Giants were created consistently shortly after and were officially recognized by the APA in 1947.

Reasons to Raise Jersey Giants

Jersey Giants are considered a dual-purpose breed, meaning that they are used for egg production and meat.  Here are a few highlight reasons as to why they are a good breed to keep.

High Meat Production

It would only make sense that a large bird would produce more meat than a more normal-sized bird, and that’s exactly the case with the Jersey Giant.

These birds were bred to compete with the turkey for a roasting bird, and although they didn’t quite reach turkey-size, they are the best choice for chicken if you want a lot of meat out of each bird.   

Large Eggs

Although the Jersey Giant egg-laying capacity is only average, at 150-200 eggs a year, they do produce large eggs.  Again, it only makes sense that with a large bird, everything will be proportionately as large, and the eggs are no exception.  The eggs they produce are brown in color.  

Friendly and Docile

If you’re wanting a friendly chicken, the Jersey Giant is a good bet.  Jersey Giants have been known to be kept as pets due to their docile nature and generally friendly attitudes.  

This breed will also be more likely to get along well with any other birds you already have, as they are easy-going, and not often territorial.

Easy to Handle

Although their size may be deceiving, these birds are generally pretty easy to handle.  Their easy-going nature makes them less flighty, and more predictable– even the roosters! 

They are even good with children, although young children should still be watched around them, they still have the potential to cause harm.

Challenges of Raising Jersey Giants

There are a few challenges that come along with raising Jersey Giants, with added size comes added responsibility.  

Slow to Mature

Although the large size of these birds may be appealing to some, they take longer to mature than most other chicken breeds.  These birds may not reach their full potential size until after their first year, making them a more long-term commitment if you are wanting them for meat.  

This also means that they will require more food in the long run, as you will be feeding them continuously to reach their full weight.  

More Room to Roost

Simply due to their size, the Jersey Giant may require more space in a coop and their roosting areas.  They also have the potential to be a little more clumsy when roosting, as they have more weight to move around and balance.  

For this reason, it is a good idea to keep their coop and roosting areas closer to the ground to avoid hard falls.  

Not Often Broody

The Jersey Giants are another breed of chicken that do not go broody very often, meaning you may have a more difficult time getting chicks. 

To ensure you end up with chicks from the Jersey Giants, you may need to take the eggs away and incubate inside.  You would only need to do this if you notice your hens refusing to sit on eggs.

However, you may get lucky and get some that will.

The other problem with the Jersey Giants sitting on their eggs is that they may occasionally be too large. They can crush the eggs beneath them.  It’s an unfortunate price that can come with large hens.  

Raising Jersey Giant Chicks

If you end up having problems with your hens not brooding— as many do with the Jersey Giant— you may need to consider incubating the eggs if you want chicks.  There are also some tricks to convincing other chickens to sit on eggs that aren’t theirs.  This may be an option if you raise other breeds as well.  

Once your eggs hatch, regardless of where they were incubated, the Jersey Giant chicks are generally healthy bird. They do not require any special attention when compared with other breeds of chicks.  

If you do incubate with the use of an incubator, gently introducing the chicks into the flock is a good idea to avoid any injuries.  

Health Concerns

There are, unfortunately, a few health concerns that come along with the Jersey Giant.  Although they are generally healthy and robust, they are prone to injuries. 

Leg Injuries

One of the main drawbacks of having large chickens is that they are more prone to leg injuries.  With more weight up top, there’s more mass for their legs to carry, and they can start to wear down over time.  As mentioned previously, they are also more prone to falling, which can also cause leg injuries to occur.

Introducing special vitamins into their diet may help to increase bone strength and help to avoid injuries caused by their size.  

Bumblefoot

To go along with potential leg injuries, the risk of getting bumblefoot is also raised, as it is highly correlated to leg injuries. 

Bumblefoot, or plantar pododermatitis, can occur when the feet are exposed to staphylococcus bacteria. This is much more likely to occur if there is a puncture on the bottom on their feet.  

Any leg injury has the potential to expose your chicken’s feet to this bacteria, as the bacteria naturally live on the outside of their toes, hocks, and pads already.  Bumblefoot can cause pus-filled abscesses, lameness, and swelling, which may all lead to difficulties in walking.  

Feeding Jersey Giants

Jersey Giants can generally be fed the same feed as most other chicken breeds, although they may eat more.  To keep up on their large size, they require extra nutrients to power through the day. 

As mentioned previously, this breed takes longer to mature, so you will spend more time—and money— feeding them as they grow to their full potential.

If your Jersey Giants seem to be prone to injuries, you may need to add vitamins and certain minerals into their feed.

This will strengthen their bones.  Depending on their environment, this may be more or less important, as the vitamins are not required, but may help.  

These birds are also good foragers and may be able to supplement their diet on their own.  So if you decide to free-range your Jersey Giants, you may have to feed them less overall.

Are Jersey Giants Right For You?

There is something to be said about having patience, and this may also hold true when it comes to raising chickens.  The Jersey Giant would probably be considered more of a commitment.

Although not the most efficient bird, they have their perks.

If you are looking for a good family breed, these chickens may fit right in.  They are friendly and are generally good with children, making them fun to be around.  If you are using them for meat, you may only need one bird for your family,. This will reduce butchering time and effort.

You will want to ensure you have the proper space for your Jersey Giants, and they may not be a good choice for an urban setting.  Setting up a safe roosting area is also important for this breed to avoid injuries.

Overall, the Jersey Giant is a great breed for a number of reasons. They may be a great fit for your flock!

Samantha Rainwater is a freelance writer, full-time business owner, and recent mom who spends her free time writing. Her degree in Biology gives her a background in science, which she likes to apply on her small hobby farm. Writing about her experiences is one of her passions, and she finds joy in sharing her experiences with others.

Do you raise Leghorn chickens? Let us know in the comments!
  

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Author: Rebekah Pierce

I'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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