With a height of 26 inches and weighing in at 15 lbs, it’s the Jersey Giant chicken!
They are large, impressive in appearance, and considered the heavyweight of all chicken breeds.
But if they’re so big and heavy, would they make a good choice for a backyard chicken keeper?
To help you decide whether this All-American chicken breed is right for you, let’s take a closer look at their temperament, egg laying, size, and how to successfully raise Jersey Giants.
How Did the Jersey Giant Chicken Become the Largest Chicken Breed?
Brothers John and Thomas Black first bred heavy-set chickens in New Jersey to satisfy the demand for meat birds in the 1870s to 1890s.
The intention of the Black brothers was to breed a chicken that would provide cost-effective and good meat production to out-compete the turkey.
Unfortunately, their initial results were quite dismal, and they had to return to the drawing board to develop their ideal poultry breed.
The Black Brothers went on to combine breeds such as the Black Langshan, Black Java, and Dark Brahmas to improve upon the bird’s fullness.
It was only later that this breed would receive the name “Black Giant” after both the Black brothers and the characteristic dark coloring of these chickens.
But because the Black brothers didn’t pay too much attention to the color of the breed, it was later found more fitting to rename the chicken after its place of origin.
NOTEIn 1917 this breed was renamed the Jersey Giant, indicative of its founding state.
Standardization of the Jersey Giant Chicken
To standardize the breed, a chicken enthusiast and breeder named Meloney decided to refine the Jersey Giant. He bred for color and conformation, and once they started entering into poultry exhibits, the Jersey Giant breed got the recognition they deserved.
The American Poultry Association (APA) accepted the Jersey Giant in 1922, but only for its black colored edition.
Many years later, the White Giants would become a popular color and choice of bird. It was established and accepted by the APA in 1947. The Jersey Giant chicks born with white coloring were known as ‘sports,’ and were then bred to produce the White Jersey Giant chicken we know and love today.
FACTThe Jersey Giant was listed as endangered in 2001 according to the livestock conservancy, but it was only in 2017 that they received conservation status. Today, they remain on the watchlist.
How Big Does a Jersey Giant Chicken Get?
The Jersey Giant is one bird that’s considered great for beginners and for a mixed breed flock. They are unique in appearance, but their size and weight are also impressive.
Let’s learn about the height and weight of the original Black Giants so you can determine whether these birds could be suited for a modest coop.
Jersey Giant Chicken Size
Because Jersey Giants were originally bred as meat birds, they have extraordinary muscle development.
These statuesque chickens will mature into adulthood at just a year old and are considered slow growers.
Their bodies have a distinct U-shape with sleek feathers that fit snug against their bodies, but they generally appear long and broad with a short tail.
Jersey Giant Chicken Height
Jersey Giants can reach a height of a whopping 2 feet! The hens are usually 20 inches, while roosters can reach 22 to 26 inches in height.
Jersey Giant Chicken Weight
Jersey Giant Chickens are known as the heavyweights of chicken breeds because of their immense weight. Males can weigh up to 15 lbs while females are known to reach 11 lbs.
The Color of Jersey Giant Chickens
Originally, Jersey Giants were known for their black plumage, which is the reason they were called Black Giants. Today, you can find Jersey Giants in three standard colors according to the APA: White Jersey Giants, Black Jersey Giants, and Blue Jersey Giants.
Blue Jersey Giants
The Blue Jersey Giant is a new addition to the APA’s accepted color varieties, and was only registered in 2003. The Blue Jersey Giants have black shanks, much like the Black Giants. They differ from the willow colored shanks of the White Jersey Giant.
Black Jersey Giants
Many chicken enthusiasts prefer the original Black Jersey Giant, developed in 1922 for the luminous shades of green that appear in their feathers when exposed to sunlight.
These robust chickens also have black legs with a yellow skin color and yellow soles. Their legs are clean and featherless, and they have four toes on each foot.
NOTEAlthough they closely resemble the Australorp, all Jersey Giants have a yellow underfoot, which is absent in an Australorp.
The Appearance of Jersey Giants
Jersey Giants have a single comb that is bright red in both hens and roosters. The roosters tend to develop very large hanging wattles that settle on the breed’s deep, muscular neck and chest.
They have a black or dark color beak with an orange to brown eye color.
Jersey Giant chicks are black with white underbellies, while the blue or white varieties will be lighter in color.
If you’ve fallen in love with the size and appearance of Jersey Giants, it’s time to check out what their personalities are like in the next chapter.
What if you had a chicken that acted more like a lovable pet? Well, the answer to that is the gentle American chicken, the Jersey Giant.
They are so friendly and calm that they tend to get along well with other chickens despite their intimidating size.
They usually ignore squabbles among their flock mates and enjoy keeping to themselves, provided they have an adequate-sized coop and space to forage.
NOTEJersey Giants are considered rare and are known as a specialty breed in some areas.
They may be harder to find compared to other chicken breeds because they are only sought by backyard chicken keepers and bred by very few farmers.
Another reason for their rarity is owed to their slow maturation and growth rates, making them less popular as a meat or dual purpose bird.
Roosters Versus Hens
If you’re thinking about adding the Jersey Giant chicken to your flock, do you get a rooster, or should you only stick to the hens?
The good news is that Jersey Giant Roosters are more docile than other breeds. It’s not to say that you won’t find a temperamental rooster, but the majority of Jersey Giant males are calmer than your average bird.
The Jersey Giant hens are wonderful for backyard chicken coops and are not shy or flighty. They also enjoy being around other chickens and tend to avoid scuffles in the coop which makes them a great choice of fowl for mixed flocks.
Are Roosters Noisy?
Because of the deep bellowing crow of a Jersey Giant Rooster, they are much louder than other roosters.
Let’s put it this way, your Jersey Giant rooster is guaranteed to get the neighbors up and wide awake early in the morning when he starts crowing!
Do Jersey Giant Hens Get Broody?
The Jersey Giant hen can be a great mom to hatch chicks and is very protective of her clutch; however, the broodiness of a hen will depend on her variety.
Hatching eggs can be a little harder with these birds, because the hens tend to crack the eggs when setting – this is because of their higher weight.
While most tend to agree that broody hens are more frequent in larger birds than in other breeds, it all depends on the individual hen.
Are Jersey Giants Good Layers?
The Jersey Giant hen can lay 200 to 260 eggs every year. She can lay anywhere between 2 to 4 eggs weekly but because of her size, she has a tendency to crack the eggs she sits on.
If you are thinking about hatching eggs, it may be better to place the clutch into an incubator where you can protect the unhatched chicks.
What Color and Size Eggs to Jersey Giants Lay?
The Jersey Giant egg color ranges from light to dark brown and she will lay a large egg at maturity.
During her first laying season, her eggs will be smaller than expected, but don’t worry! As your hen matures, you will notice an increase in the brown egg size, making for a fair addition to your egg basket.
What Age Do Hens Start Laying?
Hens can start laying from 6 months old, but most will lay their first egg at a year of age.
While you may wait longer for these hens to lay, they do continue egg production throughout winter when other breeds stop laying. Jersey Giant eggs are a great way to keep your backyard egg supply going during the cold season.
Is the Jersey Giant Good for Meat?
Yes, because these chickens were primarily bred for their meat, they have excellent muscle and can pack on some real size with the right diet.
That’s quite a lot of meat compared to most chicken breeds!
While you will need to wait for these birds to reach maturity before culling them, their overall weight and size make for outstanding table fare. Make the process of defeathering these huge chickens faster with a chicken plucker.
Coop Size and Height
Jersey Giants are known as cold-hardy because of their snug and abundant plumage; however, they’ll need a well-ventilated coop in the summer because they can easily overheat.
This is especially true for Black Jersey Giants because their color reduces their ability to deflect sunlight and stay cool.
Because these chickens grow into a large and broad size, they need much more space than your average or standard chicken. They are also quite tall, with some roosters reportedly reaching 28 inches in height, so good headroom is a must for the coop.
NOTEUnfortunately, a small backyard is not ideal for Jersey Giant chickens, and this makes city living more challenging for these birds.
They will need at least 8 square feet of space per bird inside the chicken coop with a height of no less than 2 feet.
Free Ranging Jersey Giant Chickens
The best way to take care of your White, Blue, or Black Jersey Giant is to allow them to free range. These birds thoroughly enjoy foraging and will supplement their diet with the necessary vitamins and minerals when left to roam outdoors.
They are also too large for predators such as hawks, although chicks will need to be protected against sky predators.
TIPIf you are raising Jersey Giants for meat purposes, encourage your chickens to free range to supplement their daily feed. This will go a long way to improve their growth and healthy development.
If you need information about free-ranging chickens, watch this video below.
Preventing Injuries in the Coop
When designing a coop for these large chickens, consider their overall weight. Jumping from a high perch makes them prone to severe leg injuries so keep the roost close to the ground and protect your Jersey Giant chickens from hurting themselves.
Nesting Boxes for Hens
Keeping your hens healthy means giving them the space they need to peacefully lay their eggs. Their nest boxes should be a minimum of 14 inches wide and 12 inches deep.
The nest boxes should also be low to the ground, or otherwise include a sturdy chicken-friendly ladder to help hens reach their nests with ease and less strain on their legs.
Jersey Giant Chicken Health Issues
The Jersey Giant Chicken is purebred and not known to suffer from any genetic conditions, but they are prone to injuries because of their size and weight.
Leg injuries are the most common problem you will find among these birds. Roosts that are too high or poorly secured will cause them to fall or crash to the ground and with their extra weight, it negatively affects their limbs.
RECOMMENDATIONYour coop will need strong and sturdy perches and roosts to support the growth of both hens and roosters.
How Long Do Jersey Giants Live?
The Jersey Giant has a generally longer lifespan than most types of chickens and can reach 8 to 12 years of age.
How Much Do Jersey Giants Eat?
Jersey Giant chickens can eat a whopping 7 ounces of feed per day! For hens, this number may be closer to 5 ounces and should be adjusted depending on the weight and requirements of your chicken.
To help you determine whether you are feeding your birds too much or too little, they should maintain a muscular body with a clear shape. Chickens with a round appearance or a waddle every time they move are considered overweight and need to go on a bit of a diet.
What Do Jersey Giant Chickens Need for Healthy Growth?
A balanced feed for the age and life stage of your chicken should contain the necessary vitamins and minerals for growth and vitality.
Remember that when you are raising a Jersey Giant, they are slower to mature and need essential minerals to grow strong bones and muscles.
Prevent Bone Problems
To prevent bone problems in the bigger chickens, allow them to forage outdoors where they’ll naturally find the protein and plants they need.
You can add a shell grit or calcium supplement as free-choice for laying hens, but only if your feed isn’t providing enough nutrition.
Jersey Giant chickens are sweet and calm, which has contributed to their popularity among chicken keepers and dedicated breeders. They are also favored for a mixed flock because they get along so well with different varieties of chickens.
It is hard to believe that these gentle natured birds were once considered endangered. But fortunately, with care and attention to the breed standard they have made their way back into the hearts of many breeders and hobbyists alike.
When we look at the history of these chickens, their origins date all the way back to the late 1800s in New Jersey, hence their name!
The original Black Jersey Giant was established in the early 1900s, later followed by the majestic White and Blue Jersey Giant. Today, the American Poultry Association recognizes the white, blue, and black color varieties.
Gentle Chicken Giants
We simply love their brown eggs, relaxed personality, and absolute beauty.
Sometimes considered the best breed for the backyard, today White, Blue, and Black Jersey Giants remain the world’s gentlest chicken giants!
Feel Free To Share
If you own a gorgeous Jersey Giant or you have admiration for the breed, be sure to share this guide with your fellow chicken enthusiasts!
(1) “Alvin and the hens. I have a small flock of ten Jersey Giant Chickens. They have a wonderful friendly personality and are good layers!” by grouchywombat is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
(2) Troubadix, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
(3) “It’s a black chicken thing, you wouldn’t understand” by jonny goldstein is marked with CC BY 2.0