Chickens are being raised around the world for different purposes – eggs, meat, and ornamental. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different chicken breeds around the world. While all of them will lay eggs, they may be of different quality and not always suitable for commercial production. In the same way, some chickens have more flavorful meat than others, which is why they’re often the first choice of many farmers who want to sell chicken meat. Some chickens are larger than others, while some are also good at gaining weight quickly.
Those that gain weight quickly are perfect breeds for meat breeds, and at usually 16 to 20 weeks old, they’re ready for harvest. Keep in mind that some other breeds you may normally use for eggs are also good for meat, but the older they are, the fewer nutrients will that meat have.
Some chicken breeds evolved in a way that they gain weight so fast to the point that if you don’t harvest them quickly enough, they’re more likely to get sick and die, or simply deal with a lot of health problems daily. With that in mind, some breeds are better compared to the others.
But, how can you tell which chicken breeds are suitable for meat production when they all seemed good enough? How to tell the difference between the chickens that are egg layers and chickens that are used for meat production? Out of hundreds of different breeds, it can be quite hard to tell the difference.
Luckily, we performed our research and used previous experience to compile a reliable list of the best meat chicken breeds. Without further ado, continue reading our guide and compelling list to learn which breeds are perfect if you want to harvest the meat.
Things to Consider When Picking Meat Chicken Breeds
Many people think that choosing a chicken breed for your meat farm will be easy, but there are a lot of things to take into account. Some of these things will be discussed below.
Broilers Vs. Dual-Purpose Chickens
One of the key questions chicken farmers ask when starting their chicken meat farm is whether they should go for broilers or dual-purpose chickens. Broilers are considered hybrid chickens and are a result of cross-breeding in order to create a breed that is suitable for meat production.
On the other hand, as their name suggests dual-purpose chickens can both lay 150-200 eggs per year and deliver high-quality, tasty meat. When it comes to broilers, the genetics behind their breed are usually not disclosed and are a secret.
The key benefit of broilers is that they gain weight easily, and will gain around 1 pound for every 2 to 3 pounds of consumed feed. That means that you won’t have to spend a significant amount of money on their food and they’ll grow up and be ready for harvesting pretty fast.
However, unlike dual-purpose chickens that can live on any type of farm, broilers are more suited for commercial hatcheries, where mass harvesting is conducted every day and meat is manufactured in great amounts. Because they gain weight quickly, broilers usually don’t survive up to their breeding age and can’t be easily bred.
Dual-purpose chickens are purebred, have a large size, and are used for both eggs and meat. They have clean and lean meat, which is why their meat is used mainly for domestic purposes, usually for soups and boiling rather than grilling and roasting.
The younger purebred dual-purpose chickens are kept for egg production and once they retire, they’ll be used for meat. Roosters, on the other hand, are used for harvesting while they’re still young.
This may come as a surprise, but when you remove the feathers and down, some chickens will have varying skin colors, and that’s okay. Skin usually won’t affect the taste of your chickens, but some people would prefer having specific skin tones.
If you’re looking for a white skin tone, most Orpington and Bresse chickens will have clean white skin. On the other hand, those who prefer yellow and pinkish skin will likely consume Cornish Cross, Cornish, Catalana, and others.
How much weight the chicken will have depends on the breed that they are, the type, and how much food they’re fed. For example, birds that grow slower will also eat more food, and this applies to dual-purpose chickens that can produce both great-quality meat and eggs.
On the other hand, broiler chickens will grow faster and require less food. Usually, broiler chickens will be ready for harvesting when they reach 5 to 6 pounds of weight, but you may want to wait a bit more and allow them to gain a few more pounds.
Some dual-purpose chickens can gain up to 15 pounds if they’re a rooster and 12 if they are a hen. If you’re willing to be patient and spend some funds on good quality feed, the taste, and harvested meat are worth the wait.
Whether you’re after broiler chickens or dual-purpose hens, know that time to process them may vary. Most chickens will be ready for harvesting at 16 weeks old. However, some other breeds will be ready later, at 17 to 18 weeks old.
With some chicken breeds, you will have to wait up to 21 to 24 weeks old, until they gained the necessary weight and are ready for processing. Some breeds will be ready at 15 to 16 weeks, and it’ll be too late to harvest them at 20 weeks old. For some others, you will have to wait a bit longer, but they’re definitely worth the wait.
10 Most Popular Chicken Breeds
Every chicken breed is different. With that in mind, some chicken breeds are more nutrient-rich and have a richer and savory flavor. You won’t know which one is better until you check our list, so continue reading to learn more.
- Weight: 8-12lbs
- Ready for harvesting: 16-20 weeks
The Cornish Cross is everywhere, in cartoons, in movies, and pretty much every commercially-sold chicken in the package is Cornish Cross. They are the result of crossing between Cornish and White Rock hens. This is among the most popular breeds for meat production for many reasons.
One of the reasons is that it is known to grow incredibly fast and gain weight, so it shouldn’t surprise you when it gets fat and is nice for harvesting at 16 weeks. Make sure not to wait for more than when they’re 20 weeks old because they might become too thick and get sick in the process.
When that happens, caring for them in the backyard can become extremely difficult because they’re slow and have difficulties fitting into the flock. Additionally, you may need to keep an extra eye on them as they might be left exposed and unprotected. Thanks to their large breasts and thighs, they’re perfect for commercial meat production.
- Weight: 5-7lbs
- Ready for harvesting: 16-20 weeks
The Bresse chickens are quite difficult compared to others. While they don’t grow thick as some other commercially harvested chickens, they are known for their tasty and flavorful meat. The reason for that is the genetic predisposition that allows them to digest food in a unique way which allows them to create richer flavors and encourage fat growth.
It’s interesting to note that their meat-to-bone ratio is much different compared to other chickens thanks to their thin bones, which is why you get more meat from them even if they don’t weigh 10 pounds or more. However, they’re more expensive on the market, which means that raising them for meat can turn quite profitable for you.
The best part about these chickens is that they’re nearly always in a good mood, they have strong behavioral patterns and fit easily into the flock thanks to their social skills, so it’s good to have them in large commercial flocks.
They were named after the Bresse region in France. It’s also worth mentioning that they’re quite delicious in France and are considered quite a specialty.
- Weight: 7-9lbs
- Ready for harvesting: 16 weeks
Delaware is a breed of chicken that is perfect for both – egg production and meat. The reason for that is that Delaware chickens can produce anywhere from 100 to 150 eggs annually. In some situations where it lives in warm climates, it can produce even more.
On the other hand, while this hen is perfect for egg production, it’s worth noting that it grows pretty fast and also gains a lot of weight as it grows. That being said, you can expect it to be ready for harvest in as little as 16 weeks. If you don’t get to harvest it then, or a bit later, then you can use it for her perfect-quality eggs, or even ornamental and brooding purposes.
You will notice that the Delaware hens are pretty friendly and will easily fit even in the largest flocks. However, they also explode with confidence and boldness, so you can expect them to occasionally become assertive. No matter what you decide, these cluckers are a great addition to both egg production and meat.
- Weight: 11-15bs
- Ready for harvesting: 16-24 weeks
Chicken farmers often joke that Jersey Giant was made to compete with turkeys, thanks to their large size and the fact they gain weight easily. It’s no secret that they’re considered among the largest chicken breeds in the world, hence their name. However, they’re great for meat if you’re patient enough.
It’s worth noting that just like the Delaware hen, they are a dual-purpose breed, which means that they can be used for both egg production and meat. It can produce many more eggs compared to Delaware, averaging 250 to 270 eggs per year, which is every farmer’s dream.
They can grow anywhere from 9 to 15 lbs depending on whether it’s a hen or a rooster, but their processing time is slow. That means that it may be ready for harvest anywhere from 16 to 24 weeks. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they’ll be ready to harvest in a little more than 16 weeks, but more often than not, that’s not the case.
Another great thing about Jersey Giants is that they are quite easy to take care of, thanks to their docile, yet friendly temperament. However, due to their size, they’ll need more space, and with that in mind, they can consume a lot of food which may leave other chickens in your coop short of food.
- Weight: 7-9bs
- Ready for harvesting: 16-18 weeks
Croad Langshan is another dual-purpose chicken breed. But, despite the fact it can lay anywhere around 150 to 170 eggs per year, many farmers still raise it to be used for meat harvesting. Those that are not used in meat production, are usually used for breeding of more Croad Langshan chickens.
Their original origin is China, where they’ve been popular for centuries for their white meat, which you may notice is whiter compared to other chicken breeds. Additionally, it’s richer in flavor. Although they can’t grow more than 10 pounds, they’re rich in meat and have a pretty fast processing speed of about 16 to 18 weeks.
They’re calm, docile, friendly, and like to be around both humans and other hens. They can grow quite tall and are usually covered in dark, nearly black plumage. Those that are used for egg production enjoy using them because they can lay large eggs that are dark brown, but have a special purplish tint that makes many people interested in buying them.
- Weight: 6-9bs
- Ready for harvesting: 16-21 weeks
Buckeye is an American breed of chicken and is also considered a hardy breed, which means that they’re ideal for farms that are located in colder climates. Because of their hardy down and feathers, they are also sturdier and more durable when it comes to withstanding some typical chicken diseases.
That’s why they make a perfect addition to any farm when it comes to meat production. Although they can’t grow quite large like some other chicken breeds, it’s worth mentioning that they offer a lot of meat to be harvested, and will be ready for processing at 16 weeks old.
Something that not many people know is that they can also lay quite a lot of eggs, which makes them ideal for egg farms too. They can lay around 200 eggs per year, and they make brooding and good mothers.
These chickens were bred specifically to withstand colder climates, so they can withstand even the most frigid temperatures. They’re usually Mahagony red and produce brown to dark brown eggs. Another interesting thing about them is that they’re friendly and docile.
- Weight: 6-9bs
- Ready for harvesting: 16-21 weeks
If you’re into leading a cottage-core farm while also raising chickens for harvest, then Dorking, a sweet, docile, and rustic-looking chicken will be a great addition to your farm. They can reach the processing quite slowly, but if you’re patient enough, they’ll be ready for harvest when they’re quite young.
Their docile personality can cost them a lot, however. Because they’re so peaceful and full of harmony, they shouldn’t be placed with aggressive chickens, especially rooster with a rooster because they can be helpless against them thanks to their docile personalities.
Unlike Buckeye, these chickens aren’t good enough to last in cold climates. Their down and feathers aren’t hardy enough and can’t regulate the temperature like some other chickens can. They prefer more humid and warmer climates, and they’ll be quite productive there.
Although this may not be your go-to egg chicken, they can lay anywhere from 140 to 150 eggs per year, which makes them a perfect option for smaller farms if you don’t get to harvest them in time. They have soft, tender, and tasty meat and can offer a lot of meat when being harvested.
It’s also worth mentioning that you will need to give them a bit of extra care when growing them, to make sure they grow up to be healthy.
- Weight: 4-6bs
- Ready for harvesting: 16-20 weeks
If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance flock bird to raise for meat, then Ginger Broiler is the perfect breed, to begin with. They are known to have great natural immunity, and their hardy feathers and down make them protected during the coldest climates.
Once they’re grown up enough to leave the brooder and join the flock in the coop, they are pretty independent and will do just fine getting on their own with other chickens. Thanks to their friendly temperaments, they will get along with the rest of the flock just fine, as well as with humans.
They are also known not to have any leg problems, so farmers who live at higher altitudes will prefer to take Ginger Broilers to their farms. They are used only for meat, even though they can make very peaceful and friendly backyard pets.
Their meat is full of taste, clean and savory, and can be used for the preparation of a range of recipes. As it’s known, all Broiler breeds have exceptional meat taste.
- Weight: 4-5bs
- Ready for harvesting: 16 weeks
Kosher King isn’t everyone’s first thought when it comes to meat production and harvesting. They are not suitable for making an egg farm either because they don’t produce that many eggs in the first place either. However, many private farmers still choose to grow them because they produce meat of excellent quality and savory taste.
They are extremely curious and adventurous, so if you’re not a trained farmer, you will have difficulties holding this little bird back. Being so smart, they will always strive to find a way out of encasement and won’t care about all the dangerous predators that reside outside.
They also like to eat varied food, and won’t mind exploring around to find it. They are active, and despite their adventurous spirit, they are also friendly with other chickens in the flock, so from that side, you won’t have any problems raising them.
- Weight: 9-10bs
- Ready for harvesting: 18-24 weeks
Although Orpington looks like solely a broiler chicken that is suitable for producing clean, tasty, and savory meat, it’s a dual-purpose chicken that can produce, quite a lot of eggs, over 200 annually. Interestingly, they are kept on chicken farms along Cornish Crosses and Delaware chickens, but they grow slower compared to them, which means that they’re ready for harvesting at a later date.
You may keep them for eggs, meat, or even ornamental backyard chicken because they have peaceful temperaments, they are friendly and get along both with other chickens and humans. They make amazing pets and will never become aggressive. Although they grow slowly, they don’t need an extensive diet, they’ll grow from little food and don’t need expensive feed as some chicken breeds do.
Their meat is tasty, clean, and flavorful, and they can offer quite a lot of meat for harvesting.