Jersey Giant Chickens (Size, Where To Buy, How To Raise)

Chickens come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny bantams to plus-sized Jersey Giants. Owing to their spectacular size, owning a flock of giants can be an exciting experience. Although they are gargantuan compared to most other breeds, their docile temperaments make them ideal for families with young children.

Jersey Giant chickens are the biggest purebred breed of chicken in the world. They were developed in the United States as meat birds. Adults can reach weights of up to 15 pounds. Jersey Giant chickens are a friendly, slow-growing heritage breed available in three APA-accepted color varieties.

Owning a sizeable dual-purpose breed like Jersey Giant chickens may seem like a perfect option for anyone needing a good supply of homegrown eggs, along with an occasional Sunday roast. However, the large size does have a few drawbacks that prospective owners need to be aware of.

What Are Jersey Giant Chickens?

In the chicken world, Jersey Giants consistently tip the scales. This impressively sized, gentle breed can grow two feet tall and always towers over other birds in a flock.

Jersey Giant chickens are a purebred breed, and the black variety was first recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) in 1922. The breed continued to develop, and in 1947 the white variety was added, and finally, in 2003, the blue color was recognized.

Jersey Giant Chickens

Despite being available in three colors, the original glossy black version with beetle green shimmering feathers remains the most popular. While there are plenty of varieties of black chickens, Jersey Giants have several breed-specific characteristics that set them apart from the rest.

To identify a Jersey Giant chicken, look out for the following characteristics:

  • Clean legs. Giants never have feathered legs, so if you see a large black chicken with leg feathers, it is more likely to be a Cochin.
  • In relation to the rest of their bodies, their tails appear short.
  • They have single red combs.
  • The skin over the body is yellow, but black Jersey Giant chickens have black legs with yellow soles. The white variety has willow-color legs.
  • Their bodies appear to be square and chunky. This may be because they have broad bodies and flat backs.
  • The popular black variety always has black beaks and dark brown eyes.

Traditionally, Jersey Giants were regarded as dual meat and egg birds. More recently, they are also becoming popular as pets. Their massive size and endearing personalities make them loveable characters that are unlikely to be lifted away by pesky raptors.

Jersey Giants are a heritage breed that is listed on the Livestock Conservancy conservation priority list. A recent resurgence in interest in the breed has seen their status upgraded from critical to ‘watch,’ which is heartening for fans of these massive fowls.

Where Do Jersey Giant Chickens Come From?

Jersey Giant chickens are an all-American breed that was initially developed in the hopes that they could replace turkeys at Thanksgiving. In the last half of the 19th century, brothers John and Thomas Black of Burlington Country, New Jersey, decided to create the world’s most enormous chicken.

Rootstock for their massive new breed included Orpington, Black Langshan, and Black Java chickens. In reference to their surname, they called the resulting breed Black Giants. That was later changed to Jersey Black Giants and finally to the name we now use, Jersey Giants.

While the Black brothers certainly did achieve their goal of breeding a heavy meat bird, there was, and still is, one considerable setback. Jersey Giants grow incredibly slowly. In fact, they do everything slowly, and even the pullets usually only reach point of lay after eight months.

Jersey Giant chickens were recognized as a purebred variety in 1922. Since then, its popularity declined because of the length of time it takes to achieve maturity. Fortunately, these hefty birds are on the comeback, as in addition to their practical function, more poultry owners are taking the time to appreciate the breed’s historical significance and beauty.

How Big Do Jersey Giant Chickens Get?

Compared to most other chicken breeds, Jersey Giants are true to their name. They are ideal for poultry owners who want impressively large chickens that will instantly receive attention from all neighbors and visitors.

Mature Jersey Giant roosters can weigh up to 15 pounds, and hens usually max out at around 11 pounds. Likewise, roosters are considerably taller than hens and range from 22 – 26 inches. Giant hens are between 16 and 20 inches tall.

The black variety of the breed is the heaviest of the three accepted color variants. Both hens and roosters can weigh up to a pound more than their lighter-colored counterparts.

Are Jersey Giant Chickens Good For Meat?

Keeping poultry has become a popular hobby, and the breed selected should fulfill its primary purpose. If your main aim for keeping chickens is to raise homegrown meat birds, Jersey Giant chickens probably aren’t the best breed.

Although, on the one hand, you will be hard-pressed to find a heavier chicken that delivers an abundance of tasty meat, the flip side is that it takes at least eight months to achieve that goal. Harvesting the birds before that age is not worthwhile as they grow their large frames before they start filling out.

In addition, since they are so large and slow growing, the cost of getting a Jersey Giant from chick through to maturity is significantly higher than most other breeds. However, if you have the time to invest, presenting a large Jersey Giant roast for family and friends on special occasions would be memorable.

Raising Jersey Giant Chickens

Jersey Giant chickens are hardy birds that can be a good choice for novice poultry owners. However, this giant breed does have some distinct drawbacks, which make them unsuitable for everyone.

Like all breeds, there are advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before acquiring Jersey Giant chickens. As endearing and impressive as they are, raising them to maturity is time-consuming and expensive.

The biggest reason that John and Thomas Black’s new giant breed never took off was because they take so long to grow. Unlike broilers which can deliver a decent-sized, good-quality carcass in less than 12 weeks, Jersey Giant chickens have very little meat until they are six months old. They may only be ready to process at around eight months!

Let’s go through a general overview of what raising a flock of Jersey Giants entails:

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Jersey Giant Chickens

If you love the idea of adding a few Jersey Giants to your flock, take some time to go through the pros and cons of the breed. Although they are easy-going, peaceful birds that usually integrate well with other breeds, their immense size and unique characteristics should be considered to see if they are a good fit for your setup.

They are impressive-looking birds.They will require lower perches and roosts to avoid injury.
Too heavy for many birds of prey.Extremely slow to mature
Winter hardy birdsNot too good with heat
Lay up to 200 eggs a yearDo not cope well in a confined coop environment
Excellent quality meatVery low food-to-meat conversion
Gentle, friendly characters which are excellent for families with young childrenThey can be noisy
Keeping a heritage breed keeps it from dying out.Roosters can be too heavy and may injure hens of other breeds if kept in mixed-breed flocks.
The APA recognizes the breed, so exceptional specimens can be entered into poultry shows.Not all lines become broody often, so you may need an electric incubator to hatch your own Giant chicks.
They make excellent, sturdy pets.Hens may take eight months or more to reach point of lay.
Very few health problemsThey cost more to feed than most other chicken breeds.
Usually integrate well into existing flocks.As a result of their heavy weight, hens can crush their eggs when broody.

What Kind Of Coop Do Jersey Giants Need?

The immense size of Jersey Giant chickens means that their coop will require some adjustments so they avoid injury. Although these birds are hardy and rarely experience health issues, leg and foot injuries are common when perches are too high.

The heavy body of Jersey Giants means that coming down each morning can resemble the descent of a cargo carrier aircraft coming in for a landing. The perches should be low, and the landing strip must be soft enough to absorb the impact of their weight hitting the ground.

In addition, Jersey Giant chickens are not suitable to be kept in a confined coop environment. They are large birds that require a lot of space per bird, so free ranging them is best.

Although Jersey Giants are cold-hardy and often lay throughout winter, they benefit from having a coop heater during the icy months. They have good-sized wattles and combs that can develop painful frostbite when the temperature drops below freezing.

A small overhead coop heater, like a Sweeter Heater, may be required, as well as nipple drinkers, to prevent cold-related conditions.

Are Jersey Giant Chickens Good Layers?

For a large breed chicken, Jersey Giants are excellent layers that can produce between 150 to 200 eggs per year. However, it can be disappointing to find that you will need to wait at least eight months before hens start laying.

Fortunately, once they start laying, Jersey Giant hens provide a steady supply of large creamy brown-shelled eggs. All Jersey Giant chickens lay the same color eggs, even if they are the white or blue varieties.

Where Can I Buy Jersey Giant Chickens?

Once you have decided to add some plus-sized chickens to your flock, the search will begin to find a supplier. Like most poultry breeds, Jersey Giant chickens are available sexed or straight run from numerous online suppliers.

When choosing a supplier, ensure they are reputable and supply high-quality purebred chicks. For the health of the birds and the rest of the flock, ensure they are vaccinated before shipping.

An easier way to acquire Jersey Giant chickens is to find someone in your area with fertile eggs. Although Jersey Giants hens seldom become broody, you could use an incubator or surrogate broody hen to hatch.

If you decide to incubate your own Jersey Giant eggs, keep in mind that incubation may take up to two days longer than the usual 21 days for chickens. Like everything else, these giant chickens also take their time to hatch.

Are Jersey Giant Roosters Aggressive?

Most chicken owners have been chased by a crazy rooster at some point in their lives. While it makes for many funny stories later, it can be pretty frightening to imagine being chased by a 15-pound angry bird!

Fortunately, Jersey Giant roosters are gentle giants. Their calm nature and massive proportions have resulted in many a roo originally destined for the dinner table ending up as a beloved family pet. Like all roosters, they will protect their flock if threatened, but they prefer to stay out of trouble and peacefully coexist with others in their space.

Jersey Giant Chicken

Jersey Giant Chicken Health

If they are correctly cared for, Jersey Giant chickens have a life expectancy of more than eight years. The first year of life is the most critical to ensure robust health for the future.

Since Jersey Giant chickens are so large and slow growing, they require plenty of vitamins and minerals early to ensure a solid bone structure to support their large bodies. While no special feed is required if the birds free range, they do require a lot more ration per bird than other breeds.

Jersey Giant chickens have a few breed-specific conditions related to being in the ultra-heavy-weight chicken division. These include:

  • They are not suited to hot climates. Shiny black, fluffy feathers and summer heat are not a good combination for chickens.
  • Jersey Giants are more likely to develop conditions affecting their legs and feet. Chicken legs everywhere are pretty standard, and the description ‘giant’ does not extend to the skinny legs that need to support their massive bodies!

Injuries from descending off high perches and conditions like bumblefoot can make life for Jersey Giant chickens really uncomfortable. These can be mitigated to a large extent by keeping coops clean and modifying roosts and perches to ensure that there are no high-rises for them to bungee off.

  • Frostbite – Although Jersey Giant chickens do much better in colder climates than in heat, they need adequate shelter and special care during cold snaps. The distinctive red wattles and combs can quickly freeze if birds are not housed in snug coops during icy weather.
  • Obesity – This will not be a factor if Jersey Giants can free-range and forage as they should. This breed does not fare well in confinement.

In addition to other stress-related behavioral problems, Jersey Giant chickens kept in coops can quickly become obese due to lack of activity. Being overweight puts strain on their organs and adds to the weight carried by their spindly legs and feet.

How Can I Keep My Chickens Cool?

If you have a flock of Jersey Giant chickens at some point, you will most definitely find yourself thinking of ways to keep them cool. Heat is usually far more lethal to chickens than cold, and Jersey Giants are no exception.

A warm climate does not need to put you off owning a flock of these beautiful birds as long as special precautions are in place to keep them from overheating. Some simple things you can try include:

  • Putting up shade cloth or planting extra shrubby vegetation that will provide shade.
  • Adding additional water points so the birds don’t need to return to the coop each time they need to drink.
  • Provide cool fruit treats to cool them down on the inside! Ice-cold cucumbers, cabbage, or watermelon work well. You can also freeze treats into ice blocks and let the chickens stay cool and entertained as they chip away at the ice.
  • Put some fans in the coops to keep the air moving.
  • Keep the environment as calm as possible during hot weather. Ensure that no stressors like excited children or other pets could upset the birds.
  • Add ice blocks to their water bowls.
  1. How Long Does It Take For A Jersey Giant To Be Fully Grown?

Raising Jersey Giant chickens is a lesson in patience. This breed is not recommended for anyone who is hoping for speedy results.

Although they are excellent meat and egg-producing birds, it can take over eight months to have a quality table bird or spy the first egg in a laying box. For anyone who doesn’t mind waiting, mature Jersey Giants offer robust health, consistent laying, and charming personalities, all in one outsized chicken package.


Jersey Giant chickens are a good-natured, dual-purpose breed that can add a special touch to any homestead setting. Their eye-catching good looks and massive proportions are hard to miss. They are hardy birds that can be suitable for novice chicken keepers, but they have some drawbacks, especially for anyone hoping for quick results.


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