Jersey Giant Chicken Breed Guide

The Jersey Giant chicken is an aptly named giant of a bird with a lot of personality and versatility. It’s no wonder you are interested in this amazing breed. Well suited for the homestead, farm, or backyard, the Jersey Giant chicken can make an excellent pet, egg-producer, or even provide meat for a family. But like all chicken breeds, Jersey Giants do have their pros and cons.

Our Jersey Giant chicken breed guide covers everything you need to know about this amazing breed. By the end, you’ll know if these birds are right for you.

Quick Profile of Jersey Giant Chickens

A snapshot at pertinent breed facts:

OriginUnited States
Egg-layingGood
MeatGood
AggressionLow
BroodinessModerate to high
Confinement toleranceLow to moderate
TemperamentDocile and calm, easy to handle
Cold toleranceDepends on the size of the comb and wattle, but usually cold hardy
Heat tolerancePoor to moderate
Predator evasionGood to high, depending on the bird
Noise levelModerate to high

History of the Jersey Giant Chicken

Introducing the largest breed of chicken in the United States. The Jersey Giant was bred as a possible replacement for turkeys and is often just as big, if not bigger, than the average turkey. For that reason, Jersey Giants were dual purpose — meat and egg production.

The breed originated the 19th century in New Jersey after efforts from Thomas and John Black. The Blacks took Black Langshans, Black Javas, and Dark Brahma chicken breeds and combined them to give birth to a Jersey Giant. Back then, the breed was formerly known as the Jersey Black Giant, and you might hear it called such today.

Since the Jersey Giant is slow to mature and requires a lot of feed to grow, most poultry farmers didn’t use them for meat past the 1800s.

Presently, there are three color varieties that are recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) Standard of Perfection. The black Jersey Giant was added to the list in 1922. White followed in 1947, and the blue variety was recognized in 2002. Reportedly, there is a Splash variety not yet recognized by the breed standard. Also breeders are attempting to create Silver and Barred coloring.

The black Jersey Giant is the most common, as their black feathers have a fabulous green iridescence. These chickens are certainly beautiful. A bantam variety of the Jersey Giant is also available; it’s a bit of a living paradox.

Because the Jersey Giant is considered rare, it has been placed on the Watch category of the Conservation Priority List created by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Previously, the breed had been placed on the critically endangered list. But thanks to the efforts of chicken keepers, Jersey Giants are once again popular.

Will you add to the list of happy owners?

Jersey Giant Chicken Characteristics

jersey giant roosters
Photo credit: Flickr

The breed standard for Jersey Giant chickens states:

  • Males weigh between 13-15 pounds and stand at 22-26 inches tall
  • Females weigh about 11 pounds and stand 16-20 inches tall
  • Must have red comb and wattles
  • Must be black, white, and blue (though this might change in the near future)

Interestingly, the Jersey Giants that you see today are slightly smaller than their ancestors. However, modern Jersey Giants are still large for a chicken.

Each color variation has a slightly different appearance. The black Jersey Giants have, as their name suggests, black plumage. Their legs are also black. In the sunlight, their feathers look either green or purple, kind of like an oil slick—but much prettier.

White Jersey Giants have flatter white feathers and cream-colored legs. The blue Jersey Giant is in the middle of the black and white color scale, with their slate blue plumage and charcoal shanks. Regardless of color, Jersey Giants have yellow skin, red combs and wattles, and deep brown eyes. Their beaks are either black or yellow, depending on the color of their plumage.

Both roosters and hens have muscular, compact bodies. Their feathers lie close to the body, so they have a tidy, clean cut appearance. Jersey Giants don’t have feathers on their legs, and their tail feathers—even in roosters—are shorter than other breeds.

Here is a video showing black Jersey Giant chickens in all their glory:

Jersey Giant Chick Appearance

Another reason to love the Jersey Giant chicken breed is their chicks. Sure, all chicks are cute enough to make even the most serious jaw drop. But Jersey Giant chicks? They are fatally cute.

Black or Blue Jersey Giant chicks hatch from brown colored eggs and have black or dark gray down on top of yellow or white bellies. White Jersey Giant chicks also have gray and yellow down.

Below is a video of black Jersey Giant chicks:

Behavior & Temperament of the Jersey Giant

Most people seek out Jersey Giant chickens for their impressive size and color, but others want the friendly demeanor. Jersey Giants were once meat and egg producers, but they have since been recognized for their calm temperaments. A Jersey Giant is just as happy foraging as it is being held and petted.

Calm, even when there is noise, these chickens are excellent for your backyard. They remain unruffled through most occasions, though this level of calm can also make them prey to more cunning predators. If you have your chickens sharing a space with small animals and children, Jersey Giants are ideal.

These chickens tend to assimilate without hesitation into already established flocks. They aren’t aggressive, nor do they have a tendency to peck at animals and children. In fact, while their size can be intimidating, they are one of the most non-aggressive chicken breeds around. Because of this, many chicken keepers find that Jersey Giants are the perfect breed to match with more aggressive breeds. Their size usually stops other chickens from acting out of line.

In short, if you want a very friendly flock of birds in your yard, you can’t do wrong with Jersey Giant chickens.

Jersey Giant Chicken Egg Laying

jersey giant chicks
Photo credit: Flickr

If you want a chicken that is going to produce an exorbitant amount of eggs, look elsewhere. Yes, the Jersey Giant chicken breed does lay eggs but only about 3-4 eggs a week — about 150-200 eggs a year. You’re not going to make much of a profit with one or two Jersey Giants, unfortunately.

The good news is that Jersey Giants don’t go on a holiday break. They will continue laying eggs throughout the winter season, which can be a great supplement when other egg producing hens close up shop for the season.

Furthermore, you have to account for how long it takes for a Jersey Giant to grow and start laying eggs. Jersey Giants, being that they are so large, are slow to mature. This means that the hens lay their eggs later than other breeds, around 8-10 months. Other chicken keepers report egg laying beginning at 1 year old.

But there is also evidence of Jersey Giants laying quality eggs as early as 5 months. It truly depends on the hatchery strain.

Do Jersey Giants Go Broody?

Some chicken keepers seek out breeds that like to sit on their eggs until they hatch. The Jersey Giant chicken is one of those breeds. Jersey Giant hens will remain on their eggs and are excellent mothers to their chicks.

However, bigger hens do have a tendency to be so heavy that they crack their eggs. Because of this, you might want to remove the eggs from the hens shortly after they are laid and give them to a smaller chicken.

It takes about 2-6 days longer than average for Jersey Giant chicken eggs to hatch.

A quick note: Some hatchery strains of Jersey Giant will not go broody. It’s been bred out of them. Be sure to check with the hatcher or breeder before you purchase Jersey Giants, especially if you want broody chickens.

Caring for Your Jersey Giant Chickens

When the Black brothers bred Jersey Giants, they wanted robust chickens that wouldn’t get sick easily. Due to their efforts, the Jersey Giant is a very healthy bird that isn’t susceptible to many illnesses. The main health issue that many Jersey Giant chicken owners run into is leg injuries.

The weight and size of Jersey Giants is both a boon and a curse. Whenever these birds fly or jump from a great height, they can get hurt. Landings can also damage their legs. If you want Jersey Giants, you are going to need to adjust the coop and their perches to ensure they don’t get hurt.

Not surprisingly, big birds want a lot of space to roam. The Jersey Giant isn’t going to tolerate being trapped in a cramped space. These are foraging birds who want to peck at the ground at their leisure. Plan for about 4 to 8 square feet of space per every Jersey Giant in the flock.

What To Feed Jersey Giant Chickens

jersey giant hen
Photo credit: Flickr

Having Jersey Giant chickens means adapting to their size and hunger. When you first bring your new chicks home, give them something nutritionally dense, such as a growers mash, which is around 19% protein and easily digestible. Chicks should have growers mash for up to 6 weeks old. Afterwards, chicken pellets with about 16% protein are adequate.

At 18 weeks old, Jersey Giant chickens need even more nutrition to grow up big and strong. You can again provide them with mash. This is especially important if you want them to lay quality eggs earlier.

Make sure you have food and water at an appropriate height for these tall birds. If the food or water is too low, Jersey Giants will get angry and scratch litter and gravel into the bowl. Ideally, you want to place food and water level with their backs.

How Much Should I Feed Jersey Giants?

Some chickens don’t need a lot of food, but Jersey Giants do. This is one of the reasons why they were never popular with poultry producers, because it cost a lot to feed these birds enough to get them meaty.

If you plan on using these birds for meat, there is little you can do but be patient with their growth. Jersey Giants will eat between 3.5 oz to 7 oz of food per day, with the average amount coming in at 5.5 oz. Start feeding your Jersey Giants this average amount then adjust as needed. Keep an eye on how much and how fast they are eating.

Chickens that don’t need additional food will leave what you give them.

That said, the best way to feed a Jersey Giant is free-range. Jersey Giants are hardy birds who love roaming and foraging. You can supplement chicken feed with time to forage, as they will eat bugs, seeds, grass, and even healthy scraps from the kitchen.

Just remember not to give them too much junk food or corn, as this can cause unhealthy fat gain.

Other Jersey Giant Care Tips

Aside from everything you already know about Jersey Giants, there are a few more things to consider. Extra knowledge never hurts!

Here are some facts to keep in mind:

  • They are all-weather birds
  • You can feed Jersey Giants vitamins and minerals to help them grow (and keep them healthy)
  • Most Jersey Giants will either evade or fight off predators the same size as them

Jersey Giants have tightly woven plumage, providing them with great insulation. Partnered with their size and general good health, these birds are built to last in most climates. The size of their comb and wattle also determines how well they retain heat. The only time they are going to struggle with weather is when it is hot and humid.

Secondly, you want to provide your Jersey Giants with a variety of foods to ensure they are getting enough vitamins and minerals. Foraging helps a lot, but if you notice your Jersey Giants looking dull or acting lethargic, add in supplements. As with all chicken breeds, they also need a good amount of chicken grit for digestion and healthy egg-laying.

Lastly, Jersey Giants make predators hesitate. They are indeed large, and they can be an even match against similarly sized predators. One Jersey Giant chicken keepers have described instances where their chickens fended off against hawks, dogs, snakes, and other animals with ease.

The video below describes a scene where a blue Jersey Giant hen is protecting herself from a Blue Heeler dog. You will see that the chicken isn’t backing down or acting submissive:

Here is another one of a Jersey Giant remaining confident beside a German Shepherd of all things:

When watching the video, take note of the other hen that isn’t a Jersey Giant and how she scampers off as soon as the dog approaches. It’s clear that these aren’t cowardly birds.

Pros and Cons of Raising Jersey Giant Chickens

Having learned so much about the beautiful Jersey Giant chicken, let’s compare the pros and cons of raising this breed.

PROS

  • Jersey Giant chickens are considered healthy birds and are not susceptible to many health conditions or illnesses, as long as you don’t forgo proper vaccination
  • An excellent breed for laying eggs
  • Calm and friendly temperament; an excellent pet choice for children
  • Beautiful birds with a unique stature and coloring
  • Will provide pest control, because they love to forage and roam
  • No fear in the face of predators; they will evade danger or stand up to it, unwavering
  • Will integrate themselves into a mixed breed flock without any issues

CONS

  • These large birds require plenty of room to roam and forage
  • Jersey Giant chickens can be easily injured with jumping or flying down from a great height
  • Their bulky bodies can put stress on their legs, so you must adjust the height of perches to suit their weight
  • Jersey Giant chicks take longer to grow than other breeds, and they need to eat a lot of food for proper development
  • You need a large coop and a lot of space to keep these chickens happy and healthy; this includes larger doors, larger nesting boxes, and lower roosting bars

Take into consideration these pros and cons, as it will often help you decide if the Jersey Giant chicken breed is right for you.

Wrapping Up

There you have it—everything you need to know about the Jersey Giant chicken breed. These large birds are an ideal choice for chicken keepers who want companionship, eggs, or meat. Relatively for even beginners to care for, the Jersey Giant will be the highlight of your yard and flock.

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