Dual Purpose Breeds

A great dual purpose breed.
A Rhode Island Red from Jon Alden. A great dual purpose breed.

There are many breeds of domesticated chickens.  Each chicken breed has been developed for a particular purpose – like laying eggs or producing meat for the table.

Lucky for us someone has taken the time to create a dual purpose bird.  A bird that is good at laying eggs and producing meat.

These versatile breeds are great around the farm and the postage stamp sized lot of the city.  They sport some of the best traits one could ask for.  Generally they are quiet and friendly.

Heavy bodied dual purpose chickens are less likely to fly over your fence.  They are more friendly than the smaller egg breeds as well.  This means a quiet happy chicken and a happy owner.

Dual purpose chickens are in the middle of the road as far as fast growth and lots of eggs go.  Dual purpose breeds have their advantages for a constrained space flock.  Maximize your small city lots productivity go with one of the dual purpose breeds.

Having a 5000 square foot lot, we opted to go with the large bodied dual purpose birds.  While our yard is fenced and we have a coop to lock them up in, we choose to let them free to roam the yard as often as we can.

Dual purpose chickens are good for eggs and meat alike.  If you end up with a rooster or a hen that doesn’t lay, it will make good table fare.  Dual purpose breeds are good at both meat and eggs, however they are not the best at either.

Lets compare a dual purpose bird to one that specializes in only one function.. Lets lok at an egg laying machine like a Leghorn.  Dual purpose birds eat too much feed to compete with the feed to egg conversion ratio.

Delaware from Kathy Bonham.
Delaware from Kathy Bonham who is recreating the Delaware breed.

Cornish cross meat birds again have similar results.  Dual purpose breeds eat too much and convert too little to table meat to compete with Cornish crosses for only meat.

Having said that, the Leghorn will not make much meat, and a Cornish Cross will not make an egg layer.  This is where the dual purpose chicken shines.  It does both to a satisfactory degree.

Most dual purpose birds are suited for our weather here in the Pacific Northwest.  Some rain and a little cold isn’t going to hurt them.  As with any other animals that stay outside they still need their shelter.  Extremes in temperatures and conditions still need  special care and attention.

Sussex:  There are several sussex breeds available.  The most common is the speckled sussex.  The Light Sussex has a white body with black neck hackles.  The Light Sussex is touted as a higher egg producer.  These are large friendly chickens.  Hens can lay up to 260 light brown or tan eggs a year.  The hens reach about 7 pounds and the males slightly more.

Delawares:  The Delawares are also a Columbian pattern like the Light Sussex.  The Delawares are slightly smaller than the Sussex.  Delawares are fair layers and are producers of large brown eggs.

Australorp:  The Australorp is a little smaller than Delawares at about 6.5 pounds average.  Australorps are black in plumage and were bred from the Orpington breed.  Australorp holds the record for laying 364 eggs in a 365 day period.  This record has not been matched.  These are friendly birds and good layers of brown eggs.

Rhode Island Red:  This farmyard classic is a very good layers of brown eggs.  Rhode Islands can be a little more aggressive in maintaining their flock status and may peck each other more as they fight for first place..  As a result, fighting can be a little more common among them.  There is also a white version aptly named Rhode Island White with similar traits.

New Hampshire Red:  New Hampshires are good sized birds that lay a large brown egg in good numbers.  New Hampshires tend to be a little aggressive in maintaining their flock pecking status.  These were selectively bred from the Rhode Island Reds.

Orpington:  The Buff Orpington is the most common Orpington in the United States.  Orpingtons lay about 160 eggs a year in light brown.  They are a heavy bird and usually are friendly.  Orpingtons are common city chickens as they are generally more decorative than the other breeds.  Orps, as some refer them, are also friendly.

Welsummer: Originally this breed was developed in Welsum, Netherlands.  This breed lays an interesting terracotta egg.  The average Welsummer hen will lay about 200 eggs a year.  They can be noisy at times, and are not normally a great winter layer.

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