Large Chicken Breeds are almost always characterised according to their main production aim. They are kept either as layers, broilers or for dual purposes. Layers are excellent producers of eggs and broilers are famed for their superior meat whereas dual purpose breeds are developed to lay a reasonable number of eggs and still produce a good carcass. The most common large chicken breeds among farmers include the Jersey Giant, Brahmas, Cochins and Orpington. Although there are many other big chicken breeds, when compared to these they often seem dwarfed. Large chicken breeds are capital intensive, and so it is vital to acquire detailed knowledge of their physiognomies before selection. This article will outline the characteristics of large chicken breeds.
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Large chicken breeds are mostly appreciated for their greater size, weight as well as their strength and vigour. These breeds stand head and shoulders above other breeds of chicken hence are regarded as the ‘King of Chickens.’ This is true and usually the case with the Brahma which is considered as the biggest fowl among all others. Brahmas can reach a height of 30 inches. The Jersey Giant is also one of the largest chicken breeds in world with a height of 20 to 26 inches surpassing some Brahma breeds. As a result of their big stature, large breeds of chicken are frequently kept for meat production purposes.
Eggs from large chicken breeds are generally bigger when compared to those from standard sized breeds. Brahma and Cochin breeds can lay eggs that are almost twice the size of other regular sized layers. Large chicken breeds are considered as good layers even in the winter time. During the cold season when most layers stop producing, farmers can always rely on big chicken breeds for consistency. The hens lay about 3 to 4 eggs per week depending on the breed. This is the case with Brahma, Cochin and Jersey Giant breeds. The Orpington lays 175 to 200 eggs on average annually. They are also capable of producing 340 eggs per year. Most large chicken breeds take approximately 6 to 7 months before they start laying. The Brahma is one such breed, however the chicks are strong and quick to hatch. Overall, although large chicken breeds lay bigger sized eggs, the quantities are usually lower than standard layers. Only a few breeds such as Orpington are an exception.
As stated earlier, large chicken breeds are often used as broilers due to their giant frame. They consume at least 4kg food and weigh a minimum of 2.5kg within their 7 to 8 weeks of age. The Brahma and the Cochin are some of the world’s popular broilers. Large chicken breeds used as broilers can be marketed at 8 weeks. Although most dual purpose birds are standard sized, some large chicken birds such as the Orpington breeds produce soft tasty meat while maintaining high production of eggs. The Jersey Giant is also a dual-purpose fowl for meat and eggs.
Broodiness often varies with different types of breeds. However, most large chicken breeds are known for their broody nature. The hens are normally proud mothers and are very protective of their chicks. Since they are large in size, brooding leads to accidental crushing of the eggs or trampled young chicks. Some large chicken breeds are broodier than others. Although Brahmas are also good mothers and tend to set on the nest well, they are still not overly broody. Cochins are exceptionally broody; they love to incubate their eggs and so some farmers keep them for brooding larger egg fowls.
Various large chicken breeds have different temperaments. Nonetheless, although big breeds of chicken seem intimidaing, they are famed for their gentle, docile and non-aggressive personalities. Jesery Giant breeds have been termed ‘Gentle Giants’ because they are quite calm. Roosters of Jersey Giants also have exceptionally good temperament that is far less aggressive than other roosters. They tolerate confinement well but require a larger space as a result of their big size. A lot of big chicken breeds do well as foragers with the exception of a few. Owing to their massive stature, most are neither good runners nor fly well thus are fairly easy to contain.
A number of chicken breeds respond differently to climatic conditions regardless of their similar sizes. A lot of large chicken breeds are hardy thus can tolerate a range of weather patterns. Thick feathered breeds are better protected in winter conditions. A large comb helps to cool chickens in hot conditions. As with all feather–footed fowls, Brahmas face some challenges during the rainy season. Their feet can become wet and muddy which can lead to frost bites in extremely cold conditions. They can also develop small mud balls which can severely damage the toe if not dealt with. Large chicken breeds with dense and tight feathers are often attacked by lice and mites especially in dry seasons. It is vital for farmers to ensure that their chickens are well sheltered from the weather regardless of their staure. In colder regions, the walls should be thicker or insulated whereas in warmer climates thatch can be used, although it should be replaced frequently to minimize parasite and disease problems.
Large chicken breeds tend to grow at a slower pace compared to their standard sized breed. This is mostly due to their giant stature. For the Jersey Giant, it takes about 6 months to grow its massive frame and another 3 months before it large enough to be butchered. Jersey Giants usually take an extra day or two to hatch too. On the other hand, large chicken breeds used as broilers often grow much faster. Some farmers introduce their breeds to growth promoting feeds to fasten growth rates.
Large chicken breeds are mostly best suited for meat production as they lay comparatively less eggs than regular sized breeds. They however can be used as dual producers. This is because of their meat quality and consistency in producing eggs even during the winter season. Although large chicken breeds differ, most of them are somewhat similar in terms gentleness in disposition, broodiness, eggs and meat production as well as being hardy.