Interested in chickens? Want to find out some of the biggest breeds on the planet? We’ve got you covered!
We’re going to discover the largest chicken breed in the world. And we’re going to check out some of the other contenders for the title. We’ll find out just big how they can get. And we’ll learn more about their history and behavior.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started on our countdown to the world’s biggest chicken!
The World’s Largest Chicken Breed
The Onagadori hails from Japan, where its unique looks have seen it awarded special status. It’s one of seventeen chicken breeds designated as National Treasures, and is the only one to be named a Special National Treasure.
The accolades aren’t surprising when you see this dramatic bird. It has a sweeping tail that’s at least five feet long. And some chickens have tails that are even longer. The record is 39 feet.
That’s because the tail feathers grow quickly, gaining anything from 2 to 5 feet per year. And they never molt, meaning they just keep getting longer. Not surprisingly, the Onagadori is kept as an ornamental bird, rather than used for meat or egg laying.
The breed originated from the Japanese island of Shikoku. Its ancestors are thought to be traditional Japanese chickens, most likely the Totenko and Shikoku breeds.
To qualify for the breed standard, Japanese Onagadori must be one of three colors: white, black-breasted red, or black-breasted white. The latter is believed to have been the breed’s original color.
These days, however, Onagadori are also found in Europe. There, the breed standards recognise five colors: black-red, white, ginger, and gold and silver duckwing. All Onagadori have white earlobes, reddish-brown eyes, and a single comb.
Tracking down one of these striking birds isn’t easy. It’s a rare breed, with only around 150 birds currently living in Japan.
The Malay chicken wins the prize for one of the tallest breeds of chicken on the planet. This impressive bird stands over three feet high.
Despite its Asian name, today it’s bred primarily in the USA and Europe. The breed originally developed in Devon, in the UK, and the birds’ ancestors came from south-east Asia and the Indian sub-continent.
The Malay was first included in the Standards of Excellence, the original British poultry breed standards, in 1865.
It’s muscular as well as tall, with strong legs and a large head. It’s kept mainly as a show bird.
These days, however, selective breeding has also increased the hens’ egg production. A typical modern Malay hen can lay between 70 and 120 eggs in her salad years. As she ages, that will drop to one egg every week or two.
3. Indio Gigante
The Indio Gigante hails from Brazil, and it’s reputedly the world’s tallest breed of chicken. Its name means “Indian Giant” in Portuguese. In Brazil, the word “Indian” is used to describe indigenous Brazilian culture, so its name actually reflects its Brazilian heritage.
And to meet the breed standard, roosters must stand at least 3.5 feet tall, and weigh at least 9.9 pounds. Hens must be at least three feet tall and weigh at least 6.6 pounds.
The eggs of the Indio Gigante may be a range of different colors – blue, green, white, beige, or even red. The hens are good layers, laying between 160 and 250 eggs per year. And as you might expect from such a big chicken, those eggs are pretty large too!
The Faverolles chicken takes its name from the French village where the breed originated. The bird was once used for both meat and eggs, including – sadly – as a battery chicken. But these days it’s mainly an exhibition breed.
Females usually have cream and white feathers, while males have straw-colored, brown and black plumage. They’re very friendly and gentle birds, and they make excellent pets for children.
They can be bullied, though, if they’re kept in a flock with more aggressive breeds. They do well paired with other Faverolles and Sussexes.
British males can weigh up to 11 pounds, while females can be up to 9 pounds. The American standard is smaller, with a maximum weight of 10 pounds for males and 8.5 pounds for females.
The hens are excellent layers. When properly cared for, they’ll produce around four light brown or pink-tinged eggs a week.
5. Plymouth Rock
It was first included in the American Standard of Perfection, the US official breed standards, in 1874. It was once the most widespread breed in the whole country. Numbers declined after the First World War, but in recent years Plymouth Rocks have been growing in popularity once more.
Adult male birds weigh at least 7.5 pounds, while adult females are at least 6.5 pounds. (There’s also a smaller bantam variety.)
In the US, there are seven different color varieties, including buff, partridge, barred, and white. The chickens’ beaks are horn-colored or yellow, their legs yellow, and their combs, wattles and earlobes bright red.
These chickens are easy to look after and hardy enough to cope with colder weather.
The hens are good sitters too, and they lay around 200 eggs annually. Those eggs are brown shelled and large, weighing about 2 ounces each.
The Cornish chicken was originally known as the Indian Game. It was originally bred in Cornwall, in England, in 1820.
The first birds were sadly used for the inhumane sport of cockfighting. But when they proved ill-equipped for that task, they were used for meat.
That continues to this day, with this ill-fated breed featuring heavily in industrial meat production. A few lucky birds are shown in exhibitions.
A standard male weighs around 8 pounds, while a female is around 6 pounds. There’s also a smaller and lighter bantam variety.
They have short legs and a stocky build, and thin feathers without down. As a result, they need good shelter to keep them warm in cooler weather. And whilst they have good resistance to most poultry diseases, they are vulnerable to infection from parasites.
In their native Britain, the Cornish breed standards include three colors: the original dark, the Jubilee, and the rare double-laced blue. In the US, four colors are recognised: dark, white, white-laced red and buff.
They’re beautiful as well as friendly birds. Queen Victoria was reputedly an early fan of the breed!
Nine colors are listed in the American breed standards, including lemon, cinnamon, partridge and silver buff. They have striking, fluffy feathers that extend down their legs and even to their toes.
Those feathers mean that they cope well with colder temperatures. But mud is their enemy, so if you’re thinking of keeping them, they’ll need a dry run. And they’ll also need somewhere shady to keep their cool when the sun comes out.
The Cochins’ cheerful and gentle temperaments mean they make great pets for children. While they’ll enjoy being let out to forage, they don’t tend to roam far. And the hens are good sitters, happy to hatch both their own eggs and those of other breeds.
They grow slowly, but reach an impressive size. An adult male Cochin can weigh between 8 and 13 pounds. Females are between 7 and 11 pounds.
The first Orpington chickens were bred in England, and they take their name from the Kent town where they originated.
They were originally intended to be used for eggs and meat, but these attractive birds soon found a higher calling! Today, their large size and distinctive appearance means they’re most usually seen on showgrounds and at poultry exhibitions.
The original Orpingtons were black, but today a range of colors are accepted by breed registries like the UK’s Orpington Club. These include lavender and buff. The birds’ plumage is full and silky, with feathering that extends down their legs.
Male standard Orpingtons weigh in at between 8 and 10 pounds, while hens are between 6 and 8 pounds. There’s a bantam variety too, and both standard and bantam chickens have a friendly personality.
Orpingtons were once among the most prolific of egg layers, producing around 340 medium to large eggs in a year.
Over time, however, selective breeding focused on the chicken’s looks for exhibition purposes, to the detriment of egg production. The modern Orpington hen will lay around 175 to 200 eggs annually.
The record for the largest living chicken goes to a Brahma! This magnificent bird is a rooster called Merakli, and he lives in Kosovo with two hens. He weighs in at an astonishing 17 pounds.
Merakli became a viral internet sensation when video emerged of him strutting around his coop. Some even thought the video was a hoax, claiming it was actually a man in a chicken suit!
But while Merakli might be unusually large, Brahma chickens are known for their impressive size. Typical adult males weigh around 12 pounds, while females are around 10 pounds.
Brahmas were first bred in the USA in the eighteenth century. Their forebears were chickens that had been imported from Shanghai. And the new breed’s stature meant that the birds were popular for meat.
Brahmas raised between 1850 and 1930 were even larger than their modern descendants. The history books record weights of up to 18 pounds for cockerels and 13 pounds for hens.
Their large size and good covering of feathers mean that this breed can tolerate colder temperatures than some. But surprisingly, they don’t seem to struggle on warmer days. As with all chickens, of course, they’ll need access to shade and plenty of cool water.
Brahma hens are good layers, produced brown-shelled eggs that weigh around 2 ounces. And unlike many breeds, they continue to lay all through the winter months.
10. Jersey Giant
While the record for the largest living chicken may go to a Brahma, another breed produces the heaviest chickens on average. The Jersey Giant is just as big as you’d expect from its name.
These chickens were first bred in the USA, in New Jersey’s Burlington County. The foundation birds had beautiful black plumage, a result of their ancestors – black Langshans, black Javas and dark Brahmas. And it’s those Brahmas that also account for this breed’s impressive stature.
Today, Brahamas may also be white or blue. But the black remain on average the biggest. Modern males typically weigh around 13 pounds, while females are around 10 pounds. As with Bantams, average weights have dropped over the years.
Both male and females have a calm and friendly temperament. Some will even tolerate the presence of more than one rooster.
The hens are pretty good egg layers too. Like Brahmas, they continue to lay throughout the winter, and they’re good at incubating their eggs. The age at which hens start to lay varies widely, though. Some begin as early as 5 months, others as late as a year old.
If you want to keep these beautiful birds, you’ll need an extensive yard. They’re best left to roam free. And while they’re good foragers, they’ll need plenty of extra food too.
Big is Beautiful
That brings us to the end of our look at some of the largest chicken breeds out there. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about these big, beautiful birds!
Keeping a large breed can be very rewarding, but you will need to provide lots of space and food. And if you’re planning to keep them as part of a mixed flock, make sure they’ll co-exist peacefully with other breeds.