Did you know that New Jersey is known as the Garden State? Back in the day, New Jersey was an agricultural powerhouse, and that included work in the field of chicken breeding. One of the more famous breeds from this region is the Jersey Giant chicken.
This is a chicken breed that has its perks and pitfalls, not to mention its own history. Are you looking into buying this breed? Take a look at our guide to find out more about life with Jersey Giants.
A History of the Jersey Giant Chicken
The Jersey Giant was first developed between 1870 to 1890, in Burlington County, New Jersey. These are giant black chickens derived from Black Langshans, Dark Brahmas, and Black Javas. Their huge stature quickly earned them the nickname “Giant.”
The breed itself was developed by John and Thomas Black. The two quickly became the talk of the town for their amazing meat birds. What’s more, word got out that they also were good egg layers, too.
A local breeder from Belmar changed the name to “Jersey Giant,” and by 1921, that was the name that stuck. The Jersey Giant became known for being some of the largest black chickens on the planet.
What do Jersey Giant chickens look like?
Jersey Giants are some of the only chickens that tend to be almost exclusively born with black feathers. They have large red combs, red wattles, red faces, and dark brown eyes. Their beaks are red and black. Their plumage, though black, can have an iridescent green sheen.
The first Jersey Giants were all black. However, newer variations of the breed include white Jersey Giants, Blue Jersey Giants, and Splash Jersey Giants. According to sources, there is also a movement to create even more color variations.
They have yellow skin and yellow soles. The Jersey Giant breed may have other variations, but the Black Jersey Giant is the original and most iconic coloration associated with it. Black Giants also tend to be larger than other colorations.
The name is also indicative of their size. These are truly massive chickens. Hens can reach 10 pounds in adulthood, while roosters can reach up to 13 pounds. You can get chickens as big as 22-26 inches in this breed. So, don’t be shocked if they tower above their fellow coop mates.
How good are Jersey Giant chickens at laying eggs?
Jersey Giant females may be big, but that doesn’t stop them from being decent egg layers. This particular breed of chicken is fairly prolific, though not as prolific as Leghorns or Orpingtons. You can expect around 150 eggs per year, per hen, from a typical Jersey Giant.
What do Jersey Giant eggs look like?
In terms of the actual eggs you can expect, these giants definitely have eggs to match their size. They tend to be large to extra large. They’re light brown in color.
Do Jersey Giants get broody?
Like most other breeds known for laying eggs, Jersey Giants do have a tendency to get broody. In fact, they can get broody year-round. They are also very willing to sit on their eggs, so this makes them good mothers to their chicks.
Hens start laying at around 5 months. It’s important to note that broody hens that have fertilized eggs may need to be watched. Due to their weight, they can end up accidentally crushing their eggs! A heat lamp might be a smart move for bigger mamas.
What are Jersey Giant chicken personalities like?
The phrase “gentle giant” definitely comes to mind when discussing Jersey Giant chickens. These birds do not let their giant stature go to their head. Rather, they are very gentle, mellow, and friendly birds.
Because of their laid back and friendly nature, you can expect these birds to be great pets. They are docile and are prone to following their owners around a yard. Because they like to be pets, they also make good pets for families with kids.
Many families with larger backyards or farms choose to keep them as pets simply because they are so friendly and docile. They are also famous for having little to no fear around larger animals. Jersey Giants will walk up to dogs and cluck at them. They’re that fearless!
Are Jersey Giant chickens noisy?
Though they make great pets, this is one breed that will not fare well in urban areas or suburbs. They are very noisy and will find ways to chat with you, each other, and almost any living thing nearby. There will be a constant stream of clucks, warbles, crowing, and chirps near you!
If a Jersey Giant chicken is not happy, they will make sure to tell you. They will tell you loudly and will continue to squawk until you fix things. If you are looking for a quiet breed, the Jersey Giant is not for you.
How do you house a Jersey Giant Chicken?
These big birds are going to need a coop that works with their super size. Expect larger nesting boxes, bigger coop bars, and just about every other aspect of their housing to be bigger. They generally work best with the biggest size for everything.
Jersey Giant chickens also tend to be fans of foraging and free-ranging, so you will need a lot of space for your flock. They can tolerate four square feet of coop space, but in reality, they need at least eight square feet per bird to do well.
When housing Jersey Giants, make sure that you don’t have anything sharp poking out of your chicken coop floor. These birds can step on them, and due to their size, a puncture can do a lot more damage. They can get bumblefoot or even die.
When building a coop for a Jersey Giant, you will need to make everything larger—this includes pop holes, entryways, and more. There have been occasions when particularly large Giants have gotten stuck in coops as a result of a door that was too small.
Many chicken breeds need to be monitored due to their proclivity towards being prey. Jersey Giants are not like that. These birds can and will attack predators like a lone hawk or a fox if they feel threatened.
PRO TIP – This breed is best for families that have a large backyard or a farm. They need a lot of space to free-range and will be upset if they are expected to be confined into a tight space.
What climates work best with Jersey Giant chickens?
Jersey Giant chickens are extremely cold-hardy, to the point that they actually prefer cold to chilly climates. It makes sense since New Jersey can be quite cold during the spring, winter, and fall months. However, those long red combs can get frostbite if you’re not careful.
It’s important to note that Jersey Giants don’t fare well in warm climates. They are prone to overheating, so if you live in a warm climate, get shade, fans, and lots of cool water for them to enjoy. (Or, you know, just choose a different chicken breed.)
How should you feed Jersey Giants?
Jersey Giants are massive birds, and they have a massive appetite. They will need more feed than a typical chicken and prefer nutrient-dense foods. With that said, they do a lot of foraging and can free-range well. You still need to add a feeder.
If you are raising chickens for meat, it’s important to remember that high-quality feed will impact the quality of your meat. This breed requires a high level of food investment before you can eat the bird.
Do Jersey Giants mix well with other chicken breeds?
For the most part, Jersey Giants are pretty friendly with other chicken breeds. They do well in a flock and adopt a “live and let live” attitude to other chickens. However, you may still need to keep an eye on roosters if you want to introduce them to other roosters.
One thing you need to be aware of is that certain chicken breeds may try to get aggressive with large birds as part of the pecking order. If your flock contains a breed that is known for aggression, then you shouldn’t put them in the same pen as a Jersey Giant.
Giants can be gentle, but they have no problem defending themselves.
Are Jersey Giant chickens common?
Jersey Giant hens and roosters were a lot more common back in the day. Prior to the mass production of commercial chicken meat, Jersey Giants were prized for their meat quality and were also occasionally used for their eggs.
Most farms discontinued their use because they take so long to reach maturity and because they don’t always lay eggs as frequently as others. So, while the breed was popular, the need for faster returns on investments made it fall by the wayside.
The Livestock Conservancy has listed this as a “Watch” breed. In other words, this breed is currently on shaky ground because there are dwindling numbers of them. Since they need so much space, they may need to step in to make this an official heritage breed.
Are Jersey Giants good for meat?
Yes, they are great for meat. The best perk about owning Jersey Giants for meat production is that you get almost twice the amount of meat from a Giant than you would a normal chicken. In the past, this made it a classic pick for meat chickens.
The problem that people have with Jersey Giants is that they tend to grow slowly. If you are looking for fast-growing meat birds, this isn’t a good choice. It will take some time and investment to get the meat that you want.
One huge perk of Jersey Giant raising is the size of the bird itself. You can feed a family of four comfortably with a single Giant.
Do Jersey Giants make good show birds?
They can! The American Poultry Association does view them as an official breed. Judges enjoy seeing these large birds on display, especially when it comes to that gorgeous beetle green shine on their plumage.
With that said, you may need to go to a specialty breeder for this. Like with other breeds, show birds can lose some of their functionality in the egg-laying or meat department if they are bred for looks alone.
Are Jersey Giant chickens healthy birds?
Unlike other chicken breeds, a Jersey Giant is a fairly reliably healthy bird. They are not prone to many illnesses, are able to reach maturity without dying, and aren’t even that prone to getting mites or lice.
A Jersey Giant is a good bird to have if you want hardiness. If you live in a very cold area, you may need to get a heater to prevent frostbite on their combs. But, that’s about it.
How much do Jersey Giant chickens cost?
According to research, Jersey Giants tend to cost between $3.30 to $5 per chick, depending on the sex, the breeder, and the number of chickens you want to raise. Your best bet is to go to a heritage breeder who takes close care of them.
While this is a healthy breed, it’s important to make sure that the breeder you go to has a core set of ethics surrounding their work. A well-bred Jersey Giant is a happy bird that will make you happy for years to come.
If you are a fan of rare chicken breeds that were developed in the United States, then you might want to get a Jersey Giant for your home. A typical chicken keeper will find them to be decent egg layers, meat producers, and pets for their home.
The only true drawback of owning a Jersey Giant is their tendency to dislike the heat, combined with their tendency to make noise. If your local environment is chilly and you have a lot of space, this might be the best pairing that you can get.