Fresh meat and eggs are the bread and butter of keeping chickens. It brings owners stupendous joy when they see the fruits of their labor. So today, we are going to tell you the 10 best dual purpose chicken breeds. With these breeds, you will be satisfied with the chicken’s size and the number of eggs it produces. Soon you will have eggs and meat to go around.
What Are Dual Purpose Chickens?
Dual purpose chicken breeds are chickens that produce plenty of eggs and meat. These hens usually lay over 200 eggs a year and also grow to a nice size to become food. Most people want dual purpose breeds so that when their hens are retired layers, they can still be useful. This meat usually isn’t as tender, but it’s perfect for stews and slow-cooked meals.
But the beauty of these birds is that you can breed them and butcher half at an early age for tender meat. They generally make good mothers that aren’t overly broody. But they are also easy to breed without the need for special equipment like incubators or brooders. With a little planning, you could have a rotation of laying hens and fresh meat.
What Is A Heritage Breed Chicken?
There are no differences between heritage and dual purpose chicken breeds. Heritage breeds aren’t genetically modified or mixed with other breeds to make them better egg producers. These dual purpose heritage chicken breeds still lay plenty of eggs, but they are not above and beyond. They also don’t start laying at early ages, which prevents disease and short lifespans.
Neither are they the best broilers. Heritage chickens are slow-growing and aren’t the largest breeds around. Some prefer the taste of broiler meat compared to the dual purpose chicken, but not always. It all comes to preference and what your goals are with your flock.
When To Butcher Dual Purpose Chickens
Dual purpose chicken breeds all have different growth rates. Most of the chickens on this list grow to a decent size by 6-8 months old. But that doesn’t mean that they are full size. Unlike true broilers, these chickens grow slow. The later you process them, the tougher the meat. While it’s possible to butcher a chicken of any age, and it’s still edible, there is a sweet spot. You want them large enough to be worth the time but not so large that they eat a hole in your pocket. So in each breed below, we have estimated the best time to process them. But it is up to your judgment to wait until they retire laying.
Arguably the best chickens for meat and eggs are the Black Astralorp. These chickens hold the world record for the best egg laying chicken. One hen laid 364 eggs in a single year. Some of these hens produce an egg six days a week without fail, but most only lay 250-300 light brown eggs a year. That’s still quite the accomplishment in our eyes, though. And you can expect your hens to start laying around six months old.
And if you get a flock of these going as broilers, they are ready for processing at six months as well. They get about 5-6 pounds for hens and 7-8 for roosters. Or you could wait until they are retired egg layers and process at four years old instead.
If you are looking for the best dual purpose chickens for meat, you need a Brahma. These chickens are monstrous and get up to 12 pounds, making them the second-largest chicken breed in the world. But if you want a full-sized Brahma to butcher, you will have to wait a while for it. It takes these chickens three years to reach their full potential, but most people process them before that.
Although, let’s not forget about these beautiful eggs. Your Brahma chickens will lay 150-200 brown eggs per year starting around seven months old. And your hens will keep producing eggs well into old age. Most Brahma chickens continue to lay a few eggs per week well after five years.
Another extraordinary hen for eggs is the Plymouth Rock. These gorgeous hens produce about 200-260 brown eggs per year starting at six months old. That’s enough to label the Plymouth as one of the best egg producer breeds of chicken out there. Once these girls start laying, they have a steady rate for three years before a slow drop-off.
The Plymouth Rock is a hefty bird too that weighs in at 7-8 pounds. Unlike the other chickens so far, the Plymouth is ready for the table at 20 weeks. So if you breed a few hens for laying and pullets for processing, you will have plenty of meat and eggs.
Rhode Island Red Chickens
The Rhode Island Red is an iconic chicken in America. These chickens are everywhere, and for a good reason, they lay 200-300 light brown eggs on average per year. And you can expect these eggs as early as four months old. Even better, the Rhode Island Red continue to lay strong for up to four years. Then they gradually taper off in their old age.
Another reason the Rhode Island Red makes the 10 best dual purpose chicken breeds is their size. These chickens get 6-8 pounds and are ready to eat at 4-5 months old. With their early maturity, you will think this is the ideal chicken for every use.
Are you looking for five eggs a week from a reliable hen? Orpingtons are here to the rescue. On average, Orpingtons lay 200-280 light brown eggs per year. And they start at a decent age as well. Usually, your pullets will begin laying eggs at 5-6 months old.
But they aren’t just good for eggs. These chickens get a decent 7-8 pounds. At five months old, these chickens are perfect for roasting. But what’s more is that owners claim that Orpington is delicious no matter how old they are. This is why we think Orpingtons are one of the best dual purpose chicken breeds.
Let’s not forget about the calm Sussex as well. These chickens are probably the first breed explicitly created for being dual purpose. And while there are many color variations, the Speckled and Light Sussex are known for their high egg output. These hens lay as many as 250 eggs per year starting at five months old. But these eggs aren’t just boring brown. Your hens could lay brown, white, or cream eggs, depending on the type of Sussex you get.
Since these chickens get 7-8 pounds, they are also great to eat. And most of these chickens are ready for processing around 5-6 months old. Which is ideal for raising fresh meat since the longer they take to grow, the more they cost.
Next on our 10 best dual purpose chicken breeds is the Wyandotte. You can’t talk about chickens without mentioning the Wyandotte. These beautiful hens give you about 200-240 brown eggs, and they start laying these eggs around six months old as well. So you can start feasting on your eggs not long after raising your chicks.
But what about their meat production? Hens weigh in at 6-7 pounds, and roosters are slightly larger at 8-9 pounds. So they make a decent bird to butcher when they turn eight months old. So you might be able to get a few months of decent eggs before processing for meat.
If you can get your hands on a Marsh Daisy, this chicken breed is terrific. They lay about 250 eggs per year, starting around five months old. And they make great-tasting meat at a plump 5-6 pounds. But you will want to be selective when butchering these beauties.
Marsh Daisy chickens are a rare breed to find. You might do better making an established flock for breeding before using any as dual purpose. But if you are selling your chicks, being dual purpose is a good selling point!
We love Delaware chickens. These gorgeous hens will give you about 200 brown eggs a year, and they start at the average age of six months old. But they are also dual purpose chicken breeds, and grow to be 6-8 pounds, so a lovely table bird. Unlike most of the birds on this list, you can process Delawares at four months old. But if you wait a little longer, they grow to their full potential by eight months.
But like the Marsh Daisy, the Delaware is now categorized as a rare chicken breed. So instead of butchering your Delaware chickens straight away, you might want to breed a good stock for selling and keeping. Once you have a supply of hens and roosters, then you can start cashing in on that dual purpose meaning.
Last but not least on the 10 best dual purpose chicken breeds is the Ixworth hen. These chickens originate from England and are probably one of the rarest hens to get here in the USA. But they are also one of the most amazing and fascinating breeds to own. These hens lay 200-250 eggs per year and weigh 7 pounds by just six months old.
The downside is that it is tough to get a pair of Ixworth. And once you do, you won’t want to let them go. Instead, a flock of Ixworth is better for eggs and breeding to keep your flock alive and large.
Did One Catch Your Eye?
We have some fantastic dual purpose chicken breeds listed. And you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!