Recently, we talked about the smallest of chickens, bantams. Naturally, we had to research the origins and characteristics of the largest breed, the Jersey Giant.
Is it too obvious? The Jersey Giant is named for the place of its origin – New Jersey, USA. And, as their name implies, they are the largest purebred breed of domestic chickens.
Two brothers, John and Thomas Black had an idea of replacing the turkey as the preferred meat fowl. They cross-bred a variety of large birds including Black Javas, Black Langshans , and Dark Brahmas. As a result, the Jersey Giant has shiny black feathers with an almost beetle-like green sheen. There is also a white Jersey Giant, but it is the black version that is most familiar and better known. The breed was originally called Black Giants. Oddly enough, though, this was due to the brothers Black and not the deep, rich ebony plumage.
Jersey Giant hens lay large to extra-large medium brown eggs. They can be broody, but it is best not to allow them to try to hatch their eggs. It is very likely the delicate shells will break under the heft of the hen. If you are attempting to breed Jersey Giants, you are better off using an incubator. Allow an extra day or two for the eggs to hatch. Due to the size of the eggs, it takes a little longer for the chicks to break through. When they do, they are primarily black with a bit of off-white or cream coloring on the tips of their wings, around their faces, and on their soft little bellies.
While the Jersey Giant averages 12-14 pounds, it is unlikely that it will be substituting for your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey. The Jersey Giant is slower than other meat birds to reach its massive size. Thus, they are not as favored by the meat industry.
Both hens and roosters have single red combs. Wattles and earlobes are red, too. The rooster’s crow is deeper and louder than most, but these birds are gentle giants and seldom aggressive. They are as good with pets as they are as pets.
So, if there were a bantam version of the Jersey Giant, would it be a normal sized chicken?
This article was written by our contributing author, Terri Grover-Miller
Feature photo: BackyardChickens.com; Chicks: http://azoony.com/hattrips/seaside.html; Rooster in lap: juxtapost.com.