5 Reasons To Consider Dual Purpose Chickens
It’s that time of year again.
Hatcheries are up and running, and it’s time to order your new little chicks!
There are breeds upon breeds to choose from. Layer and meat chickens, heirloom, and hybrid. The specifications can go on and on!
It can all be somewhat overwhelming!
Here are a few tips and tricks for selecting your chicken breed(s) for your homestead, plus 5 reasons to consider dual purpose chickens.
Just like with my vegetables and fruits, I prefer heirloom animal breeds. Why is this?
Because they were bred over centuries to have multiple uses, and as a homesteader, I NEED things to have as many uses as possible.
Let’s use sheep as an example. Heirloom breeds of sheep are great sources of wool, milk, and meat. They also are great grass mowers, pasture fertilizers, and you can potentially sell their offspring. Compare them with the more modern varieties of sheep who have been bred for a specific use, ie- just for milk, just for wool, or just for meat. The heirloom breeds of most animals usually provide you with a much wider range of uses.
Heirloom chicken breeds are also better suited to free-ranging and foraging, and are heartier than the more fragile hybrid breeds.
So now, we have talked about why heirloom breeds are important. That weeds out the modern varieties, but there are still QUITE a few heirloom breeds to choose from.
Oh, and you still need to pick your meat chicken breed as well as your egg laying chicken breed.
What if I told you that you could get a steady supply of eggs, AND great tasting meat from just ONE breed of chickens?
Yep, you’re going to love me.
You totally can.
Traditionally, ALL farmers and homesteaders had one breed of chickens that provided meat and eggs for their family.
“Meat chickens” are really quite a recent addition to the breeds. They were mostly brought about by factory farming. (Yuck.)
Here are those 5 reasons you should consider dual purpose chickens:
- It’s so much easier to just have one breed on your homestead. Especially if you intend to let your chickens breed and hatch eggs. Do you know what a pain it is to keep different breeds apart during the time you want them to be breeding? Let me tell you- it’s a HUGE pain! Plus, if you end up with a mixed breed, it may be ok for 1 generation, but it definitely can go downhill after that.
- Dual purpose chickens are much hardier than the super high egg layers, or the crazy fast growing meat chickens.
- Dual purpose chickens are also much more inclined to hatch their own eggs and be good mothers (a million times easier that incubating and raising them yourself).
- They usually require less feed than the fast growing meat chickens, and no more feed than a layer chicken.
- Heirloom dual purpose chickens are a valuable piece of history, and by keeping them, you are helping to preserve that history!
So, what are the drawbacks of dual purpose chickens?
You will usually get just slightly less eggs per year than the super high laying chickens, (but not much difference here.)
The biggest difference is in the meat side. These chickens aren’t going to be ready to butcher in 6-8 weeks. They are usually ready in more like 4-6 months.
However, they don’t require the large amount of feed that “meat chickens” do, and they are much more adept at free ranging, and providing their own food. Plus, these extra few weeks allow for the more natural cycle of spring hatching, and fall butchering.
We definitely prefer the trade off of dealing with having a few less eggs each year, and taking a few more weeks before butchering to trying to juggle multiple chicken breeds, a high mortality rate, and chickens who can barely support their own weight by the time they are fully grown!
So, what breeds are good heirloom, dual purpose chickens? Here are my top 4 breeds.
- Rhode Island Red (non commercial variety)
- Plymouth Rocks
We have chosen to go with Buff Orpingtons.
We love them because they are a fairly large bird (this means great amounts of meat, and not tons of flying over fences!), they are wonderful mothers, and they lay very consistently.
We initially ordered 50 straight run chicks (who will arrive in late March). The roosters will be butchered in about 6 months, and the hens will be our new layers.
Our current flock of hens will also be destined for the stew pot this fall since they are at the end of their laying years. We will keep a rooster for breeding, and several of the hens will be allowed to go broody next spring. Then the cycle will start again, and we will no longer be ordering chicks.
We will bring in a new rooster every so often to keep the breed fresh and healthy, but the flock will be completely self sustainable otherwise.
Do you raise chickens for meat or eggs?
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