When we talk about dual-purpose chickens, we’re looking at backyard breeds that are the jack-of-all-trades in the poultry world.
But… they are truly masters of none. The best egg-laying chickens will outperform a dual-purpose breed. And for meat chickens, the difference is even more dramatic. A special meat chicken breed will way, way outperform a dual-purpose breed in quick growth. And when it comes to raising a chicken, time is money. Every day you feed that thing means more money out of your pocket.
However, if you eat your roosters and/ or older hens….or if you hatch your own chicks, dual-purpose can be an economical choice. Why? Because every bird in your flock now has a purpose, and you have an operation that can sustain itself.
But this means you need a bird that is a good mother. And it’s helpful if they can free range because it will lower your feed costs. It’s all much more complicated than it seems at first glance.
Are you with me? Let’s explore the (few!) breeds that fulfill all our requirements.
Note: If your primary objective is saving money by raising your food, dual-purpose chickens are not a good choice. I know…this seems counterintuitive. But they will cost more to feed per egg or pound of meat. You’ll do much better with a flock of Cornish Cross and Leghorns.
Another note: If you want “grocery store” quality chicken, you won’t get it from any of these breeds. Store-bought chicken is almost 100% Cornish Cross, butchered very young (6-7 weeks old). Modern tastes are not used to heritage breeds or older birds.
In case you can’t tell, I think that dual-purpose chickens are one of those things that sound great in theory but aren’t super practical.
But since you asked, here we go.
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1. Plymouth Rock Chickens (most popular choice)
Also known as Barred Rock, these birds are a popular pick for dual-purpose chicken farming. There are some solid reasons why.
First off, Plymouth Rocks are known for their consistent egg-laying ability. They might not break any world records, but they lay a decent number of eggs regularly, which is exactly what you need for a steady supply. We’re talking about roughly 200 eggs per year, which is pretty impressive. And the eggs are not just plentiful; they’re also a good size.
Now, when it comes to meat, these chickens don’t disappoint either. They grow to a good size, making them a valuable source of meat.
Another big plus with Plymouth Rocks is their temperament. These birds are usually calm and friendly, so they are easy to manage. This is especially helpful if you’re new to raising chickens. They’re not the type to cause a ruckus in the coop, which is always a relief.
Lastly, these chickens are hardy. They can adapt to various climates and environments. This makes them a reliable choice no matter where your homestead is. This adaptability also means they’re less likely to fall ill. This is a huge advantage when you’re raising chickens for both eggs and meat.
In short, Plymouth Rocks are the dependable, no-nonsense choice for a homesteader.
I personally rarely have any in my flock. I don’t think they’re pretty, and they have no personality. But they’re a practical choice!)
2. Delaware chicken (my favorite dual-purpose!)
Delaware chickens are like the unsung heroes in the world of dual-purpose poultry. They might not be as famous as some other breeds. But they should be!
Firstly, let’s talk about their egg-laying prowess. Delawares are solid layers, giving you around 4 to 5 eggs per week. That’s a pretty steady supply for any homesteader looking to keep their egg basket full. They lay huge, lovely brown eggs.
Now, onto the meat aspect. Delaware chickens were actually developed for meat production in the mid-20th century. And it shows in their size and build. They grow quickly and have a good body weight, making them an excellent choice for meat.
Another big win for Delaware chickens is their temperament. They are calm, friendly, and easy to handle. This makes them a great choice for families or anyone who prefers a more peaceful coop.
Lastly, Delaware chickens are hardy. They can withstand cold climates pretty well, thanks to their heavy feathering. This resilience is a big plus, especially in areas where the weather can be a bit unpredictable.
In conclusion, Delaware chickens are a fantastic choice for a dual-purpose breed. They bring a reliable supply of quality eggs and a commendable amount of delicious meat to the table. They are calm and hardy birds.
In case you can’t tell, I LOVE Delaware chickens. We do not raise them for meat birds but keep them solely for their egg production. They’re one of my favorite breeds!
3. Buff Orpingtons
Buff Orpingtons are often the go-to choice for many homesteaders. And there are good reasons for this. These big and adorable birds aren’t just a pretty sight in your backyard. They’re real performers in both the egg-laying and meat departments.
Let’s start with their egg-laying abilities. Buff Orpingtons are dependable layers. They won’t lay an egg every single day, but you can expect a good four to five eggs per week.
Now, when it comes to meat, Buff Orpingtons are quite impressive. They have a broad, heavy body which is ideal for meat production. The birds mature to a good size, offering a substantial amount of meat that’s known for its quality and taste. (Note: they are not “thrifty” and will require quite a bit of food to achieve this growth!)
One of the standout features of Buff Orpingtons is their temperament. These chickens are known for being friendly, docile, and easy to handle. This makes them great for families or first-time chicken keepers.
Moreover, Buff Orpingtons have good mothering instincts. These hens often go broody. They are excellent at raising their chicks. This trait can be a real asset on a homestead. It helps you sustain your chicken population naturally. For anyone who wants a dual-purpose chicken, their value is in their mothering instincts. This allows you to have a self-sustaining flock in which you eat most of the roosters and allow the hens to reproduce and lay eggs.
In summary, Buff Orpingtons are like the gentle giants of the chicken world. They’re calm, friendly, and good-natured. They’re reliable egg layers and provide a hearty meat yield. They’re the kind of all-rounder that any homesteader would be lucky to have.
Buffs are my favorite breed and if I could have one breed, this would be it. Gorgeous, friendly, and just a joy to be around. But we do not butcher ours.
Buckeyes are not a very well-known breed. But they have qualities that make them an excellent choice for both egg and meat production.
One of the first things to highlight about Buckeyes is their egg-laying capability. They are consistent layers, providing a decent amount of medium-sized, brown eggs. You can expect a Buckeye hen to lay around 3-4 eggs per week, which is pretty respectable.
Buckeyes are well-muscled birds with a good meat yield. They have a unique body shape compared to other dual-purpose breeds. They are more elongated and broad-breasted.
Another strong point for Buckeyes is their temperament. These birds are known for being friendly and easygoing. They tend to be less flighty than some other breeds. This makes them easier to manage, especially if you’re new to chicken keeping.
Where they stand out is in their ability to free range. Buckeyes are excellent foragers. They will forage for a significant part of their diet. This reduces feed costs and contributes to healthier, more active birds.
They have thick feathers that keep them warm. This makes them a great choice for homesteaders living in regions with harsh winters.
They bring a balanced mix of egg production and meat quality. They also have a pleasant temperament and hardiness, making them a versatile and valuable addition to any homestead.
Benefits of Dual-Purpose Birds
There are a few more benefits of this type of chicken.
- Space Optimization. Dual-purpose chickens are ideal for those with limited space. They need only one coop and run area. Separate flocks for meat and eggs would need more space.
- Simplified Management. Managing one flock is less time-consuming and complex. Caring for two separate flocks may involve different needs and schedules.
- Sustainability: Dual-purpose breeds often align well with sustainable living practices. This approach to poultry farming allows for self-sufficiency. It reduces waste because chickens serve many purposes throughout their life.
- Family-Friendly Option. These breeds are generally docile and good-natured. They are suitable for families or homesteaders who enjoy interacting with their flock.
- Diverse Learning Experience. Dual-purpose breeds offer a comprehensive experience in both egg and meat production. For anyone interested in learning about poultry keeping in-depth, they’re a great choice.
More Resources for Your Flock:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens: How to Raise a Happy Backyard Flock: This book is perfect for beginners in poultry farming. It covers everything from constructing chicken pens to choosing the best breed and keeping your birds healthy.
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry: A comprehensive guide covering all aspects of poultry farming, including different types of birds, health care, and marketing strategies
- Can My Chicken Eat That? What you can (and can’t supplement your chicken’s diet with to keep costs low)
Dual-purpose chicken breeds offer the best of both worlds for homesteaders but can’t do any one thing particularly well. They provide a mix of fresh eggs and sustainable meat.