Breed Spotlight: The Black Jersey Giant
Without a doubt, the Jersey Giant is the largest domesticated chicken breed available in the US. This breed has one of the more interesting development histories than any other US breed.
The Jersey Giants were developed by brothers John and Thomas Black from Burlington County, New Jersey from 1870 to 1890. The Black brothers were well known poultry men who specialized in caponizing males to make large roasting birds. To obtain the larger birds, the Black brothers used Black Javas, Black Langshans and Dark Brahmas. Over several years of selection for the largest birds, they developed a uniform flock that reliably produced some of the largest birds around. By 1895, their extra-large birds were referred to by many as “Black’s Giants”. The black in the breed name is a nod to the breed’s developer and not to feather color.
By around 1917, Dexter P. Upham of Belmar, New Jersey began breeding the Black Giants and is credited with adding Jersey to the breed’s name. In 1921 the American Association of Jersey Black Giant Breeders Clubs was formed and the name Jersey Black Giant was adopted. The American Poultry Association recognized Jersey Black Giants as a breed in 1922. There are 3 color varieties recognized: Black, Blue and White.
Jersey Giants are technically considered a dual purpose breed, but they excel as a meat producer. They grow relatively quickly, but because of their large size they will take 8 to 9 months to reach a decent size for a table bird. Their large frame develops first then the birds put on weight. If you are growing them for meat, allow plenty of time. Mature roosters can weigh up to 13 pounds and mature hens up to 10 pounds. That’s nearly double the size of most other breeds!
Jersey Giant hens lay an extra-large, brown egg that sometimes has speckles. The average rate of lay for the Jersey Giant is 3 to 4 eggs per week.
Because of their larger size, there are a few housing considerations to take when keeping Jersey Giants. Nest boxes should be 16 inches square if possible. Also, place the nest boxes lower to the ground or even on the ground for Jersey Giants. Roosting bars should be no more than 2 feet off the ground to help avoid injuries when hopping off. Also, make sure that any pop doors in the coop are large enough to comfortably allow the birds to access the outside.
The Black Jersey Giant is generally a calm, non-aggressive breed. Roosters tend to get along well with each other and with other breeds. They are a good breed for children in a backyard flock situation because of their calm temperament. But because of their large size, it may not be the best breed for children who plan to exhibit their birds.
It’s really neat to have such a large bird in your backyard flock. If you have the space to accommodate a larger breed, consider adding a Black Jersey Giant to your flock. Do you already own a Jersey Giant? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
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