10 Best Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds

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Have you decided what chicken breeds to bring onto your homestead this year? Do you want meat, eggs, or both out of your flock? Cornish Cross and Rangers are good meat options and productive breeds like Leghorns are great for eggs, but did you know that you can raise dual-purpose chicken breeds that will give your family meat AND eggs in one?

Raising Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds for Meat

Dual-purpose chickens may not be as fast-growing or as heavy as hybrid meat birds and may not reach the full egg production potential of a Leghorn, but they offer their own benefits.

Choosing a dual-purpose breed allows you to:

  • Enjoy both eggs and meat out of one breed
  • Utilize heritage chicken breeds
  • Keep only one flock
  • Feed a lower protein feed
  • Rely more on foraging and less on commercial feed (if free ranging)
  • Become more sustainable

What are Dual-Purpose Chickens

Dual-purpose chicken breeds are used for both egg-laying and meat production. These birds will give you a significant amount of eggs each year as well as being good-sized table birds. You can keep the most productive layers and butcher the remainder of the flock for meat and/or butcher the cockerels as soon as they reach processing age.

*Keep in mind that these birds will take longer to grow out for meat than a breed that is used specifically for meat.

Factors for Choosing a Dual-Purpose Chicken Breed

When choosing a chicken breed, consider these factors:

Laying Age

Laying age is the age at which you can expect hens to start laying eggs. Most breeds will start to lay by around the 6-month mark, but this can vary.

Eggs per year

Most dual-purpose chicken breeds lay a good number of eggs each year, but it is good to know the breed standard for egg production so you have an idea of how much to expect.

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Processing Age

Cornish cross birds are able to be butchered between 8-10 weeks of age. This is not true for dual-purpose breeds. The breeds that we will discuss in this post will take 16 weeks or more to grow out.

Mature Weight

The mature weight of a chicken is just that, how much it weighs at maturity. Large breeds can lay upwards of 13+ pounds while standard breeds will be closer to 5-7 pounds.

Foraging Ability

If you plan to free-range or pasture your birds, they will need to have a high foraging instinct so they can get nutrients from available plants, insects, and small animals. Many dual-purpose breeds are excellent foragers that are well-suited for free ranging.

Heritage

The livestock conservancy uses this description for heritage chicken breeds- “Traditional, historic breeds [that] retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites.”

Temperature Hardiness

Some birds are more suitable for hot climates and cold climates than others. Comb types, feathering, body size, and feathers on feet play into this.

Broodiness

If you want to hatch your own chicks without an incubator, then it is important to have a broody breed. You will want broody hens that will set and be great mothers to their chicks in order to add to your happy and healthy flock.

10 of the Best Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds

1. Wyandotte

Wyandottes are a great dual-purpose option. They aren’t the heaviest layers, but they can start laying a little earlier than other breeds. They will produce a good-sized table bird.

  • Laying Age: 4-5 months
  • Eggs per year: 200
  • Processing Age: 16-20 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 6-9 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Good
  • Broodiness: Low
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2. Buff Orpington

The Orpington is the go-to dual-purpose bird for many homesteaders. They lay a significant amount of eggs each year and they produce a good amount of meat for a family.

  • Laying Age: 5-7 months
  • Eggs per year: 250-280
  • Processing Age: 18-22 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 8-10 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Good
  • Broodiness: High

3. Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rocks are a classic heritage breed that will lay up to 280 eggs per year and produce a 7-10 pound bird at maturity. You can’t go wrong with this dual-purpose chicken breed.

  • Laying Age: 4-5 months
  • Eggs per year: 220-280
  • Processing Age: 16-20 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 7-10 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Good
  • Broodiness: Low

4. Brahma

Brahmas are a cold-hardy heavy breed. They may take a little longer to start laying, but the additional meat can make up for that.

  • Laying Age: 6-7 months
  • Eggs per year: 150-200
  • Processing Age: 16-20 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 9-12 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Moderate
  • Broodiness: High

5. Delaware

The Delaware breed is commonly raised by homesteaders for eggs and meat. They offer up to 200 eggs per year as well as a good amount of meat to put on the table.

  • Laying Age: 5-6 months
  • Eggs per year: 200
  • Processing Age: 12-16 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 6-9 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Great
  • Broodiness: Low-Moderate

6. Black Australorp

This is my personal favorite dual-purpose chicken breed. Black Australorps (Australian Orpingtons) are prolific layers that also produce a decent-sized table bird.

  • Laying Age: 5-6 months
  • Eggs per year: 281-364
  • Processing Age: 16-20 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 5-8 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Great
  • Broodiness: Low-Moderate

7. Rhode Island Red

One of the most well-known dual-purpose chicken breeds is the Rhode Island Red. These birds have been bred to produce more eggs than meat, but you will still get family-sized table birds out of them.

  • Laying Age: 4-6 months
  • Eggs per year: 200-300
  • Processing Age: 16-20 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 6.5-8.5 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Great
  • Broodiness: Low
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8. Speckled Sussex

The Sussex is a beautiful dual-purpose breed that will lay up to 250 eggs per year. They were originally bred as heavy-breed table birds, but they are now used by homesteaders for both eggs and meat.

  • Laying Age: 4-6 months
  • Eggs per year: 180-250
  • Processing Age: 16-20 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 7-9 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Good
  • Broodiness: High

9. Dominique

The Dominique (Dominiker) is the oldest known American chicken breed. Dominiques are cold hardy birds that will lay a significant amount of eggs and produce a nice table bird.

  • Laying Age: 6 months
  • Eggs per year: 230-275
  • Processing Age: 16-20 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 5-7 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Good
  • Broodiness: Low

10. Jersey Giant

This is a very heavy and cold hardy breed. The hens lay up to 200 eggs per year and they produce a large table bird. It will take 6+ months to grow out for meat, but you won’t be disappointed.

  • Laying Age: 5-7 months
  • Eggs per year: 150-200
  • Processing Age: 20-24 weeks
  • Mature Weight: 10-13 pounds
  • Heritage: Yes
  • Foraging Ability: Good
  • Broodiness: Moderate

More About Raising Chickens

Whether you’ll be free-ranging them or not, keep reading for more information about raising the healthiest and happiest backyard chickens on your homestead!

  • Are Farm-Fresh Eggs Safe?
  • 5 Reasons to Raise Pastured Livestock
  • Why You Need a Rooster
  • How to Keep Chickens Warm in the Winter
  • How to Treat Common Chicken Illnesses
  • 10 Ways to Help Chickens Beat the Heat
  • Chicken Breeds for Colorful Eggs
  • Cornish Cross vs. Freedom Ranger: Which Meat Chicken Breed Should You Choose?
  • Heritage Meat Chicken Breeds
  • Save Money Raising Chickens for Eggs
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>