Jersey giant happens to be perhaps the largest purebred of domestic chicken all over the world. If you happen to spot one, its memories will stick in your life forever credit to its huge size that ranks the bird among the gentle chicken giants of the universe.
While the popular poultry breeds have been replaced by hybrids/modern breeds that mature quickly, the Jersey Giant happens to grow slowly by the set industry standards. Folks who rear chicken know about the many benefits that they reap from the birds. But this breed looks even exceptional in that there are only a few remaining on our planet.
In this article we will focus on how the Jersey giant came around and the benefits it can offer chicken breeders and those who love the birds as well. Plus, we will look at the size, temperament, eggs, and laying capabilities of this outstanding bird. Chicken Automatic electric door
The Background of the Jersey Giant
The Jersey giant was first developed by brothers, Thomas and John Black, in New Jersey at a place close to Jobstown. Their main intention was to make the bird dominant in a marketing niche. This happened between the 1870s and 1890s when there was a high demand for huge, heavy roosting birds that would compete with the turkey which was dominant at the time.
Later during its development, other breeders introduced to the public commercial large and broad breasted turkeys in an attempt to prevent the Jersey Giant from achieving the initial targets that were set for it.
Thomas and John were using a mix of black Langshan, black Brahmas, and Black Java to come up with the bird they were after. It’s is still unknown if they had used other breeds in the initial stages.
It took some time for the name ‘Jersey Giant’ to come up. The birds were initially called ‘Giants’, but the name later changed to Black Giants in honor of their founders who were Black brothers.
At around 1917, the name changed to Jersey Black Giants in honor of the State in which the birds were founded.
The color of the bird did not receive much attention at the beginning, which prompted the creation of different colors in the feathering. Nesting Boxes for Chickens
However, a few breeders led by Meloney were also working in an attempt to standardize the breed in both color and conformation. The breed was introduced to the public where other breeders and admirers had a chance to view the bird.
In 1921, the American Association of Jersey Black Giants Breeders Clubs was established.
Meloney’s work was not in vain. After a few years, the Black Jersey Giant became accepted into APA as a black bird in 1922.
The White Jersey Giant
Later on, the White Jersey Giant emerged from the ‘sports’ of the black Giant. Sport refers to offspring that have a different color from their parents.
After years of refining these sports, the White Jersey Giant emerged and got recognized as a breed in 1947.
The livestock Conservancy enlisted the White Jersey Giant as a ‘critically endangered breed’ in 2001. Recently in 2017, the breed was moved to the ‘watch’ list.
Despite being considered rare in the United States, some backyard keepers and breeders are still trying their best to help this breed recover its fame.
It’s just one of the breed that has almost lost its popularity after the invention of the faster growing ‘industrial bird’.
The Black Jersey Giant got accepted at the American Poultry Association in 1922. It was followed by the White Jersey Giant in 1947 and the Blue Jersey Giant in 2003. Chicken Feeder
The Size of the Jersey Giant
Typically, the Jersey Giant is a big bird with the females weighing about 11 pounds while the males can hit up to 15 pounds. The black variety is normally a pound heavier that their white counterparts.
The height ranges between 16 and 20 inches while the males are around 22-26 inches.
With a long body that is both deep and wide, the bird assumes the shape of a square. The back happens to be a little broader and flat although the tail is relatively shorter in comparison to the size of the bird.
Black giants have a beetle green sheen which looks absolutely amazing when they are exposed in sunlight.
Whereas their legs are black, the soles on their feet are yellow with four toes to each foot. They don’t have feathers on their feet. This breed is easily confused with the Australorps. However, you can easily tell the differences between these breeds based on their legs. Australorp chickens have black legs, and the bottoms are pinkish-white. On the other hand, the legs of Jersey Giant are yellowish at the bottom.
Comb and Skin
Jersey Giants have a single comb and the earlobes and wattles are long and red in color. The birds have a yellow skin.
The baby chicks are usually black, but you may spot some creamy patches on the wing tips, underbody, and around the face.
The eyes tend to be dark brown with a beak that is black but tends to have a slight shade of yellow toward the tip.
The White Giants have willow colored legs but their soles are also yellow. Their beaks are more yellowish.
Their necks are long and elegant which makes them have a regal bearing.
The shanks of the Blue Jersey Giants are nearly black while their feathers are lined up with darker blue.
The feathers of all the Giants are tighter than you can find in nearly all the other poultry breeds. This makes them easier to clean before they are presented t shows or exhibitions. The feathers also serve them well in cold weather, which makes them cold tolerant.
The black color of Jersey Giants originates from the dominant black gene. This implies that if you are using all the black birds, you will get nothing else other than black birds. You may occasionally find some brassy or colored feathering in tail, hackles, or necks, though this is a fault.
The white color represents the recessive white gene. This means that you will need two copies of the white gene to get a white bird.
If you breed a white and a black, only the white birds should result.
The Blue Jersey Giant originates from the blue gene. It is an incomplete dominant gene, which implies that only one copy of the gene is necessary to make a black bird blue. Breeding a black to a blue should result to 50% black and 50% blue. Breeding blue to blue will give you 50% blue, 25% black, and 25% splash.
Splash indicates that the chicken bears two copies of the blue gene, and will mostly be pale blue in color.
Jersey Giant Temperament
Although the Jersey Giant is a huge bird to behold, it is generally a docile, calm bird, even the roosters. They tend to be very friendly, and most people keep them as pets rather than their intended purpose of meat.
Generally, they interact very well with children but their huge sizes can be intimidating to some little kids because they stand so high.
The hens are not good brooders, and when they become broody, they aren’t the best. Their heavy weight is the major setback because they can easily break their eggs.
The eggs of Jersey Giants are extremely large. It is because of the size that the chicks can take a little longer to hatch. The hen can lay 150-200 eggs per year, which is equivalent to 2-4 eggs per week. Their eggs are light to mid brown in color.
Pullets can take up to 6 months before they start laying eggs.
They will continue producing eggs throughout with more prolific laying during the winter months.
You can set the eggs of the Jersey Giant under a regular broody hen to ensure that you have a continuous supply of these kinds of quality birds.
Chicks normally have a ‘tuxedo’ pattern and their heads and bodies can be black, pale blue, smoky, yellow.
Should You Own the Jersey Giants?
The Jersey Giant is one of the best and superb birds you should rear in your backyard. It is not only gentle and friendly, but also interacts very well with other poultry breeds. Its huge size ensures that it won’t be subject to bullying from other birds in your flock.
They can fly although they don’t enjoy flying and are not flighty like other chicken breeds. This makes them easier to handle.
They are good foragers and have the ability to roam freely and exercise which is essential in growth and muscle development.
Because of their huge bodies, they are not susceptible to predators like hawks. However, you should keep an eye on your flock if you own other domestic animals like dogs and cats.
It is also good to take precautions if you reside in an area where there hawks and/or foxes. You can easily check with local zoos, zoos, animal shelters, and pet stores to find out the common predators within your neighborhood.
The Jersey Giant stands out very high when it comes to meat production. It is for this reason that most folks keep this breed. Apart from being great in taste, it is said that one bird can conveniently feed a family of five.
With that in mind, it is worth noting that Giants may take a little longer before they mature. The chicks are normally equal the size of other breeds in six weeks. It is from this point that you will start noticing that they are growing larger. A rooster can take up to 6 months before attaining a weight of 10 pounds. According to most people who keep them, it may take a year to build the frame and another one to build the flesh. This means that the bird is not an ideal option if you are after a quickly maturing meat bird.
The Jersey Giants are normally given a standard ration, but they should regularly be served with minerals and vitamins which are essential for strong bones and development. If you skimp on their nutrition needs, problems such as weak muscles and bones can occur. They are great foragers and allowing them to forage freely will help them acquire many of the minerals and nutrients they require from the land.
Cost of Rearing the Jersey Giant
It is important to put into consideration the cost of rearing such a huge bird before selecting your breed. Over time, the Jersey Giant will cost you more to feed because they tend to eat more and take time before they mature.
Based on their weight and large size, you should place the perches in the coop a little closer to the ground than standard. This will avoid injuries in their legs. The perches should also be strong.
Other than leg injuries, this breed is robust and is not prone to unusual health or genetic issues. In fact, it is resistant to many illnesses that are common in other chicken breeds.
It is obvious that this bird is not a good option for an urban setup, but it is a great choice if you have a spacious backyard.
Jersey Giants Benefits
These birds are excellent if you have enough space and resources. Their benefits include:
- Large size that makes them fit table birds for the entire family.
- Can tolerate cold climatic conditions.
- They are sustainable because the hens tend to go broody easily.
- Not susceptible to health issues.
- The hens are superb layers.
- Unlike industrial chickens, their breed is heritage. This means they can reproduce and maintain their genetic qualities through natural mating.
- They have a lengthy reproductive lifespan of between 8 and 12 years depending on the conditions they are brought up.
- You will get a chance to enjoy the crow of the rooster which is slightly different from other chicken breeds.
Jersey Giants Flaws
Definitely, nothing happens to be perfect. You will obviously find something dissatisfying with any chicken breed. Some of the remarkable flaws of Jersey Giants include:
- They mature slowly unlike many other chicken breeds out there.
- They have dark feathers which can leave black pinfeathers on a plucked bird after butchering. You can reduce the detriment by raising the White Jersey Giants.
- Roosters can tend to be a little tough on hen due to their large size. Although roosters are not harsh toward people, it is not uncommon to find a few hens with bare backs unless you keep roosters in a different coop.
- They require more feed, which can offset by letting the chickens to feed on the land.
Ideal Climate for Jersey Giants
These birds tend to be hardy and can thrive in completely cold hard weather conditions even the extreme winters. Although it may not be an issue for the Jersey Giants, it is a good idea to take some precautions if the weather becomes too hot or too cold. Some extreme weather conditions can affect they way your breed grows, mates, and reproduces.
If you want to put them in total confinement, you should ensure theirs coops are large enough with a minimum space of four square feet per bird. A bigger space is better because some other sources recommend that each bird should get a space of eight square feet.
It is good to ensure that there is enough space for nesting boxes as well as nightly roosting rails that are at least 1.5 inches wide.
Ventilation should be good but not too drafty for extreme winter conditions. It is good to raise the coop a few inches from the ground to ensure that your birds have enough space to roost and lay eggs particularly in rainy weather.
Although the birds may not enjoy flying, it is advisable to ensure that the coop run completely covered. Who knows if they will be able to fly? Plus, the white varieties are susceptible to predators at night than their black counterparts. And despite their big sizes, there are some night predators that don’t mind about the size of your chicken.
It is worth giving your birds an extra legroom in the covered run especially if you have two or more birds in the coop.
Other important accessories for your coop include:
- Nesting boxes
- Straw for the roosting area and boxes
- Feeders or food bowls
- Water bowls or troughs
- Roosting rails
- Animal carrier for relocation purposes
- Heating lamps
What is the right Flock Size?
Jersey Giants are comfortable irrespective of your flock size if they have at least one companion. And the companion doesn’t have to be a Jersey Giant. It will freely and comfortably mingle with other poultry breeds in your flock. But for the purpose of a continuous breed, perhaps you should rear both sexes.
Where to Buy Jersey Giants
There are a few accredited outlets where you can source the Jersey Giants. It is advisable to contact reputable livestock stores if you are planning to keep these huge poultry breeds.
Some few online poultry outlets may be stocking the Jersey Giants and you can search the internet to find out if they are in stock. Before making orders online or from poultry livestock outlets, check the breed authentication type and breed quality.
You can also find more information and advice from the American Poultry Association through registered breeders around your area.
American Livestock Conservancy also keeps records of registered breeders for different breeds. If you don’t find anything listed for the Jersey Giant, calling or mailing them will help you find the right direction.
You can also join the National Jersey Giant Club where you can connect with registered breeders to get advice on various hatcheries or poultry retailers near your location.
Given that the Jersey Giants have now been listed as a ‘watch’ in the conservation status, it might be necessary to acquire an extra license before you are permitted to stock some in your garden. It is therefore important to check with your local conservation department for advice on what the bird’s conservation requirements entail.
If you are a breeder, always check your birds’ bloodiness and make sure that you are getting your birds from a reputable farm or breeder. The sale of this breed also has some requirements. All have to be recorded and documented. You should thus check with your local animal breeding organizations in regard to their records.
You must present these legitimate documents if you decide to participate in public poultry shows or competitions.
For additional information, check out with your local animal welfare center if you are planning to adopt a rescued animal.
Despite there being some other important factors to consider before keeping Jersey Giants, like food, space, and coop size, it is pretty easy to raise these birds.
The Jersey Giant is a great choice if you have a large family and your garden is spacious enough. They are great birds to behold in your home as you watch them comfortably mingle with your kids, pets and other poultry breeds.
You won’t miss an occasional delicious mealtime and the regular egg supply will offer a sumptuous breakfast for your family. Given that they can suit nearly all weather types and that they are resistant to common illnesses, you won’t mind a lot in terms of treatment expenses.
However, this is not the right breed if you intend to raise table birds in months, but it is worth the wait. They are also unfit if you have limited space.
These splendid giants are worth both the effort and time required in bringing them up. Give them a try if you have time and space. You will definitely come to like them as they aren’t worth any regrets. You too can become a part of the few Jersey Giant owners in the world!