The Jersey Giant chicken was developed between 1870 and 1890 by John and Thomas Black in Burlington County, New Jersey, near the town of Jobstown. As its name implies, these typically mellow chickens are impressive in size with mature roosters weighing 13 pounds and the mature hens weighing 10 pounds, making them the largest purebred chicken breed.
The original intention of the Black brothers was to create a chicken that could potentially replace turkeys as a premium table bird. During the breed’s development, Black Javas, Black Langshans, and Dark Brahmas were used to try and reach this objective. Around 1895, the term “Giant” was used to reference the breed and they became known as “Black Giants” in honor of their creators – not because of their color.
The name was later changed to “Jersey Giant” by Dexter P. Upham of Belmar, New Jersey, in honor of its state of origin. Upham was an early breeder interested in improving the breed. In 1921, the American Association of Jersey Black Giant Breeders Clubs was created and the name “Jersey Giant” was officially adopted by the group. The standard developed for the birds included a gigantic frame, single comb, yellow skin color, relatively rapid maturity, good vigor, and fine foraging ability. The Jersey Giant was recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) in 1922. Today, Jersey Giants are accepted in the APA Standard of Perfection in three color varieties – black, white, and blue.
Jersey Giants are dual-purpose chickens, but they excel as meat birds with their great body size. They’re well-suited to producing very fine and large capons. The young birds grow relatively quickly, but take time to fill out their hefty frame to produce a marketable bird. Most take up to 8 to 9 months to reach a harvestable size with good body proportions. They’re an excellent roasting bird when fully mature.
Concerning egg production, the hens of this breed tend to lay more eggs than other heavy breeds. Their eggs are extra-large in size with colors ranging from dark brown to light cream. When incubating eggs, the Jersey Giant breed sometimes takes 1 to 2 days longer to hatch than most chicken breeds.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.