Barred rock meat chicken breed

When you think of meat chicken breeds, your mind probably goes straight to the Cornish Cross broilers. This breed is the most common used for meat. The very fast growth rate of this breed is appealing, but there are plenty of heritage meat chicken breeds that can give you a good amount of meat without the health issues that come along with hybrid breeds.

Choosing a Heritage Meat Chicken Breed

If you have found yourself thinking about bringing meat birds onto your homestead, consider choosing a heritage chicken breed.

What is a heritage breed?

Heritage chicken breeds are defined by the Livestock Conservancy as breeds that adhere to the following:

  1. American Poultry Association Standard Breed
  2. Naturally Mating
  3. Long and Productive Outdoor Lifespan
  4. Slow Growth Rate

That last one, slow growth rate, sometimes causes homesteaders to avoid raising heritage breed chickens for meat. We like the idea of fast growth and quick turnarounds.

However, slow growing heritage breeds tend to have more flavorful meat and they are more sustainable because they breed true.

12 Heritage Chicken Breeds for Meat

Take a few minutes to browse these quick breed profiles of twelve different heritage meat chicken breeds that might work out perfectly for your family.

1. New Hampshire Reds

The New Hampshire breed was developed through intensive selection of Rhode Island Red chickens. This breed was admitted into the APA in 1935. New Hampshire chickens produce more meat and less eggs when compared to Rhode Island Reds. 

New Hampshire Reds are good foragers and appreciate the ability to free range. These birds will weigh between 6-9 pounds at maturity and can be processed around 16-20 weeks. 

Size: 6-9 pounds

Skin Color: Yellow

Process Age: 16-20 weeks

2. Buff Orpington

Buff Orpingtons were developed in England with the intent to improve on the dual purpose birds that were available at the time. This breed isn’t known for their foraging so they will eat more feed than heavy foraging breeds. 

Buff Orpington chickens

These chickens will weigh between 8-10 pounds at maturity. Orpingtons take a little bit longer to reach butcher age than many other meat chicken breeds and they can be processed between 18-24 weeks. 

Size: 8-10 pounds

Skin Color: White

Process Age: 18-24 weeks

3. Cornish Chickens

The Cornish breed is a heritage meat chicken breed that makes up half the parent stock of the commercial Cornish Cross breed. This breed was originally developed as a fighting bird, but quickly made its way into the meat production category instead.

Heritage Cornish chickens weigh between 8-10 pounds at maturity. They grow quite a bit slower than commercial chickens and a little slower than most heritage meat chicken breeds, but can still be processed at 18-22 weeks.

Size: 8-10 pounds

Skin Color: Yellow

Process Age: 18-22 weeks

5. Sussex

It is difficult to trace the origin of the Sussex chicken breed, but we do know that it is an ancient breed that came over from England. These birds are excellent foragers so they are a good choice for a free-range system.

Sussex chickens

This heritage breed chicken puts on fat quickly which makes their meat extra tender and juicy. Sussex chickens can reach 7-9 pounds at maturity and can be butcher around 16-20 weeks of age.

Size: 7-9 pounds

Skin Color: White

Process Age: 16-20 weeks

6. Dorking

Like the Sussex, the specific origin of the Dorking breed is a mystery. Rumor has it that Romans brought five-toed chickens over during the British invasion. This Five-toed chicken breed was likely the Dorking.

Dorkings made it to America and were recognized by the APA in 1874. The meat of the Dorking chicken breed is considered some of the most flavorful available. These chickens also have white skin which has become a desirable trait in meat chicken breeds. 

These birds reach 7-9 pounds at maturity and can be processed around 16-20 weeks of age. 

Size: 7-9 pounds

Skin Color: White

Process Age: 16-20 weeks

7. Black Australorp

The Black Australorp (Australian Orpington) is a dual purpose breed that was developed in Australia from the Black Orpington. 

Birds of this breed will weigh around 5-8 pounds at maturity and can be processed at 16-20 weeks.

Size: 5-8 pounds

Skin Color: White

Process Age: 16-20 weeks

8. Jersey Giant

Jersey Giants are a dual purpose chicken breed that was originally developed to replace turkeys on the dinner table. They grow to weights between 10-13 pounds at maturity. This is the largest purebred chicken breed in the U.S! 

This chicken breed is a slower grower reaching process age between 20-24 weeks.

Size: 10-13 pounds

Skin Color: Yellow

Process Age: 20-24 weeks

9. Barred Plymouth Rock

Barred Rocks are known as one of the oldest American breeds. This breed was used commonly as a meat source until WW2 when more commercial production breeds were developed. 

Barred Rock chickens will weigh between 7-10 pounds at maturity and can be processed at 16-20 weeks.

Size: 7-10 pounds

Skin Color: Yellow

Process Age: 16-20 weeks

10. Brahma 

Brahma chickens are known for their large size and their feathered feet. They are good foragers, but can handle a feed-only diet in confinement. 

Delaware meat chicken breed

Brahma birds are very cold hardy, but their feet can get frostbite easily if the foot feathers get wet or muddy.

These birds will reach 9-12 pounds at maturity and can be processed between 16-20 weeks of age.

Size: 9-12 pounds

Skin Color: Yellow

Process Age: 16-20 weeks

11. Dominique

The Dominique breed was used interchangeably with Barred Rocks for years. Finally it was decided that the birds with pea combs would be considered Dominique and barred birds with single combs would be Barred Rocks.

These birds will reach 5-7 pounds at maturity and can be processed between 16-20 weeks.

Size: 5-7 pounds

Skin Color: Yellow

Process Age: 16-20 weeks

12. Wyandotte

The Wyandotte breed was one of the first dual purpose chicken breeds in the United States. These birds are cold hardy and good foragers. 

Wyandotte birds will reach 6-9 pounds at maturity and they can be processed between 16-20 weeks.

Size: 6-9 pounds

Skin Color: Yellow

Process Age: 16-20 weeks

13. Delaware

The Delaware chicken breed was developed through a crossing of the Barred Plymouth Rock and New Hampshire Red breeds. 

These chickens are great foragers so they will do well (and reduce your feed costs) if they are allowed to free-range.

Delaware chickens will reach 6-9 pounds at maturity. These birds have a faster growth rate than most heritage meat chicken breeds and they can be processed as early as 12-16 weeks.

Size: 6-9 pounds

Skin Color: Yellow

Process Age: 12-16 weeks