Backyard Chickens – The 5 Best Meat Chicken Breeds

Choosing A Meat Chicken

Are you thinking about raising meat chickens in a backyard and wonder which are the best meat chicken breeds? With the growing popularity of raising backyard chickens comes an increasing interest in raising meat chickens.  Dual-purpose chickens, those yielding both eggs and meat, are the most popular. But many backyard chicken farmers are turning to meat chickens for their better flavor.

Just like with egg layers, a different result comes with different meat chicken breeds. Choosing the best meat chicken breeds depends on what you’re looking to achieve.


meat chicken breeds

Picture courtesy of Lee’s Feed Catoosa, Oklahoma.

Best Breeds for Raising Meat Chickens in a Backyard


Broilers are chickens raised specifically for meat. They grow much faster than egg laying hens or dual purpose breeds. Most broilers have a fast growth rate with a high feed conversion ratio and low activity levels. In five weeks, broilers can reach a dressed weight of 4-5 pounds. Dual-purpose breeds, usually raised for both meat and egg production, are smaller with a slower growth rate.

Cornish Cross

The Cornish Cross is an excellent, fast growing broiler. Harvest time for a 4 pound broiler is normally 7 to 8 weeks. Their body make-up is superb, with broad breasts, large legs and thighs and a rich yellow skin.

Jersey Giant

Originating in the United States, this bird was developed to replace the turkey. A purebred chicken, the Giant’s weight averages 11-13 pounds. Jersey Giants grow at a slower rate than other meat birds, about 6 months to full maturity, making them undesirable to commercial industry. While originally a meat chicken, today, the Giant is prized as a dual-purpose bird, laying extra-large brown eggs.

Heritage / Heirloom

When describing Heritage chickens, the words heirloom, old-fashion and antique come to mind. The American Poultry Association began defining these breeds in 1873; setting standards for birds as being well adapted to various climates, hardy and long-lived and reproducing at a rate to provide a protein source to the growing nation.

As chicken breeding became industrialized, these breeds were replaced by fast growing hybrids. Today, more than three dozen chicken breeds are listed as in danger of extinction. To avoid irrevocable loss caused by the extinction of a breed, The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy sets standards for marketing these as Heritage.

I love Heritage breeds preferring them to the newer, fast growing breeds. They are large meaty chickens and many also produce a nice amount of eggs. I usually buy my Heritage breeds on line since they are harder to find locally than what more popular breeds are.

Heritage Chicken Breeds:

Campine, Chantecler, Crevecoeur, Holland, Modern Game, Nankin, Redcap, Russian Orloff, Spanish, Sultan, Sumatra, Yokohama, Andalusian, Buckeye, Buttercup, Cubalaya, Delaware, Dorking, Faverolles, Java, Lakenvelder, Langshan, Malay, Phoenix, Ancona, Aseel, Brahma, Catalana, Cochin, Cornish , Dominique , Hamburg, Houdan, Jersey Giant , La Fleche, Minorca, New Hampshire , Old English Game, Polish, Rhode Island White, Sebright , Shamo, Australorp, Leghorn- Non-industrial, Orpington, Plymouth Rock , Rhode Island Red – Non industrial , Sussex, Wyandotte , Araucana, Iowa Blue, Lamona, Manx Rumpy (Persian Rumpless), Naked Neck (Turken).

Preferred Heritage Meat Chicken Breeds:

Delaware – A heavy bodied bird, the male can weigh up to 8.5 pounds and a female, 6.5 pounds. Originating from the U.S., the Delaware is hardy in heat and cold and matures quickly. The meat is delicious and the hens lay jumbo eggs. Delawares have calm and friendly dispositions

Dorking – This relatively calm bird is non-aggressive so it does well around children and small dogs. Another dual-purpose chicken, the Dorking is a superior table fowl with tender flesh and meaty breasts and wings. Dorkings are productive winter layers, providing a steady egg supply when other breeds are not laying. Good broody hens and excellent mothers, they stay with their chicks much longer than other breeds.

Buckeye – This is the only American breed exclusively created by a woman; developed by Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio. This dual-purpose breed is very cold weather hardy and adapts to various living conditions. However, because they are very active, they do not do well in confined spaces, adapting best to free-range. Hens lay medium-sized brown eggs and weigh an average of 6.5 pounds; roosters average 9 pounds.


When you plan raising meat chickens in a backyard, consider your backyard space and setup and the amount of time you have to devote. You can use most backyard chicken breads for meat chickens, but each breed differs in flavor and meat texture. The backyard chicken breeds in this article are good for the table. For more information about meat chickens, check out our article Raising Meat Chickens.

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  1. We just processed a dozen Red Rangers. It was our first time and that was what we chose to try it all out on. We would like to process another round, but we want a chicken that is Heirloom and not bred to grow super fast, but not be super slow either. The main thing is to try to stay as clean as possible, going alongside out organic/non gmo eating. In reading this blog post…it appears that a Delaware is your favorite for growing for meat. Would it be considered a “natural” breed….and to make sure I understand your comments….
    1) this breed is considered Heirloom, and not hormone induced in order to create big birds quickly
    2) great birds for cold and hot
    3) roosters can live a while, and breed with hens….even if i only have 2 hens of this breed (so i can keep them in a separate place from my other 12 layers and not risk cross breeding)will they be too heavy to fly up into their nitetime house….i have a smaller house I used up until a month ago for my other birds and they flew up abt 4 feet to get into the house to lay eggs or sleep
    4) will be broody enough to sit on eggs and take care of babies
    5) will produce good meat
    6) are the roosters mean, can they be trusted with my kids

    Thx much!

    • One more question about these birds…if our main reason for growing them is to have meat birds by way of eggs and hens hatching/growing….what should i feed the birds. They will obviously lay eggs, and we will eat the eggs when we dont want babies….but should they get fed layer or broiler feed. I order my feed from Sunrise Farms. They recommend feeding their broiler feed after starter as the in between feed.
      What do you suggest as the diet for these birds?

      • Since I separate my birds, I feed my hen’s laying pellets and all my chickens get the table scraps and I let them free range a lot.

        One thing to remember with heirloom breeds like the Delaware, they do take much longer to go from egg to table size. But I personally think it is worth the prepared planning for this, not only from a humane standpoint but a non chemical standpoint as well.

        Meat chickens need high protein diets especially the first 8 weeks so some people supplement with whey. So look for the food with the highest protein. Some people recommend feeding them meat. I do not hold to this idea as I think it encourages carnivorous behavior.

  2. Thank you for this article! A question about the cornish crosses, I have been buying mine from a commercial hatchery but I want to start breeding them myself… do they live long enough to breed? Or are they not “designed” genetically to live to breeding age?

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