Here is a list of the best dual purpose chickens for homestead living. Choosing which breeds of chickens can be overwhelming because there are so many breeds available. For your homestead, I suggest going with a dual-purpose breed. These are chickens that work for egg production and meat production.
What is a dual purpose chicken?
Dual-purpose chickens produce quality eggs as well as have tasty meat. Now, in reality, you could eat an “egg layer chicken,” but they won’t be quite as large as a dual purpose. They also do great at free ranging and foraging. Assuming you want broodiness, the dual purpose chickens still get broody from time to time as well. Dual purpose chickens also are known for being good winter layers, which in our South Dakota winters, is exactly what we want.
When I tell you that dual purpose chickens are resilient, I mean it. They are resilient. Let me tell you a little bit about my unconventional way of raising chicken.
Chickens on my homestead
When I got into the chicken world after we moved into our dream home, I ordered 30 hens. Those chickens were loved, fed the proper amount of organic chicken feed, always had clean water, and were able to free range. About two years into our journey, they started eating their own eggs! For about an entire year I tried breaking that habit.
Finally, my husband told me to stop stressing about them. Stop feeding them. Let them just be our yard tick eaters. So, that’s what we did. I stopped feeding them chicken feed.
Let me tell you what. Those chickens became rockstars! I have not feed my chickens in over 3 years, except the January-ish to March-ish time period when there are no bugs on the ground. Actually, this winter has been very mild and I haven’t feed them at all. The last 2 years, I haven’t even given them water. Now, before you call PETA on me, listen to this.
People constantly comment on how healthy my chickens look. They want to know my secret. My secret is to let them just be chickens.
I have one chicken left from my original flock. I keep her around because she gets broody so much. Broodiness is a good trait on my homestead. The rest of the chickens have been raised by my chickens. Year after year, they train new baby chicks to live like chickens should.
The 3 best dual purpose chicken breeds for homestead living
Now that you know why I love dual purpose chickens, let’s go over the best dual purpose breeds for homestead living. All three of these breeds of chicken are great for homesteading as well as great for beginners because they are survivors. All three of my choice for best chicken breeds are also all heritage breeds.
Heritage chicken breeds are dual-purpose birds that are from parent and grandparent stock of a breed of chicken recognized by the American Poultry Association from the early 1900s.
Rhode Island Reds
This chicken is first on the list because it seems to be the one that everyone knows. They are a popular breed. The rhode island red chicken could be the mascot of homestead chickens. No other dual purpose lays more or better eggs than the Rhode Island Reds. Hens weigh about 6.5 pounds and roosters about 8.5 pounds. Rhode Island Red chickens are friendly birds. It is not uncommon to see small children carrying around this docile breed on the family homestead.
You might have heard of New Hampshire Reds too. These chickens were originally a variant strain of Rhode Island Red chickens but they are different chicken breeds.
Buff orpington is a wonderful heritage breed! They are actually my favorite best dual purpose chickens for homestead living. These large birds should be around ten pounds for the male and eight pounds for the female.
Black Australorps are one of the best light brown egg layers. Australorps are large birds — males weigh 6 to 8 pounds at maturity, and females weigh 5 to 7 pounds.
Getting Our Own Chickens
All of my choices for the best dual-purpose chicken breeds will be a great addition to you. Whether you have a backyard flock or a small farm, these will be the best option to get lots of eggs and and your own meat.
As I am writing this, it is 2022. Our original plan for this year was to buy cornish crosses for meat chickens. In the past years, we always got red rangers. Unfortunately, I could not find anywhere that had the amount I wanted in stock for when I wanted them to arrive. So, we are utilizing dual purpose birds this year for all of our meat birds. We have eaten these breeds before and they are great. Our plan is to butcher all of the roosters and leave then hens, utilizing them the best we can for their different purposes. Assuming there is a 50/50 split between roosters and hens. This year we ordered 63 chickens.
These birds do not have a fast growth rate, however they are excellent foragers so even though we will have to wait longer to butcher, we can take advantage of having these active foragers making their way through the pastures after the cows go through.
Where do I order chickens from?
Murray McMurray Hatchery out of Iowa is where I bought my original chickens from. I do hear a lot of good things about Hoover Hatchery as well.
When to butcher dual purpose chickens?
Most dual purpose chickens will start laying eggs at five months and will not be ready for slaughter until 18-20 weeks old. However, once your chickens stop laying eggs, you can butcher them and they are great stewing hens.
Are these good choices for colder climates?
I live in the northern midwest of the United States. We have cold winters here. It is not uncommon to get wind chills in the negative double digits. In all my years with chickens, I have lost one rooster during the winter. Honestly, I am not the best chicken keeper in the winter months but these beautiful birds show me time and time again that they are the best choice for the job.
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Best Chicken Supplies
Heating Plate, not a heat lamp
I would buy this Chick Brooder Heating Plate over and over again. One morning, I went out to my chicken coop and a heat lamp had caused a fire! Luckily, I got there in time before the coop was lost. However, baby chicks were lost. After that, I knew I needed a better solution.
Feeding & Watering Containers
Baby chicks will poop all in their food and water if you just have it in a bowl. Buying some chick feeder and waterers is the best option.