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11 Best Meat Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead

Raising homegrown meat isn’t as hard as it sounds, and you don’t even need a lot of space. First, you have to figure out which meat chicken breed you want to raise.

When 2020 struck, it seemed like the perfect time for our family to make the journey into raising meat chicken breeds. We raised chickens for years beforehand and culled several roosters, but we never set out to breed solely for meat production.

The first thing I had to do was pick the meat chicken breeds I wanted to raise. Ultimately, I went with Cornish Cross with a few Freedom Rangers mixed in for diversity.

I know we aren’t the only people to make the big switch.

Now, we still have to buy chicken meat in the stores; I’m developing a plan to reduce how much chicken we need to buy each year. However, that may take some time!

Until then, one of my goals is to figure out which of these chicken breeds for meat I like the most on my dinner table. I spent time researching the different options; let’s take a look at some of the top picks.

Related: Raising Cornish Cross Chickens: 8 Things You Need to Know

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Types of Meat Chicken Breeds

Broiler Chickens

Chickens raised specifically with the goal of meat production are called broiler chickens. They are excellent meat chickens because the grow faster than dual-purpose chickens and their meat tends to be more similar to what we enjoy in the stores.

Broiler chickens take up to 9 weeks to reach butchering weight; some butcher even sooner if they prefer 4-5 pounds for their birds.

Dual-Purpose Chickens

Dual-purpose chickens give you the best of both worlds. These chickens can be used for egg-laying purpose and meat birds.

As a homesteader, I appreciate this versatility and sustainability in a chicken flock.

This is often the best way to get the most bang for your buck since you can breed these chickens and continue to replenish your stock and freezer.

Heritage Breeds

Heritage breeds are traditional chicken breeds with slow to moderate growth weight. Expect these chickens to take 16-20 weeks or more to reach market weight, but they have longer life spans and reach large sizes.

Another appealing feature of heritage chicken breeds is their genetics are maintained through natural mating, free of any genetic hybridization.

Some breeds are in danger of extinction, which is sad because so many of these breeds are amazing for homesteaders. These chicken breeds adapt well to various climates, produce plenty of eggs, and have quality meat – if you have the patience.

Related: 11 Heritage Chicken Breeds Every Homesteader Needs in Their Flock

11 Best Meat Chicken Breeds

1. Cornish Cross

The most popular of the meat chicken breeds for homesteaders is the Cornish Cross chickens. These chickens have the fastest growth rate out of any other breed. It’s possible for these birds to reach up to 12lbs in on 8 weeks.

Commercial meat producers select this breed because of their fast growth rate. When you need to send meat out to so many families, fast growing rate is a huge factor.

However, this means they often have low activity levels – or so people say.

I have a different experience raising Cornish Cross chickens because we allowed ours limited access to feed – so not 24 hour access. If that’s the case, they will absolutely sit in front of the feeder and fill up all day long. We allowed them to free range and found they forage well, especially when they are with a mixed flock and get to see what the other ones are doing.

Sometimes, breaking the norm shows you some interesting things.

Anyway, another reason why Cornish Cross chickens are so popular is that they have big breasts, large thighs, and thick legs. Male birds reach up to 12lbs, while females reach 8-9lbs.

  • Average Weight: 8-12lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 7-10 weeks
  • Colors Available: White
  • Pros: Grow Fast, Produce Lots of White Meat, Profitable, & Taste Great
  • Cons: Eat A Lot, Health Problems, Not Sustainable & Have Stinky Poops

2. Bresse

Never heard of Bresse Chickens? Don’t be surprised; these chickens aren’t as common in the United States as they ought to be. They are popular in France and prized for their meat quality.

Some say Bresse chickens have the best tasting meat in the world!

Bresse chickens are large, white chickens with blue feet. They’re considered an expensive breed, so many homesteaders and farmers stay away from them, but the cost is deceiving. A simple breeding pair is all you need to buy. Then, hatch your chickens from that pair!

Homesteaders who are interested in raising top-quality meat for their family will love Bresse chickens. Their meat is known for being some of the most tenderest available, and while the chickens aren’t very large, you’re raising them for quality not quantity!

  • Average Weight Range: 5-7lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 16 to 20 weeks
  • Colors Available: White, Black, Blue & Grey
  • Pros: Delicious Tasting Meat, Docile, & Lay Eggs for Hatching
  • Cons: Expensive, Less Meat & Harder to Find

3. Freedom Rangers

Freedom Rangers are a broiler chicken, created to forage and survive pasture-fed. Those who focus on truly organic meat chicken breeds often pick these ones because they are excellent at foraging.

Freedom Rangers thrive on bugs, corn feed, and whatever else they find on their daily searching. While some birds, especially meat chickens, won’t survive from foraging, these ones will.

Homesteaders love that!

These chickens take longer to reach harvesting size, but not nearly as long as some dual-purpose or heritage breeds. They take up to 12 weeks, on average, to come to harvesting size. Some swear by the flavor of these birds – apparently, they’re amazing for roasted chickens!

However, they are a bit on the smaller side, which is something to consider if you want large birds.

  • Average Weight Range: 5-7lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 9-12lbs
  • Colors Available: Red, Tricolor, & Black
  • Pros: Excellent at Free Ranging, Easy to Keep, Low Feed Costs & Great Tasting Meat
  • Cons: Slower Growth Rate & Smaller Birds Overall

4. Jersey Giant

One of my very first chickens was a Jersey Giant, and I loved that hen. She was LARGE – clocking in around 11lbs – but she was docile and sweet as pie.

These dual purpose meat chicken breeds began with the thought of using them to replace turkeys, and while that has never happened, they are quite large and in charge. An average Jersey Giant weighs anywhere from 11-14lbs.

So, why aren’t they at the top of the list?

They grow at a much slower pace than broiler chickens. Not only does that mean you have to wait until later to harvest for your dinner table, but it means they require more of your time and feed. So, they may cost more to raise overall.

You don’t have to raise these chickens for meat!

Since they are egg layers as well, expect plenty of extra-large brown eggs. If you want a meat chicken breed that is sustainable and you can raise yourself without needing to put orders into the hatcheries, this could be an excellent choice for you.

  • Average Weight Range: 10-13lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 16-21 Weeks
  • Colors Available: Black, Blue & White
  • Pros: Large Chickens, Docile, Lays Large Eggs & Sustainable for Homesteaders
  • Cons: Slower Growth & Different Meat Texture

5. Leghorns – White & Brown

White Leghorns are known for being one of the best egg laying chicken breeds available today. These chickens lay up to 280 white eggs per year, and the same goes for Brown Leghorns.

It’s easy to think that there is something different about these breeds, but nothing is. Both are excellent layers and dual-purpose birds with a history of being used as meat chickens.

Brown Leghorns are known for being active foragers who love to spend time eating bugs and searching up the brush for yummy goodies. This breed is known for being independent and not the friendliest in the world.

  • Average Weight Range: 6-8lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 16-21 Weeks
  • Colors Available: White & Brown
  • Pros: Plenty of Eggs, Excellent Foragers, Good Meat & Easy to Find
  • Cons: Slow Grower & Not the Friendliest

Related: 9 Chickens That Lay White Eggs for Your Homestead

6. Buff Orpington

I feel like Buff Orpington makes my list for nearly everything, but these chickens truly embody what it means to be a dual-purpose chicken breed.

Orpingtons are a heavy chicken breed that are known for being excellent egg layers; expect up to 200 eggs per year. However, when used as a meat chicken breed, these birds have great flavor and tender meat.

Orpington roosters typically weigh close to 10lbs when fully grown with females topping in about two pounds lighter. The downside to this breed is that they take quite awhile to reach harvesting weight – as long as 24 weeks.

If you have the patience to wait for these birds to reach the proper weight, they have delectable, tender meat that backyard homesteaders love!

  • Average Weight Range: 8-10lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 18-24 weeks
  • Colors Available: Buff, White, Black & Blue
  • Pros: Great Egg Layer, Docile, Cold & Heat Hardy, & Tender Meat
  • Cons: Slow Growth Rate

Related: The 11 Best Chicken Breeds for Hot Weather

7. Delaware Chickens

Delaware chickens are one of the original meat birds, but nowadays, they’re viewed more as a heritage, dual-purpose bird, but they naturally have a faster growth rate than other heritage breeds.

Delawares grow up to 7-9lbs, reaching harvesting weight within 12-16 weeks. So, compared to other breeds, these are faster. They also are a dual-purpose breed, laying up to 280 eggs per year.

They are workers for your homesteaed!

It’s said that Delawares have high meat quality as well that is tender and juicy – yum! Delawares are a cross between Barred Plymouth Rock and New Hampshire Red; both of these breeds have great quality meat and produce tons of eggs. It’s the perfect blend.

  • Average Weight Range: 7-9lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 12-16 Weeks
  • Colors Available: White
  • Pros: Dual Purpose, Plenty of Eggs, High Meat Quality & Dependable
  • Cons: Slower Growth & Not Always a Large Bird

8. Australorp

Australorp is actually a relatively new breed of chickens, but they have taken over the chicken world by storm – they’re an excellent choice. Homesteaders love them because they are a hardy breed that thrives in different regions with an overall gentle and quiet personality.

Raising them is a breeze!

Homesteaders also love the that these birds are big and lay plenty of eggs. Expect them to lay around 250 eggs per year or more! Their large size, typically between 8-10lbs, make them an excellent option for meat birds as well.

  • Average Weight Range: 8-10lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 16-20 Weeks
  • Colors Available: Black
  • Pros: Large Weight, Plenty of Eggs Produced, Cold & Heat Hardy & Docile
  • Cons: Slower Growth Weight

Related: The 11 Best Egg Laying Chickens: Real Homesteaders Tell All

9. Buckeye Chickens

If you live somewhere cold, Buckeye chickens are known for adapting well to the colder temperatures than other breeds. Buckeyes are also adaptable, disease resistant, and docile in their personality. Those who live in the northern half of the country should consider raising these chickens!

However, they are a bit intolerant of small animals like cats and dogs, so be aware of the other animals in your yard. Roosters can be fairly aggressive.

Buckeye chickens are a fantastic dual-purpose chicken breeds that lays around 200-250 eggs per year. When it comes to meat production, these birds take close to 20 weeks to reach the average production weight, which is between 7-10lbs for this breed.

So, if you’re patient and want a breed that lays plenty of eggs and works for meat production, Buckeye chickens could be for you!

  • Type of Chicken: Dual-Purpose Chicken
  • Average Weight Range: 7-10lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 16-21 weeks
  • Colors Available: Red
  • Pros: Dual-Purpose, Lays Plenty of Eggs, Decent Weight & Cold-Weather Tolerant
  • Cons: Long Time to Reach Harvesting Weight

Related: 13 Best Cold Weather Chicken Breeds for Your Flock

10. Chantecler

Chantecler are gorgeous chickens that thrive in cold climates and are known for being wonderful broody hens, a feature that appeals to me. Having broody hens in a sustainable meat bird flock is a huge benefit.

Chantecler chickens are docile and mature early in comparison to other chicken breeds. Early maturity means they start laying eggs earlier than other breeds – since these are a dual purpose breed – and they reach harvesting weight sooner.

Another thing that we love about Chantecler chickens that they are known for being excellent free-ranging birds. They enjoy foraging along with their daily feed, and it only takes around 11-16 weeks to reach their full harvesting weight.

That’s not a bad wait!

When it comes to egg production, Chanteclers produce around 200 eggs per year, an excellent number for a dual-purpose breed.

  • Type of Chicken: Dual-Purpose Breed
  • Average Weight Range: 7-9lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 11-16 Weeks
  • Colors Available: Patridge & White
  • Pros: Fast Growing, Decent Egg Production & Great at Free Ranging
  • Cons: Not as Big as Other Breeds

Related: 11 Best Broody Hen Breeds for a Sustainable Flock

11. Turken – Naked Neck Chickens

Turken Naked Neck chickens are by far one of the most interesting looking chickens on our list. You might assume they’re half chicken and half turkey, but that’s not true – they are all chicken.

However, I’ll be honest – this breed is far from beautiful!

Once you get pass their appearance, they have some appealing qualities. Turken chickens are dual-purpose birds that lay around 100-140 eggs per year. They tolerate hot and cold weather, so you can keep them in any parts of the country.

Chicken keepers like that these birds are so adaptable; you can introduce them easily to new flocks. Turkens are prone to less stress, and they’re quite active, foraging and running around. They are even known to be fantastic mothers if you’re interested in having a broody hen!

  • Type of Chicken: Dual-Purpose Chicken
  • Average Weight Range: 4-7lbs
  • Time to Harvesting Weight: 11-18 weeks
  • Colors Available: Blue, Red, Buff, Black & White
  • Pros: Easy to Raise, Dual-Purpose, Faster Weight Gain & Tolerant of Different Climates
  • Cons: Small Weight & Low Egg Production

How to Pick the Best Meat Chicken Breeds

When my husband and I picked the meat chicken breeds we wanted to try, I compared everything. Each breed has a different harvest size, providing more or less meat. Their growth rates are different, so some will grow faster than others.

Here are some factors to help you pick the best meat chicken breeds for your homestead.

Size of the Bird

A larger bird at the end of the growth period means more chicken meat on your table for your family. Most people assume the only way to get a large meat bird is to raise Cornish Crosses, but many dual-purpose and heritage chicken breeds provide you with plenty of meat as well.

Standard broilers have a better meat to bone ratio, but heritage and dual purpose birds have tastier meat, even if it is a bit less.

Growth Rate

We have to talk about the elephant in the room – the controversial growth rate of the Cornish Cross chickens.

These chickens were developed for commercial processing; they needed the chickens to grow and develop rapidly to keep up with supply and demand. It allows farmers to make more money and provide for the masses.

So, does it make sense for small-scale farmers and homesteaders to use this breed when the growth rate is controversial? After all, these chickens grow so fast that they are subject to heart attacks or legs breaking from their growth and size.

There is no clear cut answer – you just have to do what feels right for your chickens.

You should take a look at how long it will take the chickens to reach butchering weight. Cornish Cross chickens take anywhere from 8-12 weeks, on average, but you may feel more comfortable allowing the chickens a longer time to grow and development.

Temperament

Something that matters to be is the temperament of the chickens and how they behave with each other and around other people.

If you plan to raise dual purpose breeds that will lay eggs in your flock and act as a meat source, you want to make sure their personality fits with your needs. For example, don’t pick known aggressive chicken breeds if you expect your kids to handle the birds regularly.

The Color of the Meat

Some people don’t like dark meat compared to white meat on a chicken. Typically, heritage breeds and dual-purpose chickens

The Taste of the Meat

The taste of home raised meat chickens is different than the meat you get at the store – and that’s okay. We want REAL food!

However, the taste of homegrown chicken varies from breed to breed, and it’s also affected by the diet of the chickens.

Some say that Red Rangers have a sweeter taste to their meat than Cornish Cross. You can look up what each chicken’s meat tastes like, but sometimes, the best option is to try a few meat chicken breeds to see which ones you like the most.

Egg Production

Do you want dual-purpose chickens that lay eggs as well as provide your family with eggs? If so, look at how many eggs these chickens lay per year.


Picking the right meat chicken breeds for your homestead is a big deal. You have to think about what features and qualities you want, like fast growing vs. a dual purpose chicken. This is an individual decision, but it’s worth taking some time to decide which breed is right for you!

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