3 of The Best Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds

Try Rhode Island Red Chickens if You Want an Exceptional Dual-Purpose Breed


photo by Steph Merkle

The best dual-purpose chicken breeds are important on the homestead because they produce both meat and eggs. Breed choice is one of those topics that every chicken keeper has definite feelings about. Breed is just as important to consider as the location, style, and construction of your coop and yard. The climate you live in affects your choice of breed for your area since some breeds do better in colder climates than others. If you don’t want to butcher your chickens for meat, then you wouldn’t be concerned about the best dual-purpose chicken breeds. We try to raise or produce as much for ourselves as we can, so owning chickens that are dual-purpose birds makes sense for us.

One time I was sharing about the chicken breeds we have here on the farm and the way we feed them. A lady in the group asked a question about my breed selections. As I was answering her, a man said, “I am sick and tired of hearing people talk about the ‘old timers’ and how they did things. We don’t have the same birds or feed they did.”

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I must admit he took me back a little. In my best southern voice, I replied, “Well, bless your heart.” Being from the south, he understood exactly what I meant! The truth is, when we choose heritage or rare breeds, we are carrying on the preservation of the very same breeds that many of our ancestors had. I have two breeds that my grandmother had and yes, I do feed them like she did. She did not have GMOs, or organic vs non-organic to be concerned about like I do, but what feed I do buy is non-GMO organic feed.

That being said, what are the best dual-purpose chicken breeds and why? Remember, these are my choices and I don’t mean to leave out your favorite girls!

Best Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds: The Black Australorp


The Black Australorp ties for my favorite of the best dual-purpose chicken breeds. I love this friendly bird as did my grandmother. It set a record for egg laying — 364 eggs out of 365 days! This breed is one of the best setters and mothers I have ever had and the rooster is very watchful and protective of the flock. This bird will dress out between 5-8 pounds depending on whether it is a cockerel or hen. They are a brown egg layer and will start laying large brown eggs at around 5 months and I find them to be the best winter layers. Their ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) status is “recovering.”

Best Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds: The Speckled Sussex


This bird ties with the Black Australorp as my favorite. The Speckled Sussex chicken is beautiful and friendly. The roosters are colorful and very protective and watchful. The hens lay large light brown to beige eggs. They will dress out between 7-9 pounds depending on whether it’s a cockerel or hen. They will start laying at around 5 months old and barely slow down in the winter. Their ALBC status is “recovering.”

Best Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds: The Rhode Island Red


My grandmother also raised Rhode Island Red chickens. I am so glad I added this breed to my flock. They are awesome egg layers and dress out between 6-8 pounds depending on if it’s a cockerel or hen. To me, they start to lay a little earlier than the others, but only by a week or two. They lay well in the winter too. While they are a heritage breed developed here in the United States, in Rhode Island, they are not a rare breed as the other two are.

Best Dual Purpose Chickens

I am sure you have different thoughts and feelings about the breeds you choose. Like my grandfather taught me, “There are as many ways of getting a farm job done as there are farmers. Ya gotta be willing to listen, help, and learn from ’em, even it’s just to see what not to do.”

That’s just what we’re trying to do, share and learn from one another. What breeds do you have and why? Would you choose them again? What breeds are your favorite and why? Be sure to leave a comment below!

Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

  • I have all three of these chickens in my flock of six and I love them all. As a newbie to chickens, I wasn’t sure which breed I would like best so I got six different ones and my experience has been great!

  • I started with leghorns and red sex links 2 years ago. Last year I bought golden laced wyandottes and what were supposed to be ameracaunas but mine are green egg layers. This year I got Rhode Island Reds. I will never get the wyandottes and fuzzy cheeked green egg layers again! They are mean to the others, hiss when we try to collect eggs and spend way too much time in the nesting boxes. I like the sex links but lost some of them due to the high heat this summer. The Rhode Island Reds are a gentle, quiet chicken but they haven’t started laying yet so I don’t know how they will be for egg laying. The leghorns are my best layers but I have customers who prefer brown eggs.

    • I’m not the most experienced chicken guy but with 75 acres and having chickens for years I do have some knowledge. I prefer Rhode Island Reds by far. I live in the Northeast. Today it’s 6 degrees F. They still lay. They’re very friendly and start early. I’m going to start doing meat breeds but only because my mother in law will dress them. Ameracaunas lay a light blue egg. Araucanas also lay a blue egg. An Easter Egger which is just a cross will give you a green and blue. I’ve never had Leghorns because I’m so happy with my RIR’s and I’ve heard they are mean. I gave 3 RIR’s to family and they came back to thank me. They said the first day they had them they got 5 eggs. I wouldn’t have believed it but I’ve had it happen myself. Good luck to you.

      • Julie A.

        I had a leghorn, a silkie and a barred rock rooster and they would always try to spur me. My rhode island red roosters never attack. I love them!!!

  • I would most definitely recommend the Australorps! I’m a first-time chicken owner, and last year I got 3 each of Australorp and Golden Laced Wyandotte chicks.Sadly, I only have two of my Australorps left, but they’re extremely docile, and mine produce as many as 3 eggs a day. I have never once been pecked while collecting eggs or have had them go broody. Their feathers are also beautiful, and they shimmer a greenish color in the sunlight! However, they did temporarily stop laying throughout the winter, but they have resumed production since. Most definitely would recommend for newbies like me!

  • We LOVE our Speckled Sussex girls. Beautiful mahogany color with white speckles which grow more numerous with each moult. So, if you keep track of individuals as we do (each has a name and her own personality), be sure to I.D. them by a comb or other trait besides speckling….it will change! This is our second clutch of them from a different supplier, but the characteristics are the same: great layers, so friendly, VERY talkative. If you want a personable bird around you while you do chores, these girls fit the bill. They are curious and spend time nearby to see what I am doing. They seek me out and a few will fly onto a fence rail to be nearer to me and don’t mind being touched. We do handle them as chicks. I find their vocalizing very amusing. Just a continuous stream of soft chicken babble which seems like they are asking me a question like: “What are you doing there? Can I taste your hammer?” Often, it is just a contented sound they make to themselves like someone who whistles of hums while they go about their business. They make these sounds only when they feel relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings and with the people in their space, sometimes even make these sounds while eating feed or scouring the yard for bugs. If something is worrying them or is scary in their environment, they will clam up. Makes it easy to tell if all is well at the barnyard (they leave their coop and mingle with goats and a llama in the daytime.) My daughter showed one in 4H for many years. She was an amazing layer and placed 10th out of over 50 birds for her amazing laying capacity at the age of 9 years! I have had them go broody in the summer, but I don’t mind at all. I don’t expect any of my girls to be laying machines. I have a mixed flock, so that isn’t a problem. I enjoy them all for the differences they offer. If someone is broody, someone else is laying. Have never done it, but I am sure you could place eggs under them for hatching. (BTW–We joke about talkativeness as being attached somehow to the speckling gene because our only other speckled bird…a blue splash maran…also talks and is personable.)

  • The Black Australorp is my all-time favorite! I have Rhode Island Reds, too, and they do a great job as well. They just seem to be a bit pushy and more apt to be broody in my experience. I will definitely be adding the Speckled Sussex this spring!

  • Thayer C.

    I have both breeds plus white ones (not sure the breed). Love all three breeds. I am new at having chickens but can’t imagine not having them.

  • I raise American Bresse chickens!!! They are the best table fare available!!! They are a dual purpose chicken… Great layer’s in winter and produce 250+ egg’s a year survive the hot summer in Florida… They are the national bird of France and we’re not allowed out of France until 2011 when they were imported into USA… This is the future of chicken in America…

  • I’m glad to hear that your enjoying your speckled sussex! I recently ordered 5 chicks to add to my existing small flock of 4. One is a speckled sussex and i was on the fence about whether or not i should get her or a different breed. I currently have egg layers and she will be my first of that particular dual breed. I can not bring myself to eat any of them, they give me eggs, compost, help with bug control and make me laugh with their antics! They all follow my around the yard as I do chores hoping to take advantage of any worms I may turn up or just curious to see what I’m doing. If I want them back in there enclosure before dark all I have to do is shake a bag of their favorite treat, they all come running or flying in. My aim with the additional chicks is to have selected breeds that are calm, quiet, productive flock members that gets along with one another..so far the ones I have are very peaceful. I hope that doesn’t change. I ordered 2 cream legbars, 1 lavendar orpington, 1 speckled sussex and 1 surprise egg layer to my buff orpington, 2 easter Eggers and a beautiful white chicken that lays brown eggs, she was a gift and I’m not sure what she is? Maybe a white rock?

  • The Black Australorp Chicks I added are beautiful ! They started laying at 20 weeks and are very sweet flockmates for a red sex link older hen I have. Assimilated into my flock easily. Thanks for the great article
    I also have Rhode Island Reds too

  • I have few breeds…for eggs (and meat, since I recently hatched out a bunch), RIR. For meat: Jersey Giant…beautiful, docile birds. For color in the egg basket, french black/blue/splash copper marans, and 2 little americauna. I hope they are girls… I have silkies for setting. My next adventure in chickens will hopefully be the Speckled Sussex. I am trying to source non hatchery stock (my understanding is that show stock will be the most true to heritage) to keep the reliable gentle temperament intact. It may come at the cost of high rate of lay, but I can work on that.

  • 1 have raised Jersey Giants , Rhode Island Reds, Amaeracaunas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and Partridge Chanteclars among others for dual purpose. We get to minus 40 degrees C here in winter. I have stayed with the Chanteclars for their hardiness in winter (i do not heat anything but their water to keep it from freezing). They r very hardy and lay all winter albeit less than in summer. Small combs and wattles don’t suffer as much.
    R I Reds not bad but suffer in winter.
    Easter eggers also very good but small eggs. Good mommas.

  • I’d love to put a word in for the American Dominique. While They may not immediately impress in terms of the sheer number of eggs laid or the size of the dressed carcasses, they are solidly useful, if humble, chickens. They are strong, healthy, hardy, street-smart but easy-to-handle birds. They do tend to lay decently and steadily and cockerels grow out quickly (for a DP breed). But they are also famously thrifty feeders, comsuming noticeably less than many other breeds, which also helps make them efficient producers, even if they don’t set attention-grabbing production records. With beautiful cuckoo feathering, unique spiked rose combs, and a compact body with a perky, upright stance, they are also handsome to look at, and with an venerable (by American standards) and interesting historical heritage they are a nice piece of living history as well as a functional farmyard fowl.

    We’ve recently chosen to keep and breed Doms exclusively for our family flock.

  • While the australorp is a good dual purpose bird I will not own them again. The 5 that I had were broody all the time during the summer. The Rhode Island Red rooster I had was very mean & attacked every chance he got as did the ameracauna rooster we recently got rid of. Really surprised by the Ameracauna rooster since the other 3 I’ve had were wonderful birds. The RIR hens are wonderful, good layers and very friendly. Love my speckled sussex so much that I will be getting a couple more this spring.


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