How long do you intend to keep them before butchering? I have a thing for jumbo eggs (and birds) so my favorite pick for dual-purpose is Jersey Giant, but they are a slow grower. Gentle (but not cuddly), stay-at-home, predator resistant due to their size, and IMHO very handsome. I have heard their meat is juicy, hearty, and flavorful, but I haven't eaten one myself yet (they peak at 3-4 years). I can say their eggs are phenomenal, big, flavorful, huge yolks, high protein and I'm guessing omega-3s based on the color. JGs are expensive and hard to find if you want breeder quality, but many hatcheries sell them too. Make sure they get lots of grass and bugs, and their grain consumption stays very reasonable. Fruit and veggie scraps help too, so do peanuts or soybeans for extra protein. For similar breed attributes, Brahmas work too, though their eggs are smaller, and they mature faster too.
if you want large but not giant birds, my favorite so far is Marans. This French meat bird has exquisitely tender flesh, and also lays eggs that are reputedly the best tasting in the world. I notice a slight difference in egg flavor when simply fried or scrambled, but French toast REALLY shows the difference! The eggs melt like custard into the bread, and keep such hearty flavor the toast becomes almost like egg-flavored cake that melts in your mouth! The best part is, Marans lay up to 250 mouthwatering chocolate brown eggs per year! My 4 month old Marans roo is easily 6 pounds (he looks quite tasty, actually, but I love him too much and I'm keeping him), and the 6 month old hen is about 5.5 pounds and lays 5 eggs a week. They are gentle, quiet, get-along birds for the most part, they are very intelligent as chickens go (at least mine are), but if they feel like escaping they will try, so keep their wings clipped. If you want good ones, email the Marans Chicken Club of America, they were the original importers of the French Marans to North America, and they should be able to help you find a good breeder even in Canada.
The only trouble I foresee, with you being in BC, is that both breeds have large single combs, which can be prone to frostbite. As I was just reading in Backyard Chickens featured article for today, most dual-purpose breeds have Asiatic ancestry, making single combs common. Keep the coop warm in winter and they should be ok!
BTW, both breeds like having a few males around, so if you get a cockerel or 2, let him grow out, and if he's a good roo, keep him! Just my 2 cents, but mine seem much happier with more than 1 roo.
I prefer to get Freedom Ranger type birds (Red Rangers so far have been my best) and crossing them with Heritage breeds to make my Dual Purpose but I would suggest getting New Hampshire Reds from a Hatchery the specializes in meat birds like FreedomRangerHatchery https://www.freedomrangerhatchery.com/details.asp?List=1&Product=9 They also have Delawares for a little bit more but from research that @jolenesdad was kind enough to do for us he found out that the New Hampshires are much better for meat.
I have not received birds from this hatchery so I can not verify how correct I am with this recommendation. I get Chickens from lower quality places (like Tractor Supply) and none of the dual purpose birds were worth processing for meat. However I did get Red Rangers there and crossed them with other birds and found the result to be acceptable as Dual Purpose.
We had really good luck with the first flock we had variety of hens with a barred rock roo and those babies all seemed to dwarf the parents by about 4 months big beautiful colorful birds, the hens we had in that flock other than a few barred rock and they only produced normal size, were Buff orpington, EE's, a couple sexlinks and one asterloup(sp)
It depends a lot on your ultimate goals.... can you elaborate just a bit?
A breed of bird is really only as good as that particular line. It’s fairly rare to find the best lines from a hatchery, but it’s a little easier to find them, and cheaper in the beginning to use one.
I would personally suggest researching breeders and speaking directly to the breeder to find one who is working towards utility with their birds for the breed you desire. Most breeder birds are much larger anyway, because breeders work a bit on utility anyway, so the culled cockerels have some sort of purpose.
I love the body shape of the Delaware but don’t have much personal experience yet. I also have loved growing out breeder marans bred to the SOP, but have not eaten any. They certainly look nice.
Thank you all for your responses! I am on my phone so I apologize for not giving any details in my first post.
I am planning on getting some “meat birds” next year, but I have layers and love raising chicks and am trying to pick a breed that would be half decent to keep extra cockerels from to eat, as well as the “meat birds”.
I debated for a while about breeding some fun, interesting breeds, but in the end I think it’s more realistic to breed something I can keep the extra males from that would make a half decent meal, as opposed to something on the lighter side like a cream legbar, for example.
I really love my Welsummers but feel they are a bit on the light side. I also have a couple LARGE CouCou de Malines pullets but am not sold on their temperament yet. I’ve heard they are excellent meat birds and are quite gentle so we will see.
I love most breeds and have quite a few in my laying flock. I love Orpingtons, Brahmas, and Australorps. I try to buy from reputable breeders in my area and I definitely notice a difference in size/quality compared to the hatchery birds.
I have a couple nice black copper Marans growing out at the moment.. maybe I should give them some more thought!