Heritage Breeds for Meat


In the Brooder
Mar 27, 2015
Has anyone on here crossed a Rhode Island rooster over Delaware hens and kept the cockerels for meat? How did they turn out? I'm interested in trying to start raising more of our own meat instead of having to buy from the grocery store.
You can eat any chicken regardless of sex or age. You need to adjust your cooking methods to match the age and maybe sex, plus you can get a lot of different sizes. If you hatch a bunch of chicks for meat you will get a lot of pullets too. You need a plan for those. Personally I eat as many females as males.

I’ve never done that specific cross, the closest I’ve come was a Speckled Sussex male over a Delaware. The meat was good, the pullets laid well, and the chicks were red sex links. I’d expect the same thing for your cross.

I personally think people get too hung up over breed in things like this. The chicks will take on the traits of their parents. There can be a lot of differences in quality of RIR’s or Delawares depending in your source of the parent stock. That means you can get a lot of variation on offspring since the parents are of different quality. If your source is a hatchery I really don’t think there is that much difference in any of the dual purpose breeds for your goals. Read there descriptions, especially expected size of the adults for that specific line of birds, and go from there. There can be some differences in conformation which affects white/dark meat split, but that is often not as pronounced with hatchery birds as you’d expect.

Instead of getting specific breeds, why not get a mix of dual purpose chicks if from a hatchery. Raise them, see which ones you like the best, then breed the ones that you’d like to eat and eat the ones that aren’t up to your standards. In a few generations of doing that you’ll have your own strain of birds that come fairly close to your goals.

If you pluck your birds a lighter feather color such as white or buff will give you a prettier carcass. They will all have pin feathers but the lighter ones just don’t show up as well as the darker ones. Butchering any of them when they are molting can be a real pain, especially the darker ones. I skin mine instead of plucking so it’s not a real concern of mine.

Good luck with it. Your plan sounds good but there are many ways to achieve what you want to. One potential advantage of doing your cross is that you will know which are pullets at hatch. You might be able to sell those for a reasonable price if you don’t want to eat them since you can guarantee that they are pullets.
I forgot to mention, breeding RIR over Delaware is not sustainable unless you keep two separate flocks for breeding purposes. You cannot make sex links with those offspring. The colors will get all mixed up after the first generation. If you are going to breed purebreds you will need to continue getting new RIR’s and Delawares. You will not be improving your breeding stock based on selective breeding. To me, that’s another reason to select your best chickens as breeders and not to worry too much about breeds.

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