Production chickens are efficient producers of eggs or meat. “Efficient” means outputs are maximized, while inputs are minimized. In other words, production chickens are bred to produce more eggs or meat while eating less feed. The main difference between production chickens and show chickens is that efficient production is not a consideration in breeds developed for exhibition. Instead, show chickens are bred to look good. Let’s take a closer look at the results.
All hens, unless they are old or ill, lay eggs. Production hens lay better than non-production hens, because they take fewer rest periods. Among the characteristics shared by production layers are these:
- They begin laying at 4 to 5 months of age.
- They lay nearly an egg a day, year-round.
- They rarely brood, because broody hens stop laying.
- They have small bodies; therefore they don’t eat much.
- They are mostly hybrids, especially the brown egg layers.
The meat of all chickens is tasty or can be made so with the right cooking method. Meat production breeds grow bigger, and faster, than other breeds. Among the characteristics shared by meat producing breeds are these:
- They grow and feather out rapidly.
- They can reach target weight in as little as 6 weeks
- They are broad breasted, yielding proportionally more white meat.
- The edible meat can be as much as 75% of live weight.
- They are mostly hybrids.
Show chickens are raised primarily for exhibition. While the same breed might be kept for either production or show, rarely will you find production and exhibition qualities in the same strain. Further, show chickens might sport fancy features — like top knots or feathered feet — not usually found in production breeds. Among other characteristics shared by award-winning exhibition strains are these:
- They are purebred, never hybrids.
- They closely conform to their ideal breed description in the Standard of Perfection.
- They don’t lay nearly as well as egg producers or grow as fast as meat producers.
- They tend to be less fertile, often requiring fewer hens per rooster, for consistently fertile eggs.
- They are tractable enough to be coop trained, handled, groomed, and posed.
Your decision in selecting a specific breed then comes down to your purpose in keeping chickens. If getting lots of eggs is your primary consideration, opt for production hens. If filling the freezer is your desire, then select one of the efficient meat producing broiler strains. Even if your main objective is to show off your chickens at exhibition, your hens will lay eggs, and any specimen that doesn’t measure up will make a tasty chicken dinner. But if eating one of your own chickens isn’t your thing, the chickens lacking show quality still make nice pets.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow, author, The Chicken Encyclopedia