DUAL PURPOSE POULTRY | IXWORTH CHICKENS

I'm a bit mad about chickens. Big or small, fluffy butts or naked necks, I love 'em all.

But if you're running a small farm, homestead or smallholding, then you've gotta get one eye on the finances. After all, you probably can't afford to keep hundreds of chickens just for the fun of it. 

That's why dual purpose breeds (and it doesn't have to just be poultry) are a small farmers lifesaver. 

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What is Dual Purpose

As the name suggests, dual purpose means that your chickens can be used for more than one thing. It's not an egg laying bird and it's not a meat bird - it's both! In the commercial industry, the desperate attempt to keep up with consumer demands means modern breeds fill a single role. Egg laying chickens, for example, have been sex-linked so that cockerels can be culled at hatch so only hens are grown on for the egg industry. But for homesteaders and smallholders this isn't ideal because; 

a) Culling half your chicks at hatch is inefficient. Raising all your birds and using the cockerels for meat and the hens for eggs can be a better option. 

b) For me, homesteading is about getting back to the land, maintaining good animal welfare and knowing my food's provenance. Culling day old chicks just because they're the wrong sex is not something I want to do.

Dual purpose breeds have some negatives; they're slower to grow and many breeds aren't sex-linked. But that's a compromise I'll accept for happier, healthier, slowly grown tasty birds. 

The Ixworth

Ixworth rooster with two hens.

Ixworth rooster with two hens.

The Ixworth chicken is a heavy, dual purpose breed first established in, no surprises here, Ixworth, Suffolk, UK.

They're relatively slow growing, taking a good 9 - 10 months to reach optimal size but once mature, they have plenty of delicious meat, both on the roosters and hens. The hens are good egg layers too, producing around 270 tinted eggs per year. 

Four young Ixworth chicks

Four young Ixworth chicks

Juvenile Ixworth cockerel

Juvenile Ixworth cockerel

Mature Ixworth cockerel

Mature Ixworth cockerel

I love these birds. Pristine white with bright red wattles and a pea comb, they're friendly birds and I've never had an aggressive rooster. They're a listed rare breed in the UK too, so it's well worthwhile adding some of these beauties to your flock. 

Ixworth lay around 270 tinted eggs per year

Ixworth lay around 270 tinted eggs per year

Dual Purpose birds for the win.

For any homestead, small farm or homestead, I highly recommend some dual purpose birds. Though dedicated egg layers might be prolific, they burn out quickly. And whilst meat birds gain weight quickly, selective breeding means that many suffer from breathing and walking problems due to their fast growth. 

By turning dual purpose instead, you can save heritage breeds, optimise your animal welfare AND still enjoy homegrown meat and eggs. 

Do YOU keep chickens? What breeds are in your coop?