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California Grey Chicken: Facts, Uses, Origins & Traits (with Pictures)

california grey chicken

Developed in the 1930s, the California Grey Chicken is an outstanding breed for chicken keepers. This breed is the result of the crossbreeding between the White Leghorn and the Barred Plymouth Rock and is an incredible dual-purpose breed.

The California Grey is a versatile and adaptive breed that is still quite rare among farmers and chicken keepers. Here we will go over what makes the California Grey Chicken stand out among the rest.

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Quick Facts About the California Grey Chicken

california grey chicken
Image Credit: Costea Andrea M, Shutterstock
Breed Name: California Grey Chicken
Place of Origin: California, United States
Uses: Meat, Eggs
Rooster (Male) Size: Up to 5.5 pounds
Hen (Female) Size: Up to 4.5 pounds
Color: Grey and White
Lifespan: 6-10 years
Climate Tolerance: Hot and Cold (caution with both extremes)
Care Level: Beginner
Production: Approximately 300 eggs per year

California Grey Chicken Origins

As their name suggests, the California Grey Chicken originated in California. They were first developed in the 1930s by a man named James Dryden in the city of Modesto. James’s goal was to produce a dual-purpose chicken that would be ideal for both egg-laying and meat production, though crossbreeding was met with much controversy around this time.

California Greys came to be by the crossing of the superior egg-laying White Leghorns with the large, heavier, dual-purpose Barred Plymouth Rock chickens. The crossing resulted in a naturally autosexing breed that took on qualities from both breeds.

The California Grey remains a rare breed, as they were never officially accepted for exhibition by the American Poultry Association.

California Gray Chicken
California Gray Chicken (Image Credit: Jean, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

California Grey Chicken Characteristics

A versatile breed that takes on the characteristics of both the White Leghorn and the Barred Plymouth Rock, this hybrid is highly adaptable to different climates and has proven to be quite hardy in the cold. Of course, they should have adequate shelter and proper conditions for any weather extremes.

Chicks are born primarily black with white spots on the top of the head. They are easy to automatically sex by their appearance upon hatching, as female chicks are much darker in color than males. As they mature, their feathers become barred black and white.

Pullets start laying at around 20-24 weeks of age. The hens are known for laying at full capacity for several years before slowing down, producing around five eggs per week and even laying successfully during the winter months.

This breed is large and heavy-bodied and is considered a low flight risk and is said to be among some of the least flighty breeds of chicken. They do well with foraging and thrive in open spaces. If necessary, can also do well in confinement. The California Grey is a very friendly, docile, and social breed with great handleability. The breed is very easy to bond with and does very well with children.

Uses

The California Grey chicken is an excellent dual-purpose breed for both egg-laying and meat production. California Greys are more heavily bodied than their White Leghorn ancestors, making them a great breed for meat production.

California Grey hens produce large, white eggs and are known to lay approximately 300 eggs per year. Since they are a highly adaptable breed in terms of climate tolerance, they are even known for laying well during the winter.

Appearance & Varieties

California Gray chickens are much lighter in color than the Barred Plymouth Rock and are larger and heavier than the White Leghorns. Roosters typically weigh up to 5.5 pounds once fully mature while hens typically max out around 4.5 pounds.

Chicks are mostly black with white on the wing’s tips, chest, abdomen, and on top of the head. Young pullets are darker in color than the young cockerels, making it easy to identify their sex upon hatching.

The California Gray bears barred plumage with the color of gray-to-black and white with no feathers on their legs. This breed has reddish-brown eyes with a single red comb and wattle.

Population

As mentioned, the California Grey was never recognized by the American Poultry Association for exhibition. The breed was also never listed as a conservation priority by the Livestock Conservancy, causing them to be a rarer breed among chicken keepers.

While it is much more common to find the White Leghorn or the Barred Plymouth Rock breeds, California Grey breeders do exist in the United States, the breed is just a bit harder to come by.

Are California Grey Chickens Good for Small-Scale Farming?

The California Grey is a great choice for small-scale farming. Not only do they produce a high volume of large, white eggs annually, but they are also great chickens for meat production and are highly adaptable to different weather conditions.

Additionally, this breed forages well and is well known for being friendly and easy to handle. You really can’t beat the dual-purpose California Grey versatility, overall use, and the fantastic traits they exhibit.

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Conclusion

California Grey chickens may not be recognized by the American Poultry Association, but they are a great dual-purpose chicken for egg-laying and meat production. These hardy, adaptable, and friendly chickens would make a great addition to anyone’s coop.

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Featured Image Credit: Carrie Epley, Shutterstock

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