The Ross chicken is a hybrid breed that was developed mainly for meat production. It is a popular choice for commercial broiler companies.
The breed arose from the combination of two main poultry breeds: the Ross chicken from Scotland and the Cobb chicken from the United Kingdom or the United States.
This resulted in very fast growth rates, a high feed conversion ratio and low levels of activity.
The feathers are white and the skin is yellow. Another advantage they have for meat production is that they lack the typical “hair” which many breeds have that requires slight superficial burning after plucking.
The legs are strong and widely spaced. It is thought that this indicates fighting cock in the ancestry of the Ross. The body is oval and broad chested. The Ross has been described as a “beach ball with feathers”.
The head is relatively small, with a bright red leaf-shaped crest.
The weight of an adult bird reaches 5.5-6 kg. However, there is a danger of their growing too big for their legs to bear the weight, so it is advisable to slaughter at a lower weight. Both males and females are slaughtered for their meat.
By nature the Ross is calm and gets on easily with other breeds, despite its alleged ancestry. It adapts well to being kept in a cage as it is not very active.
It starts laying at six months. Generally broilers lay fewer eggs than layer breeds. Because Ross mothers are large and rather awkward, there is sometimes egg breakage.
With proper care, they can lay up to 200 eggs per year. The egg weighs 55-60 grams.
As has been stated before in our Choose Your Chicken series, hybrids do not breed true. This means that if a male and a female of the same hybrid breed mate, then the chicks do not grow up exactly the same as their parents. So in order to maintain your production of a particular breed of broilers, you need to receive chicks from a reliable supplier.
This is part of a series on common chicken breeds and varieties in South Africa. For more, click here.