Welcome to Chicken Breeds, how to choose the best one for you! This is the first article in my series, Raising Chickens for Beginners. We will be talking about a few chicken breeds to get you started buying chickens.
To help narrow the search
first decide why you want the chickens. Are you looking for meat? Are
you looking for eggs? Both? Maybe your kids want to show, or you just
want them for fun?
There are plenty of chicken
breeds to choose from, but I'm going to share some that should be
pretty easy to find and at a decent price. Feel free to skip down to
the section that best describes what kind of chicken you want.
While almost any bird can be
used for meat, you may want to choose a specific type that grows
larger or quicker than other chicken breeds.
For example a common meat chicken is the Cornish cross, aka white broiler. While not technically a breed, they are generally white with less feathers than most chickens, and have yellow skin. They grow quickly and tend to eat a lot, and be messy. They make a good fast meat, however if you plan to only have to buy chickens once, these will not work for you as many hens tend to die young due to heart problems and males are generally too heavy to breed.
Jersey Giants are another popular breed. Originally bred to replace the turkey, these chickens grow large, averaging to 13 pounds for roosters and 10 for hens. They tend to reach maturity later than other birds at 8-9 months. However, unlike broilers they will lay large brown eggs and go broody.
One last chicken breed that may be harder to find locally are the Delaware. They are a heritage breed, and considered critically endangered. They produce good meat as well as large eggs and will sit. They are hardy chickens that will do well in cold and hot weather.
I have been raising laying
hens for years and many of my favorites have been mixed breed chicks
from the hens we bought, so if you find two breeds you really like,
don't be afraid to mix and match roosters to hens. There are
different ways to judge layers such as egg size, egg quality, egg
color, and temperament. All of these breeds would be great for dual
purpose as well.
Ameraucanas are beautiful multi colored chickens, they come in a variety of colors, and so do their eggs. Their large eggs can vary from shades of green to blue, giving them the name easter eggers. They grow to about 5.5lbs for hens and 6.5lbs for roosters. They will go broody if you let them and they are usually nice friendly birds.
Black stars, also known as black sex-link, are popular layers as well as dual purpose chickens. They lay large brown eggs, and in my experience a few hens will lay extra large eggs too. They are sex-link, which means that they were bred to be different colors depending on whether they are male or female, so when they are chicks you can tell if they are male or female already. The hens are black with buff colored markings on their chest, the roosters resemble barred rocks with more black. They look like they are black with silver stripes.
The last breed of layers I would suggest are Orpingtons, the most common color is buff. They lay large, occasionally extra large light brown eggs. They are cold hardy chickens, and will lay eggs in winter. They are also good for meat, growing to around 4 or 5 lbs.
Bantams are my personal
favorite type of chickens, they tend to be sweet gentle birds, and
its fun to mix them to get different colors if you just have them for
fun. Remember, just because they are small doesn't mean they don't
lay eggs well. Once we received a mystery chicken from our hatchery,
a tiny, Japanese bantam chick. When she grew up she would lay an egg
every day and sometimes twice a day, today her chicks lay just as
well as she did.
One of the best breeds for pets are silkies, they come in a variety of colors and are great for small children to handle. Even the roosters are sweet as can be. Silkies love to hatch eggs, but even when they are broody they will let you pick them up to check on the eggs, they just settle back down when you let them go. They are known for laying other chickens, and even other birds eggs. We have had them sit turkey eggs, and they did very well, they are also accepting of other chicks, if another hen rejects a chick, we just give it to the Silkie mama, and she will care for it as her own.
Another nice breed are Brahma bantams, they are friendly and calm birds. They lay small light brown eggs and are pretty good layers.
There are many chicken breeds that have bantam versions, for instance barred rocks come in bantam size, so take a look at a few hatchery catalogs and see what you like.
The best way to get good
quality meat and eggs is to feed your birds well with good quality
grains and mashes. Be sure to stick around for the rest of the
articles where I talk about how to find the best feed in your area.
You can learn more about different chicken breeds here.
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