There are over 200 breeds of chickens, and deciding which breed is best for you can be daunting. A chicken’s size, climate preference, and ease of maintenance are all important factors to consider when deciding what chickens will be best for your family. Because choosing the right breed as a beginner backyard chicken farmer is important, here are some tips to make your decision easier.
If you live in a very cold environment, make sure you choose a winter-hardy breed. Winter-hardy chickens will continue laying eggs through the colder months, and are less likely to get frost-bite. Most common chicken breeds are suitable for any climate. If you purchase your chicken locally, then it will be fine in your climate. However, imported rare and exotic chicken breeds may require special care when it comes to humidity and temperature. For this reason, experts do not recommend buying rare breeds as a beginner chicken farmer.
Certain chicken breeds require a lot of room, and if they are kept in small coops, they can attack each other. Starting out with smaller chickens, like a bantam size of a breed might be best for you until you get the hang of raising poultry. Bantam sized hens lay smaller eggs, but there is virtually no nutritional difference between egg sizes. Some larger chickens also tend to be noisier, so keep that in mind if you have neighbors close by.
The chicken characteristics that are best for beginner backyard chicken farmers are:
Buff Orpington’s are a popular egg laying chicken, and are excellent for a beginner chicken breed.
Egg Production: 170-200, medium-sized, light brown eggs per year.
Character: Orpington’s make great pets as they are extremely friendly and soft. They like human contact, have great personalities, and make fantastic pets. They do tend to get broody during the summer months, so their egg production is slightly lower than some of the other breeds on this list.
Maintenance: Orpington hens are a large, sturdy breed with a standard weight of 8 pounds. They are winter-hardy chickens, gain maturity early, and tolerate cold weather very well.
Rhode Island Reds are probably the most popular backyard chicken breeds. They are friendly, easy to keep and very hardy.
Egg Production: 250-300, medium-sized, brown eggs per year.
Character: They are fairly calm and docile and adapt well to any size space. Males are aggressive and not suited for families with children and small pets.
Maintenance: Rhode Island Reds are very easy to keep, the hens weigh approximately 6.5 pounds, and don’t require too much space. The chickens lay eggs all year round.
The Plymouth Rock, also known as Barred Rock, is a robust and hardy chicken that is easy to handle and has above-average egg production.
Egg Production: 200, medium-sized, brown eggs per year.
Character: They are an active bird that likes to be free-range, but can adapt to confinement as well. Plymouth Rocks are extremely friendly and like to cuddle with humans, so they are great for families with young children.
Maintenance: Very easy to handle breed, cold hardy, the hens have an average weight of 7.5 pounds, and lay eggs during the winter months.
The White Leghorn is a pure egg-laying breed. They tend not to get broody often and are the perfect backyard pick for year-round egg laying.
Egg Production: 250-300, medium sized, white eggs per year.
Character: Leghorns are very active chickens and will be happy foraging in gardens. They are tame, but not as friendly as some other breeds on the list so aren’t ideal for people with children wanting them as a pet.
Maintenance: These chickens are hardy and tolerant of heat. They are subject to frostbite in winter months, but a small heater and petroleum jelly on their beaks and combs will suffice. Their grain to egg output is maximized, making them very low maintenance chickens.
All of the breeds mentioned above should be available to purchase from your local hatchery. To begin with, it is recommended that you don’t mix your breeds within your backyard flock. Choose one of these breeds at first. This helps prevent the chickens from attacking each other, and reduces pests as well.
These breeds are all described as docile, but it is important to remember temperament can be influenced by pecking order. Sometimes even docile breeds can produce a problematic or aggressive chicken.
With these suggestions, consider your facilities and choose the best egg-laying beginner chicken breed for you. Let us know which breed you picked for your backyard flock by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org, we would love to see your pictures.