Selecting the Right Chicken Breeds

Self-Reflection Will Help You Chose the Right Chicken Breeds for Eggs

A preview from our April/May 2017 issue of Backyard Poultry. Subscribe for more great stories like this! 

Whether you’re starting a new flock or expanding one you already have, spring is the time when many people start to have baby chicks on the mind. It’s good to do some planning and figure out just what you need ahead of time. What breeds are right for you? Where do you get them? And what will they need when you get them home? Read on for answers to some of these big questions about how to get started right with new baby chicks.

chicken-breeds

So you’ve decided you want to raise chickens. Your first big task is to look at all the variety of chicken breeds and figure out which you want to raise. For us, this discussion began with some self-reflection.

Why do we want to raise chickens?

We wanted fresh eggs for our family but also wanted to sell eggs as a business. This meant we needed to consider chicken breeds that laid consistently. It was important that we could depend on production throughout the year. There are a number of sex link chicken breeds, which have been bred specifically for the purpose of consistent laying. Another benefit of sex link breeds is that sexing chicks is easy because of their coloring, which means less chance of getting roosters (males who don’t lay eggs) when we want pullets (female egg-layers). We added a few of these chicken breeds to our list of possibilities.

Since we were planning to sell our eggs, we needed to think about what our customers wanted. For this, we used Survey Monkey to ask friends, colleagues, and neighbors what they would buy. Most people wanted variously colored eggs in their carton, unlike the uniformly brown or white eggs at the grocery. So our flock would need to be a blend of different chicken breeds, perhaps including some heritage chicken breeds for their uniquely colored eggs.

chicken-breeds

We have three young boys, so we also looked at the best chickens for kids. Our boys are rough and tumble; we needed birds they could handle without issues: calm, gentle, and sturdy. I knew that handling the birds from the start would be important, but the more I read, the clearer it became that breed, too, plays a role in chicken personality.

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Climate can be an important factor too. Some chicken breeds do better with cold than others, and the same is true for an extremely warm environment. For example, a larger comb helps a chicken cool off when it is very hot, but also makes it more susceptible to frostbite when the temperatures drop.

Finally, chickens don’t lay eggs forever. That meant eventually they would supplement our diets with not just their eggs but also their meat. This reality inspired us to look at dual purpose chicken breeds. These are chicken breeds which can be raised for egg production and meat. We learned over time that all healthy chickens can be consumed, but breeds like Silkies don’t give much return on the effort to process them; so it makes sense if you intend to eat your birds to consider dual purpose chicken breeds.

Chicken Breeds For Us

You’re probably wondering which chicken breeds we finally decided upon. We chose several breeds to provide a variety of colors in our eggs.

Rhode Island Reds – These classic dual purpose birds are popular for good reason; they are easy-going, curious, friendly and consistently lay good-sized brown eggs. Our boys carry them around. When I go in the coop, they approach to see what I’m up to.

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A curious Rhode Island Red

Easter Eggers – Though we ordered Ameraucanas, they are actually Easter Eggers; the mutt of chickens, they are hearty and resilient. These are some of our favorite birds; smart and curious. They bond to us like no other breed we’ve raised. My husband has one we call his girlfriend because whenever he comes outside she follows him around. One broody hen raised a duckling when its mother wouldn’t. Their eggs vary in color from turquoise to pale blue to violet to nearly white. But the trade-off for these interesting colors is their production drops significantly in winter.

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My husband’s “girlfriend”

Welsummers – We added this heritage breed for dimension in our brown eggs as theirs are a deeper, richer brown. The birds are beautiful. Hens have golden feathers around their necks that look like a burst of sunshine and roosters are straight off the Corn Flakes box. They are a little more standoffish than the other chicken breeds we have and don’t like to be held. They lay eggs most days.

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Welsummer Rooster

Golden Comets – These sex link hybrid birds round out our flock and add consistency to our brown egg production. They love people and actually follow our five-year-old like he’s mother hen.

Chicken Breeds For You

I shared how we decided which chicken breeds were right for us. These may not necessarily be the breeds that will be best suited for you. Carefully reflect on your goals for raising chickens; then research which chicken breeds will serve you best.

What are your favorite chicken breeds? Let us know in the comments below.

A preview from our April/May 2017 issue of Backyard Poultry. Subscribe for more great stories like this! 

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