Are you ready to take the plunge and get your own flock of chickens? Choosing the right breed is a critical part of the decision to raise chickens. The right breed will flourish in your regional climate, which means happy hens and more eggs for you and your family to enjoy. But how do you decide which breed is best for your situation? We break it down for you.
The first step to choosing a chicken breed is identifying what your goals are. Do you want chickens for meat and eggs, also known as dual-purpose, or just eggs? Breeds that are better suited for ending up on the dinner table are Cornish game hens, Sussex or White Wyandotte. Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire and Plymouth Rocks are also an excellent dual-purpose breed.
Does shell color matter to you? Chickens can produce a variety of colored eggs, including white, brown, green and blue. However, remember that shell color does not impact nutritional value of the egg. Do you plan to expand your flock down the road? Do you prefer standard size birds or smaller bantam size chickens?
Some chicken owners prefer to raise breeds that are considered “critical” and unique to North America. “Critical” category means that there are less than 500 breeding flocks of that breed in the U.S.
When choosing the best breed of chicken for you, geography plays a very important part. Heavier birds fare better in regions where it is cooler. Lighter weight birds are a better choice if you live in an area that is very hot. There are some breeds that have been bred to perform better in colder climates. For example, Indian Game and Ancona breeds cannot handle cold weather, but Cornish Cross and Orpingtons will be just fine in colder regions.
Your set up for chickens also is a key determinant in which breed would work best for you. Do you have a small acreage with lots of space, or do you live in the suburbs and your small backyard will be the chickens’ home? Chicken breeds with a calm temperament will probably do better for you if you are raising chickens in your backyard.
It may not matter to you about your birds’ temperament, but if you have small children who will be interacting with the flock, then perhaps you should consider temperament. As with any type of animal, some breeds are more high-strung, while others are calmer. Barnevelders, Welsummers, Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Naked necks, Dominiques, Araucana, Australorp, Jersey Giant, Delaware, Cornish and Java are typically more friendly breeds. Leghorn, Ameracauna and Polish chickens tend to be more flighty.
If getting a lot of eggs is your primary goal, there are some breeds that are better suited for just that. Australian Langshans, Leghorns, Australorps, Ameracaunas, Polishes, Sex-links, Bovans Brown, ISA Brown and Golden Comets are good egg layers. Brown egg layers are Plymouth Rock, New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red.
For more information on getting started with raising a flock of chickens, subscribe to Chicken Whisperer Magazine.