Raising Chickens 101: Choosing Chicken Breeds
Which Type of Chicken Should You Get?
By The Old Farmer's Almanac
Dec 11, 2018
Choosing the right chicken breed is an important part of
raising chickens. Here are some things to consider when trying to find the
right chicken breed for you.
See the first post in our Raising Chickens 101 series: How
to Get Started Raising Chickens
What Types of Chickens Should You Get?
When it comes to choosing your chickens, there are more
breeds than you can shake an eggbeater at. One of the delights of this step is
learning some of the types of chickens and their names: Silkie, Showgirl,
Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Rosecomb, Redcap, and Russian Orloff, to name a few.
Things to Consider
Some things that you’ll want to consider include the number
and color of eggs produced, the breed’s temperament, its noise level, and its
adaptability to confinement. If you can’t let your chickens range free, the
confinement factor is important for a happy, healthy flock. Noise level really
matters if you do not reside in the country. Some sources advise against mixing
ages, but I’ve never had trouble with older birds picking on younger ones.
My Favorite Chicken Breeds
Most varieties thrive in all climates, although some have
special needs: Phoenix and Minorcas chickens need heat, for example, and
Brahmas and Chanteclers chickens prefer cool conditions. Every breed produces
eggs, even the so-called ornamental breeds, but egg size and production vary.
Medium-production layers are plenty for a family. Bantam chicken eggs are
small; to complement their yolks, you’ll need more whites than most angel food
cake recipes call for.
I kept Rhode Island Reds and Barred Plymouth Rocks, both of
which are usually available from a local hatchery. These are docile, not
particularly noisy, high-laying, dual-purpose chicken breeds that take
confinement well. They gave me 75 percent egg production—that is, a dozen
chickens produced nine eggs a day while they were laying.
Another favorite of mine is the Jersey Giant. It is black or
white, and large. (My black Jersey Giant rooster was 16 inches at the saddle!)
The hens are medium- rather than high-laying chickens, but the eggs are larger
than those of the Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island Red. This breed is calm and
docile but needs more room because of its size.
Barred Plymouth Rock
Araucanas are flighty (not docile), but they thrive in
almost any climate, take confinement well, and are quiet. If you want to make
them more calm and docile, try hypnotizing them (and no, we’re not kidding!)
Plus, the green-shelled eggs are a novelty. (One of my Rhode Island Red hens
mated with an Araucana cock and gave me a hen that laid olive eggs!)
My dream team would include Easter Eggers. (Yes, that’s
really the breed name!) They’re similar in temperament to Araucanas and lay
blue or green eggs. It may take me a while to track them down, but—hey!—the
dream team is worth it.
More of Raising Chickens 101
See more of our beginner’s guide to raising chickens: