Chickens are a good choice of animal to support a sustainable homestead. Chickens are relatively small and easy to manage, which makes them perfect for raising in urban areas where space is limited as well as in wide open spaces on a ranch or farm.
Chickens not only provide eggs and meat but their waste is also excellent fertilizer and they are fantastic for eating the bugs in your vegetable patch.Chickens seek out insect vermin including ticks, spiders and worms –and they do it for chicken feed.
Before you rush into selecting your chickens, have a plan in mind for to help you find the ideal breed for your purposes. Knowing what you hope to accomplish with your poultry is the first step in choosing the chickens that will be best fit for your needs.
How to Pick the Chick
Certain chickens are valued for their production of top quality eggs of prodigious sizes while others are favoured for their quality meat, and age of maturity, some are even chosen for their unique plumage, temperament.
You can always circulate your stock till you find a breed that suits your homestead. Even try a variety of breeds each year till you find the perfect pack of chicks to fill your coop.
Following are some of the most popular attributes that poultry breeders favour in chickens along with a list of popular chicken breeds commonly selected each purpose.
Chicken Breeds for the Production of Large Eggs
One of the biggest assets a chicken farm can provide is an abundance of eggs. If you are looking for breeds that produce large amounts of eggs you should consider the California White, Cherry Eager, Golden Comet,Indian River and Hyline Brown.
Some Heritage Breeds are also prolific egg layers like the White Faced Black Spanish, Rhode Island Whites, Plymouth Rocks, Australorps and Rhode Island Reds. Hybrid chickens can produce 300+ eggs in a year while heritage egg layers can produce between 200 and 250.
For chicken breeds that produce extra-large eggs breeders prefer Cinnamon Queens, and Golden Comets as well as heritage breeds like Jersey Giants, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth rocks, and Australorps.
Some young hens, known as “pullets,” can begin laying eggs when they are quite young– even 17 weeks old for some hybrid varieties. Other breeds take longer to sexually mature, up to 26 weeks in some cases.
If you are looking for chickens to begin laying eggs quickly you would want Indian Rivers, Cherry Eggers, Golden Comets, Pearl Leghorns or ISA Browns. Heritage breeds that can mature as soon as 21 weeks include Anconas, Whitefaced Black Spanish, Red caps and Minorcas.
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Chicken Breeds for Egg Colour
Many chicken breeds are favored for their production of fine colors of eggshell ranging from blue-ish greens, reds and browns. For dark rich browns breeds like Barnevelders, Marans and Welsummers are an excellent choice.
Ameraucanas lay eggs with blue- ish green tones and Favaucana eggs have a sage green color.
Rhode Island Red Cochin Brahma Plymouth Rock Delaware Buckeye Jersey Giant Buff Orpington Wyandotte Barnvelder Black Copper Marans New Hampshire Red Java Brahma Cuckoo Marans Australorp Blue Copper Maran Orpington
Cream & White Eggs
Leghorn Catalana Silkie Easter Egger Andalusian Minorca Sebright Campine Dorking Faverolle Sicilian Buttercup Hamburg Sabelpoot Spanish White Face Orloff Lavenvelder
Easter Eggers Barred rock Plymouth Rock Asil Langshan Light Sussex
Green & Blue
Easter Eggers Olive Eggers Ameraucana Cream Legbar Araucana Favaucana Andalusian
Chicken Breeds for The Best Quality Meats
When it comes to choosing chickens for meat there are two questions you must consider. First you must ask “how long does this breed take to reach maturity” and “which chicken is going to taste the best?”
Buckeyes, Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks and Cornish all get good ratings as breeds raised for meat. Hybrid chickens will convert feed efficiently and always reach maturity at an alarming speed –their accelerated growth can cause them health problems.
And as far as flavor, the best tasting breeds of chicken are Dorkings, La Fleche, Cornish and Buckeyes. La Fleche in particular has been been hailed as a meaty favourite among breeders.
Free Range Chickens
Free range chickens are also reputed to lay especially flavorful and nutritious eggs. Good breeds for if you have lots of room are Old English Game, Hamburg, Malay and Catalana. For free range fans with the limited space you would find in an urban environment Cornish, Polish, Langshans and Pearl Leghorns are a good choice as they do well in small spaces.
Breeds for Temperament
If you are just getting interested in the concept of raising livestock you might want to consider a rather calm and tranquil breed such as the Orpington, Faverolles, Silkie or Brahma. These will make egg collecting and other activities easier on you.
Breeds for Contrasting Climates
It is important when selecting chicks –which is done in the spring when the weather is getting warm– to consider the following winter and how the chicks you choose will weather the cold weather.
The best breeds to keep in regions where the winters get very cold are Brahmas, Javas, Chanteclers and Buckeyes. Some breeds that do well in warmer regions are Javas, Jungle Fowl, Cubalayas, Sumatras and Malays.
Best Brood Mothers
If you are looking for a chicken breed that will reproduce well, including some of nature’s best mothers. The best breeds for nesting hatching and raising chicks are Aseels, Cochins, Old English Game and Modern Games.
Most of these hens will also gladly hatch eggs that are not their own, meaning they make excellent foster mother to raise other breeds.The instinct that causes hens to “go broody” –the urge to hatch eggs– has been bred out of many species because a broody hen is not laying eggs.
The Best All Round Chicken Breeds
But if you are looking for a good all round clucker that will lay eggs, and lay them frequently, even taste good and produce meat well. Then you would be most rewarded to consider the Rhode Island White, New Hampshire, Australorp, Orpington or Plymouth Rock. All these breeds are tough lot with a fair temperament, which also produce brown eggs.