What Kind of Chickens Should I Raise? Help Choosing a Breed

I get asked all the time what is the 'best' breed for a new chicken keeper. Well, that's a tough question to answer because there really IS no one best breed.

There are best-laying breeds, best-looking breeds (although beauty IS in the eye of the beholder), most cold-hardy, most heat-tolerant, prettiest egg layers, best foragers, best breeds for kids...and the list goes on.

I don't find much difference in caring for any one breed over another. Mine all sleep together, eat together, forage together, dust bath together; none require special care.

Of course each hen as their own personality and quirks, most breed-driven. Some enjoy free ranging more than others, some like the high roosts, some don't, but on the whole, the choice of breed is a personal one.

So the best breed (or breeds) for YOU are those that will fufill the specific reasons why YOU want to start raising chickens.

I only raise chickens for their eggs. We don't eat our chickens, not even once they are done laying, so I won't go into choosing meat breeds since I know nothing about raising meat birds.. We'll just focus on egg laying hens.

While I don't advocate free ranging unless it is controlled and supervised (i.e. by you, a trained LGD, and/or in an area where the hens have adequate shelter and hiding places from hawks and ground predators), my girls do get a chance to explore the yard each afternoon before dusk.

Even with that limited access to foraging, I do find there is an advantage to choosing breeds who can at least subsidize part of your feed bill with worms, bugs, weeds and grass.

However, some of my chickens just don't seem to have much interest in finding their own food. They prefer to simply hang out in the run which they know provides a constant supply of feed, while others literally knock each other out of the way to sprint to the pasture where they know there are bugs and worms and grubs!

I have raised lots of different breeds of chickens over the years. I love them all for their own unique traits and I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite.

I loved a mixed flock both for their beauty and individual appearance, egg color and how their personalities all complement each other.

Help Choosing a Breed

I currently raise or have raised in the past:

Bantam Chocolate Orpington
Black Copper Marans
Blue Copper Marans
Buff Orpington
Chocolate Orpington
Easter Egger
Ice Cream Bar
Lavender Orpington
Light Sussex
Mottled Java
Olive Egger
Rhode Island Red
Silver Laced Wyandotte
Splash Marans
White Sultan

In the interest of helping you choose some breeds that might be right for you, here are some desired traits and some of the breeds that possess each:

Some of the Most-Prolific Egg Layers include:

Anconas, Australorps, Golden Comets, Leghorns, Minorcas, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Sex-Links, Sussex and Wyandottes.

HERE is a wonderful article from The Livestock Conservancy on Australorps, one of my favorite breeds.

Cold hardy breeds include:

Ameraucanas, Auracanas, Australorps, Barnevelders, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Brahmas, Buckeye, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Dominiques, Easter Eggers, Faverolles, Jersey Giants, Marans, New Hampshire Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Sussex, Welsummers and Wyandottes.

Heat-tolerant breeds include:

Ameraucanas, Anconas, Andalusians, Auracanas, Easter Eggers, Hamburgs, Lakenvelders, Leghorns, and Penedesencas.

Broody breeds include:

Australorps, Brahmas, Buffs, Cochins, Columbian Wyandottes, Dark Cornish, Partridge Rocks, Silkies and Speckled Sussex.

Non-broody breeds include:

Andalusians, Campines, Lakenvelders, Leghorns, Orloffs, Penedesencas, Rhode Island Reds, and Sicilian Buttercups.

Docile breeds include:
Ameraucana, Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Faverolles, Plymouth Rock and Silkies.

Best Foraging breeds include:

Ancona, Andalusians, Marans, Minorca, Penedesenca, Rhode Island Reds and Welsummers.

Prettiest Egg Laying breeds include:

Blue (Ameraucanas, Araucanas, Cream Legbars), Pink (Australorps, Silkies, Sussex), Chocolate Brown (Marans, Penedesencas), Cream (Faverolles) Green (Easter Eggers, Olive Eggers).

For a more comprehensive list of breeds sorted by the egg color they lay, click HERE.

I hope this has given you a starting point to begin choosing the breeds you will raise.  There is plenty of breed information and wonderful photos online once you have your choices narrowed down a bit.

Browse chicks at  Meyer Hatchery 

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