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

What kind of chickens should I raise? There is no one best breed. Choosing a breed or breeds comes down to your ultimate goals for your flock.

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.



What Kind of Chickens Should I Raise?

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:

Ameraucana
Andalusian
Araucana
Australorp
Bantam Chocolate Orpington
Black Copper Marans
Blue Copper Marans
Buff Orpington
Chocolate Orpington
Cochin
Easter Egger
Favaucana
Faverolle
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:

If lots and lots of eggs is your goal then you'll want to choose breeds that are known for their laying prowess.



Some of the Most-Prolific Egg Layers

include:

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

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

Although most chickens do just fine in cold climates, if you live where it gets really cold for much of the year, then choosing breeds specifically bred for the cold isn't a bad idea.


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
Wyandottes


If you live in a hot climate, it's wise to choose breeds that do well in the heat. Chickens in general don't handle heat very well, but these breeds tend to do better.


Heat-tolerant breeds include:


Ameraucanas
Anconas
Andalusians
Auracanas
Easter Eggers
Hamburgs
Lakenvelders
Leghorns
Penedesencas

If hatching and raising chickens is your goal, then choosing breeds that tend to want to sit on eggs will be helpful.


Broody breeds include:


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

If you have no interest in hatching eggs, then choosing those breeds that don't tend to go broody will be something you'll want to do.

Non-broody breeds include:


Andalusians
Campines
Lakenvelders
Leghorns
Orloffs
Penedesencas
Rhode Island Reds
Sicilian Buttercups

Especially if you have kids, you might want to choose breeds that are more friendly and calm.


Docile breeds include:

Australorps
Brahmas
Buff Orpingtons
Cochins
Faverolles
Plymouth Rock
Silkies

If you do plan on letting your chickens free range, some breeds seem to do better at foraging than others. It is a good way to reduce your food bill a bit! 


Best Foraging breeds include:


Ancona
Andalusians
Marans
Minorca
Penedesenca
Rhode Island Reds
Welsummers

If colored eggs are what you're after, then you'll need to add some of these breeds to your flock.

Prettiest Egg Laying breeds include:

Blue (Ameraucanas, Araucanas, Cream Legbars)
Pink (Australorps, Silkies, Sussex)
Chocolate Brown (Marans, Penedesencas)
Cream (Faverolle)
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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