There are so many breeds of chickens and when you are just starting a flock it can be hard to decide which breeds!
Pretty ones? Planning to watch lot of the Chicken Channel!? Maybe lots of variety is important to you! Want children to learn the differences between breeds and how to know what color eggs a hen will lay with only a couple of exceptions?
Good foragers? Planning to grow fodder, sprout, let the flock have free rein in the backyard? Some breeds are better at this than others. Of course, there's always the possiblity of the one chicken who will just hang out by the feed dish!
Tolerate the heat or the cold? Do consider frostbite with large combs and wattles!
Good layers? Sure, a hen might lay three eggs a week in the summer. But, if you elect to go au naturel in the winter that might mean one or no eggs a week.
Dual purpose? Considering older hens might not be retired to the backyard? Some breeds are more suitable for this thus dual purpose.
Laid back and quiet? Some breeds tolerate children and are less frightened when children squeal with delight. Quieter breeds might be appreciated by neighbors on Sunday mornings! Do teach children the proper way to interact with chickens so that no one gets hurt!
Free ranging chickens? If you are considering allowing the chickens to free range and not visit your neighbors, heavier breeds tend not to be found on the top of 6' fences.
Broody? Backyard flocks can be a bit different in an urban area because many of us cannot have roosters so we typically are not breeding or concerned about breeding. Thus, broodiness isn't a consideration. In other words, we are not necessarily looking for a mother to incubate eggs naturally or mother chicks. Plus, space might be limited so having a hen who is focused and directed on hatching the un-hatchable eggs means fewer eggs and a nest box hogged up.
But, backyard flocksters often want productive breeds that will thrive in our environments.
Here are a few of my picks for backyard flocks. Of course, I love them all!
Australorp. What's not to love? Laid back temperament. Terrific layers. Great foragers. We've found them to be quiet and efficient. And the beautiful shimmering feathers are a bonus!
Sussex. A specked sussex is another mostly laid back breed. Good layers. Good foragers. And darn pretty!
Orpington. The only drawback with the Orpington is if you get a hen who just insists on being broody. Other than that, they are reliable layers but not as productive as Australorps. They are low key and since they are a heavier bird, they are are not likely to be found on top of a 8' fence. Orpingtons along with Maran are decent layers, don't expect 5-6 eggs a week, while being happy in a backyard flock. The Dominque is a terrific breed that is efficient, welcomes guests, and Monica continues to be one of our favorite chickens. But, as with the Orpington and Maran expect more like 3 or 4 eggs a week. And important to note, even less in the short days of winter if you are not adding light.
Red Comet. Red Comet sometimes called Red Star. This breed delivers the eggs day in and day out and they are super friendly. We prefer them over Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. But, Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds are both terrific layers and great for a backyard flock.
Easter Eggers. Another breed that just delivers the eggs. The only caveat is that they can be a bit nervous around new people but gotta love the possibility of more than white or brown eggs! The muffs are just irresistible entertainment. If you spend a time with the flock, the flock will be more laid back. Our flock is fine with Roxy, our 46-pound lover dog, but if Desiree comes by with her two tiny dogs the flock goes nuts!?
Anconas. Gosh, this breed while a bit flightly so not suitable if you don't have plenty of space but they are reliable layers and laid back if they are not freaked out by unfamiliar dogs.
Of course, don't forget rare breeds and supporting breeders doing amazing work to maintain breed and genetic diversity!
Have fun watching the Chicken Channel and eating wonderful fresh backyard eggs!