Editor’s Note: We are so happy to welcome back Lisa Steele as our guest blogger! She is a fifth-generation chicken keeper who has been around chickens most of her life. Today she’s sharing her wisdom on how to pick out the right flock for you and your family.
With more than a hundred breeds of chickens to choose from here in the United States online from hatcheries, breeders or your local feed store, finding the best breed of chickens for your needs can get pretty overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose just one breed. And in fact, a mixed flock will give you a more colorful egg basket and more interesting group of chickens.
Which breeds you choose will depend largely on what’s important to you and your family. Do you want great layers for maximum egg production? Or is having a friendly flock of backyard “pets” more important to you? Are you excited about the thought of a colorful basket full of eggs? Or maybe you want some fancy chickens with cheek muffs, feathered feet or fancy top knots. These are all questions you should ask yourself before deciding which breeds your flock will consist of.
While there is no “right” or “wrong” breed, and all the breeds generally will get along with each other, one of the more important considerations is the climate where you reside. Although most chickens are generally okay in cold climates, there are many breeds that struggle in hot climates. So if you live in an area where it’s warm and humid for much of the year, then choosing heat-tolerant breeds will be important.
The Mediterranean breeds are good choices if you need heat-tolerant chickens. Breeds such as Leghorns, Penedesencas and Andalusians are examples of some of the Mediterranean breeds. They tend to have small, sleek bodies and large combs which help them stay cool.
Chicken Breeds for Egg Production
If egg production is going to be one of your deciding factors in choosing breeds, then you can’t go wrong with a Barred Rock or Rhode Island Red chicken. Both breeds are known for their egg laying prowess. While no chicken lays an egg every day, a good layer will grace your family with 5-6 eggs a week during the spring and summer months.
If you have small children, or have visions of a flock of “lap” chickens who love to snuggle and eat out of your hand, then Australorps or Buff Orpingtons are great choices. Both breeds are known for being extremely docile and friendly, as are Cochins and Brahmas.
There’s nothing more exciting than a multi-colored egg basket! While most breeds lay brown eggs, the Mediterranean breeds tend to lay white eggs. Marans lay extremely dark brown, almost chocolate brown eggs. There are several breeds that lay blue eggs, including Ameraucana, Araucana and Cream Legbar. Olive Eggers are a relatively new mixed breed that lays olive green eggs. And Easter Eggers are the most fun of all. They can lay any color egg from blue-ish to green to pink or tan – and you don’t know what color you’ll get until your hens start laying!
So-called fancy breeds, include those with feathered feet like Cochins, Marans or Faverolles, those with cheek muffs and “beards” such as Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers, and those with crazy hair-dos like the Polish breed. Not known for being the best layers, their job in the flock is to entertain and delight with their unique appearance.
No matter which breed of chicken you choose to raise in your backyard, you are guaranteed baskets full of delicious, fresh eggs and hours of relaxation and entertainment watching your little flock roam the yard scratching for weeds, chasing bugs and softly clucking to each other.
Lisa Steele is a fifth-generation chicken keeper who has been around chickens most of her life. It’s no surprise she has made her name raising her own backyard flock and sharing her farming adventures. Lisa is also an avid gardener and aspiring herbalist. She shares tips and advice on both her award-winning Fresh Eggs Daily blog (www.fresheggsdaily.com) and Facebook page of the same name. She holds a Maine Master Gardener certification and her popular website has been named one of Better Homes & Gardens Top Ten Gardening Blogs.