Raising chickens in a backyard has fast become a popular hobby all across the country.
Large cities have set the precedent by allowing them even in the largest urban areas. Having fresh eggs daily, along with bug control and even entertainment have been some of the reasons many of the people I have talked to want to raise chickens. Have you decided that you want to try a flock for yourself?
Are you wondering which chicken breed is right for you?
Selecting a breed to raise is an important first step, and one that requires just a little bit of forethought. Here is my Chickens 101 guide on choosing from some of my favorite chicken breeds.
First, why do you want chickens?
The different breeds of chickens have different purposes. Some are excellent for meat, and won’t really lay eggs, some are prolific layers but aren’t that great for meat, and some are “dual-purpose” meaning that they are great layers, and are large enough for a decent sized meal. Today, we are going to explore Layers and some of my favorite breeds.
California Whites and Leghorns
If you are looking to raise a flock of birds simply to have some fresh eggs and really have no intention of eating them when their laying life is done, my favorite breeds are California Whites or Leghorns. They are what many factory farmers will raise because they will eat minimal feed, produce upwards of 350 eggs a year and are smaller in size. Their eggs are white shelled and most often the “large” sized like you would find in the grocery store. We had 6 of them once in our flock, and they were the strongest layers. However, they are also a bit on the skittish side and liked to escape their pen and run right into the garden. We dubbed one “Hendini” because no matter how tight the run was, she was able to find a way out.
Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Wyandottes and Barred Rocks
All three are popular breeds where I live. Rhode Islands have pretty brownish red feathers, Isa browns have a lighter brown feather, Buff Orpingtons are tan or “blonde” in color, and Barred Rocks are a very pretty black and white stripe. They will all lay very well, giving about 325-340 eggs per year. They are a larger “dual purpose” bird and will easily eat 2x the feed of a Leghorn. Their eggs are brown shelled and I have had many that are “extra large” in size, but generally will be “large” sized. All are fairly friendly and docile breeds are mostly compliant in posing for pictures, and ours would “stay put” in their run without too much escaping. Wyandottes are great for 4H’ers as they are pretty, docile and are also very good layers. They can come in many colors, but silver laced and golden laced seem to be the most popular.
Silkies are great for a backyard beginner. They are friendly, and as a bantam size, they take up less room. They lay 225-250 eggs a year, although they are smaller in size. Silkies come in buff, blue, white and black colors. Their gentle personality makes them a great choice around little kids who are prone to want to “pet” the chickens and they are fun to watch. Silkies are great “setters” and are often used to hatch clutches of eggs. Their meat is a blue color and a delicacy in China, and is a bit richer in flavor than other chickens. These are the layer breeds that are most popular in backyards. Of course, there are lots of other breeds to choose from, but I have had the best experiences with these myself.