Chickens Come in Every Shape and Size… Which is Right For You?
If you are considering purchasing chickens for the first time, congratulations! It’s a rewarding journey. Before you place your order or visit your farming supply store with the intent to buy, however, there are a few things you should know. There are hundreds of chicken breeds worldwide and one chicken is not the same as another. Far from it. Some are layers, some broilers, and some are good for both. Some breeds are merely ornamental. Certain breeds are docile and friendly while others are skittish or aggressive. Several breeds are particularly loud and some breeds are very difficult to raise without experience. Likewise, certain breeds are so simple that they could practically raise themselves.
Consider Your Options
There are more choices for chicken breeds than there are choices for nearly any other animal on the market. The most popular breeds in the United States include the Leghorn, Golden Comet, Plymouth Rock, Sussex, Wyandottes, California White, Rhode Island Red, Australorp, and Rhode Island White.
The breed you choose depends on a variety of factors. Do you want the chickens for eggs, meat, fertilizer, or a combination of these? What sort of temperament would you prefer? What breed best suits your climate and land? The breed you select will effect things as minute as the frequency of egg laying to the color of the eggshells. Do your research before you buy.
Although opinion varies as to the very best chicken for eggs, prolific layers include the Leghorn, Australorp, Orpington, Light Sussex, and Rhode Island Reds. Each of these birds produces between 200-300 eggs per year.
Egg color varies widely throughout the breeds. Leghorns produce white eggs. As they are used on an industrial scale, most supermarket eggs come from Leghorn Chickens. Chickens such as Welsummers, Marans, and Barnevelders lay dark brown eggs. Araucanas and Ameraucanas chickens lay interesting greenish and bluish eggs. Chicken eggs taste generally the same across breeds.
Hybrid chickens may be an attractive option because they develop extremely quickly. Keep in mind, however, that because of their genetically altered growth rate they often suffer health problems. You’ll have to wait longer to grow and raise your Heritage breeds, but you won’t have to deal with as many adverse health issues.
Just like people, chickens come with a wide variety of temperaments. They have unique personalities. While individual birds vary, temperament can largely be divided by breed. If you have children, it’s especially important to consider a breed’s temperament before buying chicks. Some chickens are very docile while others are flighty or even aggressive, capable of harming a child.
Plymouth Rock, Orpington, Cochin, and Dorking chickens tend to be very docile. These are great birds for families. They are loving, sweet, and gentle. Chickens such as the Leghorn and Hamburg tend to be flighty and skittish around people. They don’t like to be handled much. Cornish Cocks, Rhode Island Red Cocks, and Aseel Chickens are known to be highly aggressive. If you have children, avoid these breeds.
Best Breeds for Beginners
The plethora of information out there can easily be overwhelming. You don’t have to look into each breed out there before choosing, but you should research your breed before buying. Several of the easiest breeds available are Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Leghorns. They are simple to care for, hardy, and good producers. If you are a beginner, this is an excellent place to start.
Chicken Breed by Region
Rhode Island Red Chickens
Rhode Island White Chickens
Plymouth Rock Chickens
Jersey Giant Chickens
American Dominique Chickens
Iowa Blue Chickens
New Hampshire Chickens