Dec 03 , 2019
The great thing about chickens is that you can customize your flock to whatever extent you like. If you want a uniform flock of all one breed, no problem. If you want a rainbow of colors and varieties and sizes, you can have that, too.
You’ll want to first consider your needs and what you expect from your flock. Do you want to focus on egg production? Are you wanting to raise chickens for meat? Are you interested in chickens more for pets and insect control? Do you have a lot of space, or a little? Or, do you just want a varied, neat looking flock to roam your backyard? All of these are great reasons to get involved in the chicken world.
This is far and away the most common reason for getting chickens. The most popular breeds tend to be brown egg layers, followed by white egg layers. Some people want more variety, not in their flock’s appearance, but in their egg basket! Chickens can lay many colors of eggs, from white, to brown, to chocolate, to even green and blue.
For brown eggs, the most popular choices are Rhode Island Reds and other Red mixes. Also popular are Orpingtons, Australorps, Rocks, and Wyandottes. An often overlooked brown egg layer is the Naked Neck or Turken. Though funny looking, they are big, friendly birds that can out-produce many of the popular high production breeds.
White egg layers are less common, but the highest producing breed in this category is the Leghorn, who wins by a mile. Leghorns come in white and brown and can be somewhat flighty in personality.
For dark chocolate brown eggs, you’ll want to get some Marans. They come in a variety of colors such as Black Copper, Blue Copper, Cuckoo, and Silver Cuckoo. They are beautiful birds that produce dark brown eggs.
If you’re looking for blue eggs, the Easter Egger is your go-to bird. EE's include Ameraucanas, Araucanas, and various mixes of both. True Araucanas are rare, but general Easter Eggers are quite common and sold by most major hatcheries.
For real green eggs and ham, look into adding some Olive Eggers. These are hybrids of several different breeds and hatcheries tend to keep their genetic secrets under wraps. These birds produce olive green eggs and make a great surprise for your neighbors and friends when you give them a dozen green eggs!
Raising meat birds is becoming more and more common among homesteaders and permaculture communities. Hatcheries sell “broilers” which are hybrids of Cornish, Rock, and other breeds which vary by hatchery. Ready for processing in 6-8 weeks, they are incredibly fast-growing and require a different strategy for raising them than chicks of any other breed.
If you’re looking for a diverse flock with all kinds of colors, ornamental breeds can be a lot of fun. You won’t find many breeds that are exceptional egg layers, but they can eat just as many insects and their poop is just as useful as garden fertilizer. From poofy head feathers, to feathery feet, to super long tails, you’ll find all kinds in this category.
If you only have a small space for keeping chickens, bantams may be a good choice for you. Many breeds have bantam (miniature) versions. They are excellent for insect control and make great pets, just like their standard counterparts, only doing everything in lesser quantities.