Many people start their homestead with a flock of chickens and I think that’s a great way to jump into it. The first that has to happen is choosing a chicken breed (or breeds) to raise. That seems like a simple enough task but there are some considerations to make when choosing a chicken breed.
Even if you don’t have a homestead but just a backyard, you can have your very own flock of chickens as well. (check your zoning first)
Choosing a Chicken Breed For Your Homestead
Choices, choices, choices have to be made. First off, you need to ask yourself some questions about chickens to help you decide which breed or breeds will best fit your needs.
What is your purpose for raising chickens? Do you desire to have egg layers, meat birds, or dual purpose? Do you want to raise chicks? What kind of climate do you have? How much space do you have to raise them? How much do you want to supplement feed vs letting them forage? Do you want colorful eggs, exotic birds, or adorable tiny chickens?
These are all necessary questions for choosing a chicken breed so let’s break it down and look into some of the breeds to choose from.
Egg Laying Breeds-
If your main motive is to have lots of eggs, you want to choose a breed that is very productive. Some top options include Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, Black Australorp, Buff Orpington, and Sussex.
For a prolific amount of eggs, you definitely want to choose breeds that will lay a lot and these are some great choices. Some of these breeds will lay up to one egg a day. Keep in mind that chickens will go through a molting season each year and stop laying or lay way less often for a period of time.
If your sole purpose if to raise meat birds, there are 2 main choices- Cornish Cross (hybrid) or Freedom Ranger (Heritage). The Cornish Cross are known for growing out quickly, in just 8 weeks. They are a hybrid breed and are not very hardy. Freedom Rangers are a heritage breed that is hardy and very good at foraging.
We have raised both and have seen good results from each breed. It will boil down to what fits your needs and preferences.
There are some breeds that lay well but are also heavy enough to raise for meat as well. This includes the Buff Orpington, Jersey Giant, Rhode Island Red, Black Australorp, Speckled Sussex, and Wyandotte.
You get the best of both worlds here- plenty of eggs and meat as well.
In order to raise your own chicks, you will need hens that will go broody and are good mothers. Buff Orpingtons are known for their broodiness. Other broody breeds include; Chocin, Brahma, Sussex, Silkie, and Bantams.
If you have broody hens, they can sit on a clutch of eggs and hatch out your next batch of chickens for you.
Raising your own chicks also requires you to have a rooster. That being said, roosters can be very aggressive and having roosters that are more docile and gentle is important. Any breed of rooster can be aggressive but these breeds are known for being calmer than others. Brahmas Chocin, Orpington, and Bantam.
Sometimes, roosters will turn aggressive as they age. When this happens, we rid our homestead of the aggressive rooster and replace him with a younger one that’s not aggressive.
Some chickens are better foragers than others. Breeds that are known for being able to fend for themselves are Rhode Island Red, Welslummer, Barred Rock, Wyandotte, and Leghorn.
This is important if you want to raise free range eggs and also to cut down on your feed bill.
If you live in a colder climate, you want to choose a breed that can withstand the cold. Keep in mind, chicken’s combs can get frostbite when the temperatures are low. Chantecler, Brahma, Plymouth Rock, Australorp, Wyandotte, Faverolles, are several cold hardy breeds.
Those who are raising chickens in areas that are known to have a hotter climate will want birds that can handle excess heat. Andalusian, Araucana or Easter Egger, Dominique, Brahmas, Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Campines.
Just for Fun-
I like to have some fun with chickens. I’m particularly fond of colorful eggs. I’m also eyeballing some Bantam chickens, they’re just so tiny and cute! There are definitely some interesting looking birds out there as well. Araucana or Easter Egger, Bantam, and Silkie, Breeds all cover these.
As you see, many of these breeds cross over from one category to another. You can have so much fun choosing a chicken breed based off of this information.
There are many breeds of chickens out there. I am sure that I missed a few or more but this information should help you choose chickens for your backyard or homestead.
You definitely don’t have to choose just one or even two breeds, you can have a mixed flock. We like to have a variety of chickens on our homestead.
What is your favorite breed of chickens?
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