As a relative newbie ( 2 years of chicken keeping...) and multiple breeds , I have really become fond of the orpingtons and easter eggers. The orpingtons have all been friendly, tame, child proof and just nice pets! The easter eggers were a bit flighty until point of lay and are now sweet as can be and the green eggs and cute beards are quite endearing. Right now we have a mixed flock of 2 buff orpingtons, 3 easter eggers, 1 each of delaware, barred rock, welsummer, black jersey giant and australorp. We lost a speckled sussex and columbian wyandotte this past year... As we start to lose them (age , predators etc ....) we've decided to replace with orpingtons and easter eggers. The 10 hens at 2 years of age still give 6-10 eggs/day. These are all hatchery birds.
If you want tame, good layers and good pets, I don't think you could go wrong with orpingtons. Even in a mixed flock, they have stood way above the rest and have become firm, fast favorites in our household ! Our hatchery birds from Meyers have never been broody.
In the winter, our chickens are in the spare horse stall and allowed to free range while we are out doing the chores. They often wander in and about the horses legs and often eat hay with the horses. There has never been a problem in any way, they co exist quite well. I think the horses also provide some protection from hawks !
Good luck and have fun! I can't believe we waited so long to get chickens, I can't imagine the farm without them!
Edited by cabot - 3/6/12 at 4:33pm