Best breed for a complete chicken newbie & how many to get?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by OzarkEgghead, Oct 8, 2015.

  1. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    Howdy, folks....

    Not only am I new to this group, but I'm new to keeping & raising chickens. I've been contemplating for several years getting some chicks to raise & keep for eggs. After a recent trip to the store where I had to pay $8.38 for 36 runny, factory-farmed eggs, I decided it was time to stop contemplating & start making some moves to get prepared to finally welcome some chickens to my farm!

    I would be ordering my chicks from our local feed store in the Spring. I presume they'll have the same breeds available next Spring as they did this Spring. The 2015 offerings were Cornish Cross, Production Red, Buff Orpingtons, Black Austrolorps & Cinnamon Queens. My plan is for their primary purpose to be as laying hens but figure due to time & space constraints that I'll have to resort to sending them to the pot when their laying days are over. Which of the above breeds are easiest for a newbie to raise but meet the characteristics of being good layers & decent meat birds at the end of their laying careers?

    I go through AT LEAST 14 eggs per week. I don't want to be "overrun" with eggs but having some "extras" is preferable to not having enough. If I can't use the "extras" myself, I'd be more than happy to share them with co-workers or walk the 1/2 mile down the road to share them with my neighbor. My plan is to renovate a 12' x16' shed that's on my property so that the chickens would have a 12' wide x 10' deep coop. The remaining 12' wide x 6' deep area would provide storage for feed, stall forks & other tools. The chickens would also have access to a 10' wide x 20' deep fenced run. Taking into consideration my egg needs & available space, how many chicks should I order when the time comes?

    Thank you in advance for any advice you can give!
     
  2. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

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    Cornish Cross, - meat bird only. gains weight fast, prone to heart attacks. Chicks require very careful monitoring to thrive.
    Production Red,- a hybrid of 2 or more breed. Bred for eggs. Not a meat bird.

    Buff Orpingtons, classic dual purpose breed. Good layers and n the pot afterwards. All dual purpose birds will not lay quite as much as the hybrid egg birds, however, they do a good job and make good meals afterward.
    Black Australorps same virtues are Australops, Another classic dual purpose breed.
    Cinnamon Queens.- another hybrid egg layer like the Production Reds. not much meat for the pot.
    Best,
    Karen
     
  3. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Overrun With Chickens

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    As a beginner it is always best to start small. When you get a little more experienced, you can decide the best number for your needs.
    Cornish cross are just for meat and are ready to eat in 8 weeks or so. They are eating machines, lazy and tasty. No eggs. Production reds are hatchery grade Rhode Island red, Red sex links , and other red hybrids. Good layers and you can eat them after their production decreases after about 2 or 3 years. Don't expect them to be as tasty and tender as broilers. Good soup birds though. Orpingtons are the number 1 bird of choice rated by chicken keepers. Austrolorps are good layers but not top. Most popular chicken worldwide is the White leghorn. Superior white egg layer. I do not know much about the Cinnamon Queen.
    Start with about 6 to 8 chickens and go from there. Chicken math will get to you soon. LOL
    WISHING YOU BEST AND [​IMG]
     
  4. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you for the warm welcome! I was actually hoping they'd have Leghorns available. Guess I'm showing my age that I favor them because of the old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons!! LOL. Unfortunately, unless something changes this year, that's not one of the breeds available through my local feed store. I can get day old Leghorn chicks mailed to me from the Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, MO....but they require a minimum of 15 to 20 chicks for warmth purposes and, being so new at this, I really don't think I want to tackle 15 birds right off the bat.

    While I was on the Cackle Hatchery website, I looked up their description of the breeds and they note that the Black Australorps should be provided with plenty of shade to prevent them from overheating. Their run is not going to have any shade so the only reprieve they'd get from the hot summer sun would be to return to their coop. We get VERY humid, hot summers here as I'm only 12 miles from the Missouri/Arkansas line. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe the Black Australorp wouldn't be the best choice for me....at least not until I have the hang of this chicken-mom thing. Soooo, again, unless they change the offered breeds next year, it seems to me that the best option might just be the Buff Orpingtons.

    With a 12 x 10 coop, am I providing enough room for 6-8 hens when they reach full size?
     
  5. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Overrun With Chickens

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    GENERAL GUIDELINE FOR CHICKENS IS 4 SQUARE FEET PER CHICKEN. This translates to being able to handle up to 30 chickens max. Your 6 to 8 hens will have extremely roomy accommodations. As to white leghorns, I would think that another nearby store may have them. It is the most common chicken. Another option is for you to join a local Texas, or Missouri, or Arkansas thread, and post that you are interested in getting whichever breed you want. There you will encounter information and advice from peeps in your area. In the forum navigation search out your choice state in WHERE AM I? WHERE ARE YOU.
    The Black Austrolorps have the disadvantage of their feather color. If you just provide a place to get some shade, they will do OK. Remember, that if they sell them in your area, they will do well in your area.
     
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Minimum recommendation is for at least 10 s.f./bird in the run, so your set up will allow a max of 20 birds. I'd recommend that you start with less than 1/2 of that number. No matter what kind of birds you get, they're gonna need shade. More birds die from overheating than do from being cold. If you're in a warm area, Leghorns would do great. Big combs are designed to dissipate heat, while they are also prone to frost bite. Given the breeds you listed, if I was choosing, I'd look at perhaps the Black Australorp, and Cinnamon Queen. I love a mixed flock! You might even want to get one of each breed that's available. An other common bird is Plymouth Barred Rock. The coloring of their feathers provides a nice contrast to BA and Leghorn! If you're gonna have chickens, you might as well get yourself some eye candy! Check out Henderson's chicken breeds chart. Other reading you might consider so that you are well prepared for your flock: Harvey Ussery: "The small flock poultry keeper". Then, do some google searches re: deep litter, "Yes, you certainly can brood chicks outdoors", fermented feed. Then, go to the learning center and do some reading regarding brooding chicks, and incubation. Will you eventually want to hatch your own chicks? That will enter into your breed selection.
     
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  7. song of joy

    song of joy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Welcome to BYC!

    Coops get really hot in the summer, even with windows. You're definitely going to need shade in the run area for any chickens that you get. Like Lazy Gardener, I also love variety. If you're not set on getting chicks from the local feed store, I'd recommend ordering pullets from a hatchery. Many times feed stores only have straight-run chicks (males and females), which means you'll have to do something with the males (keep, butcher or rehome). I've had very good luck ordering pullet chicks from Meyer Hatchery, and they have a 3-chick minimum order.

    Frankly, you won't get much meat from dual purpose laying hens that have slowed down with their laying, which happens at 2 to 3 years old. I've processed 2 and 3-year old Rhode Island reds, buff orpingtons and barred rocks, and usually only get about 1 1/2 pounds of meat from them. They are "stew hens" as the meat is too tough to cook other ways. They make a great pot of chicken soup.

    I'd recommend 6 to 8 pullet chicks. Some really nice breeds for a mixed flock include barred plymouth rock, dominique, Rhode Island red, Easter eggers, and black australorp. I've had buff orpingtons, but don't really prefer them due to their large size and puffy feathers. They don't tolerate the heat well and they eat more than smaller breeds. Easter eggers are colorful and they lay very pretty, light green or bluish eggs. (I love variety in the birds and the egg basket!) I've had wonderful RIR and some that are a bit aggressive with people and flock members, so that may be a consideration for you. My friendliest chicken is a dominique, which lays well and is cold and heat hardy.

    Best of luck to you!
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2015
  8. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    Lazy Gardener...thank you for all of the suggested reading. I'll definitely be looking into it!

    Song of Joy...I was wondering if feed store chicks were straight runs. That was going to be one of the questions I asked of them before purchasing. They do have pre-ordering in February so I had hoped that you could order strictly pullet chicks but was afraid that wouldn't be the case. I can order from the same hatchery that the feed store does...the Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, MO...and have them sent to me through the mail. They have what they call their small town/city package which can range from as few as 3 chicks, up to 15 chicks and you can pick strictly pullets, a mix of pullets & cockerels or a mix of breeds. It's more expensive, though, because they have to package them in a special way in order to keep them warm during mailing.

    Also, I see on your profile that you're in Central Pennsylvania. Would you mind tell me where in Central PA? I used to live in the Newburg/Shippensburg area...not far from Gettysburg.
     
  9. song of joy

    song of joy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm in Spring Mills, about 20 miles east of State College.
     
  10. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Our local feed stores get a limited variety of chicks in spring, and although they are sold as pullets, many cockrels turn up because the hatchery does a poor job of sexing the chicks. Low prices, but too many boys, and not vaccinated for Marek's disease. I have done much better ordering from Murray McMurray, Cackle, Ideal, or Meyers. Pick a list of breed types that interest you, and place an order. If you get straight run, or include cockrels for meat, 25 is not a bad number of chicks. Some hatcheries will send fifteen chicks too. If you happen to live within driving distance, that's even better. There are so many choices! Mary
     

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