Breed recommendations?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by lpfdco237, Oct 13, 2016.

  1. lpfdco237

    lpfdco237 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2015
    I'm getting the coop situation over the winter and am looking to bring the hens in come Spring.

    My question is regarding what breeds to get. I'm in New Jersey so we can have colder winter days. Are there some breeds that might be hardier than others? Or any that get along better than others?

    I'd love to have some different colored eggs in my basket if possible.

    Appreciate the input.
  2. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    Overall, chickens are incredibly designed to withstand temperatures well be low freezing - the exceptions being birds that are otherwise compromised or do not have sufficient plumage to maintain body temperature. Some of the more ornamental breeds (ie silkies) are in the less equipped category. The common breeds, though, simply need a place to get out of the elements where there are not drafts.

    In areas where temperatures frequently dip below freezing, especially for long periods of time and/or overnight, the smaller the combed breeds are at far less risk of developing frostbite. The reason night is of particular concern is that this is the time birds are at roost, in the enclosed area of the coop, and if not properly ventilated, humidity from the birds' respirations builds up quickly and creates the moisture needed to allow for frostbite to set in. Large single combs (ie leghorns) are at greatest risk, smaller/tighter combs (rose or pea, for example) are less concerning.

    How many hens are you planning to keep and how many eggs, total, do you want to get from your flock in a week? Different breeds have different production rates so this would factor into what breeds may or may not be a good fit for you.
  3. lpfdco237

    lpfdco237 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2015
    I'm going to probably fill my coop with 6 hens. We go through at least a dozen eggs a week and already have neighbors lining up for fresh eggs as well.
  4. Peeps61

    Peeps61 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 19, 2014
    NW Florida
    With six hens, the average rate of eggs per day will vary between 2 and 6. They don't lay everyday and a good rule of thumb is one egg per two birds, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.

    I personally like my Easter Eggers. They are friendly, lay nice, large, blue eggs and have plenty of feathers, body fat and small combs to fit your needs for the cold weather.

    Another breed is my Rhode Island Reds. They have single, larger combs, but are great egg producers and seem to handle the cold well. Beautiful brown eggs too!
  5. chickencraz

    chickencraz Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 21, 2015
    Washington State
    I love my wyandottes. Their smaller rose combs tend to cope better with the cold than most of my other birds and they lay great eggs.
    EEs are also great. I had one that laid around 1 egg per week (she was the only blue egger) but my newer EEs lay 6 per week each most weeks. It all depends on where you buy your birds from.
    I'll also recommend Australorps. My girl has never once had a problem with the cold, and is still a decent layer at 4 1/2 years old.

    I wouldn't recommend Rhode Island Reds if you're going to buy from a hatchery. Most hatcheries don't sell heritage RIRs, and the Production Reds (non-heritage RIRs) typically are meaner to other chickens. I've had a few that were like that.
  6. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2015
    If brooded together you aren't likely to have problems with birds getting along. They figure each other out pretty early and that limits issues.

    Even the Mediterranean breeds handle cold pretty well, as long as your coop has proper ventilation to avoid frostbite on their larger than average combs, you won't have an issue. I'm in NE-IN, we get plenty cold, and my leghorn is the best layer I have. Period, Hands down.

    If you want a mixed flock, and different colored eggs, there are a few to throw in first to get that. Easter Eggers that have been mentioned are a good bet for green, blue, or pink. Almost impossible to know what it will be until they start laying. Marans are another option, for their deep, dark, chocolate brown eggs. Welsummer hens will give you a darker, speckled egg, for something different. I would suggest a leghorn as well, while the egg is white, if everything else is brown, suddenly white is a novelty. They are flighty and not good pet birds, but they are absurdly efficient, and you can just about make the days in your egg crates by when the white one is in there, because they don't take many days off.

    Australorps have a good reputation, I haven't been overwhelmed by mine. Opringtons as well, though they do nothing for me personally.

    I'm a fan of the Delaware and New Hampshire breeds. Any of the Plymouth Rocks make good, hardy, reliable birds as well.

    The toughest thing about a mixed flock, that broods together, is going to be sourcing them. Hatcheries have varying minimum orders, but when selecting especially for egg color, you may be disappointed. I have some MCM hatchery marans, and their eggs are a fair bit darker than everything else, and stand out in the basket, but are nowhere near the rich, dark coloring you will see posted here and elsewhere. Locating breeders can be difficult, and getting everything on hand at the same time from three or four different places (if you can find a breeder that has multiple breeds you are after) might be nearly impossible.

    The other thing you can do is visit the state member thread here on BYC, and see who in your area might have chicks in the spring, OR, might be willing to split a hatchery order with you, so you can reach the minimum and share some of the shipping costs.

    Picking chicks is one of the more fun parts of having chickens, enjoy!
    1 person likes this.
  7. If you want large, docile, and friendly birds...I love my Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex and my Brahma...I also have EEs, Bantam, Ameruacana, and Danish Brown Leghorns...They are all great choices...All my Birds do great in the Cold Canadian Winters...

    Have fun picking the breeds that will best suit your needs...

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    As you can easily see we all have our favorites. Part of the reason is that we all have different goals and manage them differently. Some people have only had one or two breeds and fall in love with the only ones they’ve seen. Part of it is that they are all individual chickens with their own personality regardless of breed. Different breeds do have tendencies but not all birds of that breed follow those tendencies. You have to have enough of that breed for averages to mean anything and with what I think you are after, you will not. Don’t get too hung up on breed. But with that said, you might look through Henderson’s Breed Chart to see what those breed tendencies are. At least you are making an informed choice that way.

    Henderson’s Breed Chart

    Then go to Feathersite for photos of the breeds and various colors and patterns. I probably haven’t made your decision any easier with this, you can see how vast your options are.


    My favorite is not a breed but just a barnyard mix. But my goals are quite different than yours. I raise them for meat, the eggs are just a nice sideline. I enjoy playing around with heredity and genetics. I want broody hens to hatch my own. Mine forage for their own food a lot. You have to know your goals to know what you want. I don’t think we share any of these goals.

    I agree with the others, if you have a decent coop practically any breed can handle your weather quite well. There are people a lot further north of you that can testify to that. Some already have on this thread. Some people further south than me have caused frostbite problems by housing them in coops with such poor ventilation that the moisture cannot escape. I’ll point out that the Naked Necks (Turkens) don’t have any feathers on their necks and supposedly have about half the thickness of feathers on the rest of their bodies compared to other breeds and are listed as a cold hardy breed. To me, how you manage and house them is more important than breed.

    One of the problems you face is that I think you only want females. Hatcheries will generally sex their full size breed chicks but they only guarantee a 90% success rate. It’s possible to get a male in your order. If you get young chicks from a neighbor they are probably not going to be sexed at all. One possible way around this is to get Point-of-Lay (POL) pullets. These are pullets old enough so that you can tell the sex for sure. They are more expensive than chicks but you don’t have to go through the expense of setting up a brooder and go through brooding them. But I don’t know what your goals are, you may want to brood them yourself.

    Another challenge is the variety of colors you want in your egg basket. That means different breeds. Most hatcheries have a minimum number of chicks they will ship and often have surcharges unless you get several of the same breed and color. You can find some that will ship small numbers but they can get really expensive. The time of year you order them can make a difference in what the minimum order is. Many hatcheries add what are called shipping peanuts to small orders, how many depends on what time of year and maybe the expected weather during shipping. Shipping peanuts are almost always excess males they hatch and are added to provide body heat during shipment. It’s worth a call to the hatchery to discuss their packing peanut policies before you order unless you want a bunch of males to show up with your order.

    As someone mentioned it’s often a good move to talk to your neighbors and see how they have solved these issues. You might find someone to split a shipment with you to greatly increase your options and reduce costs. They may have the chickens you want ready for you to pick up or may hatch some especially for you. Sometimes you can find someone that will take any that turn out to be males. Having neighbors to chat with that have local experience can help a lot. This thread might help you.

    I’ve probably made this sound a lot harder or more complicated than it is. It’s not that difficult, many people have done exactly what you want to do. One of the real problems is that so many different things can work that you have too many options, it’s hard to decide which way to go. There are some challenges but you can manage them. Welcome to the adventure.
  9. lpfdco237

    lpfdco237 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2015
    Actually, you've been more help than you can imagine. I'll check out the links you posted and see if there's anyone in my area I can work with. Otherwise, I'll do my research over the winter and hopefully find what I want in time for spring.

    Thank you!
  10. LucyBO16

    LucyBO16 Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 13, 2016
    Charlotte, NC
    Buff Orpingtons are very cold hardy, sweet, and give you nice light brown eggs. I've had two before. Delawares are also an awesome breed. They lay 4-6 eggs a week, are quiet, and calm. They are very cold hardy as well.
    1 person likes this.

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