New to Chickens - what Breed?

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by Country Dreamin', Jan 25, 2011.

  1. Country Dreamin'

    Country Dreamin' Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 29, 2010
    Hi All,

    I am sure you get this question alllllllll the time, but i'll ask it again!

    I am new to chickens, i will be setting up a flock this spring/summer. I would like to have some layers and some meat birds.

    They will have a coop but will also be free-run outside.

    Here is what i am looking for in a laying hen breed:
    -winter hardy
    -friendly and calm, easy to handle, good with kids
    -aesthetically pleasing - cool colours
    -comes in a variety of colours
    -heritage breed

    So far the breeds that have caught my eye are:
    Auracana, Americana, "easter eggers" (sp?)
    Plymouth Rocks

    It looks like the poultry places i have been in contact with make you order a minimum of 4 per breed. Since i am only starting a dont want a huge flock so i would like a breed that comes in different colours.

    For Meat Birds i would like a bird that does not have leg issues, fairly active and colourful as well as friendly. Any ideas for a meat breed?

    Also, i will be feeding myself, husband and 3 big dogs. How many layers to start with and how many meat birds for a newbie? We all love chicken and the 5 of us could eat an egg a day for sure.

    Thanks for your help!
  2. SillyChicken

    SillyChicken Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 12, 2010
    Salmon Faverolles are also a good dual purpose (meat and eggs) bird, they're a french heritage bird. Winter hardy, very docile, go broody easy though. Not alot of colors in the hens unless you go with a breeder (there are a few variations in color and a few breeders on site).. otherwise they're a standard cream and tan color. The roo's are pretty and haven't seen any agression in them at all!

    With just my DH and I, we started out with 10 birds, (2 roos) several hens went broody and we had an additional 30 birds (18 roos) The roos will go to freezer camp and are very good eating. During the summer, I get 6-8 eggs a day, during winter, 0-3 a day (it's been darn cold). I don't provide additional lighting for the birds to encourage laying. We have more than enough eggs.

    Cornish X I think are the standard meat birds, although I only have the above birds and don't know much about meaties. If you plan on feeding your dogs the birds as well, you'll need to figure out how many you need for them, then add what you want, then add another 20 birds cause there are usually some casualties!
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2011
  3. Susan Mc

    Susan Mc Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 12, 2011
    Well, there are several approaches you can take here. Buying hybrid layers and hybrid broilers would be one way to go, but you would understandably prefer to go with purebreeds.

    If you simply want layers, go for leghorns or minorcas, or if you have them there (I'm in Ireland), you could try Campine, Marsh Daisy, or Spanish. Laying breeds tend to be flighty, noisy, and aren't necessarily the best choice for families with young children, and do not usually brood and rear their own chicks, but given space and the right conditions you might do well with them.

    As for table breeds, Cornish Game (called Indian game here) is one of the best, but they can be aggressive and difficult to breed. Cornish crosses tend to be quite excellent too. Cornish x Dorking or Cornish x Australorp make some of the finest eating birds, I'm told. Some meat breeds grow quickly, and some quite slowly, which is something you might take into account if you want to keep your feed bill down. Ixworth is a fast-maturing table bird, as are the french breed la Bresse I'm told, but I don't know their availablility in the US. Many of these larger birds make good mothers, but they mightn't lay many eggs for you.

    Another route (which I prefer, and which most of the breeds you selected fall into) would be a dual-purpose bird, one that is a great layer but gets large enough to make a decent sized carcass. My personal favorite is Australorp, not very colourful but with a lovely green sheen on their black feathers. Other dual purpose birds that lay good numbers of eggs would be Marans, Rhode Island Red, Sussex and Wyandotte. Barnevelder, Jersey Giant, North Holland Blue, Orpington, and Vorwerk would also be good choices. I think Java and Dominique are heritage breeds that make good carcasses, but I don't know what their laying ability is. Most dual-purpose breeds are docile enough for a family with young children, and will go broody and hatch chicks.

    Figure out how many eggs you want a year, work out how many hens you'd need to produce that many (some breeds lay more than others), and add an extra 10% on top of that number for casualties, etc. Keep yourself an extra cock or 2 if you want to breed. Given plenty of space each cock should be happy with about 6 hens, or you could keep the spare cock/s penned separately.

    Have fun beginning your chicken adventure!
  4. NeilV

    NeilV Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 15, 2010
    Tulsa, OK
    Do you want to raise your own chicks or buy chicks on an ongoing basis? Do you want to raise specific breeds yourself?

    If you don't want to raise your own birds, you could get a mixed flock of layers that could include sex-linked layers.

    If you want to raise certain breeds, then you could just pick a breed or two from your list. You could butcher cockerels and extra pullets for the meat. However, you won't get nearly as efficient meat production as with a breed that has been designed to be a meat bird.

    If you don't intend to hatch eggs for meat birds, then you should look into freedom rangers, whichn are a hybrid meat bird more suited to foraging than Cornish-X. However, they are a hybrid and don't breed true so you need to buy chicks or hatching eggs if you want to keep raising the original product.

    If you just want some good layers and are not interested in a true heritage breed, then Production Reds or sex-links would be a good choice for brown eggs. My Production Reds are not the prettiest birds, but they are good foragers, are pretty friendly and lay like crazy. For all the talk about red and black sex-linked chickens, I have a hard time seeing how they could lay any better than a plain old Production Red. My Australorps are not quite as steady layers, but they are very good layers and are prettier and friendlier. I will always have some Australorps.

    In this particular forum, you will get opinions of people who are interested in heritage breeds and are not all that crazy about hatchery birds. However, if you are interested in egg and meat production, the hatchery birds will produce. (Not suggesting that the true heritage breeds don't produce too, merely that there is nothing wrong in getting hatchery stock if your goal is meat an eggs and not shows or preserving genetics.)

    Ultimately, what chicken breeds you get depend on what you want to do with the chickens.
  5. herechickchick

    herechickchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 28, 2007
    Memphis TN
    Wyandottes would be an ideal choice. There are many colors to choose from, they lay well, are winter hardy, tame if raised gently by hand, are a heritage breed, I think that covers your list. They really are great birds.
  6. ellieroo

    ellieroo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 22, 2008
    Quote:Xs 2 [​IMG]
  7. Country Dreamin'

    Country Dreamin' Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 29, 2010
    Yes! As i was doing more reading i have narrowed is down to Wyandottes for sure. I am also still considering Ameracaunas and Welsummers.

    Thanks for the help everyone!
  8. cybercat

    cybercat Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 22, 2007
    Greeneville, Tn

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