Newbie here has a few questions regarding breed selection

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by idahomama, Mar 13, 2008.

  1. idahomama

    idahomama Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi everyone. I'm glad I found you and from browsing through this board you all really know your chickens! Before I barrage you with my questions, a little bit about me and why I'm here.

    I live here in South Central Idaho with my hubby, 17 month old daughter, a fabulous 3 yo German Shepherd, and a cat who is a few bricks short but we love her nonetheless. We live in a ruralish suburb that is zoned for agriculture/livestock. Our property is 0.5 acre and most of that is fenced.

    I have always wanted to raise chickens but I grew up on the east coast in a city so it was never an option. Now that I am living the country life that is going to change.

    Our plan is to have 1 to 3 chickens for fresh eggs and company. I have space in my backyard to build either a permanent coop or movable one. Summers are very hot and dry and winters are long, snowy and can get extremely cold. Wind is a huge factor here in the winter. So, my questions for you are:

    Which breed would best suit us? We are looking for a breed that is gentle and friendly, one that can acclimate to living with a toddler and a well-trained dog. It must be able to withstand out harsh climate. DH is an electrician so he can run wires to a coop for light/heat but the breed still should be able to handle some cold in cases of power outage, etc.

    Is there an optimal number we should get? Would one be too lonely, should we try a pair?

    I'm not sure about ordering/shipping such a small number so local pickup would be our optimal situation but we are open to other methods. I don't have an incubator and am hesitant to try so the baby chicks is the route we are looking to start from.

    I have many other questions (coop size, security, etc) but think I should post in the appropriate forum


    ETA: Adding that : I just got off the phone with my boss's wife who has an uncle that raises chickens for eggs. He has a hatch coming in a few weeks and they are Houdans. Would these work? From the limited info I've found online they'd seem they'd work.

    TIA :)
     
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Hi, welcome. I would say your best bets would probably be something like Buff Orpingtons or Brahmas. They do well in the winter and are gentle breeds, however most dual purpose breeds are fine in both hot and cold. My personal all-round favorite is the Barred Rock for personality, great laying consistency, egg size and gentle nature. Houdans, I don't know that much about, but I don't think they're a very large breed. Not sure about cold hardiness with those.
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Our plan is to have 1 to 3 chickens for fresh eggs and company.

    Yeah, about half the people here originally *planned* to have 1-3 chickens for eggs and company. Ask 'em how many chickens they have NOW [​IMG]

    FWIW, I would strongly suggest getting 3 chickens rather than fewer. They are social animals, and you do not want to be left with just 1 if something Sad should happen to one of 'em (and unfortunately there is a fairly large list of sad fates that can befall chickens, and veterinary science is not really geared to extensive intervention for individual pet birds -- the current state of poultry vet. research seems to be mainly a question of identifying whether it's a problem that requires you to cull only the affected bird or the entire flock ;/)

    So, unless you have zoning issues that restrict you to 3 birds max *ever*, I strongly suggest you get 3 now, but build their facilities to allow for the possibility, however remote, that you actually like them and decide you want some more someday [​IMG]

    I have space in my backyard to build either a permanent coop or movable one. Summers are very hot and dry and winters are long, snowy and can get extremely cold. Wind is a huge factor here in the winter.

    Your life, and your chickens', will be far far simpler and better with a permanent coop for winter use. You can still build a tractor for the summer if you want, but a walk-in sized winter coop willreally stand you in good stead. If nothing else it is too hard to balance ventilation and heat-conservation in a tiny tractor-sized coop.

    Which breed would best suit us? We are looking for a breed that is gentle and friendly, one that can acclimate to living with a toddler and a well-trained dog. It must be able to withstand out harsh climate.

    Practically anything. If you want to be on the safe side, you might lean towards the larger-bodied breeds like Buff Orps and the larger standard-sized breeds, as opposed to leetle things like bantams and leghorns and many of the mediterranean breeds in general. Also, rose- or pea-combed breeds (like wyandottes, buckeyes, chanteclers, etc) are all things being equal less prone to frostbite than standard-combed breeds. But you have a LOT you can choose from.

    I'm not sure about ordering/shipping such a small number so local pickup would be our optimal situation but we are open to other methods.

    Several hatcheries, including Ideal (IIRC) and My Pet Chicken, will ship small numbers of chicks, tho you will have to pay extra and it is a little riskier. Or you could choose from whatever your local feedstores can order for you, have you asked around? Or see if there's anyone on this board who might have chicks or started pullets or want to split a mail order with you.

    ETA: Adding that : I just got off the phone with my boss's wife who has an uncle that raises chickens for eggs. He has a hatch coming in a few weeks and they are Houdans. Would these work? From the limited info I've found online they'd seem they'd work.

    I have heard that Houdans tend to be a bit less robust and hardy than many other breeds? (Not as in less cold-hardy, but as in, more prone to fall victim to disease or general unthriftiness etc) I could be wrong on this but I *have* heard it so you might want to check into it first. Also you would want to think about where your priorities lie in egg production vs ornamentalness.

    Good luck,

    Pat​
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2008
  4. Stormhorse23

    Stormhorse23 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 22, 2007
    Indiana
    Absolutely no Houdans. They aren't very good layers, their crest feathers can freeze, and their eggs aren't very big. Here are some birds that work work for you and your situation...

    Rhode Island Reds
    Orpingtons
    Plymouth Rocks
    Wyandottes
    Welsummers
    Sussex
    New hampshire
    Hamburgs (small eggs)
    Favorolles
     
  5. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dunlap Hatchery is in southern Idaho. You may not be close enuf to drive over but giving them a phone call will probably turn up a feed store in your area that carries their chicks.

    Dunlap has Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, and my favorite - Black Australorps.

    About the only advice I can add is to build your coop an appropriate size for the number of birds and insulate it. You may only need to feed them well and heat the water to keep the hens happy during the Winter. (And, we are happy you found BYC [​IMG]!

    Steve
     
  6. cgmccary

    cgmccary Chillin' With My Peeps

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    patandchickens wrote:
    Our plan is to have 1 to 3 chickens for fresh eggs and company.

    Yeah, about half the people here originally *planned* to have 1-3 chickens for eggs and company. Ask 'em how many chickens they have NOW

    FWIW, I would strongly suggest getting 3 chickens rather than fewer. They are social animals, and you do not want to be left with just 1 if something Sad should happen to one of 'em (and unfortunately there is a fairly large list of sad fates that can befall chickens, and veterinary science is not really geared to extensive intervention for individual pet birds -- the current state of poultry vet. research seems to be mainly a question of identifying whether it's a problem that requires you to cull only the affected bird or the entire flock ;/)

    So, unless you have zoning issues that restrict you to 3 birds max *ever*, I strongly suggest you get 3 now, but build their facilities to allow for the possibility, however remote, that you actually like them and decide you want some more someday​

    patandchickens is right on with this advice. We started just wanting a few laying hens and now have more than 20. Chickens are addictive. You'll see.

    I would only add that when you get little chicks and they grow up together, they are never as close to any other chickens MORE than they are with their clutchmates (unless it is a hen and her chicks-- they remain close too). You would NEVER want just one chicken; it would be very lonely and because of the above, if you had two and something happened to one of them, the one would be alone so 3 is the absolute minimum.

    I once had a hatch go bad and only 1 egg hatched out of 7 & that one chick had splayed legs so I had to band-aid her legs together (she had to hop a few days and she couldn't even stand for very long the first few days). The little thing cried and cried that first day so I went to the feedstore and they had chicks. To my delight, they had some Buff Orps about 3 days old. A Buff Orpington is a very gentle soul. I picked the smallest one in batch & took her home. The little chick at home just chattered away at her new friend. The Buff Orp chick never picked on the little one crawling around on her belly the first few days. Those 2 love each other to this day, and I would never separate them. They turn one year old the 20th of this month.​
     
  7. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    SW Arkansas
    Quote:Well, since you asked LOL. Yeah, I came to this site when I wanted "a few" chickens and am now eagerly awaiting my order of 25 brahmas. It's all about the brahmas, baby! [​IMG]
    Welcome to BYC idahomama
     
  8. greyfields

    greyfields Overrun With Chickens

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    Given you only have half an acre, a permanent shelter with attached run is the way to go. Be sure to, as mentioned above, build it for about 5x the number of chickens you imagine wanting. They're adictive.

    As far as breeds, it's largely inconsequential. You need to pick something you'll want to look at every day in your yard, so they need to be "pretty" to you. Idaho isn't Alaska, but I'd maybe avoid the Medeterranean breeds (Leghorns, et. al.). I personally would recommend to first timers:

    Plymouth Rocks (barred are probably the prettiest)
    Sussex
    Rhode Island Reds
    Black or Red Sex Links (best egg producers, but not as 'pretty' as some purebreeds)
    Australorps

    As far as number, 3 hens would give you roughly 2 eggs per day. So calculate how many eggs you eat, then consider you'll probably increase your egg intake once you realize how good fresh eggs are compared with the garbage in the grocery store.
     

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