Starting a Flock (Egg laying breeds to consider)

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Kholts, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. Kholts

    Kholts Chirping

    Feb 11, 2019
    Hello everyone,

    I am brand new to chickens (waiting to start my flock in the Spring). I’ve been researching breeds and trying to decide which would best be suited to my needs and climate. Here is where I would like your input! Below is a bit of infomation about my set up/needs.

    Set Up:
    • 6-8 Hens
    • coop will be 6ftx4ft with nest box on exterior with an attached run 10x6.
    •will allow free range daily except during blizzard or severe cold.

    Would like dual purpose breeds but will lean toward egg laying if I have to choose
    •EGGCELLANT layers a plus as I’m keeping only 6-8 hens.
    •Cold Tolerant (it’s winter here pretty much 9 months of the year with temps reaching a low of -40 degrees Celsius this past week. Summer temps usually only reach 25 degrees Celsius).
    • I do have small children who will most likely be helping me most of the time so a calmer breed perhaps?

    These are the breeds I am thinking about(that I know will be at the local Critter Market that happens every spring):

    Orpingtons (Buff, Brown & Blue)
    •Maran (black copper)
    • Easter Egger
    • Rhode Island Reds

    I plan to keep 6-8 but will most likely be purchasing 10-12 just so I have a buffer in case some of my pullets end up cockerels. I do have farms/friends around me that I can give or sell the remaining chicks I do not plan to keep.

    Any input is welcome!
    puffypoo likes this.
  2. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

    Apr 9, 2016
    California's Redwood Coast
    Hi, welcome to BYC! :frow

    Wyandotte and Orpington are too broody and too heavily bodied for my preference to be called productive layers. Easter Eggers are a little inconsistent but still fun birds.

    A variety might be nice to start out and see what you like. :love

    Check out these links for some quick comparison...

    I will also suggest that you plan to add and replace a couple layers each spring so the new ladies should lay by fall and help cover the production of the molting and non laying older ladies during winter.

    I love Marans but once mature, an egg every other day at best would be the norm. And if you aren't eating any males they are a little heavy bodied meaning more feed to egg ratio. For production it's hard to beat the reds and leghorn. But I love their demeanor and such. For cold weather, I'm sure pea or rose comb might be preferred. But with proper ventilation many do successfully keep straight comb birds in freezing temps. I'm curious about the new midnight magic Marans.

    Good luck! :wee
    puffypoo, Chick-N-Fun and Kholts like this.
  3. A_Fowl_Guy

    A_Fowl_Guy Crowing

    Jan 29, 2019
    Newberry, Indiana
    :yesss: :welcome :yesss:
    Welcome to our eggcelent flock here at BYC.

    I recommend the RIR! My favorite breed. Great dual purpose bird that is a prolific layer. They are very cold hardy and take care of themselves.

  4. Kholts

    Kholts Chirping

    Feb 11, 2019
    Eggsighted4life -Thank you for those links! Very helpful and added a couple breeds to look into.

    One breed I was thinking about but unsure if they will be at the sale are Plymouth Rocks. I love the color pattern and they are supposed to be cold tolerant.

    I was planning on replacing(non or lousy layers) or adding new birds every spring as I did hear that production goes down the older they get. I did not even think about moulting cycles so that is definitely a helpful pointer.

    I think at least 1 white leghorn will end up in the mix as my toddler is a Paw Patrol Fan and I am sure would love a “Chikoletta” of his own. If any of you have kids or know of the show you will know what I’m talking about.

    A_Fowl_Guy- I can see you are most definitely partial to RIR! Your flock looks great by the way(I’m assuming that picture is your flock anyways). Do you find them one of the more docile breeds? Or flighty at all?
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  5. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Songster

    Mar 29, 2016
    I have a fare assortment of birds and they only ones that have every had an issue with cold tolerance were my Brahmas and they are not supposed to...Could be poor genetics due to them being hatchery birds, Idk.

    Came from Meyer Hatchery

    Anyway, I have a few breeds from your list.

    Orpington (Buff): Mine started to lay very late in their first season. They laid through the first winter but did not lay at all in the second and third winter. They lay about 4-5 eggs a week, per bird, the other three seasons.

    Aside from that they are very friendly birds and very submissive to other breeds as well as humans. They squat when you come near and you can pick them right up. So I think they have a good personality and are pretty.

    They have a downside, they eat a ton!

    Came from Cackle Hatchery

    Rhode Island Red: These ones started laying very, very quickly. Laid through their first winter, laid well the second winter and laid okay their third winter. They are still laying on and off this winter, their fourth. In the other seasons they were a solid 6-7 eggs a week bird for almost two seasons. I get about 5 a week, per bird, from them now.

    These ones seem to be somewhat sassy but still friendly with people. Maybe a bit bossy with other chickens.

    Moderate eaters.

    Came from Tractor Supply Company

    Australorp: More or less the same as the RIRs.

    Came from Tractor Supply Company (Same batch as the RIRs)

    Leghorns (Light brown): These guys laid early but not as early as the RIRs and Australorps. Their eggs started out very, very small and have taken an entire season to get to medium-medium large. They are still a bit smaller than the RIR's and noticeably smaller than the Orps. They are very consistent layers and have been since day one. Easily 6 a week per bird.

    As for personality and other traits. They are freakishly skittish and flighty. Terrified of their own shadows and it drive me nuts. Pretty birds that range very, very well but don't want any sort of human interactions. They are kind of a "set 'em and forget 'em" bird.

    They are not big eaters and lay well so that is a plus. No issues with cold tolerance this year but we have only had a few days that it was truly cold. We get a bit of snow but the temps are mild here. Their large combs might worry me in true cold for weeks on end. Just a guess though as it is not something I deal with.

    Came from Meyers Hatchery

    Easter Eggers: These are average layers but do so year round. They have never slowed down for me in three seasons. About 4-5 eggs per bird per week regardless of the time of year, with the exception of molt.

    Personality wise they are friendly but independent. You are not going to pick mine up but they don't run from you either. They will take food from your hand and follow you around too. A good middle of the road personality. They are good at foraging too.

    They eat less than many of my other large fowl but much more than my Leghorns and much more than my bantams.

    A very good middle of the road bird, I think. They inspired me to get a flock of Blue Ameraucanas but I still prefer the EE's...Could be just the batch, IDK.

    Came from Tractor Supply Company.

    As for dual purpose, I've not been impressed with any of the extra roos I have had to put on the table. Sure, they were edible but they were smaller than I would have liked. Could be due to being hatchery stock or because I have been spoiled with Cornish cross.

    Anyway, whatever you end up with, enjoy them! That is the main part. Chickens are nice to have around. :)
  6. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    If that's the case and assuming you haven't already built your coop and run yet, I'd go bigger with both. You'd be at capacity with just the initial birds. Integrating new birds takes space, the more the better. And since you're in a cold climate you may find the birds spending extended periods of time inside the coop, or the run (if you wind block it).

    Due to the cold weather I'd favor getting birds with small combs such as the Easter Eggers, though they're not the most reliable layers (though mine have been productive). Not sure off the top of my head if there's any sex-links that come with pea combs, but if you really want egg production and don't mind cycling birds out then sex-links would be a good choice, plus that pretty much guarantees all girls.
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I too would go with a bit bigger coop/run, and a few less birds. It truly is best to have room to add a few birds the second year, it will give you eggs most consistently during the dark short days of winter. Count how many people are in your family and add 1 or two more. Should keep you in eggs for eating and baking most of the time.

    I would also recommend no roosters, and rooster chicks are the most adorable, and later can turn on you or more importantly your child.

    I think a mixed flock is the most fun, they are easy to name and recognize and see their personalities. And sometimes I have been sure I wanted this breed, to find out, not so much when it was living in my flock. Try a mix and see which ones you really do like.

    MRs K
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Ditto All Dat^^^
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  9. GC-Raptor

    GC-Raptor Crowing

    Jul 26, 2016
    Connecticut, U.S.A.
    I'm on my first Flock of Barred Rocks, 2nd Flock of chickens.
    I got them as day old chicks from TSC.
    It's winter here and they started to lay at 20 weeks, all were laying around 23 weeks.
    They will be 26 weeks tomorrow. 20190212_133326.jpg . They are super friendly and have tolerated -7 Fahrenheit -23 Celsius temperatures. It was warmer in their coop. 20190131_053135.jpg . GC
    ETA; I got 38 eggs from 7 Pullets last week.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
    puffypoo, imnukensc and Kholts like this.
  10. Kholts

    Kholts Chirping

    Feb 11, 2019
    K813zra- Thank you for your 1st hand knowledge on the breeds of birds you own. This is kinda exactly what I was looking for. I do plan to go with a mix breed flock for the exact reason that I want to find a good fit. Obviously individuals all have their own personality but like you said leghorns are needlessly flighty. Having kids that i know will be hands on I’m thinking a less flighty breed may fare better.

    I like also how you explained the feeding differences in your flock. I know I’m looking into more big boned breeds so I expect to be using a bit more feed.

    So far the Australorpes are pretty high on my list.

    Rosemarythyme- Going bigger May definitely be the way to go. The measurements I gave are what I was thinking would fit in my yard but I won’t know how much room I actually have until some snow melts and I can get out there and measure properly. I just know I cannot go over 12 hens according to my bylaws.

    Mrs.K- No roosters for us to keep at all. According to my bylaws I cannot. That is where I will sell any chicks that turn out Roos.

    A mix flock is what I’m planning. I definitely like to be able to tell my animals apart upon a first glance. Also variety in egg colors is always nice too.

    GC-Raptor- see I love them feathers! 38 eggs in 1 week?! How many do you have?

    puffypoo, K813ZRA and GC-Raptor like this.

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