What breed(s) should we start out with?

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by klcabe, Mar 21, 2012.

  1. klcabe

    klcabe Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 21, 2012
    Canton, NC
    Hello everyone. This is my first post, so I apologize if I've put it in the wrong location. I have kept sebrights before as just pets, but it has been about 10 years ago. My boyfriend and I want to start our own small flock of dual purpose chickens (for eggs mostly, but we do plan to use them for meat eventually). What we would like to do is start out with 4-6 hens to 'get our feet wet' so to speak, and then expand later on as we become more comfortable with what we are doing, and when we know that the chickens will be safe from predators and thrive in the environment we provide for them.

    My main question is what breed or breeds we should start with. I have done a little bit of reading, and I was thinking Wyandottes, Sussex, sex links, NH or RI reds, or maybe Ameraucanas, Orpingtons, or Black Australorps, but I read somewhere that the Australorps can be skittish, and we want friendly chickens that we can approach and interact with. Where we live, it can get pretty cold in the winter, and it's generally humid during the summer, so we need chickens that can tolerate the temperatures. The cold is my primary concern, because the area we plan to put them is mainly shaded. We aren't against Bantam breeds that lay large sized eggs (like the Welsummers, etc.), either.

    We live in a community just outside of Canton, North Carolina, which is West of Asheville, NC. It is rural and there are coyotes, opossums, racoons, and skunks, as well as the odd stray dog or cat. We plan to enclose an area behind our house that is currently partially fenced, and place a coop inside that area. It used to be where a garden was grown, so it's just basically weeds and such now - it isn't grassy or landscaped. We will not be able to put a roof over the area we are fencing in.

    Thanks in advance for your input. :)
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  2. NeilV

    NeilV Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 15, 2010
    Tulsa, OK
    If you want to raise your own chickens without an incubator, have eggs and raise some for meat, Orpingtons could be a good choice. Friendly, pretty, decent egg production, will go broody and decent size if you want meat from a heritage breed. I have a friend who raises Orpingtons for eggs, lets them reproduce and eats the extra roosters. You could really have a old-fashioned, self-sufficient, dual purpose flock.

    If you mainly want eggs and are willing to incubate eggs, Rhode Island Reds or Production Reds would be good. My Production Reds have been my best layers, and fairly friendly too. Real Rhode Island Reds would probably be better for meat than hatchery/production reds, which are smallish (but great layers).

    I am very fond of Austrlorps too. In my experience, they have been very good layers, friendly and not skittish at all. The ones I have had have actually been pretty smart (for chickens). FWIW, Australorps are much prettier birds in person that you realized from looking a pictures of them. Their feathers are irredescent, and that effect is mostly lost in photos. All things considered, Australorps have been my favorite breed for eggs and based on personality. The hatchery Australorps are a little on the small side for meat purposes, but that may not be true of show quality Australorps.

    All of those breeds can take hot or cold weather.

    If you want friendly birds, be sure to get them very young and interact with them when they are growing up. That makes a big difference.

    I have kept hatchery birds, which I think is fine if you just want a flock of birds for production and not to show. I'm sure the show chickens are prettier, but the hatchery birds have been fine for me, pretty enough and good layers. My best birds have come from Country Hatchery here in OK where I live, but they will ship. Their Production Reds and Austalorps are excellent.

    A good way to start could be to get a mix of these (and others) to see what suits you the best. There are differences between the breeds that go beyond looks.

    The reality with predators is that they will kill whatever breed you have, if they have access to them. The primary issues are predators that can get to the chickens on the ground. You need a good fence around your run. If you are going to let them free range, you need to either be able to keep an eye on them or have a dog that will run off coyotes, foxes, etc (and yet leave the chickens alone). Both my dogs wanted to eat the chickens until we had some very, very serious discussions, and they changed to guarding the chickens. But I sort of got lucky in that respect.

    Also, build your coop where it is well ventilated but has windows covered with hardware cloth (not chicken wire) and have a door for the chickens that you close every night. That will keep out racoons and possums. But it won't make a lot of difference what breed of chicken you keep if a coyote can walk up to the flock. As far as I can tell, chickens don't have good sense when they get scared.

    Hawks can be a problem too, I guess, but I have not yet had a chicken killed by a hawk, although there are quite a few resident redtail hawks right near my chickens.

    To some extent, I think it is reasonable to expect some predation losses and get extras up front. Everything likes to eat chicken.

    Hope that helps.
  3. klcabe

    klcabe Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 21, 2012
    Canton, NC
    Thanks! Yes, that does help. Our coop will be contained, like a tractor, so yes, the chickens will be shut in at night. We do have dogs, but only two are outside, and their kennels are not near where we are putting the chicken yard. They do bark if critters come around down near where they are at, and we have not seen or heard any coyotes nearby since the dogs have been out there, but just kind of wondering if there are any other precautions we can take to keep them (and the possums, coons, foxes, etc.) at bay. Where they are going to be at, I don't think hawks will be a big deal - plenty of underbrush for the chickens to hide in.

    This is the coop I'm hoping to be able to get: http://www.ebay.com/itm/110844163347?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649

    No comments re: the Wyandottes, Sussex, sex links, or Ameraucanas? Pros/Cons vs the Orpingtons or Reds, etc.?

    Thanks again! :)
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2012

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