What to get, what to get??? That is the question


6 Years
May 1, 2013
My 3 little cousins that live with me now have had many chickens before (or rather their parents did I guess, 200 at one point on less than 1/2 an acre) anyhow, I've been talking with them about getting them each a chicken. Thought it'd be nice to have the eggs, they'd have a pet and I'd get them all into a local 4-H club where they could show their chickens too. So I've been researching breeds because of course they've had all kinds in the past, they talk about "top hats", "turkens", "hamburgers (lol)", and on and on. I want birds that are docile (I've never had chickens and am still intimidated by them, had an experience at a friends one time being chased and pecked by some) My youngest little cousin really likes the blk/wht colored birds and I found a pic of an Orpington one and read that they are very friendly and good layers. The middle aged girl likes the speckled coloring and so I came across the Speckled Sussex. Now for the oldest child, he wants white eggs.....???? Also, will the different breeds get along ok in the same coop? I'm assuming yes since the kids had those 200 birds before and they were all different breeds, but then they let them all run loose in the yard 24/7.

Input appreciated, thank you.

Eastern Shore, MD


Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
Lots of good questions. Breeds do have some behavioral tendencies but they are all individuals. You’ll find each chicken has its own personality. A broody hen will usually be pretty aggressive when protecting her babies. Sometimes a rooster will be aggressive in protecting his flock. But it would be pretty rare for a hen to attack without a really good reason, like that broody protecting her chicks. What you are much more likely to run into is that it is hard to train some hens to be pets. They’ll run away from you if you try to pick them up. With work and food you can train them but some are harder than others.

Since you were attacked as a kid I can understand you being nervous about that, but it is not likely to happen if you only have hens and they are not protecting chicks.

Different breeds will get along fine. A lot of us do that all the time. They are living animals so there is always a possibility that something can happen, but that can occur even if they are all the same breed.

What I suggest is you talk to your county extension agent, in the phone book under county government. The agent should be involved in 4-H. If your county has a 4-H club that shows chickens, someone has to be in charge of that. The agent should be able to put you two in touch. Talk to whoever that is.

The type of things I’d be asking about are what categories are there for showing? Are they competing according to the Standard of Perfection, which means that each chicken has to meet very rigorous breed characteristics (it can get pretty expensive getting chickens for this) or do they have other competitions that maybe revolve more around record-keeping and taking care of the chickens.

This person should have some ideas on where you can get chickens and may be able to help you with selecting a breed. There are a lot that will meet your criteria. Finding out which ones are available in your area may really help in narrowing it down.

If you are doing this with 4-H in mind, find out what is involved before you get too committed.

Good luck! You can do this.


6 Years
May 1, 2013
All excellent points, thank you for the advice. I just checked out County's 4-H website and found the regulations page for entering in the fair with the different classes. While I don't understand it all, it will give me something to work from in my research. Thank you for the idea.


7 Years
Mar 13, 2013
My Coop
My Coop

I am new to chickens as well and so spent a lot of time researching breeds. I found a few great resources. One is Murray McMurray's chick selector tool at http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/index.html The "chick selector" tool is in the upper right hand corner of the main page. When you get to the chick selector page, make sure you click on "show more characteristics" on the left hand side in the middle of the page. The characteristic list is very extensive. It's really helpful for narrowing down the breeds based on the desired traits you want/need. And, I suppose by using their tool, you are more likely to buy chicks from them so I it's a great marketing tool for them.

A book that has a lot of breeds in it is "Choosing & Raising Chickens" It doesn't have all the breeds but it has a bunch and describes them. It goes into the history of the breeds more than I'm interested in but does have good pictures of them and describes their personalities, like which are best for first time flocksters, which roosters are more likely to get along with other roosters, which breeds are likely to go broody, and each has a little chart that shows their strength as layers, ease of keeping and sociability. Other books that have breed selection info is "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens" and "The Small-Scale Poultry Flock" but these 2 books are not very comprehensive when it comes to breed info.

I'm super new to this, just got my first batch of 10 chicks ever and they're about 5 weeks old now. I got my chicks locally at the animal stock yard where local farmers meet every Tuesday. I purchased Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorp, Rhode Island Reds, all of which were on my list of breeds that met the characteristics I wanted. I got straight-run so I'm not sure what I'll actually end up with in terms of hens and a rooster. Time will tell.

One tip is make sure you buy all your chicks from the same farmer/breeder or source. I made the mistake of buying from 3 different farmers and what I didn't realize is all that "biosecurity" that the books talk about in reference to introducing new chickens to an existing flock applies to baby chicks. In other words, a group of chicks born together share the same immunity. But 3 groups of chicks from different breeders have 3 different sets of immunities. Which means, they can pass things to each other. I lost one chick to a respiratory infection and now have them all on an antibiotic to help them fight off that and anything else they pass between them. Sheesh, big mistake I made. I won't do that again. Life is truly one big lesson but I feel bad that the chicks suffer because of my mistake.

Speaking of which... another GREAT book is "The Chicken Health Handbook" Really comprehensive about everything you want to know about chicken health and illnesses.

Great luck to you!


Poultry Lit Chaser
10 Years
May 19, 2009
My 3 little cousinsThe middle aged girl likes the speckled coloring and so I came across the Speckled Sussex.
Input appreciated, thank you.

Eastern Shore, MD
Speckled Sussex is a very tough color to breed correctly, being a tri-colored bird. Not to worry, tho. Do you want full size chickens or bantam chickens? Either way, if the kids are going to show in 4-H, you need to get your Speckled Sussex from a top show line. You can try Walt Reichert in KY, or Tony Albritton in Idaho. Bill Fox in OH, has lovely bantam Speckled Sussex, as I remember. There is a parent Club with a Breeders Directory , The American Sussex Association . Look for lines directly associated with the breeders : Gary Overton, ; Skytop; Bill Fox; Walt Reichert; Tony Albritton, Adam Leoffel. It takes decades to get the speckled color correct. These breeders have it and win at the shows with their birds.
Best Regards,
Waterford English Light Sussex
in western PA, USA
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