which breed to choose and how many to get?

fiddlebanshee

Songster
10 Years
Mar 11, 2010
948
47
191
Frederick, MD
We don't have any chickens yet, but will be purchasing some shortly after we move into our new house that sits on 1700 feet elevation in Frederick County Maryland on 14 all wooded acres. Our objectives for our little flock will be bug control and eggs. My husband has lyme disease and we want to have chickens to eat the deer ticks (and other bugs).

So the questions I have are:
1. which breed would be most effective for bug control? We would let them free roam, perhaps erecting a perimeter electric fence to ward off predators.
2. how many should we get? Is the work in keeping them proportional to the number you have? Or doesn't it really matter if you have 4 or 14 or 40?
3. Is one breed more labor intensive than another, or are they all pretty much the same in terms of how much work you need to put into them. Don't get me wrong, I want to care properly for the chickens but I do want to know in advance what I am committing to.

Also, just to clarify, we did consider guinea fowl but decided against them because they are so loud. Part of the symptoms of lyme disease is an increased intolerance to sound. So no roosters, and no guinea fowl.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on the above three questions.
 

Illia

Crazy for Colors
10 Years
Oct 19, 2009
16,240
243
336
Forks, WA
Well, to my experience, getting a breed like hatchery quality Wyandottes really helps with things like less care to go into them, more foraging and bug control, and a much hardier bird for being out there on its own. We have several different breeds, but the Wyandottes are the ones who are always waaay out there, eating whatever they can - And so far, not a single Wyandotte has ever come under any sickness or injury - Unlike our other breeds. (except Ameraucanas and Marans; They're only month olds) The only downside to them so far is their lack of friendliness - They usually only like spending time to their "gang of Wyandottes" or themselves. They're pretty selfish.

But of course, anyone's experience with a breed can change. It is true that most are about the same, and the care that goes into them during a young age is often what shapes their personality later on. As for number of chickens - You have plenty of acreage for plenty of chickens, so it depends on how many you want and if you've go the sleeping quarters big enough for them.
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We only have 5 acres, and currently have 32 chickens that in 2 weeks will turn into 72 chickens.
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They are an addiction after all!
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So, since a lot of breeds are quite similar, what interests you most? Big poofy types, types that lay a huge surplus of eggs, types that lay colored eggs (green, blue, chocolate) or types that can REALLY survive on their own, but not lay all that many of eggs? (gamefowl)

btw -
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from the wilderness of Washington!
 

Southernbelle

Gone Broody
12 Years
Mar 17, 2008
5,905
21
274
Virginia
My best foragers were always the Leghorns. They're a bit more skittish and stand-offish than my other breeds, so if you were looking for a pet to sit in your lap, Leghorns aren't for you. When I would let everyone out, all the other birds would hang out pretty close to the coop, but the Leghorns would roam far and wide, digging through everything they could find. They're also excellent layers and have a great feed-to-production ratio. If you wanted to free-range Leghorns - get a brown variety - the white ones would be too visible to hawks.

I've also heard Welsummers are great foragers, but I don't have any personal experience there. I know hatcheries usually sell out of Wellsummers fairly quickly.
 

pdsavage

Sussex Monarch
11 Years
Mar 27, 2008
4,286
16
241
NW,Missouri
I say Sussex my Red sussex go as far as they can but are friendly,Speckled Sussex are realy friendly and curious to the point of allways being under foot.They all forage well and make great dual purpose birds.I am waiting for my Light Sussex so can't say how well they do,but with them being white well they might have to be penned unless my 2 LGDs can keep flying predators away.
 

Farmington

Songster
10 Years
Jun 2, 2009
161
1
109
Northeast Ohio
With guineas, you won't have a tick for miles. Tick eatin' machines, they are!

Understand about the noise thing, though they are loud!
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bufforp89

Songster
10 Years
Jul 26, 2009
1,113
4
161
Chenango Forks NY
I would get some orps. Mine have proved to be pretty good foragers, great broodies and mothers, they come in a few different colors although I like buff myself, they are friendly and mine have yet to get ill. They are also great producers of eggs, not the best compared to some breeds but I get 4-5 eggs weeky from each hen all year round.

I would also suggest that you get a few different breeds, they all have such different personalitys and uses.
 

Crunchie

Brook Valley Farm
12 Years
Mar 1, 2007
1,367
8
181
Maryland
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and hello from a fellow Marylander!!

Well, you're going to get a lot of different opinions...we all have our favorite types of chickens and we've all had different experiences. That said, here's my opinion, for what it's worth.
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Quote:
I don't think any one breed of chicken is better than another for bug control--as long as the breed is one that typically free ranges/forages well, it will eat its share of bugs for you--so I would look for a bird that free-ranges well. You've already gotten a lot of good suggestions. I would suggest to pick what you like--maybe a few different breeds, for fun--as long as they are birds that do well foraging & free ranging. So avoid, for example, birds with crests (Polish, Silkies) that don't see well & are often easy targets for predators. Also (and you may very well know this, so forgive me if I'm just repeating something you already know!), while an electric fence is a good idea to help keep out unwanted dogs and the occasional daytime fox, etc., your birds will need a secure coop that you can lock them up in at night. This brings me to your #2 question...

2. how many should we get? Is the work in keeping them proportional to the number you have? Or doesn't it really matter if you have 4 or 14 or 40?

Well, 4 or 14 isn't much difference, if they are all kept as one flock, and it sounds like one combined flock is your plan. 40, yes, that's more work! But one flock of a few or a dozen birds isn't much difference upkeep. You'll just pay more for feed the more you get!
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But the number of chickens you can keep will be in direct correlation to the size of the coop you plan to build. So, build the coop you want, then fill it with the reasonable number of chickens that can live comfortably in it--or vice versa. Envision the size of the flock you want, then build accordingly.

3. Is one breed more labor intensive than another, or are they all pretty much the same in terms of how much work you need to put into them. Don't get me wrong, I want to care properly for the chickens but I do want to know in advance what I am committing to.

Eh, if you stick to those breeds that do well free-ranging, then you've pretty much eliminated the more high-maintenance breeds. Your rhode island reds, orpingtons, barred rocks, easter eggers, wyandottes, etc., etc. (I could go on and on, there are dozens of breeds that fit this bill) are all easy to maintain breeds that won't require anything above good general care.

Also, just to clarify, we did consider guinea fowl but decided against them because they are so loud. Part of the symptoms of lyme disease is an increased intolerance to sound. So no roosters, and no guinea fowl.

Just to let you know, hens can be quite chatty, too! They aren't going to wake you up at 4 a.m. like a rooster might, but some of them can get kinda loud when they get worked up over something, or when they are laying eggs. Also keep in mind that, if you forgo getting a rooster for your flock, you are taking away a natural flock protector. Roosters do more than fertilize eggs, they are watchdogs for your hens that warn them when something is amiss and will often sacrifice themselves to save their girls. Just something else to keep in mind! You may still decide against the rooster, which makes sense in your case, but be aware that a flock of just hens may need a bit of extra vigilance to keep safe.

My personal favs for large fowl, free-ranging birds are Ameraucanas & Wyandottes. But that's just because I like 'em, not because they are any better suited to what you want than other breeds!
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And, while I've never owned one, I've never heard a bad word spoken about an Orpington. I hear they're great all-around chickens.​
 

fiddlebanshee

Songster
10 Years
Mar 11, 2010
948
47
191
Frederick, MD
To all:

Thanks for the replies, it has given me a lot to research and think about.
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; One thing I learned from you immediately, that I had not considered before is to stay away from white birds. I had considered the Delawares but will probably not now because of the risk of losing them to predators with that coloring. I will absolutely also build a secure coop for them, probably also with a run so that I can confine them if I need to.

So I now have a list of 9 breeds, based on all your reactions, and this will probably grow as I am researching more. It's too bad that when you mail order you have to order 25 for most companies to ship, I do think 25 is a bit much to start out with, so perhaps the list will be narrowed down by what I can find locally in the way of breeders, hatcheries and other sources of chicks.

I wish guineas wouldn't be so awfully loud, I'd go for them immediately, but I don't think it's an option, they'd end up on the stove pretty quickly
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Off to explore the innerwebs for more info on all the breeds mentioned here.
 
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Farmington

Songster
10 Years
Jun 2, 2009
161
1
109
Northeast Ohio
Quote:
Check out Meyer Hatchery, they have a minimum order of 3 chicks. You can order as many of any breed as you like, and they have a wide variety of breeds available. Also, if you are interested in Buckeye chickens, Buckeyedave here on BYC will send orders of 12 in May, but they will be straight run, so you would need to re-home any roosters. Meyer also has Buckeyes, and you can get hens only, but they are really backing up on availability, mine will not be in until June 28th. Buckeyes should meet all of your criteria, imho.
 

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