Which Chicken Breed Do YOU Need?

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Yes, I know. A LOT! of people have wrote post after post on which chickens to buy and why and how and…. ETC! Yet, I feel like since this is a homestead blog and I haven’t really included chickens thus far… I’m kind of slacking here. It isn’t that I don’t have chickens; I do, but I feel like I’ve battled getting them for years. I will tell you why but you might think it’s a little childish but HEY I got past it anyway.

So… Growing up I didn’t have the best childhood. I’ve accepted that my mom did the best she could with her inner struggles and dysfunction getting in her way but that’s okay(I’ve moved on). In the past though, I was always so angry and one of those silly little things happened to be against chickens. My mom was obsessed with having chickens. So much so that her kitchen theme was… Roosters and Chickens. I never understood it and actually refused to like them. The only time I supported it was during the holidays or birthday time and (Which I no longer celebrate) I would buy her rooster pictures and whatever else there was!

The stupid part is, because of teen rebellion and what not… Since she loved them, I hated them and wanted no part of it. I spent several years on the homestead refusing to accept chickens being part of the farm but after a while… You want your own eggs and it just makes sense (Sustainability) to have your own way to supply. I fought it for so long but gave in (In 2013 or 14 I think). I started with the Buff Orphington breed which is good to start out with. So now that you know the idiotic back story I’ll get to the point.

I’ve had several breeds since then and also a little experience. I hatched my own chicks this year as well which was a mistake because my mother in law (Who usually raised the meat birds) saw that I could do that so I ended up raising my own meat birds (I’ve processed meat birds since I got with Jeremy in 2011 but never had to raise them) and did pretty well with them. We ordered 25 and they all lived! They grew fast and no antibiotics whatsoever. I wanted to use Non-GMO feed but the price tag on that was CRAZY! so I didn’t do it but healthier than store bought and you know where they came from not to mention sustainability kinda thing 🙂

Now that I have the experience, I want to fine tune the operation 🙂 I currently have Barred Rocks which have great personalities. Looking at information from Cackle Hatchery and having a few, I really like the Cinnamon Queens and Golden Comets. They aren’t a dual purpose bird but the fact that we raise meat birds twice a year… I don’t really require dual purpose, I just want more egg production and since they are a hybrid that have fast body development, fast egg production, and start laying sooner than standard breeds… Seems like a winner to me. Plus, I had three this year and they have the BEST personality, very friendly and personable. I’m actually kind of irritated because I had one left that I named Queenie and a skunk got into my pen and killed her last week– but he no longer exists.

Back to the point–Keeping old birds; I tried it but after about 2 years they just start slacking off and to me, it’s wasting chicken feed on them so let’s say: If you buy chickens this year in February then they should be laying in August so in a year and a half which would be that next August, you would sell those and have your new ones (If you get some every Feb in continuous cycle or hatch out every Feb, either way) laying at that point. People will pay for year and half old hens because they still qualify as young birds and will be laying too. This way, you should constantly have chickens laying; depending on weather of course. Here’s what the hatchery recommends: “Six months – eighteen months is considered the first laying year. The second laying year the hens usually lay a little bigger egg however, production will be 10%-20% less. The third and fourth year can dramatically decrease. Most owners will harvest the hens after 1-2 years of production and start over with young stock. This is the most economical strategy (less feed consumption) and keeps disease issue down. So one might raise young chicks each year so 1/2 the flock are young pullets and the other 1/2 are last year’s pullets keeping a diversified laying cycle going giving you the best chance at averaging/even the eggs per week you get. Generally in the late summer or fall hens will do a natural molting process and produce very few eggs during this time”

Also, the easiest way to keep track which I’m going to start doing as well is to keep a livestock journal. I’ll add in a link to a more detailed post that I read from Homesteading.com that is exactly what I’m going to do. If you don’t want to just buy a different breed every year so you can tell the difference.

So that’s what breed is for me and my current plan. BUT what chicken breed would best suit you? What are you needs and requirements of chickens? Do you need a rooster? Do you want more egg production? Do you want dual purpose? Do you want them for just the meat? Do you want different colored eggs? White or brown? Kid friendly? Just for pets? Is it worth it?

I’m sure you can all come up with more questions or have more (Which feel free to comment if so) but let’s look at a few breeds and characteristics. I’m not covering all breeds but we’ll pick a few. I don’t think I need to go too in depth since there is this thing called the internet and you have two hands with which you type a word and push enter and PING! Information is freely given! AMAZING 😉 So we’ll do breed name, purpose, egg amount, color, personality or qualities.

I don’t know if I’ll get to all questions but as far as Roosters go they aren’t necessary for egg laying production. They are necessary for egg fertilization if you want to hatch/incubate eggs. Also, if you can get a good rooster with a good personality they do take care of your girls. Usually the ratio is 1 Rooster to 10 hens and they usually offer them some good protection.

FYI: As far as egg production goes, I was getting most of my information from cackle hatchery but the numbers seem REALLY low compared to other online sources so I’ll list their number and another as well.

Rhode Island Red

Dual purpose bird, Brown Eggs, 200-280/yr (Cackle Hatchery) 200-300/yr (American Homestead Institute)

“They are a popular chicken choice for backyard chicken flocks because of their egg laying abilities and hardiness. Rhode Island Red chicks are a good choice for raising baby chickens naturally and raising baby chickens for eggs.” [6]

Barred Rock

Barred rocks are a color from the Plymouth Barred Rocks, Dual purpose, Brown Eggs, 200-280/yr (Cackle Hatchery), Because of its many good qualities – tasty meat, good egg production, resistance to cold, early feathering, easy management, good sitting – the Plymouth Rock became the most widespread chicken breed in the United States until the time of World War II [1]

Cinnamon Queen

Cross between and Rhode Island Red Rooster and Rhode Island White Hen (Hybrid), Light Brown Eggs, 250-320/yr (Cackle Hatchery)

“The Cinnamon Queens are one of two modern day production brown egg laying strains from hybrid breeding that produce fast body development, fast egg production and rich brown egg shell color. These strains will start to lay eggs at a younger age than most standard breeds and produce big large/extra large brown eggs.” [2]

Buff Orphington (Known as the Golden Retrievers of the chicken breeds)

Dual Purpose Bird, Brown Eggs, 200-280/yr

“These ‘Golden Chicken Beauties’ are a large, stately chicken with a quiet disposition. Buff Orpington chickens are one of the best chickens for eggs and for meat. They are white skinned, plump, and juicy for a great dressed out chicken.  Many will put their 2 year old chickens in the stew pot and retain the 1 year old hens for laying eggs. Then buy more baby chicks to keep the cycle going. This accomplishes the most efficient cost to feed ratio to raise chickens. Most chicken breed charts will list the Buff Orpington chicken as a dual purpose bird that lay a medium brown egg. Even though the Buff Orpington chicken is a very heavy and large bird, this does not always mean the bigger the hen the larger the egg. Buff Orpingtons make excellent broody mothers for baby chicks.” [5]

I can say I don’t interact with my chickens like a kid would but I do talk to them like I would a pet dog or cat. I did have one that I aptly named Sweetie because she followed me everywhere and would kind of hop up on my leg if I was on the ground or squatted down. She liked attention but I think with most anything you raise; if you interact and you actually raised them as babies and didn’t just buy them as adults they tend to develop a trust with you. Plus, if you’re the one feeding them… They also like you for that 🙂

Black Australorp

Black Australorps are a color from the Australorps whose origin is Australia the only colors in America seem to be the Black ones, Dual purpose bird, Light Brown Eggs

*Interesting fact about them is in the 1920s they set a world record with their egg production without the modern use of a shed. Australorps lay approximately 250 light-brown eggs per year. A new record was set when a hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days. They are also known to be good nest sitters and mothers, making them one of the most exceptional large, heritage utility breeds of chicken.

Araucana

Eggs and Ornamental (Read somewhere that they are supposed to resemble quail in taste), Green\Blue\Pink Eggs, 200-280/yr

These birds are the craziest, squawkiest, loudest birds if they don’t want to be messed with but they are wiry and take good care of themselves plus mine lays me a blue egg, which is so pretty. Believe it or not, they are really good layers (At least they were on my farm) my current Araucana is 4?? She’s still going strong. I named her Bird Bird.

White Leghorns (I figured I should include at least one white egg layer)

Egg Laying Production,Leghorns are good layers of white eggs, laying an average of 280 per year and sometimes reaching 300–320

Originated from Italy, “very athletic, hardy, non-sitters and lay very nice large/X large white eggs. They have a good feed-to-egg conversion ratio, needing around 125 grams per day of feed. This chicken breed is great for free range chicken farming or organic free range chicken eggs.  Leghorns rarely exhibit broodiness and are thus well suited for uninterrupted egg laying. The Leghorn is a light breed that matures quickly and is not considered a viable meat producer. Leghorns are active and efficient foragers and are one of the best for free range chickens that can avoid predators” [4]


 

So, in giving you all this information I still have to say: Chickens are kind of like humans, depending on environment, good health, stress, etc–they are different. No matter how much information you seem to get, learning is the best info you’re gonna have.

To prove my point, here is what a hatchery has on their FAQ page: “Egg Production
Egg production can vary from one person’s experience to another person’s experience. The differences can be many and wide. Variables can include and not exclusive to: history of sickness, wormy, care, lighting, climate, geographic location, housing condition, crowding, feed consumptions, water conditions and consumptions, nutritional care, bedding, sunlight availability, number of cockerels with the flock, noise condition, nesting conditions, roosting conditions, winter housing conditions, summer housing conditions, predator harassment, whether or not you are breaking up setting hens and other conditions. Six months – eighteen months is considered the first laying year. The second laying year the hens usually lay a little bigger egg however, production will be 10%-20% less. The third and fourth year can dramatically decrease. Most owners will harvest the hens after 1-2 years of production and start over with young stock. This is the most economical strategy (less feed consumption) and keeps disease issue down. So one might raise young chicks each year so 1/2 the flock are young pullets and the other 1/2 are last year’s pullets keeping a diversified laying cycle going giving you the best chance at averaging/even the eggs per week you get. Generally in the late summer or fall hens will do a natural molting process and produce very few eggs during this time.” [3}

For example, I did my research and wanted Black Australorps but when I went to the feed store they were sold out and I wasn’t prepared to get a different breed so I winged it and got Buff Orphingtons and thought they were the best after researching them but my opinion now is if you have kids and they want chickens or whatever, get Buffs. For egg production they are kind of flaky.

Well, I didn’t cover ALL laying breeds but this is a LONG post so I’ll stop here! Hope the information is some what helpful guys!!

 

EXTRA INFO

By the way, any information that I don’t know about chickens… I love Fresh Eggs Daily with Lisa Steele, head there for what I don’t cover, she’s great! I especially like following her on Instagram. If you ever have questions concerning chickens Backyard Chickens is a pretty good forum to find the answers.

 


Sources Cited

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymouth_Rock_chicken

[2] https://www.farmandfleet.com/blog/guide-chicken-breeds/

[3]https://www.cacklehatchery.com/index.php/faqs/#Egg%20Production

[4]https://www.cacklehatchery.com/white-leghorn.html#product_tabs_description_tabbed

[5]https://www.cacklehatchery.com/buff-orpington.html#product_tabs_description_tabbed

[6]https://www.cacklehatchery.com/rhode-island-reds.html

 

One thought on “Which Chicken Breed Do YOU Need?

  1. Pingback: Keep Your Chickens Warm in Winter | Blue Missouri Skies Homestead

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