If you’ve started the process of procuring poultry and choosing chickens, you’ve probably found yourself in need of some background on breeds. After all, there are LOTS of different kinds of chickens out there, and not all of them are created equal! The type of bird that best suits your needs will be determined by considering the following factors:
- Your local temperature,
- The size of the space available for your chickens to use & the temperament you want your chickens to have,
- The amount of time you have and the age you want to start with,
- Your unique preferences when it comes to egg-laying size, shape, and appearance.
The following article explains why each of these factors is important to consider when choosing a chicken. If you want to skip the discussion, the table of breeds at the end of the article will help you find the perfect breed for you!
While the first domesticated chickens are thought to have come from Southeast Asia, over the following millennia and hundreds of thousands of generations, chickens have made their way into cultures across the globe and evolved to thrive best within particular temperature ranges. Some breeds are hardy enough to withstand a wide range of temperatures (see the Ancona and the Araucana breeds), but for others, temperature fluctuations are disruptive and can lead to a decrease in egg-laying capacity and other changes. So, when choosing a chicken it’s important to take your area’s average annual temperature range into consideration. If you happen to live in a place with really harsh winters, check out this article for a how-to on “winterizing” your chickens.
If you live in a city and have limited space for your chickens, purchasing birds from an active breed is probably not the right choice for you. Birds that are active or aggressive, generally require more space and may become temperamental and fussy when kept in a cramped coop. And trust me, when you’re going into a coop to collect eggs the last thing you want to deal with is an angry bird prepared to chase you out! Chickens may be small but they’re persistent, and an aggressive chicken can be very hard to deal with. We’ve outlined which birds are best for newbies in the table at the end of this blog.
Looking for a breed that will be a good fit for your kids? The Buff Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Australorp, and Cochin breeds are all docile and kid-friendly. Most breeds will work, but these ones are a good place to start!
Chickens at different ages require different levels of monitoring, care, and support. While day-old chicks are adorable, they end up being more expensive because they require heat lamps and more constant, hands-on care. Purchasing a chick also means it’ll be around 4-5 months before you get your first eggs, but it is an interesting process that promises rewards at every step of the way! Pullets, or young birds, are about 10-weeks old and have developed their adult feathers so they no longer require a heat lamp. These birds are good for beginners because they are more independent than chicks, but are young enough that you can still develop a bond with them. Point-of-lay chickens are just entering the period of time when they start to lay and are therefore slightly more expensive, but will produce eggs very quickly.
No matter what age you buy your chickens at, they all require a good coop, and babies will need a brooder.
Your Personal Preferences
Even though your choice of a breed should be limited by the temperament you want from your bird, your unique climatic constraints, and the age you want to start with, there are still a lot of breeds to choose from! Hundreds of breeds mean that there will likely always be one that aligns with your aesthetic criteria. So, if you want a red chicken that lays blue eggs, chances are you’ll be able to find one!
While the following table includes a shortlist of some of the most popular breeds, not all of them will be available to you locally. It’s important to determine a bird’s breed before you buy to ensure that it will be well suited to thrive under your care!
|Breed||Climate||Purpose||Temperament||User Experience Level||Egg Size (S, M, L, XL)||Eggs per Year|
|Ancona||Good in hot and cold||Eggs||Highly Active||Novice||M, L||120-180|
|Araucana||Good in hot and cold||Eggs||Docile||Novice/intermediate||M, L||200|
|Australorp||Good in hot and cold||Eggs, Meat||Active but gentle||Novice||L||250|
|Blue Andalusian||Best in hot and moderate||Eggs||Active but gentle||Novice/intermediate||L||160|
|Brahma||Better in cold||Meat, eggs||Docile||Novice/intermediate||M, L||140|
|Buckeye||Does well in cold, can adapt to heat over time||Meat, Eggs||Active but gentle||Novice||L||120-150|
|Buttercup||Best in hot and moderate||Eggs||Highly Active||Intermediate||S, M||140-180|
|Campine||Best in hot and moderate||Eggs||Very Active||Novice||M, L||150+|
|Jersey Giant||Better in cold||Meat, Eggs||Docile||Novice/intermediate||XL||175-185|
|Leghorn||Best in hot to moderate||Eggs||Very Active||Novice/intermediate||M, L||250-300|
|Orpington||Better in cold, can adapt to heat||Meat, Eggs||Docile and friendly||Novice||L, XL||175-200|
|Rhode Island Red||Good in hot and cold||Eggs, Meat||Docile||Novice||L||250+|
|Sussex||Good in hot and cold||Meat, Eggs||Docile and curious||Novice||L||200|