What breeds of chickens should you get?
It’s probably the most common question I see from individuals who are looking to get a flock of their own. And it’s a very valid one. There should be a lot of thought that goes into your game plan before you decide to make the jump of purchasing your chickens. (In other words, don’t walk into Tractor Supply during Chick Days with the intention to only ‘look at coops’ and walk out with a coop, supplies, and 9 baby chicks…ahem.) Where will they stay, what will you feed them, to free range or not to free range. There are many different options out there – but you will need to decide what is best for your purpose, your lifestyle, and your environment.
My advice? Just take it one step at a time so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. If done correctly, chickens can be the perfect first step if you’re just diving into adding animals to your farm or if you’re looking to make an addition to your barn.
Here’s a reference guide that I hope will help you decide what types of chickens will be a good fit for you!
In my opinion, this is going to be the most important guideline in making your decision. I believe that there are five main categories that chickens can fall under for their purpose on your farm: meat, eggs, dual purpose (meat + eggs), breeding, or pets/show. When researching different breeds they will typically specify what their most common use is. Sometimes they will even give you an estimate of how many eggs are laid per year, the average weight they reach, or their breed temperaments.
In order to raise healthy and happy chickens you should really consider the climate that you live in before picking your breeds. If you are like me and live in a place where the temperature hits well below zero on multiple occasions then you can make your life a lot easier by choosing a breed that is winter hardy. While this is a controversial topic in the chicken world, by choosing a winter breed you could eliminate the need to a heating lamp in your coop. It has been said that chickens actually have a harder time cooling down in the summer than they do keeping warm during the winter. So if you live in a hot and humid climate you will need to do just as much research as us crazy Midwest folk. Like humans, chickens can get heat stroke that can very easily kill them.
Examples of winter hardy breeds: Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Wyandotte
Examples of heat hardy breeds: Leghorn, Fayoumi, Brahma
This is where lifestyle comes into play. What type of coop will you have? Will your chickens be free ranging? How often will you be handling your chickens? This will fall under the temperament of the bird. While this can be a great prediction, you have to remember that each chicken will be different and it is possible that they could be an outlier from the common traits. Some breeds do better free ranging and some do better confined. So do your research, ask other chicken mamas, read some blogs, and check out some breeders websites in order to get a good idea of the temperament of the chicken breeds that you are interested in.
PS: Check out Cackle Hatchery for a great example of some breed descriptions!
Over time of owning chickens you will find out what works and what doesn’t work for your flock. There will be some trial and error. You will love some breeds, and others you might be okay not buying again.
As long as you make sure your chickens are safe, happy, and healthy then most will thrive in the environment they are raised in.
Let me know what breeds have been the favorites of your flock!