How To: Choosing homestead chicken breeds

Choosing homestead chicken breeds

Walking into your local farm supply store during chick days can be overwhelming.  How do you go about choosing  good homestead chicken breeds?  What is the difference between breeds?  Does it even matter?  If you take a few minutes to think about your needs and wants the selection can be much easier.  Here is how I suggest choosing chicken breeds for your homestead and it starts with taking your time and doing your research.

**A note before diving in.  When purchasing chicks ask if they are pullets or straight runs.  Even if the store is selling pullets understand there is a 15% chance you may get a male (sexing chicks isn’t perfect).  If straight run then the odds of a rooster is 50%.  If you MUST have a female the only guarantee is to buy a sex-link chick**

Criteria

Knowing your criteria is critical.  Below is a quick list of criteria to consider when selecting chicken breeds.

  • Local Weather – If you live in an area with extreme cold or hot weather you should consider breeds that are hardy in your climate.
  • Purpose – Are you getting chickens for meat or eggs?  If meat is your goal select a meat breed.  If eggs are your goal select for often laying.  Not sure?  Try a dual purpose breed.
  • Temperament – Some breeds are less friendly to people, others are more prone to be bossy in your flock, some can be flighty.  If this is your first time I suggest looking for breeds that are considered docile.
  • Broodiness – Some breeds are more prone to broodiness (wanting to site on and hatch out eggs).  If you have no plans to have a Rooster or get fertilized eggs to hatch out chicks, this may not be a desirable trait for you.
  • Egg Color/Size – Eggs come in various sizes and colors.  While it can be fun to see the various egg colors in your nesting box, I wouldn’t select a breed specifically for egg color.
  • Size – Regular size or Bantam (small), don’t be afraid to mix both together in a new flock.

Resources

Some farm store helpers are very knowledgeable, however, some are not and it is best to do your own research.  When selecting breeds I recommend the following sites.

Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart
Chicken Breeds – BackYard Chickens Community
Chicken Breed Comparison Chart – The Livestock Conservancy

My Recommendations for starter homestead chicken breeds

No time for research?  Here are my favorite breeds (at the moment and why).

  • Plymouth Rock – Friendly is handled regularly as a chick.  Tolerant of cold weather.  Good layer. Smart.
  • Orpington – Docile and friendly, in fact the friendliest chickens I have owned (my kids can pick them up without an issue). Tolerant of cold weather. Good layer.
  •  Sex Link – Guaranteed girls!  My best layers. Follow me around like a dog. Very smart.

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