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By Jennifer Sartell Chickens are highly versatile animals and will adapt to a variety of climates and living situations. Once you know why you want to keep chickens, it can be fun to learn about the different breeds and what they are known for.
Below is a loose outline of what is available for each chicken breeder’s needs. I listen!
For most backyard keepers, home-grown eggs are the primary reason for raising chickens. The satisfaction of feeding an animal and having that animal, in return, feed you is addictive and often leads to other practices in the home. If eggs are your goal, and plenty of them, the following breeds should be considered.
- Leghorns – The highest egg white production layer. She will lay up to 300+ eggs per year.
- Red Cross – The Red Cross is the title used to describe a mixed breed of highly productive brown egg layers. They usually have the genes of the following breeds: Isa Red, New Hampshire Red, and Rhode Island Red
- sex link – This is another breed (Rhode Island red on a Delaware hen) This breed is auto-sex, which means male chicks are a different color than females. They can lay 280 eggs per year.
Some people, myself included, raise chickens with the primary goal of having a colorful basket of eggs. Even more than what breeds of chicken look like, I’m interested in the color of the eggs they lay. I find it great! White and medium brown are the most common egg colors, but with a little research you can find breeds that pop in blue, green, olive, brindle, spotted, and even peachy pink!
Below is a list of common breeds and the color of the eggs they lay.
- white: Leghorns, Dorkings
- medium brown: Orpington, Wyandot
- Dark chocolate brown: Maran, Willsumer
- blue: Cream Legbar, Americana, Aracana, Sapphire
- green: Easter eggs
- olive: Olive eggplant (a mixed breed between a brown layer and a green layer)
Chickens make great pets. They can be trained, and they can be quite loving and companionable animals. Here is a list of unusual chicken breeds that make fun and beautiful pets.
Polish, Crevecoeur – Both of these subspecies have a large crown of feathers on the head.
Silky Silky’s plumage was soft and feather-like. This little chicken is mild-mannered and makes a great mom.
Bare necks – Also called Turkens, this is an interesting breed that has a bare neck.
Cochin Frizzell Any breed can be curly but Cochins are common. A wrinkle means that the feathers are curved back, giving the chicken the appearance of a fluffy duster.
show girl – This is a cross between a Turkin and a Silkie. The resulting chicken is a bright, soft-feathered breed with a bare neck, giving it the appearance of a Las Vegas showgirl.
Pance Bantams are a group of chicken breeds that come in miniature form. These half-sized breeds lay small eggs and can be kept in smaller living quarters.
Soyman chicken – This is an Indonesian breed that is gaining popularity all over the United States. This breed is interesting because the entire bird is black. Skin, feathers, eyes and beak. They make a beautiful flock.
Raising fowl is an excellent way to raise a healthy meat product for your family. Really, any breed can be consumed, but some breeds have been bred to grow larger and make for a better table bird.
Cornish Cross The Cornish Cross, also called The Cornish Rock X or simply, the Broiler, is the most popular of all meat birds. This fast-growing strain is a cross between Cornish Toy and Plymouth Rock. Birds are ready for the table in about 8 weeks.
Jersey giant Jersey Giant is a heritage breed and the largest breed of chicken. It is slower growing, but has great flavor.
Dual purpose simply means that this breed of chicken lays a steady amount of eggs, but also gets large enough to make a decent meat chicken. Many breeds fall under this category but below are some common examples.
- Rhode Island red
- Buff Orpington
Brood is the word that describes a hen that has the instinct to be a mother. In some breeds, this instinct has been brought up. However, the instinct in Silkies is so strong that some birds are in a constant state of clutching. They have even been known to steal eggs of other species (ducks, guinea fowls and even turkeys) and have successfully hatched them.
In addition to the benefit of the breed, there are also a few things to consider when it comes to choosing the chickens that will work well in your situation.
If you have a small barn, you may want to consider a bantam. Bantams eat less and need less space. They also lay fewer eggs and tend to be more “wild”.
Like I said above, bantams tend to be more lively. As a general rule, most small breeds tend to be more hyper, flighty and arrogant with large breeds like Buff Orpingtons being slower moving and gentle. The older the breed, the more domesticated it is and the less “wild” its behavior becomes.
Chickens are quite adaptable and will thrive in almost all living conditions. However, there are a few that work better in some climates than others. For example, turkans and showgirls do well in warm climates due to their lack of feathers.
Wyandottes do an excellent job in cooler climates. They have dense plumage and a short, frostbite-resistant comb.
Breeds such as the Leghorn that have a large comb will experience frostbite in colder climates.