Monday, July 18, 2016

What breed of chicken should I get?

When we first got chickens we thought pure-bred chickens were the best option.  We soon found out that they don't lay as many eggs as they used to (thanks to being bred for looks rather than egg-laying abilities) and so we got some hybrid hens.  The hybrids lay well, too well, and are not great for eating as they don't get very big.  Now we have a bit of a mixture of Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns and commercial laying hens, which we cross-breed to create our own breed of dual purpose (laying and table birds) for eggs and eating.

eight acres: What breed of chicken should I get?
We breed crazy chickens that like to roost on their tractor

If you're wondering what breed of chickens you should get, I've developed a fun flow chart to help you decide.

eight acres: What breed of chicken should I get?
double click to see full size image

Of course there is more to the equation than just eggs/meat or both.  Some chickens are better suited to different climates or to being kept in smaller cages versus foraging.  You can find a more comprehensive list of all the breeds here.  I see on some sites that sussex are listed as laying hens.  I am surprised by this (and maybe the breed is different in other countries).  Generally you can tell by the shape of the bird.  The good layers are small and skinny hens, they put their energy into egg laying.  The bigger, plumper birds don't lay so many eggs, but put more energy into their bodies, so they are better table or meat birds.  The dual purpose birds are in between.  All the sussex hens I've ever seen were little fatties and not great layers.

Chris from Gully Grove recently wrote an excellent post about keeping heritage breeds and getting distracted from the work of self-sufficiency by the attraction of keeping lots of different chickens.  It happens to lots of us at first and is definitely a time trap to avoid if you can chose the right chickens from the start.

What type of chickens to do you keep and why?

Find out more about chicken tractors in my eBook Design and Use a Chicken Tractor