Which Chicken Breed Should you Choose?
If you’re new to the idea of keeping chickens and have just started your research on which chicken breed, then you’re probably a little stunned right now about just how many different chicken breeds from which to choose. Also, have a read of our beginners guide (The First Year – Chicken Beginners Guide for Australian Chickens)
With so many breeds to choose from, how on earth are you supposed to find the right breed of chicken which perfectly suits your situation?
Choosing a breed of chicken is no different from any other life choice, as you just have to know the right questions to ask yourself. Fortunately, we’re here to narrow down the most important ones that will set you on the path to choosing the perfect breed for your circumstance.
Why are You Getting Chickens?
If you’re looking into raising backyard chickens, then you probably already have a good idea about the reasons why, but here are a few of the most common examples.
You want fresh eggs every day that you know come from happy healthy chickens.
The best way to know what sort of environment your eggs come from is to collect them fresh from your own flock of chickens. If you’re after good egg layers then you won’t go wrong with the following breeds: Isa Browns, Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, Leghorns, Plymouth Rocks, Sussex, Welsummer, Wyandotte.
You and your family want pets that are a little out of the ordinary.
Chickens make great pets for families with small children. There are a whole bunch of life lessons to be found in a flock of chickens. Kids can learn about the responsibility of caring for and raising a fellow creature of the earth, while also learning about sustainable living. A few examples of the chicken breeds which make great pets are Silkies, Isa Browns, Plymouth Rocks, Orpingtons, Sussex, and New Hampshire Red.
Recommended Chicken Breeds for Pets
There are quite a few breeds which make great companions for young children but here are a couple of our favourites.
Silkies have a great reputation as the perfect pet for children. They are docile and won’t get upset about being handled, as long as it is gentle.
They also enjoy a cuddle and will happily snuggle down into your lap for an extended stay. Silkies aren’t particularly prolific in the egg-laying department, but you can still expect to average about two or three eggs a week from a healthy Silkie hen. Plus, if you’re after a pet with a distinctive look, the Silkies fluffy silk-like feathers create a unique appearance among the chicken kind.
Barred Plymouth Rock
When eggs are the order of the day, but you still want a chicken breed that makes a good pet then the Barred Plymouth Rock will keep you in omelettes, while also being great fun for the kids. As a breed, they are quite relaxed about life and will hang out by your side if you occasionally tempt them with a tasty morsel of meal worm or cracked corn. You can expect about 200 eggs per year from the average Plymouth hen, which isn’t too shabby a result.
Do you want a fresh supply of meat?
While chickens are a ready source of eggs, some people will keep chickens as a source of meat for the table. Breeds that are good for the table but not so great for the eggs include Faverolles, Leghorns, Brahmas, and Houdans.
Dual purpose birds include Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Orpingtons, Australorps, and Wyandottes.
If butchering isn’t your forte, you still have options. You can keep the chickens for their bug and weed control expertise, or sell them for the same reason to someone who needs a little extra fertilizer with bug and weed control thrown in. If your chickens don’t have much egg laying left in the tank but are still producing, you will still find buyers who are prepared to offer a discounted price.
Consider the Climate
Different breeds of chicken will do better in one climate than another. If you live in the south of Australia, where it can get decidedly cooler in winter, then you’ll want a breed of chicken that won’t complain about the frosty mornings. Good examples are Australcorps, Plymouth Rocks, Silkies, Cochins, Dorkings, Sussex, and Wyandottes.
If your climate is a little more tropical or hot, then choose from Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Brahmas, or New Hampshire Reds.
The colour of the feathers can affect heat tolerance in chickens. Black feathered species will get hotter than their white feathered cousins. Single combed birds will also fare better in the warmer climates, but the cones can be prone to frostbite in the extreme cold.
Feathers around the feet will keep a chicken warmer during the cold winter nights, but wet feathers can cause problems when the rain sets in, and you will need to check regularly for scaly leg mite. Feet feathers will also collect mud and droppings which will need to be cleaned regularly.
How Big is Your Yard?
Chickens aren’t too fussy about how much space they have to roam around in, but they do have limits. Some birds prefer safety in numbers, while others are quite happy to explore on their own. Some breeds will be entirely satisfied in smaller yards, while others would rather the space to roam free.
If you have a smallish yard or want chickens that prefer each other’s company, so they are easier to keep an eye on, then go for Silkie Bantams, Australorps, Orpingtons, or Plymouth Rocks. Bear in mind that chickens which roam far and wide require a little more work if you ever need to round them up.
If you are blessed with a bigger yard, then you’ll want chickens who aren’t afraid to take advantage of the extra space so choose from Rhode Island Red, Ancona, Hamburg, or Wyandottes.
If you’re not sure if your yard is big enough check out this article. (Australian Poultry Laws – Are Your Chickens legal?)
How Much Time Do You Spend at Home?
How often you are home to let your chickens out will also help choose your breed for you. If you work full time during the day and can’t let your chickens out, then you’ll need breeds that will be happy to poke around the chicken run for the greater part of the day.
However, if you’re retired or work from home then chickens who love to roam could be more your thing.
Any breed of chicken will be a great addition to your backyard and are an excellent strategy for moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle. They can also provide tons of value as family pets and entertainment with each breed having specific traits that will make them a better or worse fit for your circumstances. In the end, the choice is up to you, so choose wisely and remember to have fun with your new backyard pals.