Want to raise a few backyard chickens, but overwhelmed with the options? I’m sharing how to choose a chicken breed in this post!
How to choose a chicken breed
I wasn’t always the weird person that cuddles chickens. When we moved to the farm about 4 years ago, Ben frequently entertained the idea of getting a few backyard chickens. I initially brushed the idea off – it seemed like a lot of extra work when I could easily buy eggs from the grocery store. Plus, the idea of raising chickens kinda freaked me out.
As our diets continued to evolve to support our health goals, the prospect of raising chickens became much more appealing. When Ben casually mentioned buying a few baby chicks for the millionth time, I ran with the idea. We ordered 10 baby chicks that night, and quickly doubled our flock within the first few months. Now that we officially have 20 chickens, I think it’s time to share some tips about how to choose a chicken breed!
Our current flock
The big question – how to choose a chicken breed. When we placed the order for our first 10 hens, we chose 4 Rhode Island Reds, 3 Australorps, and 3 Plymouth Rocks. We chose these particular birds because they are cold hardy and great egg layers. Once our original flock started laying eggs, we quickly got the itch to add some rainbow eggs to our egg basket. We decided to start with 5 Easter Eggers (blue eggs!) followed by 5 Olive Eggers (green eggs!)
Ourfriends and family thought we were crazy for expanding our flock so quickly, but we rationalized the decision. With the exception of spending a bit more money on feed (and more chicken poop), raising 20 chickens is basically the same amount of work as raising 5 chickens. Our chicken coop comfortably housed 20 chickens, so we decided to max out the space. We currently collect anywhere between 10-18 eggs per day, which makes our weekly average 70-126 eggs. That’s a lot of eggs!
Some chicken breeds do especially well with cold weather, while others excel in warmer weather. When deciding how to choose a chicken breed, be sure to consider your particular climate. Seeing as we live in the Midwest and have extremely harsh winters, we needed to choose cold hardy birds. If you live in a warmer climate, then be sure to choose a heat hardy breed.
While considering how to choose a chicken breed, be sure to consider your particular goals for raising backyard chickens. Our motivation was grounded in the idea of collecting farm fresh eggs everyday, so we started our flock with 3 chicken breeds that were known to be high egg producers. We hoped that 10 hens would provide us with 6-10 eggs per day, which was more than we needed as a family. If high egg production isn’t especially important for your specific goals, then you can easily skip this point.
Prior to starting our own modern homestead, I had no idea that certain chicken breeds produced such beautiful egg colors. Each egg is so unique – different sizes and shapes, varying shades of brown, speckles, blues, greens – the variations are endless! I quickly fell in love with the beautiful colors, so we decided to add some specialty breeds to our existing flock.
If one of your goals is to have pretty rainbow colored eggs, then I would recommend adding a few speciality breeds to your flock. Each of our 5 Easter Eggers lay a different shade of blue eggs. Our 5 Olive Eggers lay the most incredible olive colored eggs. Some eggs are deep olive with speckles, while others are a lighter shade of olive. Deciding what egg colors you want is a huge determining factor for how to choose a chicken breed.
Roosters vs. Hens
I’ve received a few messages over the past few months from people believing that they need a rooster. Having a rooster is a matter of personal preference. If your goals are simply to collect eggs from happy hens, then there is no need for a rooster.
Unless your particular goals have to do with breeding, then I would personally advise against getting a rooster. Having a rooster will result in fertilized eggs, so if your goal isn’t to breed, then I personally don’t think it makes the most sense. Although I can’t speak from personal experiences of owning a rooster, I’ve heard time and time again that roosters are generally more aggressive than hens. I’m sure that many people have friendly roosters, but this tends to be the general consensus. Which leads me to the next point to consider for how to choose a chicken breed – temperament.
I hesitate to add this point, but when deciding how to choose a chicken breed, many people want to consider temperament. In my opinion, the temperament of the bird has far more to do with how you raise the bird. Our first 10 hens are extremely friendly, primarily because we handled them so much as baby chicks. Our other 10 hens aren’t quite as friendly, mostly because we purchased them during the early fall months. By the time we moved them outside to the coop, it was already pretty cold outside, so we didn’t handle them nearly as much as our first 10 girls.
I’ve heard multiple times that Rhode Island Reds aren’t very docile, but we’ve never had a problem with any of our 4 girls. Every time our toddler runs outside, they stop in their tracks and patiently wait to be picked up. Perhaps we lucked out with our Rhode Island Reds, but I strongly believe that their temperament has more to do with how they were raised than anything else.
As for the temperament of roosters? That’s a question I can’t answer, but I would love to hear about your experiences!
And that’s it! Backyard chickens are so much fun to raise. I’m sure you’ll love them just as much as we do!