Anyone that has ever raised chickens, even just a small backyard flock will tell you how addicting chickens are. They are just so fun to watch, beautiful to look at, and give you healthy fresh eggs! Chickens are pretty easy keepers. What I usually tell people is they aren’t quite as easy as cats, but definitely easier than caring for dogs. I always recommend want-to-be-homesteaders start with at least a few chickens to get their feet wet before moving into other farm animals. Raising chickens seems to be the “gateway animal” for most people that end up homesteading and farming. Chickens were definitely our gateway animal years and years ago.
Chickens were the first farm animal that we raised. We bought 3 chicks from a local feed store back in 2014, 1 Rhode Island Red, 1 Black Australorp, and 1 Buff Orpington. I remember before hand I did a ton of research on which breeds would be best for us. We’ve raised a lot of different breeds of chickens since then, but to this day I would still recommend those 3 breeds to most beginners.
I actually don’t currently have those 3 original breeds in my current flock, but I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to it. There are so many varieties of chickens out there and so many that are still on our “wish list.” Like I said before, they are addicting! So we are still trying out different breeds to see what we like the most.
Everyone’s got their opinions on what’s the best chicken breed, and there’s no right or wrong answer to that. However, the reason you want chickens and their specific use and purpose on your homestead is the more important question to ask. Which leads into the point of this blog post, why I love raising a variety of chicken breeds!
Purpose: The number one reason I love raising a variety of chicken breeds is for their variety of purpose and usefulness on the homestead. Some chickens have been bred to be highly productive egg layers, some for mothering ability and willingness to go broody and hatch chicks out which inevitably lowers egg productivity, others for their lack of broodiness. Some do exceptionally well in extreme heat and others in extreme cold, some that lay in winter when others stop but maybe not an overall high egg producer. Some are dual-purpose aka decent with both meat and egg production but not exceptional at either, and some for meat only purposes. Another aspect that not everyone considers either is some breeds are friendlier than others, which is something to consider if you are wanting pets that you can hold, pet, etc. but there are exceptions to the “rules” too sometimes.
The first place to start when you are considering which breed or breeds to raise is what purpose they are to serve on your homestead. And sometimes your needed purpose can change overtime too. Some people fall in love with a particular breed and only raise that one breed, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I prefer to raise a variety of breeds in my homestead flock.
I like having a good majority of my flock be higher egg producers, which also usually means they are less likely to go broody. (Examples: Leghorn, production crosses like Sex-links) But I also like to have a couple reliable broody type breeds in the flock so they can hatch out some chicks for me if needed. These broody traits can sometimes be annoying to deal with, but I think these natural mothering skills are so important to have in a flock, especially in regards to a survival or self sufficiency stand point. I also like to have a few heavier breeds that will lay a little in winter (Example for both: Orpington). And I also like to keep some good general dual purpose homestead breeds around (Example: Dominique, Wyandotte, Maran). Each year I raise a specific breed of meat chickens that are separate from my laying flock. I raise this breed because of its incomparable growth quality (Example: Cornish Cross, Red Ranger). I periodically butcher extra egg laying breed roosters, but they just don’t have the same amount of meat. However this year we butchered two extra Russian Orloff roosters and I was pleasantly surprised with their carcass size considering, they are somewhat considered to be a meat type of a breed, but more slow growing. As you can see, I love having a variety of purpose on our homestead.
Temperament: Some people love raising chickens for both eggs and as pets. I personally don’t raise my chickens as pets per se, but I do prefer them to be friendly. Any aggressive chicken, mostly roosters, get culled from our flock. And fortunate for me, I actually really love eating a slow growth rooster, so it kind of works. But some breeds are known for being more docile and friendly, such as Orpingtons and Silkies, rather than a more flighty breed like leghorns or old English game hens. I don’t particularly care about an overly friendly breed. But if you do then definitely look for breeds with those tendencies. But remember that there are always exceptions.
Feather colors and/or patterns: Chickens are addicting. Like the saying goes, chickens are like potato chips, you can’t just have one! And it’s so true! To me it’s so fun to look out and see my flock of all different colors and patterns. Besides beauty, I also like the different colors and patterns to help me know who’s who and be able to tell them apart from further away. Some chicken colors and patterns also have other purposes, like a white chicken might handle a hot climate better compared to a black chicken. Also the “barred” patterning is known to camouflage better on the ground from up in the sky, so if you have aerial predators like hawks, then you might want to consider some Barred Rocks or other barred breed.
Egg color: We’re all familiar with the white and brown eggs commonly sold in the stores. But did you know eggs also come in various other unique colors? Light green, olive green, light blue, cream, pink tinted, speckled, and various shades of brown including very dark brown. Every breed of chicken lays a particular egg color, and breeds are crossed with each other to get even more variety of colors as well. Easter Eggers are known for their range of green, blue, and pink tinted eggs, and Marans are known for their beautiful deep dark brown eggs -just to name a few. So if you’d like some color variety in your egg basket, then definitely start your search for some unique egg color breeds.
As you can see I love my variety! We are still on our journey to try out different breeds and see what we like best and more importantly what fits our homestead needs best. But I might write blog post soon about some of my favorite breeds I have raised so far, so stayed tuned for that!