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Why Almost Everyone Is Wrong About Choosing Best Homesteading Chickens

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best homesteading chickens

Choosing the best homesteading chickens involves a lot of factors.

When I first started looking into getting chickens for my small backyard garden, I couldn’t believe how many breeds there were! It was dizzying trying to decide among hundreds of chicken breeds in all shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments. Choosing which breed to own, however, is a very important step, so it’s worth all the research. Finding the ideal breed for your needs will go a long way towards preventing common poultry pitfalls and creating an enjoyable, productive experience with chickens.

The Process Of Choosing The Best Homesteading Chickens

A common reason for confusion among new and prospective chicken owners like me is the huge array of variety that’s available. There are literally hundreds of breeds, and many of those breeds come in different colors and even different sizes. Taking the time to research can be a fun and interesting process though, and hopefully, this little guide can help untangle the web of confusion that I was met with at first and help smooth the research process along.

First of all, there’s size. Many breeds come in more than one size, so it’s important to note which size you’re looking for:

Best Homesteading Chickens For Eggs

For most chicken owners, eggs are one of the most important aspects of owning one of these birds. However, not all chicken breeds are good egg layers. Following are some of the most popular egg-laying breeds, which can boast 300 eggs per year or more:

Best Homesteading Chickens That Are Dual Purpose

Self-reliant, hardy, and great birds for both meat and eggs, dual-purpose chicken breeds are a great starting point for both urban and rural areas. These are among the most famous and popular breeds of chicken.

Best Homesteading Chickens If You Want To Raise Your Own Chicks

If you’d like to raise your own chicks one day, it may be a good idea to invest in a broody hen or two. While these breeds can be moderate layers, they are most known for their desire to go broody or to sit on eggs. This is an undesirable trait for good egg production, and many breeds no longer carry this trait. But worry not – I’ve had both cochins and silkies adopt other hens’ eggs and do the mothering work for them.

Best Homesteading Chickens For Meat

These breeds tend to be heavier than other chickens and are often less active as well. The Cornish, in particular, are often crossbred with dual-purpose chickens to produce hardier boiler birds.

Best Homesteading Chickens For Free-Ranging

Free-range chicken breeds have numerous shared traits, all of which help them thrive in the outdoors. One common trait is temperament – these breeds also tend to be quick and shy, and they know how to avoid predators. (This also makes them difficult to catch!) In addition, their hardy nature makes them good free-range chickens.

Of course, there are many more breeds out there that can be just, as good, if not better, for your needs than the ones listed above. Having trouble deciding? A mixed flock can be a great option. Mixing different breeds allows you to experience the best (and worst) that chickens have to offer. For example, my first flock was a varied mix of Easter-eggers, Silver Leghorns, Buff Orpingtons, and a very sweet Silkie. Now, I wouldn’t say that it’s the best mix for everyone, but mixed flocks like this one include good egg layers, broody hens, hardy dual-purpose birds, and a fun pet chicken that enjoys to be held.

One surprise I encountered while researching was my discovery of poultry shows – that’s right, just like dog breeders and owners attend dog breed shows, chicken owners and breeders show their birds to a judge for that best-of-breed title. If any are held in your area, I encourage you to check one out! They are usually open to the public, and they are a wonderful, hands-on way to see each chicken breed for yourself and to speak with local experts and breeders. For the newbie chicken owner, a poultry show offers a wealth of information and is a great place to discover new breeds. For a listing of poultry shows in your area, visit the American Poultry Association [1] website.

Choosing the best breed for your first chicken coop can seem daunting at first, but the joys of raising these birds and eating fresh, nutritious eggs is more than worth the effort. Even after you think you’ve found the perfect breed for your urban or rural farm, try to experiment every year or so – you may just find another favorite!

For more reading, read our OTGN article On The Road To Sustainable Food Production [2]!