How to Choose the Right Chicken Breed

May 2, 2016

One look and you're hooked! That’s usually how people decide they want to keep

chickens. Gaze into those charismatic, feathered faces and you are drawn in. The

ancient song of the Sirens had nothing on the cluck of the chicken. So now that

you’ve been caught by their irresistible lure – how do you pick the right chicken

breed for you?

 

Finding the perfect pet starts with an introspective journey. Getting a pet involves

similar steps. Get chickens because you want chickens, do not get chickens because

you want eggs. This will lead to disappointment, as these animals are not “toasters.”

Chickens are challenging animals to work with if you are only familiar with keeping

cats or dogs… and they require an agricultural-styled set-up. You will be farming!

Expect your birds to live for 6-10 years. Barn, fence, and vet care can run into the

thousands. We have a saying, “your own eggs will be the most expensive you have

ever bought.”

 

• Do you live in a rural area, or in an urban or suburban neighborhood?

 

• Do you want your birds to be pets? Do you want to show, breed or raise chickens

for sale (exhibition quality)? Does your family really want eggs?

 

• Do you have special plans for your birds – in a school education program, or as

therapy birds?

 

• Do you have very young children (under 5), or active kids eager to get involved?

 

With over 300 breeds for the choosing, you will have your work cut out for you! But,

on the positive side…there is a breed for everyone.

 

House chicken or coop chicken?

 

Many people choose to keep their birds in the house. Chickens are truly special

companions and many make great house pets. House breeds include the true

bantams like Sebrights, Japanese, and D’Anvers. Silkies are also a favorite house

breed, as they are gentle and extra cute.

Silkes are gentle and extra cute! 

 

If you are planning on raising chickens in the traditional coop manner, the weather

in your area/zone will affect your decision. In warmer regions you will want to

select from the hot weather breeds. Choose birds from the Mediterranean class like

Ancona, Leghorn, Panadescenca, or Andalusian. Asian breeds are also a great choice

– consider the Sumatra, Aseel, or Malay. The Egyptian Fayoumi is an especially heat

tolerant and hardy breed.

White Leghorn - great for warmer regions

 

Climates that experience a cold snap, or a hard freeze (below zero) are not lost

causes! Many breeds have been adapted for the cold. As a rule of thumb, these cold-

ready birds will have minimal or small combs – the first anatomical feature to be

afflicted with frostbite. Consider Wyandottes, Chanteclers, Brahma, Cochin, Easter-

egger or the Rock varieties (Barred, White, Partridge, Columbian). Most heritage

chicken breeds are perfect for colder climates. No worries!

Golden Laced Wyandotte - great for colder climates

 

Barred Rock - great for colder climates

 

 

Are you ready for chickens?

 

The first question you need to think about is - what is the reason you are getting chickens?

 

Chickens are animals that require daily care. Vacation may be a thing of the past if

you can’t find reliable sitters! Locate vets that treat birds, or exotics, in your area

before you bring birds home. A good rule of thumb is - if you cannot afford to care

for a dog, financially and time-wise, you aren’t ready to keep chickens.

 

Chickens are prey animals that will need protection from predators, both day and

night varmints, aerial and ground stalkers. Choose breeds that will meet your care

abilities. Some birds are “farm” bred; they were selected to forage and to keep safe

(Fayoumi, Sumatra, Welsummer). Other breeds were bred for protected

environments and will require extra fencing and monitoring (Silkies, Cochin, Polish).

 

Heritage and critically rare breeds

 

These are the birds at risk for extinction or genetic loss. Unfortunately, this includes

most chicken breeds! Heritage birds’ beauty and unique attributes are really worth

a second look. There are dozen of endangered varieties of poultry in desperate need

of conservation. Do your homework by visiting The Livestock Breed Conservancy and

perusing poultry magazines and breeder/club websites.

 

Consider taking in some of these sensational beauties:

 

Blue Andalusian

Dorking

Aseel

Ayam Cemani

Wyandotte

Sultan

Marans

Chantecler

Buckeye

Cream legbar

Leghorn (brown, black etc)

Fayoumi

Dominique

Golden Campine

Ayam Cemani

 

There are too many to list! So….in the comment section, keep it going. What breeds

did we miss?

 

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