Choosing Chicken Breeds Best For Your Family
Before you embark upon your chicken raising journey, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the huge variety of breeds available. While there are, according to the American Poultry Association (APA), several classes of birds and many sub-classes, for the purposes of the back yard chickens keeper, birds can be roughly split into four categories.
– Egg layers
– Meat birds
– Dual purpose breeds
– Ornamental breeds, which may or may not lay well, depending on breeding and temperament
Egg layers are birds like the Leghorns, Production Reds and sexlinks (which may come under a variety of names, such as Red Star, Black Star, Cinnamon Queen and Golden Comet). They are bred for their egg laying abilities and, while the spare cockerels you have will do just fine on the table, they won’t dress out heavily the way a meat or dual purpose bird will.
Meat birds are breeds such as Cornish and Cornish Cross. They are genetically designed to put on weight very fast with a superior feed conversion ratio. They will dress out to between 4-6lbs by six weeks of age, and their legs are often unable to support their body weight long after this age.
Dual purpose birds are those which are both good egg layers and provide a good bird for the table. Plymouth rocks, Orpingtons, Wyandottes and Rhode Island Reds are examples. While the hens of these breeds are generally peaceful creatures, it is my experience that the cockerels can be rather territorial, so this may be something to bear in mind if you plan on keeping a breeding flock and you have children.
Ornamental breeds include Silkies, Cochins and Polish; they are usually docile birds and excellent pets and yard ornaments. However, your best egg production probably won’t come from them, they usually lay a small sized egg and many have the habit of going broody. While it’s possible to ‘break’ them of going broody, it’s difficult and many are very stubborn!
Choosing Chicken Breeds
So with these factors in mind, go forth and chicken-shop! For enthusiasts, the array of colors and varieties of birds available can leave you feeling like a kid in a candy store, and there’s no rule says you have to have all one type. Mix and match to your hearts’ content.
Hoegger Farmyard Contributor
Happily returning to her farming roots, Katy raises Nigerian Dwarf and Angora goats, chickens and Dutch rabbits in North Georgia – alongside an ever-expanding four season garden. The goal of sustainability and complete self-sufficiency is never far from her mind, and she seeks to share the love and inspire others to get closer to their food and provide for their families from their own back yard.