Chickens – Picking a Breed

Howdy!

Let’s talk about chickens…

When I first started my chicken venture, my main concern was what breeds of chickens I was going to get. After all, I’d have these ladies for their entire life, which, without major illnesses or predator attacks, is anywhere from 5-10 years. The average lifespan being 7-8 years.

I knew wanted a mixed flock(multiple breeds) so I could tell them all apart. I also wanted breeds that were decent egg layers, had a good temperament, weren’t known to go broody, and of course, were pretty to look at.

If you’re looking for meat chickens, or dual purpose(both meat and eggs), that’s something to factor in as well, though none of my darlings are destined for the stew pot.

In this post I’m going to go through all the breeds of chickens I have, why I chose them and what I like about them now that I have them.

I don’t free range my chickens so I can’t say much about whether they are good foragers or not. I also don’t have a rooster, so I can’t speak from experience which ones go broody or are good mothers. Without further ado, let’s get into it!


Speckled sussex

I love this breed for so many reasons. First of all, their feathers are stunning! They’re a beautiful brown that sometimes looks green in the sunlight, with white tipped feathers that contrast against the brown.(which gives them that speckled look) Another cool thing about their feathers is that they gain more white speckles as they age and grow new feathers.

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As far as egg production is concerned, my Ruthie lays about 3-4 eggs a week.(This is just an estimate, I have quite a few brown egg layers in my flock so that number is based off of how many times I see her in the nest box.)

That’s a decent amount as far as eggs go. She did stop completely when she began molting, but with that over and the days getting longer, she’s picking up the pace again. She makes up for the lack of eggs with a sweet and curious temperament. I don’t often pick favorites when it comes to my pets, but Ruthie is just hard not to love. She is definitely my one of my absolute favorite chickens.

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The Speckled Sussex is a very hardy breed. I haven’t had a single health problem with mine and she did just fine when the temperature got down into the 20s.

Speckled Sussexes are dual purpose and would make a good meat bird. I have also heard they they are good mothers but I don’t have a rooster so I haven’t had a chance to test it.

I currently have one speckled Sussex in my flock, but if I had the space I would definitely get more.  

 

Easter Eggers

As the name implies, Easter Eggers are a super fun hybrid “breed” that can lay a whole bunch of different colored eggs, from light blue to green to even light pink. Mine typically lay different shades of green.

An Easter Egger is a mix of an Ameraucana or Araucana on one side and any other breed of chicken on the other side. i.e. an Ameraucana hen and a Speckled Sussex rooster.

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There is also a specific hybrid of Easter Egger called an “Olive Egger”. An Olive Egger is fairly similar to an Easter Egger except to get one you would cross any blue egg layer(Ameraucana, Araucana, Cream Legbar) with a dark brown egg layer(Barnevelder, Marans, Welsummer, etc.) . i.e. an Ameraucana hen with a Black Copper Marans rooster.

This combination of genes causes the female offspring to lay olive colored eggs.

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Most of the time when purchasing an Easter Egger chick, you have no idea what its feathers will look like when it grows up. Easter Eggers come in endless color variations and are therefore a good option if you want to be able to tell them apart. Then again, two Easter Egger chicks who look completely different after hatching may turn out to be almost identical when they’re older.

Each one has a different personality, some of mine are more flighty than others, some like to be held more than others. But in general, they don’t mind being around people, and are happy to follow you around or go about their business.

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Egg production is great. I get about 5 eggs a week, in the warmer months, from each one. I believe they can be dual purpose, but are best just for eggs and a fun pet.

 

Gold star sex-link

Okay, I LOVE gold stars. A Gold Star Sex-link is another “hybrid” achieved by crossing Rhode Island Red roosters with Light Sussex hens. Sex-link means that right after hatching, the gender of the chick can be determined by what color they are. So usually when getting a gold star from a feed store you know exactly what gender you’re getting. This is really nice if you live in an area where roosters aren’t allowed.

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I cannot express enough how AMAZING their egg production is. I got my first egg ever from one of my gold stars (at 18 weeks) and during her first two weeks of laying she laid an egg a day for 14 consecutive days. Impressive right? well it gets better. On average I probably get a combined total of about 12 eggs a week from my 2 gold stars. They took a well deserved break during the winter for about a month, but one even laid a few eggs while she was molting. Super impressive! I’ve also gotten a few double yokers from them which is always a fun surprise.

Gold Stars are a dual purpose breed and would make good meat chickens.

One con that I must address is they tend to be more on the aggressive side when it comes to the pecking order. Mrs. Gold is the head honcho and knows it. She enjoys putting the lesser status hens in their place. The chicken pecking order is already quite barbaric until they’re established, but some chickens go a little too far in asserting their dominance. Mrs. Gold is one of those. There have been a few instances where she has accidentally drawn blood from another chicken while putting it in its place, but she doesn’t actively seek to harm the other members of the flock. I put her in a time out pen in the run for a couple hours when that happens, so that she doesn’t keep pecking at the injury, but is still with the flock and that seemed to do the trick.

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This is Mrs. Gold. The qu- the mayor.

 

She also makes sure that she gets out the door in the morning first, and occasionally chases other hens from the feeders while she is eating. I just make sure to have multiple feeders and waterers set up for any hens that don’t want to face the wrath of Mrs. Gold.

A good personality trait that she has, is that she loves attention and being held. She even laid an egg on my brother while he was holding her.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend Gold Star Sex-links for any flock.

 

Buff Orpington

Buff Orpingtons are a great all around breed. They lay a great amount of eggs, 4-5 a week, are dual purpose, and generally have a friendly disposition. I didn’t hold mine enough when she was a chick so she doesn’t enjoy being picked up, but doesn’t mind my company.

She is also very adventurous when it comes to trying new things. When I let them out for supervised free range time she is always the first one out the door. Also before any of the other hens decided that worms and bugs were the best thing in the world, she tried them out and the rest followed her lead.

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Anne is definitely on the lower end of the pecking order but doesn’t let the older hens boss her around too much. I got her at the same time as a little polish chick and now the two are inseparable! Marilla, the polish(I’ll talk more about her below), is a bantam breed and also a target for pecking because of her fabulous head feathers but Anne protects her from the bossy hens. They even snuggle together on the roosts at night.

Buff orpingtons are a great breed for any homestead.

 

Jersey Giant

Jersey Giants are just that, giant. My two jersey hens are already a head or two taller than the rest of my flock even though they are the second youngest out of all of them. Well, I shouldn’t say my hens, Hennessy and Italia belong to my dad and brother.

I believe they are going to get bigger too. Mature hens usually reach 9-11 pounds and 16-20 inches tall. That’s a big chicken! Their feathers are also gorgeous. Jersey giants come in a few different colors, but mine are straight black.

With big chickens come big responsibilities. More specifically, big responsibilities to feed them. My jersey girls eat like crazy.

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Egg production is pretty good, I get about 4 eggs a week from each one. Jersey Giants are a dual purpose breed and you would get A LOT of meat from a full grown hen. But like I said before, none of my girls are destined for the stew pot.

They are on the higher end of the pecking order and boss the lower hens around a bit, but aren’t aggressive.

My girls are a bit big and clumsy but I haven’t had any problems as far as eggs getting squashed or them having trouble flying up to the roosts. You may want to provide a slightly larger door for them to get in and out of the coop easily, but my 18”x12” door seems to work just fine.

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Their temperament is very docile, and though they don’t like being picked up, my girls occasionally will jump into my lap and come running to the door to greet me.

I think Jersey Giants make fun pets, but I don’t think I would get more if I needed a really good productive homestead breed.

 

Cream Legbar

We have one Cream Legbar in our flock and she belongs to my mother.

Cream Legbars are more rare than not, and are typically very pricey if you happen to find somewhere that sells them. Edith, our Cream Legbar, was somewhere around $40.

As a homestead breed, $40 a chick is not the most cost effective, but as a cool pet and part of my little flock she is definitely worth it.

Cream Legbars lay approx. 5 beautiful light blue eggs a week. Potentially they could be dual purpose but it just wouldn’t make sense considering how much they cost.

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Edith is definitely one of our most flighty hens. I think if we had held her more as a chick she might have been friendlier. She doesn’t like being picked up or held, but once she is used to me she doesn’t mind me going about the coop. She will mostly mind her own business.

I like to think of her as the fashion model of the chicken world, with fabulous light gray and black feathers, orange beak and legs, and a stylish tuft of feathers on her head, everything about her just screams “FASHION”.

 

Polish Bantam

Last but not least on this list is the Polish Bantam. Polish chickens are easily distinguished because of their unique head feathers. They remind me a lot of big bird on sesame street.

Though their head feathers are awesome, it also draws attention to themselves which can be both good and bad. Good because people like to look at them. Bad because predators also like to look at them. The difference being predators see dinner when looking at them. Basically their head feathers are so attractive it makes them an easy target for predators who I’m sure are just jealous because they don’t look as awesome.

Marilla recently laid her first egg and I’ve gotten two from her since… She is 41 weeks old… she sure took her jolly old time.

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You might be able to tell from these pictures that Marilla doesn’t like to hold still… She’s also looking a little scraggly from the rain.

Polish chickens are definitely not good for meat as they are so slender you wouldn’t get much off of them. Especially Polish Bantams, they are both small and slender.

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You might be wondering if those head feathers cause any problems, besides limited eyesight I haven’t had any problems with Marilla.

She is fairly flighty just because she can’t see very well. I think her motto is “when in doubt, RUN!” and speaking of running, it’s hilarious to watch her run. She’s so small and fast, and her head feathers bob all over the place.

Welp, that concludes this list! I hope you enjoyed reading it, and maybe found some useful information here. What chicken breeds do you have? What do you like or not like about them? comment below or leave a message on my Facebook page. I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Blow up your tv, move to the country, homestead your life!

 

2 Comments

  1. Im just starting to raise chickens but i dont know what breed i should get. I want laying hens. And i live in canada so it can get to about -30 in the winters and it can be +15 to +30 in the summers. So id like to have medium to large egg layers that could tolerate the weather and i have a coop already too. I just need a bit of advice to get my decision on the breed. Thanks!

    • Hi! I’m so sorry for the late response! That is so great that you want to get chickens. Australorps are the first ones that come to mind after reading your comment. They are a great all around breed, heat and cold tolerant, great mothers if you plan on letting them hatch chicks, they lay a lot of eggs, and can also be used for meat. Plus they tend to be more on the friendly side. I can’t speak from experience with Australorps, but my friend has a flock of them and really likes them.
      I think my all time favorite breed so far is the Speckled sussex. I can’t find any cons to having them!
      Easter eggers are another great breed that are very tolerant to cold because of their small comb but also do well in the heat. Mine lay TONS of eggs and are all super friendly.
      I think that almost any breed of chicken will tolerate cold and/or heat if you have proper housing and feed. Something you could try in the winter to keep them warmer is feeding them a little bit of scratch or cracked corn each day to keep them a little fatter and in turn warmer for the colder months. For the warmer months, make sure to have lots of fresh water and shade available.
      I hope that helps!
      Thank you so much for commenting, and enjoy your chicken venture! they are so addicting 😀

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