The Best Chicken Breeds for Your Backyard

Things to Consider When Choosing Your First Chicken

Apr 12, 2018
Choosing a chicken breed
Lisa Steele/Fresh Eggs Daily

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With more than a hundred breeds of chickens to choose from, it can be challenging trying to figure out which breeds you want to raise. Here’s my advice—plus, see this page for a free beginner’s guide to gardening which includes my four-season guide to raising chickens!

If you’re raising chickens, you don’t have to choose just one breed! Fortunately, chickens of all different breeds get along just fine and your egg basket will be much more colorful if your flock is comprised of a variety of different kinds of chickens.

Maybe you do want colorful eggs. Or maybe you want breeds known for their laying prowess. Maybe kid-friendly breeds are a consideration. Or maybe you live in a cold climate and want to be sure the breeds you choose will be well-suited to your area.

Choosing Chicken Breeds

The breeds you ultimately choose will depend on what criteria is important to you and your family. Consider the following factors:

Climate

While pretty eggs are fun to collect, your initial consideration when choosing a breed of chicken should be the climate in which you live. Although most chickens are generally okay in cold climates, there are many breeds that struggle in the heat.

If you live in an area that’s warm and humid for much of the year, then choosing heat-tolerant breeds will be important. Some good choices would be the Mediterranean breeds such as Andalusians, Leghorns, and Penedesencas. Their smallish, sleek bodies and large combs help them stay cool in extreme heat.


An Australorp hen rests among thyme and hostas.

Conversely, if you live in a cold climate, then a larger bodied chicken with a smaller comb will do better. Australorps, Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, and Wyandottes would all be good choices.

Egg Production

If maximum egg production is important to you, then you can’t go wrong with an Australorp, Barred Rock, Delaware, Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, or Sussex. These breeds are known for their egg laying prowess. While no chicken lays an egg every day, a good layer will supply your family with 5-6 eggs a week during the spring and summer months.

Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Reds are great egg-layers.

Temperament

If you have small children, or just desire a flock of friendly chickens who will love to sit on your lap and eat out of your hand, then Australorps, Brahmas, or Buff Orpingtons are a great choice. These breeds are known for being extremely docile and friendly: Cochins, Faverolles, and Silkies. You might also consider raising bantams. They’re about half the size of standard breed chickens, so they can be less intimidating for little kids, and they come in a wide variety of different breeds.

Colorful eggs
Chicken eggs come in all sorts of colors—no dyeing necessary!

Egg Color

There’s nothing more exciting than a multi-colored egg basket! While egg color shouldn’t necessarily be your first consideration, choosing some breeds that lay different-colored eggs is always fun. Most breeds lay brown eggs, although most of the Mediterranean breeds lay white eggs. Marans lay dark chocolate brown eggs. Ameraucana, Araucana and Cream Legbar lay beautiful blue eggs, while Olive Eggers lay olive green eggs. And Easter Eggers are the most fun of all. Each Easter Egger will lay a different color egg, anything from blue to green to pink or cream. You don’t know what color egg you’ll get from a hen until she starts laying.

olive_egger.jpg
An Olive Egger carefully combs the grass for tasty grubs.

Fancy Breeds

If you just want pretty chickens, then choose some with feathered feet, like Cochins, Faverolles or Marans; a few with cheek muffs and “beards” such as Ameraucanas; some with crazy hairdos, like Polish chickens; or Frizzles that have feathers pointing every which way. You’re sure to end up with a visually pleasing flock! While not known for being the best layers, these fancy breeds will entertain and delight with their unique appearance.

In the end…

No matter which breeds of chicken you choose to raise, you will be rewarded with baskets full of delicious, fresh eggs and hours of relaxing entertainment watching your little flock roam the yard softly clucking, chasing bugs and scratching for weeds.

What kind of chickens do you raise in your backyard? Tell us in the comments below!

About This Blog

fed-book-cover.jpgLisa Steele, a 5th generation chicken keeper and Master Gardener, and author of the popular books Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens Naturally and Gardening with Chickens lives with her husband on a small hobby farm in Maine where she raises a mixed flock of chickens and ducks, grows herbs and enjoys cooking using fresh vegetables from her garden and fresh eggs from her coop. You can learn more on her website www.fresheggsdaily.com.

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Urban Chickens

Having tried a variety of breeds, so far I've found red-sex linked to be the best choice. In their first two years, they laid well even through most of the winter. They've been docile and engaging. This year, I'm trying the black sex linked.
Easter eggers are pretty birds, but they seem to be escape artists, and only lay a small egg and drop off production to rarely in the winter months. Bantams are a pretty little bird, but also a small egg, low production, and winter in the Northeast seemed a bit tough on them. I tried straight Rhode Island Reds and found them unimpressive. I think some of the lines have been so closely bred that a cross gives them that hybrid vigor.

Chickens

To Terry Milligan: Cornish Game Hens are the fastest growers for a meat bird and the best tasting. You get the game hen in 6 weeks and a small fryer at 2 months. Been there, done that. Right now we have a mixture and they all get together except one and I couldn't tell you why but the others pick on her if they are all together so we have to segragate her from the rest.

Chickens

Is there breeds that are raised for their meat? Is there a breed with the best tasting meat?

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