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Hen chicken breed egg color egg layers meat birds dual purpose birds | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Hen Selection: Which breed is right for you?

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Martha White
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With more than 100 recognized breeds to choose from, hen selection is your first high hurdle. Are you interested solely in eggs or meat, or do you prefer a dual purpose bird? Brown eggs or white? Standard size hens or small bantams? This is no job for the featherbrained!

A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.

Samuel Butler (1835–1902)

Egg layers

  • Ancona - White eggs
  • Australorp - Brown eggs
  • California White - White eggs
  • Hamburg - White or tinted eggs
  • Lakenvelder - White or tinted eggs
  • Leghorn - White eggs
  • Minorca - Chalk White eggs
  • Production Red - Brown eggs
  • Redcap - White eggs
  • Sex-Link - Brown eggs

Meat Birds

  • Brahma - Brown eggs
  • Cochin - Brown eggs
  • Dark Cornish - Brown eggs
  • Jersey Giant - Brown eggs

Dual-Purpose Birds

  • Araucana - Blue green eggs
  • Black Sex-Link - Brown eggs
  • Dominique - Brown eggs
  • Faverolle - Brown or tinted eggs
  • Houdan (crested) - White eggs
  • New Hampshire - Brown eggs
  • Orpington - Brown eggs
  • Red Sex-Link - Brown eggs
  • Rhode Island Red - Brown eggs
  • Rock - Brown eggs
  • Sussex - Brown eggs
  • Wyandotte - Brown eggs

Remember: Consider the rooster!

  • If you plan to hatch some of your eggs into chicks, or if you prefer fertilized eggs for breakfast, you'll need a roster or two. Otherwise, they're ornamental, sometimes feisty, and a lot of fun and trouble.
  • Breeders suggest having a rooster for every 8 to 12 standard-size hens. A single cock can “accommodate,” as they say, up to 18 hens.
  • If you've ordered straight-run chicks (see our Chicken Glossary) and ended up with several cocks, you may want to cull some or separate them from the hens to minimze pecking-order fights.
  • Since roosters are prone to favorites, rotating two cocks among the flock may even things out.

2023 Almanac Club