Raising Chickens 101: Choosing Chicken Breeds

Which Type of Chicken Should You Get?

February 21, 2019

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Choosing the right chicken breed is an important part of raising chickens. Here are some things to consider when trying to find the right chicken breed for you.

See the first post in our Raising Chickens 101 series: How to Get Started Raising Chickens

What Types of Chickens Should You Get?

When it comes to choosing your chickens, there are more breeds than you can shake an eggbeater at. One of the delights of this step is learning some of the types of chickens and their names: Silkie, Showgirl, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Rosecomb, Redcap, and Russian Orloff, to name a few.

Things to Consider

Some things that you’ll want to consider include the number and color of eggs produced, the breed’s temperament, its noise level, and its adaptability to confinement. If you can’t let your chickens range free, the confinement factor is important for a happy, healthy flock. Noise level really matters if you do not reside in the country. Some sources advise against mixing ages, but I’ve never had trouble with older birds picking on younger ones.


My Favorite Chicken Breeds

Most varieties thrive in all climates, although some have special needs: Phoenix and Minorcas chickens need heat, for example, and Brahmas and Chanteclers chickens prefer cool conditions. Every breed produces eggs, even the so-called ornamental breeds, but egg size and production vary. Medium-production layers are plenty for a family. Bantam chicken eggs are small; to complement their yolks, you’ll need more whites than most angel food cake recipes call for.

I kept Rhode Island Reds and Barred Plymouth Rocks, both of which are usually available from a local hatchery. These are docile, not particularly noisy, high-laying, dual-purpose chicken breeds that take confinement well. They gave me 75 percent egg production—that is, a dozen chickens produced nine eggs a day while they were laying.

Another favorite of mine is the Jersey Giant. It is black or white, and large. (My black Jersey Giant rooster was 16 inches at the saddle!) The hens are medium- rather than high-laying chickens, but the eggs are larger than those of the Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island Red. This breed is calm and docile but needs more room because of its size.

Black and white striped hen chicken.
Barred Plymouth Rock

Araucanas are flighty (not docile), but they thrive in almost any climate, take confinement well, and are quiet. If you want to make them more calm and docile, try hypnotizing them (and no, we’re not kidding!) Plus, the green-shelled eggs are a novelty. (One of my Rhode Island Red hens mated with an Araucana cock and gave me a hen that laid olive eggs!)

My dream team would include Easter Eggers. (Yes, that’s really the breed name!) They’re similar in temperament to Araucanas and lay blue or green eggs. It may take me a while to track them down, but—hey!—the dream team is worth it. 

More of Raising Chickens 101

See more of our beginner’s guide to raising chickens:

About This Blog

Interested in raising chickens? Here’s our Raising Chickens 101 series—a beginner’s guide in 6 chapters. We’ll talk about how to get started raising chickens, choosing a chicken breed, building a coop, raising chicks, chicken care, collecting and storing eggs, and more. The author, Elizabeth Creith, has fifteen years of experience keeping chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys on her farm in Northern Ontario. She currently dreams of a new flock of fancy chickens!

Reader Comments

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Where can I go to buy the hens? How long before the lay?

Chicken breeds

We had Rhode Island Red crosses and Barred Plymouth Rocks. Both are New England breeds and so lay brown eggs, important to New Englanders, who tend to believe that brown eggs are fresher. My wife, by the way, is related to Isaac Wilber, first producer of the Rhode Island Red--the Ocean State's official bird and the only State bird that is poultry. The Barred Rock roosters are easygoing and friendly, while the RI Red cocks are feisty and will attack you when your back is turned.

rhode Island reds

I haven't raised the Barred Plymouth Rocks, only the Rhode Island Red hens and they are great backyard addition. Calm, good with kids, and great brown eggs. I've got the Easter egg chicken, and much prefer the Rhode Island Reds.

Cleaning the coop

I was hoping for more about how to properly clean the coops and frequency.

Honestly. Before we got our

Honestly. Before we got our hatchery chicks. I read, "Raising Chickens for Dummies" . We had EVERYTHING lined up before we even considered preceding our little flock. We started small. Most chicks survive their baby-ness. Some don't. Don't be shocked if all don't. Circle of life. We have done well for our family needs, with excess eggs for extended family. They're amazing, pasture chicken eggs. Protect your flock from predator 's. Protect your garden's from your flock! Good luck!

Mixing ages

Love the article. Just wanted to add that we had a younger chick who was pecked to death when we added her and several others her age to the older flock of 15. Just to be safe, if I mix ages now, I watch them very closely together for a few days before they're left alone with the older ones.

Flock of mixed breeds

I'm trying to do my research on raising chickens. I'd like to get about 3 or 4 hens that produce a lot of eggs. I'd also like a variety of eggs, so can I get 3 or 4 different breeds and will they get along?

best chickens for pets

My 3 year old grandson wants a pet chicken. I told him we would get two in the Spring, I am more interested in chickens that are sociable and like to be held and petted rather than having lots of eggs. Which breeds to you recommend?

affectionate breeds

The Editors's picture

One of the breeds said to be affectionate, friendly, and likes to be held and petted are Silkies, although they are not good layers. Other breeds include Faverolle, Cochin, Orpington, Australorp, and Sussex. (Of course, every individual within a breed will have its own quirks.)

Best Chickens for Pets

Vicki--in addition to the RI Reds and Barred Rocks we had, my wife bought three black bantams, two hens and a rooster. Bantams are small, specialty breeds and are acquired for pets. The hens were sweet and laid tiny eggs. The rooster was cute enough, but he did tend to attack you (without serious injury) when you weren't expecting it. If you get your boy a couple of hens, you can do without the rooster since the hens will lay infertile eggs without benefit of masculine attention.



Best pets

I raised some bannie chicks. I have a hen and a rooster that both love to be held and carried around. Best is to raise them and handle yourself. The attach to one person usually. I have pics on Facebook of me and my chickens and rabbits in the house.

Eggs in winter in middle ga

Hey I have 8 Rhode Island reds chickens this is their first year laying eggs and so far doing great. I'm concerned about up coming weather so far it's been very warm but I'm January it's supposed to be cold We keep them in a coup with solid walls on two sides with laying or brooder boxes on one side and the other two sides are solid half way up and open with chicken wire the rest of the way up with a metal roof.
My concern is in Jan and Feb the weather usually gets cold and I don't know how to protect my eggs or my chickens. Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank you.


Old timers feed oats in winter.


My sister put small Christmas lights in and around the chicken boxes. She put it under the hay in places. She said it keeps her chickens warm and was cheap to do.

Span of laying eggs after crackling

I have a Texas hen having a 9 chicks 3 days old, since theres a typhoon here, I did not allow them to go out for scratching. Is it OK if I feed them a rice and a chick booster? How many months will it takes my hen will lay eggs again?


What is the best. Chicken to raise for meat and what type of chicken do we buy in the grocery store.

I found a website called

I found a website called efowl.com , and they have easter eggers for sale.

what is the max temperature

what is the max temperature for inside the coop.

Hi - we are into our second

Hi - we are into our second year of raising laying hens. We got our first 50 Red Sexlink chicks last spring. They have been laying about and egg a day each since they started laying. We couldn't keep up with the demand for farm fresh free run eggs so we added another 50 ready to lays this spring. It is still a learning process and we have learned a lot.
The only thing I can't seem to get a good answer to by "googling" is when do I expect the older birds to stop laying and is there anything that I can do if the older birds are starting to produce soft shell eggs more frequently.
Many tell me they will lay for at least two years - but is this the case for a Sexlink - they have been laying machines for a year!
Will giving free access to oyster shell help with the quality of egg - we feed egg maker with the grit already in it but do they need more?
Your site seems to be the best I have found for getting good answers!

I live in the city, I am

I live in the city, I am getting a nice coop for about 3 hens. I want them for eggs.I have a large yard but do not plan on having them roam.I live in Albuquerque, NM so it is hot and dry in the summer and cold in the winter. What would be the best egg laying chickens for me to get?

I have two fryers..meat bird

I have two fryers..meat bird I was told. They are white and very lovable. My problem is they do not have any feathers under their wings or their bottoms...they are a lot fatter than any of the other chicks the same age. I am worried they have a problem. They appear to have finished molting.

Is it necessary to have a

Is it necessary to have a rooster in the mix? I've heard the hens feel more comfortable and lay more eggs, is this true?
I live in town and my neighbors may prefer not to have a rooster crowing in the neighborhood.

I'm no expert, but we've

I'm no expert, but we've raised several flocks... at one point having as many as 13. We've also had as little as 2 at a time. We've never had a rooster in the mix, but egg production has always been the same. One egg a day from each hen, slows down in the winter time, as expected, then starts right back up completely in the spring. Sometimes we receive two eggs a day from a few hens. From my experience I don't believe having a rooster would have changed egg production at all. It's possible they may feel more comfort, but I don't believe it's necessary.

I want to have chickens but

I want to have chickens but my dad and mom can't even afford to buy my dog's food! What should i do?

Buy them all yourself. I'm 14

Buy them all yourself. I'm 14 and am getting a flock of 4 hens soon (a small flock). I will pay for them myself. I already pay for my rabbit, two cats, fish, and giant African land snails.i earn the money myself and I pay for most things, although my parents pay for the vet bills. If your family can't afford chickens then you can't get them. Sorry, but it's the truth.

Chickens will eat anything

Chickens will eat anything.many a time I feed my small flock presoaked dog food .they loved me just the same

I would like to raise

I would like to raise chickens, but I work odd hours. In the winter, I rarely see daylight due to my swing-shift schedule. Is it feasible to keep chickens when I don't wake until 3-4pm and i go to sleep at 5-6am? Is there a type of nocturnal breed of chicken? Or should I just forget it?

does raising chickens require

does raising chickens require a lot of space?

I would love to raise my own

I would love to raise my own chickens, I Iive in the suburbs family of 6 my question is how many hens would I need, in order to produce eggs to feed a family of 6 for a week, & due to where I live what's the best chickens to purchase? For quiet my neighborhood & I also prefer brown & white mid-large eggs.

It depends on many eggs you'd

The Editors's picture

It depends on many eggs you'd like! To be on the safe side, plan on five good hens giving you about 20 to 25 eggs a week during the summer, but less during the winter. Sometimes you'll get more. Rhode Island Red is a popular choice.

I am wanting to buy some hens

I am wanting to buy some hens for eggs. Don't know anything about raising chickens, all this is new to me, does anyone have any good starter pointers for me as to what kind of hens to start out with for eggs, I live in Kentucky and would like to have eggs this winter

I would try some Red Stars,

I would try some Red Stars, Black Stars or some white leghorns. All are good producers.

We live in Northern

We live in Northern Georgia.In July my husband bought a hen and a rooster and built a coop and a fence. On Aug. 2nd , 12 chicks were born. We lost two to chicken hawks. Six weeks ago one died in the pen and yesterday another was found dead. What could those two chicks have died from? They are almost 4 months old.

Your advise sounds quite

Your advise sounds quite solid. I have 4 Marans that were laying, but have stopped. Live in Texas and weather is changing, but not that much. Have Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rock and Black Sex links, which roam our backyard, then placed back in pen for the night in their coop. Others are still laying, just the Marans have stopped. Please advise.

I only want to raise 3 or 4

I only want to raise 3 or 4 barred rock hens. Where can I buy that few of chickens?

My pet chicken website out of

My pet chicken website out of CT. can send as few as 3. But, it depends on where you are. In Texas they will send as few as 5. Hope this helps.

Find some one who has

Find some one who has them.farm stores.auction,flea mrkt.note you can get old ones that dont lay so well or egg eaters. As thosr are good places to get rid of trbl.ive had gd luck

Few chickens

Rural King sells them by the chick.

Where to buy.

Our feed store in town sells various foul 1 or more at a time. I'd think most feed stores would have them at least in the spring.

Hi :) I really want to get

Hi :) I really want to get chickens and never have really gotten any "farm animals" before. I want a egg-laying chicken that would be good for starters....Any Ideas?

Hi :) I really want to get

Hi :) I really want to get chickens and never have really gotten any "farm animals" before. I want a egg-laying chicken that would be good for starters....Any Ideas?

Im just starting to raise

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.

I live very close to a

I live very close to a mainline railroad. I would love to have a small coop with 4 hens. I am concerned about the railroad noise they do blow their horns as there is a crossing nearby as well. Can they "get used" to this noise without it disturbing production of eggs? I don't want to invest in a coop if I will not have eggs.

We would imagine that the

We would imagine that the chickens would get used to it after a while (just like people do) once they feel safe, but it's hard for us to say.

I would like to say, I am

I would like to say, I am having a great time raising my chicks. we ordered our eggs believe it or not from ebay. Thought I would have a small hatch rate and ended up with a 99% hatch rate. only one was not fertile. Hatching was a time because my incubator would not keep humidity up high enough and ended up helping about 1/2 of the chicks hatch. we live in town so no roosters, but we did acquire the cutest little shed in town for free, and then on a local rummage site got a huge kennel for a run. I have 2 buff orpingtons, 1 white leg horn, 2 red sex link and 2 black sex link. The feed you get sounds really high, it is about 15 dollars here for a 50# bag. but then I have a small flock. I just love my chickens. I have an incubator full again of silkies that I plan on putting in a different area. they are just the sweetest things!

My family and I are going to

My family and I are going to venture into raising chickens! I live in North Texas and would like advice on the best breeds for this area! HOT summers and COLD winters! Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks!

For a hot climate, Leghorns

For a hot climate, Leghorns do well. It's a lighter-weight chicken.
For a dual-purpose breed, try Rhode Island Reds. They can take the heat. All the same, make sure you have places for shade.

I am 14 and want to start

I am 14 and want to start raising chickens!
I am excited about it but have no idea where to really start.
I read an Article In "Hobby Farm Home" about this lady who got 5 chickens and did not want a rooster because of the stories she has heard.
then she found a rooster in her batch and kept it because it was such a help!
i am wondering what kind of breeds to have since i am just starting, also what are your rooster stories!
Do i need a rooster?
I didn't think i wanted to breed them right away but i want them protected.
Where i live it gets hot in summer and REALLY COLD in winter!
what kind of breed is ideal for egg laying in those weather conditions?

thanks so much for the help in this article!

Lizzy, If you read our

The Editors's picture

Lizzy, If you read our "Raising Chickens 101" blog, it covers breeds and all the basics. Go here: http://www.almanac.com/home-pe...
Good luck! --your OFA editors

My grandmother was a wise

My grandmother was a wise woman in raising chickens to lay year round in very cold Nebraska winters... Every nite give your chickens warm soaked cradked corn with oats and barley if you want but make it mostly corn and only what your flock can clean up before roosting. Feed just before they go to roost. The corn is a hot grain, so when they roost and sit on thier feet they stay very warm. Also, NEVER let them out on the ground in winter. When their feet touch cold ground they stop laying. We sold cases of eggs all winter in town and never had chickens stop laying. They need to have good feed, Warm, soaked corn, and a thick, clean bedding on the floor to keep thier feet warm. It works, I had a wood burning stove that I would put the corn/Oats/scraps on every nite after feeding the Chickens it would swell and be really good. Just make sure it isn't HOT, just WARM when you feed it.

Thanks so much Alan for the

Thanks so much Alan for the site link and I'm not a blog reader, but this one gets me excited and so looking forward to the next, thank you Elizabeth. Hopefully you'll do one on ducks and their eggs and raising them after this.

keeping chickens in the winter

We have 1 chicken, yes i said 1. She's a rescue and actually came into our yard two Springs ago. She had frost bite on one foot and eventually lost the toes. We call her Stumpy. In the winter we screw into the side wall of her nesting area a "pet" heating pad. It's hard plastic and is located next to her perch. We also have a low wattage lamp hanging in the coop that can be removed in the Spring. She also has a heated dog dish for water and a heated perch in the "run". We have also surrounded the coop with bales of hay and covered the run with heavy plastic. She seems happy and gives us a big brown egg every day even in winter. Since we don't know how old she is we really don't know how long she will live nor how long she will continue to lay eggs. In any case she will be loved until the day she dies.

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story about saving Stumpy..so heartfelt, she was lucky to have found you.

I live in north Texas where

I live in north Texas where last year we had 70 days over 100 degrees. I've raised Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns and Plymouth Rock breeds before in North Dakota. What would survive 100 degree summers and 20 degree winters?

we hatched some eggs recently

we hatched some eggs recently and one of the baby's had a crooked beak what would cause this? Also how do you tell which ones are roosters when babies? We are looking for a Orphington Rooster. Do you know where we can gt these?

the easter eggers you refer

the easter eggers you refer to are the arucaunas , sounds like you have the americanas a cross breed. if you have the tru arucaunas you're lucky I can't find a hatchery that carries them. I'm 67 and have been raising fowl since I was 10

Thanks for this, Herschel! If

Thanks for this, Herschel! If what you say is true then even americanas are hard to get. I've found only one hatchery near me that had them.

Easter Eggers and Auracaunas

Easter Eggers and Auracaunas or Ameraucanas are completely different. Easter Eggers are basically mutts that carry the blue egg gene but they are not a recognized breed.

Easter Eggers

You can get Easter Eggers online at Tractor Supply. I ordered 10 and they sent 12. They are all healthy and 3 months old now. They are friendly and jump up on my lap. They come running when they see me and follow me around.
I spent a lot of time with them when they were chicks. They are friendly with everyone who comes to my house. Highly recommend them!

We live in western

We live in western Tennessee.I love banties but it does get cold here(20's).My concern is they are too small to fly up in the trees at night,and we don't have a barn.What can I do? Thank you

Donna, your chickens will be

Donna, your chickens will be fine in the 20s. Feathers are great insulation. They do need shelter from predators, if not from weather. You can build them a small sleeping shed, something little with perches where they are shut up for the night.

Thank you for the help, and I

Thank you for the help, and I am enjoying your blog on chickens. DE

Teresa, my Arucaunas calmed

The Editors's picture

Teresa, my Arucaunas calmed down easily, but started out flighty. I'd recommend against keeping a light on 24/7 - everything needs a night time!

Gerald, a lot of brown egg-layers have speckling on the eggs, but I didn't find a speckled-egg-laying breed listed.

Which beed of chicken lays a

Which beed of chicken lays a speckled egg?

The Welsummer breed of

The Welsummer breed of chickens lays a pretty medium brown egg with darker specks.

I would have to disagree with

I would have to disagree with her statement on the Auracaunas temperment - I have had this breed for MANY years - they are very amicable and always come running when I call them - keep a light on them 24/7 and they lay great year around!!! NEVER had a mean rooster or anything - chickens have been in my husbands family for over 150 years in the state of Indiana!!

I live in Southeast Idaho...

I live in Southeast Idaho... summers can get super hot and winters can get super cold. I live in town with some county property attached. I am interested in hens that are considered dual breed but mostly interested in eggs. I am not able to free range. I don't have electric available to the area the chickens will be kept so I need a breed that does not require heat in the winter.

What would you suggest?

Thank you,


Dina, we didn't heat the

The Editors's picture

Dina, we didn't heat the barn. Chickens are well-insulated with feathers, and if they have a draft-free place to roost, they can usually keep warm enough to be comfortable and healthy. Where we live, -20 is not unusual, and sometimes the temperature went to -40. Shade and lots of water in the hot summer will help them stay cool.

If you have an enclosed

If you have an enclosed area/building that isn't too large and draft free a kerosene lamp lit at night will put out enough heat to keep them happy. Of course you'll want a heavy cold hardy breed as well. just make sure the lamp is secured,perhaps from a wire hanging down and above chicken height and away from any thing that would burn or catch fire.

I live in Southeast Idaho...

I live in Southeast Idaho... summers can get super hot and winters can get super cold. I live in town with some county property attached. I am interested in hens that are considered dual breed but mostly interested in eggs. I am not able to free range. I don't have electric available to the area the chickens will be kept so I need a breed that does not require heat in the winter.

What would you suggest?

Thank you,



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