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Hens for the Homestead or Backyard Chicken Coop: Top 10 Chicken Breeds
There are hundreds of breeds of chickens!!!
With hundreds of chicken breeds in existence, picking only 10 as the best hens for the homestead can be a daunting task. Fortunately lots of information about the different chicken breeds is available in books and on the internet. In my research to discover the chicken breed or breeds that would be good for a homestead or small farm setting, I found that several characteristics would be better suited for most homestead situations. I believe that these characteristics are important to most homestead settings.
My first requirement concerning chicken breeds was that the breed had to be non-hybrid. This would allow me to hatch future generations of chickens from the eggs that the chickens laid. So after my initial purchase of chicks/chickens, all future chicks would, or could if I chose so, come from my chickens. The eggs laid by hybrids have a very low fertility rate making them unsuitable for this purpose.
The next characteristic that was important was that the chicken had to be a dual purpose breed. Some chickens are raised entirely for their egg laying abilities, while others are raised for their meat producing abilities. Dual purpose breeds are the happy medium that can be found between these two extremes.
The next thing that I considered was the temperament or personality of the different chicken breeds. I knew there were traits that I did not want to deal with: aggressive, flighty, noisy, wild or restless, and not able to deal well with confinement. The traits that were important to me were: friendly, easily handled, fairly quiet, calm, docile, deals well with confinement or free range environments. Although no chicken will fit exactly within these temperament parameters, there were tools that helped make this selection process much easier. (Link is provided below for use in selecting breeds that might be appropriate for your situation.)
Other things that I took into consideration were that egg production should be medium to high, egg size should be medium to large, and the chicken should be broody seldom to average. Broody means the propensity for the chicken to want to sit on a nest of eggs in order to incubate them. A chicken that is very broody, can be aggressively protective about keeping you away from her eggs.
And the last criteria that I used in breed elimination was that the breed could not be white. Since I intended to allow the chickens to free range, this was critical. White chickens are easier for the predators (such as hawks, coyotes, and foxes) to see and snatch from my flock. Free range chickens are healthier and their eggs are more nutritious.
And the 10 winning homestead breed recommendations, listed alphabetically, are:
Chickens known as Easter Eggers because of the various shades of blue and blue-green shelled eggs that they lay are often sold as this breed. The hen will weigh approximately 5.5 pounds. Easter Eggers are common and easy to find. The standard Ameraucana is rare and harder to locate. Either is acceptable for the homestead.
Because the Barnevelder is a rare breed, it is harder to come by and their initial cost can be many times more than the other breeds. They are famous for their eggs which are a very dark reddish brown with a matte finish. Their feathers have a very striking lace pattern. The hen will weigh 6-7 pounds.
This breed is also rare, making it a little harder to locate. Their eggs which are a creamy white to lightly tinted can be a little on the small side, but the bird fattens up easily. But for future generations of chickens, they are good brooders and good mothers. The hen weighs approximately 6.5 pounds. An interesting fact about this chicken is that it can have 5 toes, rather than the normal 4.
4. American Holland
Despite the name, this breed was developed in the United States after about 15 years of experiments, and was established in 1949. This hen can also be broody, but is good tempered and calm. The hen weighs in at about 6.5 pounds. Two color choices are available, white or barred. Barred would be a better choice because of predation.
This breed has been described as a good, old breed, like a fine cup of coffee. It is also a rare breed, and has been endangered in the not too distant past. It was used in the development of many breeds. It is a good brooder helping to insure future generations. The hen weighs in at approximately 7.5 pounds. There are several color variations to choose from; however, the mottled coloration is very striking.
6. Jersey Giant
Although this bird, weighing in at a whopping 10 pounds lives up to its name, it is my least favorite breed. The main reason being that because of its size it is not considered to be an economical eater. But if you are not concerned with your feed bill, and you want to raise a bird for meat, this one can’t be beat. It is an occasional brooder and a protective mother.
This breed is often described as a big gentle bird, and can be bullied by other breeds in the flock. The buff colored bird is very common, whereas, the other colors – black, blue or white – are quite rare. This breed is a good brooder and an excellent mother. The hen weighs in at 8 pounds, and produces an above average sized brown egg.
A Very Good Book!
This breed was developed in 19th century New England and was once a very common homestead bird, and was considered to be America’s favorite bird at the time. The hen weighs approximately 7.5 pounds and produces a pinkish brown egg that is above average in size. This breed has very many color choices to choose from.
This breed is an Old English favorite, which is uncommon and somewhat difficult to find. The hen weighs in at 7 pounds, and is considered to be a good brooder and a good mother.
The Welsummer is also considered to be an uncommon breed, however, I was able to find many hatcheries who carried this breed. This breed is especially known for their large, rich dark terracotta brown eggs. These birds have a beautiful red partridge color and weigh approximately 6 pounds.
This is my top ten list of chickens that I would consider for a homestead, or backyard flock, for the reasons that I mentioned above. Obviously, if your criteria for choosing birds is different than mine, your list will be different. And with 100’s of breeds to choose from, no two lists will be the same.
Other Chicken Links:
- What is a Turken or Turkin? A Naked Neck Chicken
This breed, also known as the Transylvanian Naked Neck, was first bred in Hungary, and later perfected in Germany. Contrary to what some folks believe, the Naked Neck is 100% chicken-not a cross between turkey and chicken.
- Silkie Chicken Facts: A Furry Chicken
"Silkie Bantam Chickens are an incredibly unique breed of chicken, adorned with more fancy features than any other breed." ... silkies certainly have the ability to enchant.
- Silkie Chicken Colors in Pictures
View different Silkie chicken colors while reading interesting tidbits of information about this unique chicken breed.
- What is a Silkie Chicken? The Silkie Chicken Saga
Which brings us to the matter at hand – the silkie. I’m trying to decide what chickens would work best on our homestead, and on the list that I share with my husband is the silkie. His first question was, “What is a silkie?” And our story begins...
- Looking for an Opportune Moment: The Silkie Chicken Saga Continues
The Silkie Chicken Saga Continues...Just suffice it to say, I knew it would get him going. I like to wind him up every now and then – keeps him guessing, and things interesting. But that was just the beginning ...
- How an Egg is Formed - Egg Anomalies - Abnormal Eggs
So you think you know what an egg looks like? Did you know that eggs can have more than one yolk or shell? Do you know what a cock egg is?