Best Chicken Breeds for the Backyard
Selecting the chicken breeds for you
Although some people do have chickens because some of the breeds are very pretty and they enjoy having them around doing pest clean-up in their garden, some people raise them for meat,. However, for the primary reason most of us are interested in raising backyard chickens is access to fresh eggs. However, chemical-free pest control and high quality manure that can be used to fertilize your garden are other significant benefits.
If you are looking for high producing chickens, do a bit of research and ask around as to what breeds do well in your area. Obviously those in northern climates will appreciate chickens that are hardy in colder temperatures, whereas in the south, high heat and humidity can pose huge risks to chicken keepers. Like most animals, chickens can typically tolerate cold better than the heat.
In the summer, we often hear of chickens getting stressed and sometimes dying from heat. To help keep your birds as stress-free as possible - which means they will have more energy to produce eggs - be sure your chickens have at least 4 square feet per bird . In hotter climates - like all of the southern US with the exception of southern California - at least one fan, and sometimes misters are helpful.
Regardless, heat will negatively effect egg production, so keep this in mind when selecting your chicken breeds. Although there are many options and you may want to keep some birds for enjoyment and beauty as well as egg production, the below breeds are a good place to consider starting your own flock because they are high producers, calm, easy keepers and non-aggressive.
Many different breeds of chickens have been developed for different purposes. For simplicity, you can place them into three general categories: laying, meat-producing and dual-purpose breeds.
Laying breeds are known for their egg-laying capacity. Popular breeds that might be the best fit for your backyard may include:
1. Red and black sex links - easy going chickens, that typically producer 5-6 of large brown eggs per week
2. Australorp - calm, friendly, easy going temperament and high producers, they do well in confinement, but are a bit shy.
3. Wyandotte - easy going, dependable-producing birds that do well in confinement, and tolerate all temperatures.
4. Leghorms - high producers of white eggs that tolerate all climates, but there have been mixed reports on temperament
5. Rhode Island Reds are one of the earliest breeds developed in the United States and are among his best sellers because of their production qualities. They are considered a dual-purpose bird.
6. Sussex - good layers that tolerate cold weather well.
7. Java - a beautiful and friendly bird that falls into the dual-purpose category. A moderate egg-layer that's a great pet.
Bantams are not a breed until themselves, but rather smaller versions of the larger breeds that were bred in England during the war to produce a bird that would require little up-keep, be lower cost to keep because they require less feed and could be kept in smaller spaces. These birds:,
A healthy hen will lay eggs for several years. Hens begin to lay at approximately 16-20 weeks of age and will lay between 20-23 dozen eggs in the first year. At 14 months, laying hens usually begin to molt, the process by which they drop their old feathers and grow new ones. No eggs are laid during this period. After molting, hens will lay larger, but fewer eggs during per year, about 16-18 dozen.