Are you looking to add your first flock of backyard chickens? Maybe you’re just adding a few new birds to your existing flock of layers. Either way, choosing the right breed for your homestead is an important decision for any backyard poultry keeper. From the frequency of laying to the demeanor of the birds, there are quite a few factors to consider when picking out those fluffy baby chicks.
A good place to start when thinking about breeds of chicken is your own backyard. How hot is your summer? How cold is your winter? Different breeds adapt better to drastic seasonal temperature swings than others. Largely dependent on the origination of the breed, certain birds are more suited for particular climates. For instance, a chicken with a smaller comb (like the Brahma) will be far less susceptible to frost-bite in Northern climates. On the flip side, there are also chickens that do better in hot, arid climates, like the Southwest U.S. My Pet Chicken has a heat-hardy list that includes Barred Rocks and Easter Eggers for those warm climates.
When researching birds for backyard hobbyists, you will often see references to “dual purpose” breeds. This refers to chickens bred for both laying (egg production) and meat. Breeds that are distinguished as dual-purpose breeds allow chicken hobbyists to raise the same breed of bird for both meat and eggs. Many chicken keepers will get a straight run (both male and female) of dual-purpose chicks, keeping the hens for egg production and the cockerels for meat in the fall. Ameraucanas, Black Australorps, and Wyandottes are all considered to be good dual-purpose birds with a high egg-laying frequency and a good size for butchering.
The amount of land you have and your setup will be better suited for some birds more than others. Breed can determine whether a chicken will do better in a more confined coop setup or thrive in pasture. This chart is helpful in determining what breeds are adaptable to a confined area or prefer free-range pasture for optimal growth and egg production.
Wait. Chickens don’t quack! But, maybe… the right breed of poultry for your homestead isn’t a chicken at all. Ducks can be great backyard birds for both meat and eggs. Whether you already have a pond on your property or are willing to add a little water for your feathered friends, don’t look past the webbed feet of backyard ducks.
When all is said and done, everyone has a favorite breed. From Dominiques to Orpingtons, you’re sure to find the right chicken for your backyard coop.