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How to Choose the Best Chickens for Your Homestead

How to Choose the Best Chickens for Your Homestead

How to Choose the Best Chickens

Are you planning to add chickens to your homestead? Not sure what breeds are best? I’ve raised quite a few different breeds of chickens and found which ones survived and thrived… and those that need extra care in my conditions. I’ve also tried out heritage breeds and hybrids that lay more eggs. The best chickens for your needs will depend on where you live and what purpose your flock will fill. Here is all the information you need to choose the best chickens for your homestead!

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Black Australorp is one of the best chickens for eggs
Black Australorps are a great heritage breed for egg production

Best Chicken Breeds for Your Needs

Do you want laying hens, home-raised meat, or show birds? Perhaps you just want a few eggs from 3 or 4 pet hens, or you like to craft and want to collect decorative feathers. Jot down your main purpose and then add any extra needs your chickens may fill.

There are a few other things to consider. For example, are you interested in preserving a heritage breed or do you want the most economical chickens to fill your needs? Do you need calm, friendly hens or do you want them to free-range or hatch and raise their chicks? It’s a good idea to look at all of the characteristics of a breed before choosing.

Let’s take a look at some potential reasons for keeping chickens:

  • Egg production
  • Meat production
  • Show birds
  • Heritage breeds for genetic preservation or self-reliance
  • Pest control on the homestead
  • Manure for the garden and orchard
  • Feathers for fly-tying and crafts
  • Entertainment

Most likely you have more than one reason for keeping chickens on your homestead. Most breeds fulfill more than one purpose.

Poultry Combo Pack

Best Chickens for Egg Production

Some of the best breeds for laying plentiful eggs are heritage breeds! You can keep the following breeds and still get great egg production:

  • White Leghorn – white eggs (also economical and heat tolerant)
  • Rhode Island Red – brown eggs (hardy and heat tolerant)
  • Black Australorp – brown eggs (attractive feathers and productive)

If you aren’t concerned about keeping heritage breeds and you just want the best egg production from your birds, try keeping some of these hybrid egg layers:

  • California White – white eggs
  • Cinnamon Queen – brown eggs
  • Red or Black Sex Link – brown eggs

In addition to being economical on feed, these chickens are generally calm and hardy. Be aware that high-production layers are more susceptible to egg peritonitis/internal laying.

Check out my ebook How to Keep Backyard Chickens for Farm Fresh Eggs: Getting Started with Laying Hens. Click Here to Save 15% on All of My Chicken Products on Etsy!

You might also like my Egg Tracker Freebie for a free printable egg production tracking sheet!

Cornish x Rock are the best chicken for fast efficient meat production
Cornish x Rock hybrids are the fastest-growing meat bird

Best Chickens for Meat Production

Are you planning to raise meat chickens for your table? The fastest-growing, most economical meat bird you can raise is the Cornish x Rock. This hybrid bird is ready for processing at 6 to 8 weeks.

Although the Cornish cross grows quickly, some people prefer a slower-growing meat bird such as the Freedom Ranger. They take about 3 months to reach processing weight and Barred rocks take at least 4 to 5 months, in my experience. If you would like to read more, check out How to Raise the Best Chickens for Meat!

  • Cornish x Rock – 6 to 8 weeks to reach 4.5 to 6 lbs dressed weight
  • Freedom Rangers – 12 to 15 weeks to reach 5 to 5.5 lbs dressed weight
  • Plymouth Barred Rock & White Plymouth Rock – 4 to 6 months to reach 2.5 to 4 lbs dressed weight

One of the benefits of choosing the slower-growing heritage breeds is that you can raise your chicks each year if you keep a rooster. All extra roosters hatched in the spring may be processed in the fall for your freezer.

This Ameraucana lays green eggs

Chicken Breeds for Show or Fun

If you are mostly interested in keeping chickens for show or living ‘lawn ornaments’ then you can raise just about any breed that you like! Some of these breeds even provide fancy feathers for crafting or fly-tying:

  • Bantams – mini-chickens in many different breeds
  • Silkies – ‘fuzzy’ chickens (also good broody hens and mothers)
  • Ayam Cemani – all-black chicken (highly prized and quite expensive)
  • Ameraucana – chickens with ‘sideburns’ that lay a variety of colorful eggs, such as green and blue
  • Polish – chickens with fancy feathers and ‘topknot’
  • Brahma – large chickens with feathered feet
  • Plymouth Barred Rock – hardy dual-purpose breed with feathers for fly-tying
  • Silver Seabright – fancy feathers
  • Black Copper Marans – lay dark chocolate-colored eggs

Any of these breeds are entertaining to watch as they scratch around in your backyard. You might even train your chickens to do tricks for mealworms, run obstacle courses, or serve as therapy chickens for people in need of comfort. Chickens can be very friendly when they are hand-raised and trained by their people.

Check out my yummy ‘chook book’… Recipes for Your Chickens: Save Money & Create Natural Treats for Your Flock! Click Here to save 15% on all of my chicken products and mason jar labels on Etsy!

Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Reds are one of my favorite breeds for self-reliance

Heritage Chicken Breeds for Self-Reliance

Maybe you’re in the market for chicken breeds that will do well in your area, produce plenty of eggs, and may be retired as a pet or used as a stewing hen when they stop laying. Don’t forget that about half of the chicks you hatch from those fertile eggs will be roosters. If you don’t want to process them, you’ll be caring for a bachelor flock or looking for homes for them. Many of these breeds will actively forage for pests and weeds, lending a helping hand on your homestead!

There are quite a few breeds that will fill the bill. Here are a few:

  • Rhode Island Red – lots of brown eggs, good for stewing
  • Plymouth Rock – good brown egg production, good for meat
  • White Leghorn – lots of white eggs, good forager
  • Icelandic – good breed for raising chicks and self-reliance, cold hardy

If you live in a hot climate, check out How to Choose the Best Heat Tolerant Chickens.

Are your winters exceptionally cold? Check out How to Choose the Best Cold Tolerant Chickens.

Do you want hens that will hatch and raise their own chicks? Check out How to Choose the Best Broody Hens for a Self-Reliant Flock.

Star With the Best Chickens!

Now that you’ve read up on some of the best breeds to fill the needs of your homestead, you can get started on your flock! If you aren’t sure where to get chicks, check out How to Start With the Best Baby Chicks!

If you’ve never had baby chicks before you’ll want to read through this awesome guide on How to Care for Day Old Chicks! If you’d like to save money on your brooder setup, check out my instructions for a Redneck Brooder Box. 🙂

Reduce the carbon footprint of your chickens with my Best Guide to Raising Eco-friendly Chickens!

Are you new to keeping chickens? Or are you thinking of adding more chickens to your flock? Leave a comment and tell me what breeds you want to buy!

Check out my Amazon Storefront for helpful products for your flock!

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