If you’re interested in getting chickens for your backyard, you’ve likely wondered what type of chicken is best for your backyard. Since there are hundreds of breeds of chickens to choose from, it can be a little confusing when deciding on a particular breed.
Chickens vary in lots of different ways including bodily size, feather colour, the extent of their feathers, the type of comb and egg colour. Breeds of chicken also vary in terms of their main use. Some breeds are best known for eggs, others for their meat, some are more seen as a pretty pet, and some are considered ‘dual-purpose’.
In order to determine which breed is best for your backyard, this article addresses some of the most common qualities that are sought from the backyard chicken.
1. Egg size – do you want full size eggs for cooking or are you content with a smaller sized egg?
2. Number of eggs per year – if you want many eggs, certain breeds are better than others.
3. Egg-sitting mother hens – certain breeds are better for rearing chicks.
4. Family friendly, docile chickens – do you have young children who will want to handle the chickens??
5. Common breeds versus unusual/ pretty chickens.
Size of the Egg
One obvious difference between standard and miniature (or bantam) chickens is the size of the egg they produce. A bantam egg is around a half to a third the size of an average egg from a standard chicken. Bantams also lay fewer eggs per year compared with standard chickens. For example, the Isa Brown will produce around 260 eggs per year, compared with only 150 small eggs from various breeds of bantam chickens. So if eggs are important to you, it’s wise to choose a full standard sized hen.
Number of Eggs
There are certain breeds of chicken that are able to lay more eggs per year, compared with other breeds. As mentioned, the commercial hybrid ‘Isa Brown’ lays more eggs per year compared with other breeds of chicken. Isa Browns will produce around 260 eggs per year, compared with 250 eggs from the Black Australorp and around 200 from the Rhode Island Red. White leghorns are also a good higher volume layer producing around 195 eggs per year.
What breeds do not go broody?
From time to time chickens go broody or ‘clucky’ meaning that they tend to sit on their eggs in the hope that they’ll be able to hatch some chickens. Of course some poor hens still do this even though there’s no rooster in this pen to make this possible. While the chickens go broody they will stop laying new eggs and sit on their eggs, or whatever eggs they can find, for an extended period of time. If a chicken actually sits on fertilized eggs, they have the potential to hatch into chicks after 21 days.
Often bantam breeds such as ‘Silkies’ regularly go broody, so these are a good choice if you have a rooster want some hens to do the sitting. Other breeds such as Rhode Island Reds or Australorps are less likely to ever get broody with this trait almost entirely bred out of them, so you have a chicken at maximum egg laying capacity. If you decide later on that you’d like to hatch some chicks, purchasing some fertilized eggs and hiring an incubator may be the way to go, because it is unlikely these ‘unbroody’ breeds will get all motherly just when you need them to sit on some eggs.
If you’ve got children or want to interact more with your chickens, you might like to choose a breed of chicken that doesn’t mind being handled. If eggs are not your major concern and want the chickens more as pets, then various bantam breeds might a good decision.
‘Frizzles’ are strange but attractive looking bantams that have curly feathers that point upwards instead of sitting flat against the body. ‘Pekin’ is another popular breed of bantam that looks like a ball of feathers. Pekins even have feathers on their legs and feet. Both Silkies and Pekins are very placid creatures and are excellent pets for children. Like many bantam breeds, Silkies are great broody hens.
If you want a breed of chicken that is a better producer of eggs but still good with chicken, Australorps are a good choice. These are black in colour with a beetle green sheen to their feathers. They are great with children and other pets and lay a good number of eggs throughout the year.
Standard chickens or unusual chickens?
The issue of egg quantity seems to be the major factor when choosing between a standard breed of chicken (such as an Australorp or Isa Brown) compared with a more unusual breed. If you mainly want a chicken that can produce a reasonable sized egg with a good number of eggs per year, it is most likley best to stay with the most common standard-sized breeds. If not, then there are many beautiful breeds to choose from! For something different there are even breeds such as the Araucana that lay pretty blue/ green eggs! You could even get a mix of different standard breeds: some orange, some black and some white just to make your backyard chicken coop look that bit more interesting!
If you’re after a chicken coop that is durable, pleasing to the eye and is value for money, have a look at Royal Rooster’s Australian-made quality chicken coops. Go to http://www.royalrooster.com.au.