Chickens – Choosing a Breed

Meat, Eggs, Dual purpose?

So you’ve finally made the plunge and decided that chickens are something you have to get! I don’t blame you, who wouldn’t want fresh meat or eggs? But, if you’ve never raised chickens, questions like,”what’s a brooder?”, “what do I feed them?” ,”how much feed?”, and “do they need heat in the winter?” can deteriote your excitement over fresh meat and eggs pretty quickly. To make easing into chicken ownership a little easier let’s start with your purpose for owning chickens. Do you want chickens for eggs? meat? or both?

Egg Layers – All hens lay eggs but some hens lay more than others. Most egg laying hens today are bred for high production rates because of demand. People want a bird that is going to put out the most amount of eggs and that begins laying as quickly as possible! Therefore, certain breeds are crossed with others, and your result is a skinny hen with barely any meat on her bones but, she consistently lays almost every day. Some up to 320 eggs per year! If your sole purpose for chicken ownership is eggs and not meat we would recommend a White leghorn, or a Rhode Island red. These breeds will produce the most eggs in the shortest period but they stay thin and do not bring much to the dinner table. White Leghorns lay white eggs, and Rhode Island Reds lay brown eggs. Colored Eggs: If your goal is egg production but you’re looking for those beautifully colored eggs an Americauna or Easter Egger will produce a colored egg. Usually a beautiful shade of blue/green! They aren’t as highly productive as a White Leghorn or Rhode Island Red but they will lay beautiful eggs to feed your family. You might find these breeds to be a bit more on the spendy side.

Meat Birds – The most common meat chicken is the Cornish Cross. The Cornish Cross is a hybrid of the Cornish and the Plymouth White chicken. These birds will grow to be 4-6lbs and ready to process at 6-8 weeks! We call these chickens the race car chickens, they grow to desired weight in the shortest amount of time. The second most likeable meat breed is a Red Ranger. Though they are slower growing, taking up to 10-12 weeks, they are very popular for their flavor and have less issues than the quicker growing Cornish Cross who have been known to have heart attacks caused by their rapid growth. Red Rangers do move around more and will be harder to catch if they escape! Red Rangers can serve as a dual-purpose breed as well, and will lay eggs if allowed to reach laying age. Feed conversion is about the same since they take longer to grow out.

Dual Purpose – Dual purpose chickens are birds that are raised for eggs and meat. They will produce plenty of eggs over their lifetime and also be heavy enough to produce a plentiful meal for your family once egg production has diminished. These birds are calmer than your quick laying breeds which means they won’t be flying over fencing and ending up in your neighbor’s vegetable garden! We love the Barred Plymouth Rock, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, and Buff Orpington.

As you can see, there is a lot to take into consideration when deciding on breed and purpose. The best approach is to determine your goal and then decide on the breed that best fits that goal. Chickens are often referred to as the gateway farm animal, as they most often throw you down a spiraling path of animal ownership! Best of luck in choosing your path!

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