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The Ultimate Guide to Growing Backyard Chickens

Growing Backyard Chickens: All You Need to Know About Chicken Breeds

Chickens are a staple on any homestead, whether a backyard poultry endeavor in an urban setting or larger operation in the country. Not only do they produce eggs daily, which are one of the most perfect foods available to us, many of the chicken breeds provide excellent meat sources after a relatively short amount of time.

The trick to keeping chickens is picking the right bird for your needs. Throughout the centuries, breeders have enhanced particular characteristics of backyard chickens depending on what people wanted in their region. As a result, there are breeds that lay eggs consistently and beautifully, varieties that rapidly put on weight to ultimately end up on the table, as well as dual purpose birds that offer the best of both worlds.

Some of these specific-use breeds are modern hybrids that perform exceptionally well during their lifetime, but will not produce chicks that are true to their parentage, which is fine if you have no desire to raise your own backyard flock. Many other different types of chickens have a long and storied history, and are worth raising, to be part of the lineage that served people so well throughout the centuries. In reality, some of these heritage breeds are on the edge of disappearing, but it’s through the work of the Livestock Conservancy, as well the growing interest of home growers who wish to perpetuate these truly unique and rare chicken breeds, that they will continue to thrive for future generations.

When picking the best breeds of chickens for you, not only focus on the purpose of the chicken, but consider the temperament, and make sure you understand its ability to tolerate confinement or whether it has preference for a more free range situation. Raising a chicken that prefers to be out and about in a small coop can cause issues with the chicken as well as rippling through the entire flock.  And if you are someone who takes the saying, “Have you hugged your chicken today?” seriously, choose a breed that will walk up to you waiting to be picked up versus one you have to chase.

Growing Backyard Chickens

Also choose the right chicken varieties for your environment. There are breeds that thrive in the winter where others experience frozen combs and feet. On the flip side, some varieties perish in the heat as they simply do not have the ability to adequately regulate their temperature in hot and humid conditions. There truly is a breed for nearly every part of the world so study their history.

The specific-use breeds are fairly straight forward. Layers are, as the name suggests, the best egg laying chickens in the planet producing around four eggs (or even more) each week while the meat birds grow fast and are known to taste particularly delicious. Meanwhile, the dual purpose birds offer the best of both worlds but only at a lesser degree. Many of these may not be the blue ribbon egg layers producing eggs almost daily but several breeds are known to continue laying eggs throughout the winter and for more years than the straight layers. And, as far as meat production goes, dual purpose birds will not mature to the optimum weight in the 6-12 weeks of many of the meat variety chickens; however, they still offer excellent meat for the table particular for people who prefer the slower, more natural means of raising chickens.

After a while many people have their favorites. But if you’re just getting started in your adventures in breeding chickens, you might want to create a mixed flock to discover what breeds stand out to you. You might decide to stay with the straight production type breed to make the most of your resources, or feel personality plays an equally important role. The only way you will truly know what kinds of chickens work for you is to try a few or a dozen.

Layers – Egg Laying Chicken Breeds

Laying hens are the rockstars of the breakfast menu. They lay consistently and often, usually with large-sized eggs. The drawback to these revved-up production machines is that they may lay eggs continuously for a couple of years, and then practically stop. If you are one who is fine with replacing, or refreshing, the flock every few years for superior egg production, a straight layer is the one for you.

Which ones are the best egg-laying chickens? Below is an in depth guide to show you just how many eggs does a chicken lay a day.

Growing Backyard Chickens Ameraucana Chicken BreedAmeraucana

These are great looking birds with tufted ears and sometimes a feathery muff under their chin. They come in a wide range of colors and variations. The Ameraucanas lay the blue-green eggs that are so eye-catching. They are fair layers producing over 150 gorgeous eggs per year, and many people report that these hens are the ones who start up first in the spring. It’s good to note that Ameraucanas are not the same as their descendent, the Araucana chickens, which are rare due to genetic factors, making them difficult to successfully breed.

There are also Easter Egger chickens that are a hybrid with either of these breeds in its lineage passing along the trait to produce the beautiful green or blue eggs. While the Easter Eggers lay the desirable color, they will not breed true so the offspring will not necessarily look like the parents, nor will they necessarily produce the same colored eggs.

Growing Backyard Chickens Ancona Chicken Breed

Ancona

Originally from Italy, the Ancona chicken was later on introduced and bred in the United Kingdom during the 17th century. Over the years, these types of chickens have become very popular in the UK and the US and not in Italy although there has been an initiative to get it back in its native country.

The Ancona is one of those black chicken breeds that are mottled with white. In Australia, however, a red variety is also recognized. These chickens are great layers, producing an average of 220 eggs each year with each egg weighing around 50 grams or even more. The hens are not very broody and can start laying eggs at five months.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Andalusian Chicken Breed

Andalusian

As its name suggests, the Andalusian chicken came from Andalusia in Spain. It was later introduced to the United States somewhere between 1850 and 1855. It was in the 1880s when a bantam was created.

These chickens come with a dark and light blue plumage and with the sickle and tail feathers nearly black. Not all of them are blue, however, as they may also come with an off-white or black plumage. People who love backyard chickens will love that the Andaluza Azul is able to produce around 165 eggs every year, each of which can weigh from 70 to 80 grams.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Black or Red Star Chicken Breed

Black or Red Star

These hybrids are champion layers producing 300 eggs per year. They are docile and will not fuss if you pick them up, so if you’re looking for that pet who will consistently give you eggs as well as attention, the black or red stars are good breeds for you. This also makes them good with children, which is important if you want to teach your kids to love chickens instead of being afraid of them. Stars are good foragers and are known to keep following you around to see what you might have to give them.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Cream Legbar Chicken Breed

Cream Legbar

The Cream Legbar is a pure breed that lays beautiful blue colored eggs. It is one of the first autosexing chickens and also among the most successful.  These birds are characterized by their muscular bodies, large wings and tail that goes in a 45-degree angle to the back. The legbar is also an excellent layer, producing around 240 blue eggs during their first year.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Croad Langshan Chicken Breed

Croad Langshan

This ancient breed of chicken originally comes from China, where they were domesticated and bred as far as 8000 years ago. Their heads and tails are found at the same level, thus their U-shaped appearance. These birds are broody and make good mothers and can produce around 150 eggs each year. They are also active, strong and intelligent, perfect for small backyard farms.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Frizzle Chicken Breed

Frizzle

In the United States, the Frizzle chicken is not considered as a chicken breed but instead is being judged by the standards of the breed that the chicken belongs to during shows. At present, it is only recognized by nine European countries namely Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. These types of chickens are great layers of white or tinted eggs but are usually broody. It is also hardy although the curled feathers prevent its feet from being protected from the rain.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Golden Comet Chicken Breed

Golden Comet

A result of cross breeding chickens (white leghorn and Rhode Island Red), these curious and affectionate hens will be the ones most likely following you around the yard. They’re also exceptional layers sometimes producing 330 eggs a year. Golden Comet chickens are one of the sex-link hybrids, named as such because the male chicks have different colored down than the female chicks making them easier to sort for customers.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Hamburg Chicken Breed

Hamburg

Originating from Holland, the Hamburg is a small or medium sized breed with full sized cocks weighing somewhere from 2 to 2.5 kilos. This chicken breed easily matures and is a good egg laying chicken, with each egg weighing around 50 grams. The only downside to having this breed in the backyard is that they are free-ranging chickens and do not do well in confinement. They are also not broody or docile birds.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Icelandic Chicken Breed

Icelandic

Icelandic chickens  are ideal for farmers looking for independent breeds that can basically look after themselves. This independence means that they require a wide range for them to walk around and forage in. If you can only keep chickens in a coop or in a tiny enclosed space, this may not be for you. You cannot expect the Icies to match the production of other excellent egg laying chickens but they produce quite a decent number considering that they are self-sufficient.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Kraienkoppe Chicken Breed

Kraienkoppe

Originating on the border of Germany and the Netherlands, the Kraienkoppe are excellent layers and are also being used as show birds. These chicken breeds have gotten rare today but they are very beautiful to look at. They feature yellow skin and a small walnut-shaped comb. They are also very active and can be left on their own to forage for food.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Lakenvelder Chicken Breed

Lakenvelder

First recorded in 1727, this breed of chicken comes from Germany and other neighboring areas of the Netherlands. It was imported into the United Kingdom in 1901 and was recognized by the American Poultry Association later 1939. This beautiful chicken is characterized by solid black feathers around the head, neck hackle and tail with the rest in a pale blue-grey color. It also has white earlobes and state blue legs. The Lakenvelder produces around 160 eggs every year, with each egg weighing around 50 grams each.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Leghorn Chicken Breed

Leghorn

This is the well-known variety iconized as “Foghorn Leghorn” in Looney Tunes. While the Leghorn chickens are not especially cuddly – in reality they can be rather skittish and are certainly fast runners if they’re out on their own- they are champion egg layers producing over 250 large white eggs per year. The Leghorn chicken breed are as good scratching for their dinner, as well as tolerating confinement in smaller areas.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Minorca Chicken Breed

Minorca

Hailing from the Mediterranean, Minorcas thrive in warmer climates where other birds may suffer. They found their way to America from England in the late 1800s. They are elegant black birds that do well in confined situations making them a good choice for smaller backyard situations, although they do equally well if they are pastured or permitted to free range. They are renowned for their egg-laying abilities boasting 300 very large white eggs per year, but are not known to be exceptional brooders if you do wish to increase your flock.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Silkie Chicken Breed

Silkie

Originally from China, Silkie chickens are quite unusual in that they come with black skin and bones, blue earlobes and five toes on each foot (typical chickens only have four). They are commonly used as show birds. Although they produce a fair number of eggs at three a week, they are also being used to hatch eggs from other breeds because of their broodiness and excellent mothering abilities.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Tolbunt Poland Chicken Breed

Tolbunt Poland

Coming from the Netherlands, this chicken breed is well known for its crest of feathers. They do require extra care as they have very limited vision due to their huge crest. They do produce an excellent number of eggs every year but are also being used as show birds. These birds are also quite active but they can also be tamed easily.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Welsummer Chicken Breed

Welsummer

If you are familiar with the Kelloggs Cornflakes roosters, then you have seen the Welsummer chickens. This breed comes from Welsum in the Netherlands and is known to be an intelligent and friendly bird. They are characterized by their red face and feathers that are golden around the neck, medium brown around the body and rich brown reaching the tip of the tail. They are quite good layers producing around four eggs per week.

Meat Birds – Chicken for Meat

Like the laying hens, chicken breeds raised specifically to end up on the table are excellent at what they do, namely put on weight in a short amount of time, but are limited to that purpose. Whether opting for a short term hybrid or one of the older breeds, meat chickens will provide poultry that is far superior to anything purchased in the store. Be ready to discover what chicken is supposed to taste like.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Bresse Chicken Breed

Bresse

France and exceptional food are practically synonymous so it makes sense that the Bresse chicken, which originated in the area of eastern France, is supposedly the best tasting chicken you can find. Since the French are particularly meticulous about their food, there is a traditional method of feeding this particular breed for phenomenal results. These white chicken breeds are on pasture for four months then finished for 2 to 4 weeks on milk-soaked grain or corn feed. This produces a marbled meat, something most of us have never experienced in poultry. They don’t grow as quickly as the Cornish Cross varieties but by spending the time in effort to raise this old breed, you are in for a culinary treat.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Cornish Cross Chicken Breed

Cornish Cross

When most people picture a chicken, they envision the Cornish Cross breed that is renowned for an exceptionally fast growth rate maturing at 5 to 7 pounds in 6 to 8 weeks. With large breasts and legs to match, there is a lot of good meat on these birds. But they do come with some issues. They do not tolerate heat very well, and have been known to die feet from the waterer, particularly in hot, humid conditions. They also have a reputation for growing so rapidly that their legs may break. They’re voracious feeders and not necessarily the best foragers to supplement their diet and be prepared for frequent coop cleanings. But, if you’re looking for a quick turnaround to fill the freezer, these are the go-to variety.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Red Rangers Chicken Breed

Red Rangers

Red Ranger chickens are a great alternative to the typical chicken breeds that you can find in the supermarket today. These birds come from heritage breeds and are characterized by their strong legs, dark red feathers with black wing tips and tail feathers. Red Rangers are often raised for their meat quality; they are also great in pastures as they are free ranging birds who love to forage.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Freedom Ranger Chicken Breed

Freedom Ranger

For those looking for a meat bird that will mature to 5 to 6 pounds in 9 to 12 weeks, Freedom Ranger is a breed that will gain weight on forage or do fine on pasture, along with the standard dry ration. Many people choose this reddish-buff colored bird with black highlighted tail feathers when they want meat birds that act like chickens instead of gluttons camped around the feeder. Freedom Ranger chickens have yellow skin and are reportedly higher in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds – Layers and Meat Birds Combination

Dual purpose chicken breeds do it all.  Many of these are respectable egg layers who are still superior to commercially raised poultry when butchered at their mature weight. They have a wide variety of characteristics, and if you’re just starting out in keeping chickens, seriously consider incorporating some of these fascinating breeds into your flock.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Australorp Chicken Breed

Australorp

Australians developed this terrific breed from the Black Orpington. The lustrous shiny black birds that glisten with a greenish tinge in the right light have a sweet disposition and make good backyard pets with the bonus of exceptional egg laying capabilities of around 250 large brown eggs per year. They’re renowned as a meat bird, as well as a layer, making Australorp chickens a good choice in the backyard flock.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Brahma Chicken Breed

Brahma

With feathered legs and a large body size (with roosters reaching 12 pounds), the Brahmas are equipped for the cold weather. They’re not the best layers, usually producing 140 nice sized eggs each year, but are super friendly and docile making them pleasant to be around.  One recommendation for those who wish to keep the Brahma chicken breed is to accommodate their larger size by keeping the perch only 12 inches high so they don’t have to jump so high to reach it.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Buckeye Chicken Breed

Buckeye

Giving a nod to the “Buckeye State” of Ohio where this particular breed was developed by Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio in 1896, this is a good choice for a mixed flock. Buckeye chickens are called such because its deep mahogany plumage resembles the favored nut and was extremely popular when backyard chickens were the norm during that era when chickens that were useful for eggs or the table were most desired.  They are average layers, although they continue well into the winter, and the hens make good mothers.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Chantecler Chicken Breed

Chantecler

Bred in Canada over a century ago, Chanteclers are perfectly-suited for colder climates, but do not do well in southern regions. They do have a reputation for being a bit flighty and noisier than some of the others but make up for it with their hardiness in the chillier parts of the country where they lay their medium-sized light brown eggs throughout the winter. As far as meat production goes, they’re on the larger size ranging from 6.5 to 8.5 pounds when they’re fully grown.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Delaware Chicken Breed

Delaware

Developed in the 1940s, Delawares are a fairly new breed. A cross between a Plymouth Rock and New Hampshire hens, they are predominately white with black bars and speckles on their tales and at the ends of their wings. They are fast growers, reaching 6 to 8 pounds for hens and cockerels, and are better-than-average layers producing 200 brown jumbo eggs each season.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Dominique Chicken Breed

Dominique

This chicken breed is considered as the oldest pure breed in the United States. Starting at six months, this breed can already start producing eggs, usually at a rate of 160 to 200 brown eggs each year. Another breed was modified from the Dominique chickens which resulted to the breed nearly facing extinction. The rarity caused people to shift to the Plymouth Rock breed and, as of today, it is being put under the “Watch” list of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Dorking Chicken Breed

Dorking

This heritage breed thought to have been around since the Roman Empire is renowned for its delicious meat but it holds its own in the egg laying department usually producing about 150 white eggs per season. The good news is that Dorking chickens lay eggs all winter, when other breeds slow down due to the decreased sunlight.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Egyptian Fayoumi Chicken Breed

Egyptian Fayoumi

These are a sleek, ancient breed originating in the Nile River region. With long necks and beautiful white, gray and speckled plumage they are certainly eye catching. Even though they are smaller bodied birds, they are not a good option for an urban or suburban backyard run since these birds do the best when they’re foraging. The Egyptian Fayoumi chickens are also fliers and can pose a problem in tighter spaces. The good news is they do start laying eggs between 4 and 4 1/2 months and will produce around 200 off-white colored eggs per year.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Faverolles Chicken Breed

Faverolles

This French chicken breed was developed back in the 1860s and was used for its eggs, meat and even its aesthetic value. Faverolles chicken is characterized by its heavy muffs and beard and they also have five toes and feathered feet. This breed is popular among children as they are very gentle and friendly, often leading them to be bullied by other chicken breeds. Theirs is also the most silent among all types of roosters. Currently, they are being used more for exhibitions and shows but they are exceptional layers, even during the winter, producing light brown to pink eggs.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Houdan Chicken Breed

Houdan

Originally coming from Houdan in France, this chicken breed is being raised for its meat and eggs although they are currently more popular as exhibition birds. This beautiful-looking bird has five toes and features a butterfly-shaped comb. The comb and the wattle, however, are usually hidden by its feathers especially among hens. Houdans come in white and mottled varieties and are great in the backyard as they are funny and friendly.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Ixworth Chicken Breed

Ixworth

This domestic white chicken breed coming from Ixworth in Suffolk, England is best known for its high-quality meat and excellent egg-laying capabilities. They feature a pure white plumage with red face, earlobes and wattles. In 2008, this chicken breed was declared as endangered and is still at risk in 2014. The meat of the Ixworth are usually being sold at premium prices.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Java Chicken Breed

Java

Coming into the scene between 1835 and 1850, the Java chicken is considered the second oldest breed of chicken developed in America. It is also on critical status as far as heritage livestock breeds, which makes it a good reason to raise some of your own. The Javas were developed with the lineage of the Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Reds, and Jersey Giants. These are beautiful birds that are either black, mottled (black and white with red eye color), white (with yellow legs), and auburn. While they will lay approximately 150 eggs a year, they’re good as meat birds. Javas make good foragers, and are fairly docile.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Jersey Giants Chicken Breed

Jersey Giants

These are big birds with easy dispositions that make terrific backyard birds. The roosters are known to be fairly gentle as far as their people go, but have the positive reputation of protecting their hens from predators. Their types of hens are fair egg layers at roughly 175 big brown eggs each year and, since they can top out at 10-13 pounds, they provide a lot of meat for the menu. Jersey Giants make the most economic sense when there is pasture available to them to supplement any dry rations, as they are known to have healthy appetites. They do take at least six months to mature so they’re far from your 8 to 12 week meat bird and take longer than other breeds to begin laying eggs.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Marans Chicken Breed

Marans

The Maran chickens originated from France and are known as excellent dual-purpose birds. They can produce around 150 to 200 of its prized dark brown eggs each year and its well-built medium sized body provides an excellent source of meat. Despite being independent and hardy, these types of chickens can be tamed very easily. They are best for those with a suburban backyard as well as in farms with assorted breeds as they are not known to bully the small chicken breeds.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Naked Neck Chicken Breed

Naked Neck

Although these fancy chickens look unusual, they are not being raised as a show bird but instead as a dual-purpose chicken. They produce a great amount of light brown eggs every year and they also come with a meaty body and about half of the feathers found in other chicken breeds, making them ideal for meat production. Beginner chicken raisers will love that this particular breed is immune to most diseases and are quite hardy even during the cold. Since they have fewer feathers, these birds are also more resistant to hot weather.

Growing Backyard Chickens - New Hampshire Chicken Breed

New Hampshire

Coming from the state of New Hampshire, these chickens are dual-purpose birds that come with rich chestnut red feathers. This breed produces a decent amount of eggs each year and its medium sized build make it one of the ideal roaster and boiler breeds.

 

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Orpington Chicken Breed

Orpington

These beauties are friendly, very good egg layers producing between 175 and 200 large brown eggs per year and make a fine table bird with the cockerels growing up to 8.5 to 9 pounds. There are four recognized colorations – buff, white, black, and blue – with the buff typically being the easiest to find. The Orpington chicken is an excellent breed for an interactive backyard flock as they often follow people around just to see what they’re doing.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Pioneer Chicken Breed

Pioneer

This reddish, light-colored and speckled chicken is predominately a meat bird with the secondary characteristic of being a decent egg layer, producing over 175 large eggs each year. The cockerels (males younger than a year old) are typically ready to butcher at 12 weeks, dressing out at around 5 pounds, and people are generally very pleased with the flavor of the meat. They tend to forage and move more than newer meat birds, which is what many backyard keepers desire.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Plymouth Rock Chicken Breed

Plymouth Rock

Also called Barred Rock chickens, this stately, speckled breed is a fast grower and ends up being between 7.5 and 9.5 pounds, and has been a favorite in the backyard poultry collection for over a century. Besides being excellent on the table, the Plymouth Rock is a year round laying hen, averaging a couple of hundred brown eggs each year. For those who wish to perpetuate their flock, they also do well setting on the nest and raising their brood. They are known to be bossy hens, though, so be careful if you have a mixed flock as they might pick on less assertive breeds.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed

Rhode Island Red

The Rhode Island state bird has a well-earned reputation of being an excellent dual purpose bird. It is a favorite among small flock owners because of their easy-going disposition and consistent laying habits of roughly 250 large brown eggs per year. One caution is that the hens will eat out of your hand while their breeds of roosters can boast a mean streak.  As far as meat production, Rhode Island Red chickens are on the larger size, usually weighing 7 to 8 pounds, and are reported to have flavorful meat.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Sussex Chicken Breed

Sussex

This larger breed, which reaches 9 to 12 pounds at maturity, is an excellent dual purpose bird producing 200 large brown eggs each year. The hens will become broody allowing you to increase your flock, if desired. Beyond the egg laying capabilities of the Sussex chicken, they are equally good on the table. They’re interesting looking birds being predominantly white with speckling around the neck and black hackles. They are also generally laid-back and curious.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Wyandotte Chicken Breed

Wyandotte

An American breed that was developed back in the 1870s, the Wyandotte chicken is a dual-purpose bird that is known to produce brown eggs and yellowish meat. If you are not familiar with its name, it is probably because you know it by its original name: the American Sebright chicken. Aside for its eggs and meat, the Wyandotte is also being raised as show birds and is especially popular as such in Germany.

 

Ornamental Chicken Breeds – Fancy and Rare Chickens

Not all chickens are poultry breeds. You might be surprised that there are chickens that are being raised not for their eggs or their meat but for their aesthetic value. These birds can often be seen in various exhibitions and shows.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Appenzeller Chicken Breed

Appenzeller

Originating from Appenzell, Switzerland, this breed of chicken comes in two varieties: the Spitzhauben or pointed hood and the Barthuhner or bearded hen. They are quite decent as egg laying birds but are mostly raised as a show breed. These chickens are quite light with hens weighing around 1.6 kilos. They are great foragers who do not like to be confined. This breed is quite rare in North America and the Spitzhauben is yet to be recognized by the American Poultry Association.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Araucana Chicken Breed

Araucana

The Araucana breed is an exceptionally rare breed with origins from Chile. They are quite difficult to breed as their genes cause a high percentage of the Araucana chicks to die even before they come out of their shells. This breed is best known for laying blue eggs; they also have green legs and feet that come with yellow undersides.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Barnevelder Chicken Breed

Barnevelder

Most chicken names come from its place of origin including the Barnevelder, which originated from Barneveld in the Netherlands. These ornamental chickens were mainly raised as show birds than as utility chickens. They are dual purpose birds that produce a good number of dark brown eggs annually and also provide a good amount of meat. Unfortunately, these breeds are now mostly in the hands of show breeders; these birds now produce lighter brown eggs but not as much as it used to. They are, however, great layers during the winter season.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Catalana Chicken Breed

Catalana

This Spanish breed of domestic chicken features a golden plumage, thus earning its nickname, the Buff Catalana. These chickens are quite rare in North America but are very popular in South and Central America. Their legs are not feathered and they are not hardy in the winter. If you have a small space in the backyard, this is not the ideal breed as they hate being confined. They do, however, thrive as foragers and are quite active breeds.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Cochin Chicken Breed

Cochin

The Cochin chicken is a chicken breed that originally came from China and was introduced in the UK and the US later during the middle of the 19th century. Because of its huge size (cocks weigh up to 5 kilos), a lot of people got crazy over them and created a poultry frenzy. Cochins are characterized by their excessive plumage that can cover up to their legs and foot. These chickens also make great mothers, not just their own but also of other breeds, and are one of the tamest and friendliest of all breeds.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Japanese Bantam Chicken Breed

Japanese Bantam

The Japanese bantam is one of the true bantam breeds in the world, a term to characterize the absence of a larger counterpart. These birds are naturally small with the cocks weighing somewhere from 510 to 600 grams and hens from 400 to 510 grams. These beautiful chickens, which are also called Chabo, have large upright tails that can usually go higher than their heads as well as short legs. With proper care, these birds can live as long as 13 years.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Pekin Chicken Breed

Pekin

The Pekin is considered as a true bantam breed wherein it has no large fowl counterparts. Based in China, this bird features full feathers all over the body, nearly hiding the rest of its legs and feet. They are unfortunately not very productive when it comes to the egg laying department although they make good pets, especially for young children. The cocks, however, tend to be aggressive and defensive especially once they have reached sexual maturity.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Polish Chicken Breed

Polish

Polish chickens are mainly raised as exhibition birds. They can be good layers but are sometimes unreliable – some may lay well but others may lay eggs poorly. Beginner poultry farmers will love having these birds in their backyard as they have a friendly and quiet disposition. They are also docile and can bear confinement quite well but they are not very hardy during the winter.

 

Growing Backyard Chickens - Serama Chicken Breed

Serama

Yet another of those bantam chicken breeds that you might want to look into is this one which originated from Malaysia. It is easy to spot Serama chickens as they come with an upright posture, full breasts and vertical tail feathers. They show a human like appearance which is why they are considered brave warriors and archangel chickens in Malaysia, even though they are the smallest chicken breeds.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Sultan Chicken Breed

Sultan

Coming from Turkey, this chicken breed made it to Britain in 1854 and eventually in the US in 1867. Sultans look unusual in that they have a lot of fluffy, decorative plumage especially around the crest and beard and their comb is hidden from the feathering as well. They also come with a long tail and their feet are hidden by feathers. The Sultans are generally docile and friendly and have a tendency to be bullied if mixed with more active breeds in the flock.

Growing Backyard Chickens - Thuringian Chicken Breed

Thuringian

Although these birds were first used as dual-purpose chickens, they are now being used for exhibitions. These were originally raised in small farms in Germany for their meat and eggs but they have now become one of those rare chicken breeds.

 

Starting a Backyard Chicken Poultry

Raising a small flock chickens in your own backyard is no walk in the park. There are many things to consider and picking a particular breed from the chicken breed chart is only half the battle.

Before you can even start bringing them to your home, you will have to take care of other things such as getting a coop made. You will also have to find a local chicken expert, eventually, because you will be met with a lot of questions along the way, such as how many nesting boxes per chicken you need. In fact, don’t be surprised if you will suddenly come up with a chicken poop chart – things like this will come in handy later on.

And, no matter how awesome you think you are at taking care of your chickens, one of them will eventually meet a horrible death and you will end up wondering just how long do chickens live.

They might be killed by your own dog or they will just die from a horrible disease that you could not diagnose after days of becoming a lethargic chicken. Life has to go on from there and you will have to get additional chicks to get your flock alive.

The joy of raising backyard chickens, however, comes in being able to have access to fresh chicken meat (you probably will not want to go this route if you have considered them as pets) and fresh eggs every day. But, as promising as the eggs may sound, you also have to remember that your birds will probably not lay eggs as expected. They may lay eggs much later and probably not as often as the breeders say they will. Don’t be discouraged because you will soon have your eggs.

But is taking care of chickens at home really worth the effort and the cost? It all depends on how you see it. Maintaining a small flock at home enough to feed your family can be a rewarding experience and especially so if you have foraging birds since you do not have to worry what to feed chickens. Time will eventually come that they will no longer provide eggs and you will be forced to either care for them as pets or turn them into a delicious meal. Regardless of which path you choose, you do not have to make yourself feel guilty for doing it.

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The Author

Amy Grisak

Amy Grisak

Amy Grisak is a freelance writer who grows a tremendous amount of food in a suburban situation while constantly experimenting on new ways to garden in the challenging Montana climate. From season extending techniques to tomato grafting, she strives for new ways to improve production so they can be more self-reliant every season. She and her husband also depend a lot on what Montana has to offer in terms of hunting, fishing and wildcrafting. Ultimately, everything ends up in the kitchen where she cooks, preserves and enjoys the fruit of their efforts. You can follow her adventures on www.thebackyardbounty.com

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