If you’re thinking about getting chickens for your backyard, you’ve likely wondered what type of chicken is best for your backyard. As there are hundreds of breeds of chickens to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding on a breed.
Chickens vary in many different ways including their size, feather colour, the extent of their feathers, comb type and even the colour of their eggs. 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 ‘multi-purpose’.
To help you decide which breed is best for your family and your backyard, this article addresses some of the most common qualities that owners look for in their new backyard pets.
1. Size of the egg – do you want larger sized eggs for cooking or are you content with a smaller sized egg?
2. Quantity of eggs – some breeds produce more eggs on average in a year.
3. Egg-sitting mother hens – certain breeds are more likely to go broody and sit on eggs.
4. Docile chickens – will your chickens also be pets for your family?
5. Common breeds versus unusual/ decorative chickens.
Size of The Egg
A major 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. Not only are bantam eggs smaller but these chickens also produce fewer of these smaller eggs per year. For example, the Isa Brown will produce approximately 260 eggs per year, compared with only 150 small eggs from various breeds of bantam chickens. So if eggs are an important part of having backyard chickens, it’s wise to go for a full standard sized hen.
Quantity 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 lay approximately 260 eggs throughout the year, compared with 250 from the Black Australorp and around 200 from the Rhode Island Red. White leghorns are also a higher volume layer laying approximately 195 eggs per year.
Broody Mother Hens
At different times through the year, chickens go broody or ‘clucky’ meaning that they will persistently sit on their eggs in the hope that they’ll be able to hatch some chickens. Of course some poor chickens still do this even though there’s no rooster in this pen to make this possible. While the chickens are broody they will temporarily 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, in 21 days they will hopefully hatch into chicks.
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. The common larger 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 focused on laying eggs rather than sitting on them. If you decide down the track that you’d like to hatch some chicks, purchasing some fertilized eggs and hiring an incubator may be your only option, because it’s unlikely these ‘unbroody’ breeds will get all motherly just when you need them to sit on some eggs.
Family Friendly Chickens
If you’ve got children or want to interact more with your chickens, you might like to get 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 unusual but attractive looking bantams whose feathers 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 chickens are black in colour with a green coloring to their feathers. They are great with children and other pets and lay really well.
Unusual or Normal Chickens?
The choice between getting standard sized, common chicken (such as an Australorp, Isa Brown or Rhode Island Red) or a more unusual breed still comes back to the issue of egg quantity. If you primarily want a chicken that can produce a reasonable sized egg with a good number of eggs per year, it is most likely 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, looks great and is value for money, have a look at Royal Rooster’s Australian-made quality chicken coops.