In the past few years, more people have started to raise chickens. Some want to begin a new business in the poultry industry and raise meat chickens or layers. Other people want to give homesteading a try in their yard or small plots of land. And some people want to have one or two chickens as pets! Certain chicken breeds can be as cuddly as cats.
As with owning any animal, adding chickens to your setup is a challenge that should be well-thought-out, particularly if you have never owned a chicken before. There are over 100 species of chickens and this can make it difficult to know which chicken breed is best for beginners. This article goes over the top best chicken breeds for beginners as well as important information about raising chickens in general. With all the information presented here, you should start feeling more informed and confident about which chicken is perfect for you!
The 10 Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners
1. Plymouth Rocks
The Plymouth Rock (also known as the Barred Plymouth or Rock Plymouth chicken) is a well-known American breed of chicken, first shown in Massachusetts in the mid-1800s. This medium-sized breed usually has black and white feathers and a bright red comb and wattle. Some have other color variations, but the barred black and white feathers are the most common. Plymouth Rocks are mainly egg producers, laying about four large brown eggs per week, with an average of 200 eggs laid during the year. Since they have adapted to the colder weather, the hens will continue to lay during the winter months. Although these chickens are primarily used as egg producers, they can be broiler chickens, making them dual-purpose birds. People find this breed of chicken low-maintenance as they are adaptable to being kept in pens or free-rangers. They have a gentle temperament and make great pets for adults and children. These characteristics have made Plymouth Rocks a popular foundation bird for chicken hybrid breeds.
2. Rhode Island Reds
The Rhode Island Red is a crossbreed between the Malay chicken with Asian origins and an Italian Leghorn variety and was developed in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts in the late 1800s as a dual-purpose chicken. The Rhode Island Red is a large chicken breed with reddish-brown to deep brown feathers and a mostly black tail. They have yellow feet and legs and a strikingly red comb and wattle. While this chicken breed is dual-purpose, they are excellent egg producers that lay an average of 5-6 medium brown eggs per week, with a yearly average of 250-300 eggs laid. Rhode Island Reds are weather-hardy and can withstand colder climates. They are very popular with homesteaders because of their friendly nature and low-maintenance needs.
3. Buff Orpingtons
The Buff Orpington originated from Kent, England but became a fast favorite in the United States. This hardy, medium-sized chicken is known for its broad body and fluffed-out feathers, giving it a “buff” appearance. However, the Buff Orpington got its name from the color of its feathers: a yellowish-beige color. There are other varieties of Orpingtons in England, but the most common breed found in the United States is the Buff Orpington. Orpingtons also have a red comb and wattle. People bred this bird to be dual-purpose, used for eggs and meat. The hens lay 3-4 medium to large light brown eggs a week, with an average of 175-200 eggs yearly. However, due to their ultra-fluffy appearance, they are often used as show chickens. Move over dogs and cats—beauty contests are not just for mammals! People often keep these chickens as pets because they are extremely friendly, gentle, and calm. Buff Orpingtons are quite happy being a “lap chicken.”
The Australorp is a medium-sized dual-purpose chicken with dark black plumage with hues of green and purple. Originated in Australia, the Australorp gained international popularity due to its egg-laying ability. In fact, Australorp hens set a world record for the number of eggs laid in a year! Expect your Australorp to lay about six medium light brown eggs per week, with an average of 300 eggs per year. This chicken breed has a gentle and docile temperament and can be great with kids. However, the Australorp is a shy chicken and takes some time to become friendly. This breed is also low-maintenance and hardy against the cold. But this breed does not do well in extreme heat. They need to have a place to go during the hottest times of the year.
Whenever people think of a chicken, they often picture a Leghorn. This large dual-purpose chicken has white feathers (though some can have brown), a long tail, a bright red comb and wattle, and long yellow legs. The breed originated from Italy but became a fast American favorite on farms. When it comes to egg production, Leghorns do not disappoint. They lay an average of 5-6 large to extra-large white eggs per week, with an average of 280-320 eggs per year. These chickens are also low maintenance, tolerate both hot and cold climates, and do well as foragers. However, their intelligence and temperament do not make the best pets and are generally not suitable for children. Some people have found that the character of the brown Leghorn is more relaxed than the white one. But most people own the white variety because they have a better laying ability.
6. Easter Egger
Some people want their chickens to bring something extra to the table (no pun intended!). This makes the Easter Egger a popular choice. This medium-sized dual-purpose hybrid does not have a standard appearance. Some of the chickens have tails, and others are rumpless. Their legs can be yellow to slate blue or green. They can also have a variety of facial features such as muffs or beards, while others will not have any defining features. The Easter Egger also does not have a standard temperament; some can be a bit flighty, but others are quite friendly. This chicken is a mixed bag. However, what makes this chicken a standout in the poultry world are the eggs. Easter Eggers will lay about four medium to large eggs a week in various colors: aqua, pink, olive green, or blue. On average, your hen will lay a rainbow of 200 eggs in a year. Now you understand where this breed of chicken got its name!
The Sussex is a kind-natured chicken that originated from England as meat chickens. However, this bird grew to be dual-purpose as other larger breeds became more popular. The Sussex comes in several color varieties, but the most common kind found in the United States is the speckled and light-colored breed. Considered a low-maintenance chicken, they are tolerant of both hot and cold climates but do better in colder places. They are excellent foragers, making them ideal to be free-range chickens. The hens lay 4-5 light brown eggs per week, up 180-200 per year on average. They love their human companions as well. However, this breed of chicken loves to talk and is considered a noisy bird. This bird would not be ideal for an urban homestead or if you have neighbors who like peace and quiet.
If you are considering getting a chicken as a pet, look no further! The fluffy Silkie might be the perfect chicken for you and your family. This small, ornamental breed is commonly used in the United States as pets due to its size and low egg production. There are plenty of sizable broiler chickens out there, so the Silkie is hardly considered a meat chicken, although they are considered delicacies in some parts of Asia. They only produce about 100 small eggs a year, which pale in comparison to other champion egg-producing breeds. But the Silkie makes up for those shortcomings by possessing several unique characteristics, such as blue or black skin, five toes (most chickens have four toes), and covered with fluffy plumage. They are gentle, calm, and make excellent show chickens! They are ideal pet chickens.
The Delaware chicken is another fantastic choice for beginner chicken owners. However, the state of this breed is in trouble. Originally developed in Delaware in the 1940s as a meat chicken, this medium-sized breed is critically endangered because other larger broiler chickens are more popular. Presently, the white-feathered Delaware is considered a backyard chicken, but they are decent egg producers, laying about four large to jumbo brown eggs per week, about 200 eggs yearly. This bird is hardy with a friendly and intelligent temperament, giving it good potential to become a lap chicken. These chickens can be a bit vocal, so they are not ideal for urban farming.
10. New Hampshire
The New Hampshire chicken has followed a similar origin as the Delaware chicken. This breed was developed as meat chickens but slowly lost popularity when larger breeds were recognized and used on bigger farms. This medium-sized chicken has a light shade of red or brownish-red for its feathers, with pale yellow highlighted. They also have handsome, black-tipped tail feathers. The New Hampshire is more of a backyard chicken and happiest when foraging as a free-range bird. They do not do well in confinement as you should not use them for urban farming. While they are mostly used as broilers, they produce 3-4 medium brown eggs weekly or about 200 eggs per year. They are hardy birds that can withstand the cold New England weather.
Are You Ready To Raise Chickens?
Now that you read about the top best chicken breeds for beginning chicken farmers or homesteaders, you want to make sure you are ready to raise chickens. Chickens are intelligent, and how you raise them can help them thrive instead of just surviving. Happy and healthy chickens lay more eggs and make better pets. Here are some things you want to consider before buying some chickens.
Chicken Breeds For Beginners
Raising chickens can be an incredibly exciting project. There are many easily managed chickens that lay a decent number of eggs to start a small business. There are also several breeds of chickens that make great pets. No matter your decision to get a chicken or several, make sure you are able to provide them with the things they need to grow, be healthy, and be happy.
Featured Image Credit: Elizabeth Dudine, Shutterstock