How To Choose Your Next Chicken Breed
Updated: 8 April 2021
You’ve made the easy decision to become a chicken mama or papa. The hard decision is choosing a breed!
Did you know there are over 400 different breeds of chickens?
Considering how many breeds are out there, it is challenging to decide the types of chickens that will suit you, your family and your backyard chicken coops.
So, how do you decide?
First, it’s important to note that, as a general rule, a hen will either put her energy into creating beautiful feathers.
OR she’ll put her energy into creating eggs.
Tight feathered, sleek breeds such as Anconas and Hamburgs will outlay the Silkies and Pekins with their loose feathered bodies and fluffy boots.
However, there is one thing more important than the breed.
The Importance of Bloodlines
Bloodlines (strains) become more important than the actual breeds of chickens, depending on your reason for choosing that particular breed.
For example, not all strains of Australorps are good layers. Nowadays, they are bred for other characteristics, such as size, shape and feather quality.
And, not all Leghorns and Anconas are flighty!
Things to Consider When Choosing a Breed
Bantam chickens, for example, don’t typically lay as often as standard chickens - and their eggs are smaller in size.
However, Anconas, Australian Langshans, Hamburghs and ISA Browns are great little layers.
A breed that’s likely to sit is excellent if you want to hatch chicks. But they can be a pain if you don’t. Australorps, Wyandottes and Silkies are known for their broodiness.
Araucanas, Hamburghs and Silkies love to free-range and are busy little garden workers.
No birds are 100% disease resistant, but some are a little ‘hardier’ than others. These include Leghorns, Wyandottes, Orpingtons and Brahmas, which also do well in cold weather.
Friendly and tame chickens are essential if you have children.
Consider a rare breed such as Ancona, Araucana and Hamburgs, if you’re able to have a rooster and want new chicks.
If you want well-behaved chickens, choose birds that can’t fly.
Frizzles will handle heatwaves better than a large Sussex. The opposite is true in snow and frost-prone cold climates.
When your ladies are free-ranging, they may be exposed to predators. Silkies and Polish, for example, often struggle to see eagles and other predators.
Feathered feet on a Pekin or Belgian bantam can be a challenge in climates with a lot of seasonal wet weather.
The size of the bird is vital if you want your own roast chicken.
Want to Compare Breeds?
In my article, The Zen of Choosing the Best Backyard Chicken Breeds, I go into more detail about breeds for laying, the best breeds for children and the most popular chicken breeds for Aussie backyards.
If you want to know where to buy backyard chickens in Australia? See my guide on where to find reputable poultry suppliers.
Want your chickens to be the healthiest and happiest they can be? I offer backyard chicken workshops, online programs, phone coaching, and in-person support to families, schools, and free-range egg farmers. Visit my online shop for natural, tried-and-tested poultry supplies in Australia.
Become an expert in Backyard Chickens 101 and check here for the latest tips and trends all about chooks.
Elise McNamara, Chicken Consultant & Educator.