Picking the Right Chicken Breed for You

Nonbearded Buff Laced Polish Rooster

There are just so many options when it comes to chickens. How do you choose? It took many years, lots of coops and money to find the ideal breeds for me. Not everyone has the benefit of living on a farm in the country where they can just build another coop to test out another breed. In this post, it is my goal to save you some of the hassle without taking away the fun. My Pet Chicken also has some good information on choosing a breed.

When starting out on the path to chicken ownership most are shocked to learn how many breeds and varieties exist. Books, websites and hatchery catalogs present a visual display which can be enticing and overwhelming. Often we find ourselves chasing after the fanciest and most colorful options. I know I certainly did at first!  The availability of information and photos on the internet  made the "chicken bug" even worse for so many of us. (Side-note: make sure the breed or variety you fall in love with is available in your home country!)

Choosing the right breed to start off with seems almost impossible. Here's my Top 3 list of most important factors to consider.

1. Consider Your Climate
Research breeds that were developed in climates similar to yours. Physical traits are good clues; large-combed slender breeds  like White Leghorns and Blue Andalusians typically work best in hotter regions. Smaller-combed stocky birds are best suited for colder northern temperatures including Buckeyes, Wyandottes and Rhode Island Reds. Don't despair if you have your heart set on an Andalusian and live in Maine! Chickens are incredibly hardy and with a few minor adjustments most breeds can live just about anywhere. I know of one instance where a guy kept two bantam Easter Eggers while living in Alaska!

2. Consider Your Needs
Are you looking for a pretty lawn ornament? Egg producer? A docile new pet? A hardy free-ranger, or do you have limited space? Many breeds will fall into multiple categories and when combined with the other criteria your "possible ideal" list will narrow considerably. Breeds such as the Speckled Sussex and Buff Orpington both fit into many of the boxes on people's checklists. You may find that you only have a few requirements. In that case an assortment may be just the ticket. The first bantams I had were from an assortment bought at a local feed store. From that I learned that Old English Game bantams, Sebrights, D'Uccles and Rosecombs were to my liking.

3. Visual Attraction
An all-around great bird might not hold your interest long-term if they do not catch your eye. By doing your research you can find a breed that is to your liking - possibly even several for a mixed flock. You may even find that mixed-breed birds are your delight as they can offer wild combinations of traits. Personally I like something eye-catching. Chickens not only come in many colorations, but there are many with sculptural qualities as well. Polish and Spitzhaubens are both medium sized breeds that lay white eggs and are crested. I've had Polish for many years and find them attractive and a decent supplier of eggs. Cochins and Brahmas are stunning feather-legged breeds that come in both large-fowl and bantam sizes; the Cochin even comes in frizzled.  Keep in mind that birds with fancy feathers often require special treatment or slightly modified housing.

Once you have narrowed down the list, research those breeds further. Visit My Pet Chicken's breed information pages or www.FeatherSite.com's online poultry encyclopedia. You may wish to go further  in-depth by contacting clubs such as the American Poultry Association, and American Bantam Association. Breed specific clubs also exist such including Marans Chicken Club and Dorking Breeders Club. Local breeders and local shows are also great for gaining first-hand knowledge.

I have been fortunate enough to learn from several breeders and exhibitors over the years and continue to learn daily. Through this blog I will share what I've learned with you and maybe some of you will teach me a thing or two along the way. Poultry have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. In my next article we'll get into how I got my start in chickens and other poultry and where this hobby has led me.

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Nan Moore
10 years ago

My daughter and I ordered an assortment from My Pet Chicken and are excitedly awaiting their arrival! We have some chickens already. Some were given to us, a couple from the feed store, some from our own eggs a friend hatched so we already have an assortment and looking forward to adding to it. Love your website!

Kyle Bowser
10 years ago

I am SOOOOO excited for my assortment coming from My Pet Chicken in May!!!! Building a sweet brooder box this week while I'm on vacation!!!

After doing some research, i never realized how many different varieties of chickens there are. Before buying any i need to do a lot more research. Thanks for the information!

Barb Carter
10 years ago

What the heck happened to my sweet,loving, calm 8 month old Dominique? One day she started pecking at our pants...which we thought was for attention, so we would pick her up and she would let us love and pet her for a long time. Then one day she started agressively pecking us all over, and kept it up even when we would poke her back. The next day we would pick her up and she would bit us with and open mouth. We notice that she is hanging out with our Brown Leghorn, who is aloof and picks on the other three. Will he personality go back to what it was a couple of weeks ago? Is she going through hormonal change? She has been laying eggs everyday for a couple of months and isn't broody.
She was my favorite chick, and I am so depressed about her rejection of me and her out right agression.
HELP Please

10 years ago

Barb -
Sorry to hear about your Dominique! It is likely that she is going through some changes due to beginning to lay eggs. It isn't uncommon for a hen to try to protect her nest. As a young bird she may not yet fully understand that you are not a threat to her nest. She may be attempting to assert dominance in the flock (yourself included.) I do not recommend poking back at her however as it will likely escalate the behavior. You may want to check on backyardchickens.com's forum for advice on dealing with mean roosters on how to best handle this pugnacious pullet.

Lori Jo
10 years ago

I have 5 white hens which I bought from the local coop as chicks last spring. A couple of people told me that the breed I have doesn't set on their eggs, I was disappointed, because I want to breed some chickens, but their eggs are sooooo delicious and I figured I would get some breeding chicks this spring. Anyway, one of my hens started setting on all of the eggs from all of the chickens 4 days ago. I am wondering why the change after almost 6 months. I don't have a rooster, but my neighbor has some, and we both let our chickens free range, so it is possible that their rooster met my hen. Could this have happened and in turn caused her maternal instincts to come out? Do chickens know when they are laying fertile eggs? From research I find that I can't tell if the eggs are fertile until the tenth day. I don't want to remove the eggs if they might actually become baby chicks, but if I wait the 10 days to check and the eggs are not fertile, will they still be fit for consumption? Please give me some guidance. Note to the check box below: I am human though I might have a chicken heart.

10 years ago

Lori Jo-

Likely she has begun to set with the onset of longer days and warmer temperatures. It is possible she has mated with your neighbor's rooster. I have had hens set on infertile eggs, however. Eggs that have subjected to the high temperatures under the hen that are needed for an embryo to develop make them not ideal for consumption (although in some cultures they are considered a rare treat). If possible, check the eggs with a strong flashlight after about 5 days; doing so at night in as dark of an area as possible would be best. You will see blood vessels and an embryo developing if the eggs are being incubated properly and are fertile. Just because a breed isn't known for being broody doesn't mean certain individuals will not do so! I've had bantam Leghorn hens and a few Polish hens go broody one me. I've also had Silkies and Cochins who would refuse to set.

10 years ago

I wish you guys could ship to Canada! I guess when it's time to start keeping chickens (fingers crossed for being able to do it after we move this summer!), I'll have to look at what's available locally. My Pet Chicken has been so helpful for me while I've been researching and dreaming. 🙂

Sr Marie Augustin
10 years ago

I need some breed expertise.... I thought I had three Plymouth Barred Rocks in my small flock of six. All are hens, all are black and white, all have off white, or pinkish legs but one of them is definitely much different. Although black and white, her colors are sort of muddy looking while the others are very distinctive with sharp lines. This one in particular that I'm curious about also has a very short very pale pink comb, while the others have larger red combs. Can anyone suggest a place to search so I can find out what kind of hens I have?

10 years ago

We can't know for sure, but it sounds like you may have a Silver Cuckoo Marans. Marans have pinkish/whitish legs. The "cuckoo" barring of the Marans is less distinct, also. Barred Rocks have yellow legs and neater barring. Please feel free to email our customer service team at info@mypetchicken.com. They can help ID if you can send clear photos.

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