Choosing A Chicken Breed

| 8/1/2008 9:29:33 AM

My husband and I decided we were going to start a small flock of chickens. We wanted to be able to raise our own meat and get our own eggs for economic reasons, and also because we like knowing exactly what is in the food we eat. We decided we would choose two different breeds to start this flock. AND SO IT BEGAN!Delaware Rooster

Foolish people that we are, we figured we would simply page through one of our hatchery catalogs, choose two breeds, and place the order. WRONG! Of course we each liked something different, but we did have a few standards to go by to narrow the search. We wanted to get breeds that were rare, or not as common as some chickens such as Leghorns or Rhode Island Reds. (Not that there is anything wrong with those breeds. In fact, if you are looking for egg production in a chicken, those are some of the best breeds to get.) We wanted something different. We also needed dual purpose birds that would be good for eggs and meat on the table. Medium to dark brown large egg layers was another item on our list, and, of course, we wanted chickens that were friendly and easy to work with.

Now, you would think that this would narrow the field down to just a few choices, and it did narrow it considerably. However, there are still a lot of breeds that meet all of these criteria. We spent days looking through catalogs and visited numerous hatchery and poultry Web sites. Let me just say here that anyone interested in info on chickens should visit Barry Koffler at FeatherSite. I highly recommend this site! He has lots of info on all the different chicken breeds as well as photos and links to numerous hatcheries.

Finally, my husband and I agreed on two breeds. Our choices were Barnevelders, developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Holland for laying dark eggs, and Delawares, developed in 1940 in Delaware.

We wanted to get both breeds from the same hatchery but at the one that both breeds, the Barnevelders were sold out until 2009. Needless to say, we were not willing to wait that long, so we went to our third breed choice which was Welsummer. This breed was also developed in Holland in the 20th century, and they lay dark terracotta brown eggs.

Welsummer Roosters

Anthony Banks
11/5/2008 11:44:20 PM

You should consider Orpingtons. We have several Buff Orpingtons, they are an excellent dual purpose birds. Several are so docile, they will flock to sit in our laps. Excellent medium-large to large eggs, very consistent.

Cindy Murphy
8/2/2008 8:16:39 AM

I think I get way too long winded in these comments; the tail-end, (pun-intended) of my Little Jerry tale was cut off. ....but his skills as a store-chicken weren't so good; he never did become house-broken.

Cindy Murphy
8/2/2008 8:12:23 AM

'Morning, Lori and Lacy. I've only had day-to-day contact with one chicken, a Rhode Island Red rooster named Little Jerry (Seinfeld). The owners of the nursery where I work have a daughter who kept chickens as a 4-H project. These were free-range chickens; if they wanted, they had free-range of the nearly forty acres of the nursery and the owners' adjacent yard. But they were people chicken, and preferred to stay close to the retail area of the nursery. One harsh winter, the three hens met their demise in the form of a chicken hawk, and only Little Jerry was left. In spring, when the nursery re-opened, he'd had enough of a loner's life. He decided to become a person, or thought we were all chickens - I'm not sure which, but he moved into the store. He'd greet me every morning at the door of my car, and follow me into the store; the doors are kept opened - it's just the nature of the place, with customer's coming in and out with arm-loads and cart-fulls of plants. We could not keep him out of the office; that door must be kept open too so that we can see the sales counter. A baby gate did not work, and Little Jerry often came into the office to see what we were having for lunch. A typical phone conversation went something like this: "Good afternoon; Huntree Nursery; this is Cindy speaking; how may I help you?" Jerry, not wanting to miss any action, flaps up onto the counter and crows loudly. Caller: " this the nursery?" Jerry: "Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!!!" Me: "Yes, that's Jerry. I'm Cindy. How may I help you?" But the customers loved Jerry, and he became star of the nursery show. He lasted one (long) season as store-chicken before he found a new home with one of our customers who raises Rhode Island Reds. Three years later, people still ask about him. I liked Jerry; he was a good guy as far as roosters go....but his skills as a st