Asking questions, gathering information, and educating yourself are all important parts of the chicken keeping experience. At the onset of your chicken keeping experiment, there seem to be more questions than answers. Should we use a stationary chicken coop or a mobile chicken tractor? Do we want to keep a rooster or only hens? How many chickens do we want in our flock? What breed of chickens should we get?
Each of these questions deserves careful consideration. The last one is difficult, as there is no easy answer. There are so many breeds to choose from that it is difficult to decide. For those of us who keep small flocks, it can feel like there is very little room for error.
When I found myself in that situation almost two years ago, I began polling friends and family who kept chickens. They were happy to share their personal experiences with me. In fact, they were eager to answer every question I posed regarding the breeds in their care.
There was only one problem. When you ask several chicken keepers which breed is the best to have in your flock you will receive a completely different answer from each person. You will become more puzzled instead of less. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but it is true. Consider yourself warned.
Bertha is the queen of our flock. There is no doubt that she is in charge of everything that occurs within the confines of our coop and attached run. She decides who eats breakfast first and who walks down the ramp to the world waiting outside every morning. She decides the lineup on the roost at night.
Bertha even makes the decision that it is time to come into the coop as dusk envelops our farm. I can’t imagine how many evenings I have spent coaxing her up the ramp to the coop in order to close the door to the outdoor run. Yes, that’s right; Bertha believes strongly that she outranks me. She decided long ago that she will come in when she’s good and ready and not a moment sooner.
In sharp contrast to Bertha is the second Barred Plymouth Rock in our flock of heritage breed hens. Her name fits her perfectly: Marigold. She has a bright and engaging demeanor and basks in attention from the entire family. She will happily come to sit at your feet when you enter the coop or run. She sits patiently and waits for a kind hand to run gently along her black and white feathers.
Already, I can see that two chicks of the same breed are far from similar. Yes, our two Mottled Cochin Bantam chicks look the same, but their behaviors are distinctly original. They may only be three weeks old, but they are well on their way to becoming true individuals.So what is a chicken keeper to do when attempting to decide which breeds to choose? Thankfully, there are a wealth of tools to assist you. Some of these resources don’t even require you to leave your computer.For good measure, be sure to add in a few subscriptions to newsletters full of chicken keeping information like Community Chickens. You’ll find valuable information waiting for you in your inbox on a regular basis. It’s easy to spend hours looking over a great resource book, such as Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds for the photos alone. With all these different sources of information on hand, you’ll be off to an excellent start.In spite of all this information, you’ll still have to make some tough decisions. When selecting the breeds in our recent batch of chicks, I found myself sitting at my laptop making the choice between beautiful Marans with their magnificent dark brown eggs and the Dominiques that are now exploring the brooding pen out in our barn. I’m sure that we will be happy with the touch of American history that the two Dominiques will bring to our coop. I’m also sure that I’ll be adding a few Marans and their chocolate eggs to our farm the next time we add chicks to our flock.
Until then, I’ll enjoy the hens that turned our family into chicken keepers for the individuals that they are. I’ll watch as the three-week-old baby chicks develop their unique personalities. I know that I will enjoy their antics all the while. The chicks will amaze us as they transform from day-old chicks into laying hens in five short months.
In the end, I can’t tell you what the perfect breed for your coop will be, because what works for me might not work for you. The best breed of chicken for me is just that, the best breed for me and not the best breed for everyone. The best breed of chicken for your flock is the one that makes you believe every morning when you make your way to the coop that you are happy to be a chicken keeper. Now, if only one of the breed selection tools had a category for that.
I’d love to know what you think is the best chicken breed for your family. At 1840 Farm, the Australorp reigns supreme for dependable egg laying and an easygoing nature. In fact, there are two Australorp chicks in the brooding pen waiting to join our Australorp hen Hedwig in the coop. I’d love for you to comment below and tell me what has proven to be the best breed for your flock. I can’t wait to see how many different opinions there are!