Q. My son and I are interested in raising backyard chickens, which breeds do you recommend for newbies and is there a place where I can purchase day old chicks? Thanks for your help.
A. Sure. First, if you don’t mind – you could let me know state you live in so then I could find you some places where you can purchase chickens or baby chicks.
Have you decided which breeds you want?
You may want to visit www.mcmurrayhatchery.com and ask for their beautiful free catalog. You’ll learn about all the different breeds and types and it might help you make your decision. This company is a reliable one but the only problem is that they only sell a minimum order of 25 chicks. That might be too much for you?
I more contacts to other chicken breeders, but I’m not sure what state you are in so I don’t want to confuse you by listing them all.
I am also not sure if you had decided on Standard or Bantam chickens yet, so I’ll give you some information that may help you decide. I have bantam chickens and they are about 1/2 to 1/4 the size of a regular chicken. Bantam eggs are also slightly smaller than eggs from Standard chickens but are amazingly large for the size of the chicken. For instance, when a recipe calls for three eggs, I add one more when using my Bantam eggs. Some people claim Bantams are also more friendly. I know Bantams are popular as pets. Mine crawl into my lap and want to be hugged and petted or just perch on my shoulder.
Practically any chicken could be a good-tempered bird as they are naturally friendly and inquisitive but fancy bantams are the best type if you are looking for a small sociable bird that will fit best with your urban backyard. Also, Bantams are considered much more docile — though there are no facts to confirm this.
Although Standard Leghorns are considered the best egg layers, I would suggest that you not even consider them. They have been overbred so much in order to produce the most eggs, that they are flighty, high-strung, and very easily agitated. They definitely would not be welcomed in a small urban backyard.
A good-laying chicken (with good protein and calcium in her feed) would lay about five eggs a week once they reach their prime production. So if you have three chickens, you should be getting about fifteen eggs a week.
With chickens though, you often have to deal with a chicken
going “broody” (often every 40 eggs)– meaning she insists on sitting on a nest and wanting to hatch her eggs; even if they are not fertilized by a rooster or if there are no eggs under her. During this time, she won’t lay. (Some chickens such as leghorns are bred not to go broody. Not all chickens go broody though. My Black Cochin is not bred like the leghorn breeds and she doesn’t go broody often) When they molt (shed their feathers to grow fresh new ones)- which is about twice a year, they won’t lay either.
As for best-laying breeds, if you chose to go with Bantams, don’t go with Silkies or Seabrights. Silkies rarely lay well and when they do lay an egg, they go broody all the time. You will hardly get eggs from them. They are popular birds, a bit quieter than most chickens and are very cute but they aren’t good egg layers. Not that they won’t lay, they will… but they are ‘broody’ birds which means they are more interested in raising a family than laying eggs. However, I know of some people who say they do lay well … so….. it depends.
I have 4 Bantam Rhode Island Reds and 1 Black Cochin. My Bantam Rhode Island Reds lay well. I get enough eggs to sustain our family during the best times and on the littlest amount of feed. I also have extra eggs to sell to some friends. My Black Cochin is also one of my best layers.
Bantam Partridge Wyandottes and Partridge Rocks are great layers too. They can sometimes rank up there with the best laying breeds.
Personally, though. I wish I had more Cochins. They are very beautiful and eye-appealing with fluffy feathers that give them a soft appearance. They also lay well – I get almost an egg a day from my Black Cochin, except for when she takes a little break. Cochins come in all sorts of colors – “blue”, black, white, buff, speckled… etc….
Cochins also come in Standard size too.
In Standard size, the best layers are Red Star, Black Star, White
Leghorns, and Rhode Island Reds. But like I said, don’t consider the White Leghorns. If you want good layers with “special eggs” consider the Araucanas. These are the “easter egg” chickens. They lay eggs in various hues of colors such as blue and green. Araucanas come in Bantam size too.
Most Standards are good layers, as long as you don’t get the meat birds or the game birds as these are bred primarily for eating.
You don’t have to get chickens of one type. You can mix any type of chickens…. . However, I’d have to say that I think if you had one chicken of a different color amid a flock of all one kind, that lone chicken may feel different as chickens CAN realize colors and differences. Some poultry raisers have noticed that chickens in their flock bond with ones similar to their color – sort of with their own “race”. So, I would suggest not getting just ONE of a different breed, but at least two. My black Cochin doesn’t experience problems amid my four Rhode Island Reds and she is “friends” with them all, but I know she does see them as different than her.