We weren’t able to have chickens in town, but when we moved into our barn last July, I knew that come spring, I would order chickens. There are so many breeds, so many options to consider that it’s taken me a long time to figure out what to do. I’ve done a lot of research, talked to a bunch of people, watched a bunch of chickens in action, and I’m ready to report – I made my first ever chicken order!
Here’s how I went about
Choosing Chicken Breeds for the Beginner
1. I watched chickens in action. We visited friends in Georgia and New York, and a few locally too, who have chickens. No, we didn’t drive to Georgia and New York just to see their chickens, but they were certainly an added bonus. I loved watching their chickens in action. The free range chickens are so funny. Did you know they roost in trees?? I never knew that. Seeing those chickens roost in trees was so awesome and cemented my desire for old, heirloom breeds, breeds that haven’t had being a chicken bred out of them for the sake of production.
2. Talked to my friends who have chickens. I never considered getting a rooster until I talked to my friends who have roosters and met their roosters. Roosters play an integral part in flock management. Who knew males can be useful? 😉 But seriously, folks, roosters help protect their flocks. They alert their girlies to potential predators and help keep them safe. We live in a rural area and have hawks, coyotes, raccoon, owls, all kinds of predators for chickens. Until I met a couple nice roosters, I never knew that different rooster breeds have different qualities. I want a protective rooster, but I don’t want one that will hurt my kids or be super aggressive to his women. Talking with friends helped me realize it is possible to get a rooster like that. I also talked to people on facebook and instagram. I love all of the useful information I get via social media!
3. Read catalogs and books. My kids and I have poured through catalogs like Murray McMurray and read books like Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, and ebooks that I downloaded for free a while back, but are really reasonably priced now: Backyard Chickens Book Package and Backyard Chickens: The Beginners Guide to Raising and Caring for Backyard Chickens. The books are packed full of useful information and will come in very handy when we finally get our chicks.
4. Talked to more knowledgeable professionals. Ultimately, I decided to order my chickens through our local Farm & Fleet store. The prices are good and the chicks come from Cackle Hatchery, which seems to be a good hatchery. It was my discussion with a really nice, knowledgeable employee of Farm & Fleet that cemented my breed decisions. Turns out this kid is my neighbor and I am excited to go see his chickens. He’s only in high school but has quite an organic egg production business of his own and he lives less than a mile from me! He recommended breeds based on characteristics I want: good egg layer, winter hardy, potential to be broody, and nice rooster. – I also need birds that I can order in only batches of 5. I’m not ordering 25 silkes for my son. The Farm & Fleet kid also recommend a showy bird for my son who’s been begging. I went to the store with a plan, but after talking to this kid for about an hour, I had to go home and do even more research. I decided to go with his recommendations.
So here’s my order!
7 Black Astralorps (1 rooster and 6 hens)- winter hardy because of their black color, one of the best brown egg producers there is, nice roosters.
3 Araucana (hens) – Easter Eggers. My daughter is especially excited about green and blue eggs.
3 White Sultan (hens) – white egg layers, fancy hair, nice chickens, broody.
I’m so excited about my chicken order! The baby chicks come in on May 14 and I can’t wait to share pictures. I will finally feel like a legitimate homesteader! What’s your favorite chicken breed? I’d love to hear about your experience with chickens!