There are hundreds of chicken breeds out there – how do you narrow it down to the perfect chicken?
The first thing to consider is your climate. Do you have very cold winters? Heavier breeds that can generate more body heat like Austrolorps, Cochins, Brahmas, Orpingtons & Wyandottes are good choices. In cold weather climates you also would do better choosing chickens that have smaller combs & wattles. The smaller the comb, the less susceptible it will be to frostbite. Do you live in a warmer climate? Bantams do better in warmer weather, and some of the “slimmer” breeds of chickens like Campines & the Egyptian Fayoumi could be perfect for you.
The next point to consider is egg color and size. Some people like to have a uniform look to all their eggs and some like a wide variety. Did you know you can tell what color egg a chicken will lay by looking at it’s earlobes? In general, chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs and chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs. White egg layers also tend to be more tolerant of heat, and brown egg layers more tolerant of the cold. Some good choices for white egg layers are Polish and Leghorns. For brown eggs, Orpingtons & Plymouth Rocks are very reliable egg layers. Add some variety to your egg basket with a “chocolate” layer (dark brown eggs) with Marans or Welsummers. Ameraucana and Easter Egger chickens can really add some color to your egg basket, laying eggs in colors that vary from light blue to pink to green. Chicken eggs can also come in size from extra small to extra large. If you like to bake, most recipes call for large eggs and using a different size can throw off the recipe, but for scrambled eggs and omelets the size of the egg doesn’t matter at all.
Lastly, you need to decide which is more important – ornamental, rare birds or reliable egg layers? I like to have a varied flock. Some hens are star egg layers, some barely contribute in that area, but are just so gorgeous I don’t even care! You can have a beautiful, curly feathered Frizzle but you will probably only get a couple eggs a week out of her, or you can have the less flashy Rhode Island Red and reliably get 5-6 eggs a week.
With my first group of chickens I got whatever breeds my local feed store had. The bonus to that situation was they were all very well suited to my climate. They were all great egg layers, but not the fanciest birds on the block. When we expanded our flock, we turned to mail order hatcheries to get a much wider selection of breeds. We have ordered from My Pet Chicken with great results. They even have a breed selection tool to help you find the perfect chicken. You can check them out by clicking here.