Ask Liz: What backyard chicken breed do you recommend?

A question came through from Jessica about what backyard chicken breeds I have. While that’s a simple answer, I thought that others might have some wisdom to share about breeds they recommend AND advice for first-time chicken owners.
If you have advice, leave it in the comments!
Question from Jessica:
Hi! There was a city ordinance just passed in my city allowing chickens! We want egg layers and I love yours. What type of egg laying chickens do you own? 
Answer:
Hi Jessica! First of all, can we get a BOOYAH on the new city ordinance? That’s awesome – and awesome that you’d like to raise your own chickens for yummy eggs from happy hens.
The street name for our chickens is the feathered photobomber. 

Silver Laced Wyandotte PhotoBomb

Just kidding. They’re Silver Laced Wyandottes, and we got them from Cackle Hatchery, which is semi-local to us. (Another place to order heritage/rare breed chickens here, and you can often get them from local farmers.)
Update: we now also have Buff Orpingtons, which we love! 
They eat lots of bugs, plenty of whatever they can scratch & peck from our property, some extra dried mealworms and some (chicken-safe) kitchen scraps. In the winter, when bugs n’ grubs are scarce, they eat some supplemental non-GMO, soy-free organic feed. We use this waterer, which requires this warmer in the winter.
We really like these gals, and it’s been fun to see them grow. I usually post my chicken photos to Instagram, so be sure to follow!
Since it sounds like you’re in the city, you probably can’t have a rooster. You CAN order sexed chicks or pullets, but be ready: a roo or two might slip through. We ended up with one, and we ordered all hens! We can have roosters out here, though, and we love Little Jerry Seinfeld.

Rooster and Hen

A word of wisdom: having chickens is easy in some ways, awesome in LOTS of ways, and difficult in others. It’s awful to lose one to a predator, and it’s not cheap at the beginning (see my post on chicken ownership: expectations vs. reality). You’ve also got to be ready to possibly slaughter your gals when they stop laying, OR continue to feed a non-laying hen for the rest of its natural life.
All I’m sayin’ is: be ready for anything – as I’m sure you are!
Have fun with your chickens, Jessica!
What are your favorite breeds? Which ones would you avoid? If you’ve got wisdom to share about chicken ownership, breeds, or what to expect, please leave it in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

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13 Responses

  1. I have 11 golden sex links. They are awesome. They are a hybrid and tend to lay a month earlier than other chickens. What is even nicer is that they are docile and mild tempered. You can tell them apart by color so it is nice to be gaurenteed not to have a rooster if you do not want one.

    1. This. Golden sex links are the bomb-diggity of brown egg layers. SUPER productive – from 8 hens I get 7 or 8 eggs a day for the first year of lay (~5 months – 18 months old). They are a small bodied hybrid so they eat less than larger traditional breeds which makes for more cost-effective laying. They tolerate both heat and cold well too. Super bird!

  2. Our favorite for eggs are red stars, they are constant layers who produce huge eggs and they are good to eat when they stop producing.

  3. We’ve got 3 Americaunas, which are also known as “Easter Eggers” because they lay colored eggs! We’ve had blue, green, pink, and brown. We also have feather-footed bantams, which are very small, and have feathers on their feet as well. Which makes them look like they’re wearing slippers when they run across the yard. Truly hysterical!
    Americaunas are quite hearty and extremely good with children. Both of my girls love our chickens, and the Americaunas are quite used to being picked up, cuddled and loved by the girls. The feather-footed bantams, being smaller, seem much more skittish, and tend to RUN AWAY from the large, scary two-legged creatures. Still cute as heck though!

    1. I’m thinking we should get some Americaunas! I wonder how easy/hard it would be to integrate other chickens into our flock. Hmmm…the SLW are great, but not quite as cuddly as the Americaunas sound.

      1. Integrating new birds is a slow process. I’ve done it, but only with mature birds. I wouldn’t think of trying to bring in chicks to mix with a grown flock. The established flock will pick at the new ones mercilessly and can kill them if they get cornered. They need lots of space to run away. The flock will keep the new birds away from food and water, so you need to provide a second set of feeders/waterers until the pecking order is re-established. It’s a pain. I would just recommend you wait and get Americaunas as part of your replacement flock next spring.

      2. I would agree bringing chicks into a grown flock is probably a recipe for disaster, however, I think you can bring in younger birds of around 8-12 weeks of age if you want. There are a lot of factors that go into that including as Lisa mentioned space for the new birds to “get away” when they are being picked on. Another factor is the ratio of new birds to old birds. Even introducing 1 adult bird to an established large flock could be too much for that single bird because it would get picked on by all the other birds. There are also disease concerns especially for really young birds whose immune system hasn’t built up as strong as the older birds yet. It can be done you just have to pay attention and have contingency plans if any birds are getting picked on too much.
        In my opinion one of the best books out there on raising chickens is The Small Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. He covers this subject as well as all aspects of raising/keeping chickens.

  4. We got 5 week-old chickies in December – 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Barred Plymouth Rocks, and 1 Americauna. It’s amazing how fast they grow and how hilarious they are! We’re still a few months out from any egg laying from the girls and I can’t wait! Our Americauna is the biggest of the bunch so far and pretty much hates being touched, unless you have a tasty earth worm or something equally yummy.

  5. We have 8 ckickens we raised from chicks last march. 6 sex links, 2 Sussex Speckled and 2 Leg horn. We were fortunate to have all hens! They are all stellar egg layers (7-8 per day) but producion has slowed down in the cold dark months (2-5 per day). We did put out a heat lamp out in the coop when temps were forcasted to go below 0 but that messed their laying schedule so we switched to a ceramic reptile heat emitter. Training them to drink from a heated water bucket with nipples was…comical but it has pai off. If you have a compost bin they are great for stirring that around as well. Good Luck!!

  6. What kind of diet are you feeding your chickens? I’m finding that 99% of the farms that claim to have grass fed chickens are feeding 50% or more of the calories as grains. I have only been able to find one backyard chicken farmer who has figured out a way to raise the hens on a true grass fed 0% grain diet.

    1. We don’t feed them anything in the spring and summer – they get plenty of bugs and goodies outside. During the winter, given the climate where we live, we have to give them grains. We use organic, non-gmo, soy free feed with the addition of mealworms. I’ve talked about this on the podcast before – it’s really not possible to go completely grain free with chickens, nor is it really necessary AS LONG AS they get 100% access to the outdoors (as ours do). Plus, chickens aren’t ruminants, so their systems can actually handle grain really well! When used judiciously, I don’t see a problem with it at all. Black soldier flies are another good option we’re exploring!

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