Monday, March 14, 2011

Chicken Planning - Breeds

If you've talked to me about chickens you know I'm pretty obsessed. After researching for weeks now, I can rattle of facts about heritage breeds like a pro but I still can't tell you which breeds I want to try! I keep narrowing it down to three breeds or so, and then I discover another one I like.

My favorite for now is the Buckeye. Developed by Nettie Metcalf in the late 19th century, it is the only APA recognized breed to be developed exclusively by a female. Unfortunately it was being developed simultaneously with the Rhode Island Red, and which of the two birds have you heard of? Exactly. The Buckeye is a dual purpose chicken that isn't a spectacular layer or meat bird, but is good for both, and everything that I've read says their personality and mousing ability makes up for that. Yes, I said mousing ability. These birds are known for catching and eating mice!

Another breed I'm determined to try is the Wyandotte. They're another dual purpose heritage breed and they come in so many color varieties it makes my head spin! I was set on the blue-laced-red wyandottes, but they are proving difficult to obtain, so now I'm considering the blue wyandottes which are a beautiful dark slate grey color.

The last breed I'm pretty sure I'm set on is the Buff Cornish. I want to have chickens for meat, and while I really would like to raise dual purpose heritage birds, I'd also like to have meat before Christmas, haha. The Buff Cornish is a heritage meat breed, derived from the Dark Cornish, which is the ancestor of the modern Cornish X meat birds that everybody grows. The Buff Cornish is pretty much the same as the Dark Cornish, they're just a prettier color.

Those are the three I'm set on, as of this morning. Give me two hours and I'll be all over the place again. Also, I have two mature Black Marans hens reserved at a local farm to provide quick eggs for us this spring.

Some of the other breeds I have considered are: Speckled Sussex, Ameraucana, Dorket, Brahma and even Welsummer. They all have their perks. I'll have to keep you all posted about my final decisions.

I've been putting off getting chicks so far since Jeremy and I are heading out to a couple comic book conventions and we don't want to have little chicks for our farm-sitters to have to worry about in addition to ducks, dogs, cat and sheep.

Do you raise chickens for meat and eggs? Are they heritage breed, or more conventional, modern breeds?


  1. I was debating Buckeyes this year as well. I am not a fan of Ameracaunas - green eggs and all. I am raising Barnvelders and love them. It sounds like you have a nice array of all-purpose chickens!

  2. I got 5 chickens last spring from a farm in brighton michigan. I really wanted buckeyes, but i couldn't find anyplace to obtain them...everyplace on line was SOLD OUT!

  3. So here's my experience. Wyandottes rock. While Wyandottes aren't the best layers, their personalities kinda make up for it. If you have kids, Orpingtons are the way to go. They are the sweetest chickens ever. All my girls were hand-raised and the Orpingtons were the most friendly of the four breeds. So friendly that they'd walk up to us and allow us to pick them up. They have a tendency to get broody though, more than most birds, which is great if you don't want to grow attached to your meat hens.
    Cornish-cross grow unbelievably fast! So fast that you'll have to pretty much process them at two months of age. I know I couldn't do it, so I'll opt to avoid Cornish-cross for my first set of meat breed. They also grow so big that you have to have a small bird for fried chicken. Our CSA gives us Cornish-Cross for our poultry, and they're so big they're never completely cooked when fried.
    I'd aim for a 6-8 month dual purpose breed, personally, but that's me.
    Buckeyes were on my list for this year, but with the possibility of moving up toward Holland, MI, I cancelled my shipment of chicks. If we move up, do I get to come out and work on the farm with you? =)

  4. Only Ameraucanas hens have survived the repeated onslaught of predators here, plus one Australorp. The 'canas are smaller as full grown hens, but still lay a large egg.

    I can probably hook you up with some Icelandic hens if you're interested. Lovely variety of colors, medium off-white eggs, good setters, cold hardy.

    When we sent our meat chickens (assorted large breed roos) to butcher last year, a Wyandotte spent the night who-knows-where and avoided collection. So, we ended up keeping him and a Brahma. Liked them both, took good care of their hens (predation notwithstanding).

    Have fun with your birds! We so enjoy having them, and the daily reward of eggs means more-instant gratification than other livestock. The only downside for us is those darn predators.

    Whatever breeds you get, you will likely enjoy them. And if you decide you don't like the birds of a particular breed, you can eat them and try something else!