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New to raising chickens and looking for the best breeds to begin with? Choosing the right breeds for your family can be confusing when you are just beginning as a chicken owner.
Raising chickens can be great family fun that provides entertainment, but before you choose, there are some things to consider first.
As a beginner, you’ll want chickens that are easiest to raise and care for, friendly, and lays many eggs.
Once you decide to become a new chicken owner and begin searching, you’ll find a bazillion different breeds. It can become complicated or overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.
This article will discuss important considerations for choosing the best chicken breeds to raise and 13 friendly breed options for beginners.
Considerations For Starting With Chickens
These suggestions will help clear the chaos and help you choose suitable breeds for your family.
1 – Climate
Believe it or not, the climate where you live is likely the first thing you should consider. Some breeds do better in colder climates, while others are more fitting for warmer temperatures.
If you live in a climate where it’s hot and humid, especially in the summer you’ll want to choose a breed(s) that are more heat-tolerant.
Things you’ll want to look for in a breed for hotter climates are:
- Large comb – it acts as an air conditioner for keeping cool
- Lighter color feathers – the sun reflects off them better
- Smaller breeds – tend to have lower body temperatures than larger breeds
A few heat-tolerant breeds are the: Easter Egger, Welsummer, and the Plymouth Barred Rock.
But if you live in a colder area most of the year, you’ll want to choose a breed that can tolerate cold.
Features to look for a cold climate breeds are:
- Small combs so it doesn’t freeze or get frostbite
- Heavier feathers – thicker to keep warmer
- Feathers on the feet – for keeping leg warm
I’d recommend three common breeds for colder climates: Plymouth Barred Rocks, Orpingtons, and Wyandottes.
2 – Temperament or Personality
Not all chicken breeds are known to be friendly, especially the cockerels. So if you have small kids helping with chores, I’d recommend more docile chicken breeds when beginning.
3 – Eggs Production and Color
Are you looking for breeds based on the number of eggs they lay yearly, or may you be more interested in egg colors only?
There is nothing wrong with wanting a colorful basket of eggs each time you go out to gather fresh eggs.
Most chicken breeds lay brown eggs, which are delightful. But other breeds lay green, blue, white, and even pink eggs.
We have two Easter Eggers, which lay the most beautiful green eggs.
But egg color is not the only thing to consider as a beginner. Unfortunately, no breed of chicken lays eggs every day.
They will lay one day and take a break the next. So you’ll want to be sure you choose breeds that lay enough each week to provide for your family.
The best-laying hens for starter chickens you can’t go wrong with are:
- Plymouth Barred Rocks
- Rhode Island Reds
All of these breeds will provide you with 5-6 eggs per week during the spring and summer, so they make for great layer chickens if egg production is your main desire.
But all chickens will slow down on laying in the fall when they are molting and in the winter. They will use their energy to keep warm instead of laying eggs.
We currently have 14 hens and one rooster, and we get an average of 9 eggs a day during the spring and summer, but come fall and winter, we drop to 2-3 a day on average.
But, if you plan ahead in the spring and summer, you can water-glass extra eggs to enjoy all winter.
First, figure out how many eggs you use on average for the week, and then water glass enough to last through fall and winter.
4 Dual Purpose Breeds
You may or may not be interested in butchering chickens as a source of meat for your family. But if you intend to become a sustainable homestead, you should consider this for your future food supply.
Several breeds are known as dual-purpose breeds, which are good for egg production and meat.
Hens will not lay eggs their whole life. They do age out, as I call it. And then, the tough decision has to be made.
Will you allow her to remain with the flock, and you feed and take care of her just as you do the others?
Or, if you are trying to keep feed costs down, you may consider butchering hens once they age out on egg laying.
Some dual-purpose breeds I’d recommend are:
- New Hampshire Red
This article will help you learn everything you need to know if you plan to raise baby chicks.
Also, baby chicks will need a place to grow up. So use this article to set up a brooder box before chicks arrive.
How Many Chickens To Start With?
Chickens are social creatures and very flock-oriented. So you’ll definitely need to begin with more than one.
A good rule of thumb for deciding how many chickens you should begin with is to have at least 1-2 more hens than your family members.
In other words, if you have 2 in your family, begin with 3-4 hens. 5 members in the family, I’d recommend starting with 6-7 hens and so on.
Top 13 Chicken Breeds for Beginners
I’ve chosen the breeds mainly based on their personality for friendliness (temperament) and the number of eggs they lay.
When I first started keeping chickens, I didn’t take the time to learn about different breeds.
A neighboring farmer friend offered up his flock to me, and I took them.
They were not chicks! They were full-grown hens, already laying, that came with a rooster. He was bad! He attacked me every time I went into the coop to feed.
This experience almost kept me from ever getting more chickens. But thankfully, I did. As a result, they are a large part of our homestead now.
I should also tell you that roosters are not quiet. They love strutting and crowing, especially early in the morning.
So this is something to keep in mind if you are in a neighborhood or HOA with noise rules.
Hens will also “cackle” every time they lay an egg. This is her way of celebrating, is what we say here. We call it a “cackle fest.”
It’s relaxing to me to be outside in the garden and hear hens cackling and the rooster crowing.
The Wyandotte chicken is gorgeous. Their colors are beautiful, which is part of what makes them a popular breed.
Their purpose is for both egg laying and meat. They lay a light brown egg and are known for being docile birds, making them good pets for kids. They do best in colder climates.
Sadly, the common leghorn is an industrialized chicken raised in large chicken houses to mass-produce eggs. But the heritage breed can still be found around smaller farms.
They lay white eggs, and they are usually solid white birds. However, if you are lucky, you can also find them in buff, black and red.
These birds don’t get large enough to process for meat, their primary purpose is egg-laying, and they do this well. LegHorns are gentle birds to have on the farm.
3 Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Reds are probably my favorite breed. I’m not sure why, other than this is the breed my parents had when I was a kid.
They are very docile birds. They are dual-purpose bird that is good for both meat and eggs. This breed is an excellent choice if you are looking for an easy-to-raise breed.
They tolerate almost any climate and love foraging for themselves, which helps to cut down on feed bills. In addition, they are excellent egg layers of brown eggs.
Gentle and friendly; therefore, these birds are ideal for kids. They are on the larger side of the chicken breeds and are excellent egg layers. Orpingtons make a great breed of chicken for beginners.
They lay a large brown egg an average of 5-6 days a week. They are a dual-purpose breed, so they can go in the freezer when they stop laying.
5 Easter Egger
Also known as the Oliver Egger, this is a fun breed. Until they start laying, you have no idea what color egg you will have.
But once she does, she will always lay the same color egg. It could be green, like ours, or blue or even pink.
Egg production is usually about 4 per week; typically, blue is the most common color.
This breed is also friendly, great for kids, and can tolerate warm and cold climates.
Silkies are a small breed of chicken that belongs to the Bantam family. They are cute and can be great for keeping backyard chickens since they are small.
Instead of looking like a chicken with feathers, they look fuzzy.
Their eggs are much smaller than standard chickens and don’t lay often. You can expect 100-120 eggs a year, about two eggs a week.
Silkies are calm and friendly and don’t mind being cooped up in smaller places. So they are an excellent breed for families living in the suburbs.
They tolerate both warm and cold climates and are for egg-laying only.
7 Cream Legbar
This breed has only been around for about 100 years and is not one of the “common” breeds, but it’s perfect for beginners.
Cream Legbars are a friendly breed that enjoys being held, so they are perfect if you prefer your chickens to be as pets.
Another positive trait of the Cream Legbar is that they are “auto sexed,” meaning they can be sexed for male and female at hatching.
Their egg production is about 230 blue eggs a year, about four a week, and they can tolerate most climates.
The Sussex breed is well known for being on small homesteads.
They are speckled in color, making them camouflaged and able to hide from predators better than other breeds when free ranging.
They are also docile birds but are sometimes harder to find for sale. However, you should be able to get them as chicks from a hatchery.
Australorps are considered overly friendly birds, so they are great for kids. However, they are a larger breed of bird that has only been around for the past 100 years.
Their feathers have a gorgeous beetle-green sheen when hit by sunlight, making them one of the most attractive black chicken breeds.
They do best free-ranging due to their size. They tend to become overweight if they are confined to a small coop.
Australorps lay around 250 light brown eggs a year and make good mothers. So if you are considering raising chicks, they tend to become broody, so this could be a breed to consider.
But make note that they don’t do well in the heat and would fare better in colder temperatures.
10 Plymouth Barred Rock
These birds are known for both their egg production as well as for meat. Their black and white checked color makes for an attractive bird on any homestead.
They lay an average of 200 light brown eggs a year, about four a week.
They tend to be friendly and don’t mind being in a coop all the time, making them good birds for backyard chickens.
They also tolerate almost any climate, making them an even better choice of bird for the homestead. Barred Rocks are another one of my favorite breeds to keep.
The Cochin is a fast-growing bird that reaches full size in about 15 weeks, making it a great meat bird.
They are well known for laying all winter and the hens being good mothers.
Their size makes them known to hatch both turkey and duck eggs. This is significant since these two eggs are much larger than chicken eggs.
They lay a light brown egg and do well in cold temperatures. They are also friendly birds, making good additions to a backyard flock.
Marans are another friendly bird that doesn’t tend to bully other birds. That said, they usually don’t tolerate being picked on. They are friendly to people, though.
They are like the Cochin and grow relatively fast.
Hens are good layers laying 150-200 eggs per year. It’s a deep dark-brown egg sought after by families who like to have a colorful egg basket when gathering eggs.
Their feathers are dark jet black, so they do better in cooler climates than in warmer areas.
We had Black Copper Marans at one point, and they didn’t do well here in Tennessee.
Our summer temperatures are hot, and the humidity is often over 100°F daily. So they struggled even though we provided a lot of shade and water.
Probably one of the happiest breeds we have owned. They are sociable, making them a good breed for pets and living with small kids.
The Ameraucana lays 3-4 eggs a week that is light blue or green. And their feather color is varied, making them attractive birds.
They are small, about 7 lbs fully grown, making them best for egg laying rather than as a meat bird. And also, since they are smaller, they tend to tolerate heat better than larger birds.
They have a muff and beard that reminds you of our “founding fathers.”
You can purchase all the breeds mentioned in this article at a local hatchery or farm store. These are merely suggestions that I have found to be friendly, even the cockerels.
But I should mention that every chicken has a personality, and a usually friendly or docile hen could be a bully.
I started with a mixed-breed flock and am glad I did. Mixing chicken breeds when starting out is ok, and I’d recommend it.
You’ll gain experience, and you could very well decide on one breed over another. We all have our opinions and preferences.
What chicken breed are you leaning toward starting with?
More Homesteading Articles You’ll Like:
- Best Books about Homesteading for Modern Homesteaders
- 28 Realistic Ways to Make Money Homesteading
- How to Create an Emergency Stockpile
- Setting up a Brooder Box for Baby Chicks
- Raising Baby Chicks Beginners Guide
- How to Plan and Set Goals For Homesteading
- When Can Chicks Go Outside to the Coop? Best Guide for Beginners
- How and When to Switch Chickens to Layer Feed
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Dianne Hadorn is the owner of Hidden Springs Homestead nestled in the hills of East Tennessee. She is a Master Gardener and enjoys helping others learn how to grow and preserve their own food and sharing tips for living a more self-sufficient lifestyle.