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Best Chicken Breeds

10/22/2010 3:28:04 PM

Tags: chickens, eggs

Best Chicken BreedsI want to start a modest business selling free-range eggs and am looking at different breeds. What do you think of Leghorns? 

I like Leghorns, although I like the chunkier Leghorn crosses — Austra Whites and California Whites — better than straight Leghorns because I have the (possibly mistaken) impression that they’re more robust. I’d say Leghorns lay well, although they’re not the only breed that does.

Where people often go wrong is by assuming that heritage breeds are decent layers by modern standards. They aren’t — not even close. Most heritage breeds are doing great if they give you 150 eggs per year. Modern hybrids can lay twice as well.

When I started out, I assumed old-time breeds would do better under old-time conditions, but it just wasn’t true. In my experience, modern hybrid layers, including Leghorns, do great under old-time, grass-fed conditions.

Personally, I ended up choosing the Red Sex-Link hybrids from Privett Hatchery for brown eggs, because these birds are docile and lay well. I chose Privett’s California Whites for white eggs.

Robert Plamondon 

Above: At Radical Roots Farm in Virginia, a worker gathers eggs from Red Sex-Link chickens. Photo by Norm Shafer. 



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Post a comment below.

 

SSmith
8/5/2011 12:44:13 PM
When my daughter wanted to order from a well-known hatchery, she called them up and asked some good questions. She made a point to ask which breed was the best egg layer for that hatchery. The person described several good breeds, but my daughter really wanted to know, "Out of all the breeds at your hatchery, which one is laying the most eggs now." They told her barred rocks, so that is what she bought. She told me they were right as they out layed any other breed they had. Maybe the hatchery you want to buy from will reccomend a different one, but it won't hurt to aske when is the best at that particular hatchery.

John Sealander
11/14/2010 8:51:25 AM
I've followed Robert Plamodon's practical advice and grown our free range egg business from 8 hens to 156 in 18 months and done well. You could do a lot worse than him. You won't do much better. We're expanding into broilers and spent time searching out the right breeds AND the breeder. Your first buys are bets, make'm small. When you hit the right one, double down. We use Gold Comets for eggs. They are outstanding, but it's like dogs. There's Poodles that cost thousands and back yard breeders for a few hundred. Yeah, they are all Poodles, but there the similarity ends! Don't just talk with hobbyists, but old timers that are trying to make a few bucks. There may be a modern hybrid that they mostly favor. There's a good reason why. Seek out local/regional breeders who may not have Comets or big ad budgets, but some well suited modern breed for your locale. "Heritage Breeds" are hybrids too, just from 100 years ago. You know what? Mostly they were seeking higher egg production and reduced feed comsumption-just like now. Things have improved in that time. Heritage breeds are like tropical fish in your den. Pointless, but pretty. But if you wanted to sell meat you wouldn't buy Neon Tetras! My advice is; after your family and God, the next most important relationship for a commerical chicken farmer is your breeder. Tell him what what you want to do; he'll sell you what you need.

Jerry P
11/13/2010 9:27:24 AM
The fact that the hybrid chickens out-produce all others has been shown in my own small flock, however, their resistance to disease and other problems has been less than stellar. My Buff Orpingtons seem to shrug off everything and continue to thrive going on 3 years. The Golden Comets, though egg-producing like wild, have been succumbing one by one to what appears to be an arthritis-type affliction and prolapse. From a strict business standpoint, the Comets have to be the most profitable, but for a small flock owner who would like to have producing hens for more than 2 years and may have less than ideal conditions, a heritage breed may be better suited. I plan to start a new flock in the spring and will probably go with Rhode Island Reds due to their robust nature.







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