Chicken Breeds: Choosing Your Backyard Flock

Select the best chicken breed for your needs.

  • 038-049-01-Brooding-chicks
    Choosing the perfect fit from the many chicken breeds is an important first step when starting a flock.

  • 038-049-01-Brooding-chicks

One of my greatest inspirations for MOTHER goes back to about 1943 , when I started seeing those great ads for the HAVE-MORE Plan ("A Little Land, A Lot of Living") which used to run in the mechanics magazines. The actual H-M Plan, of course, turned people on to more specialized books that taught neophytes how to raise cows, goats, rabbits, geese, and other homestead livestock. Here's a selection from one of those books, StartingRight With Poultry. — JS

The chicken breed that you select for your backyard flock should be the one that has the very best qualifications that you can find for producing eggs and poultry meat.

The dual purpose breeds seem to be the most popular among homesteaders, and the productive type Rhode Island Reds appear to be the first choice. The Red is followed by the Barred Plymouth Rock. These certainly are two of the most practical breeds that could be selected. There are, of course, others that are quite well suited. The White Plymouth Rock has many good qualifications, and the New Hampshire is an excellent breed, though many people think of the Rhode Island Red and New Hampshire as being the same. The White Leghorn is a most efficient layer and a good choice, though nervous and admittedly not as good for meat production. The eggs are white.

The crosses of the Rhode Island Red and the Barred Plymouth Rock must not be omitted from the preferred list. When Barred Rock females are crossed with Rhode Island Red males, the pullets will be largely black in color with some red or brown feathers on the neck and perhaps on the body.

In the cross made using the Rhode Island Red female and the Barred Rock male, both pullets and cockerels would be barred very much like Barred Plymouth Rocks. These pullets would also make good layers and would be a good choice. The cockerels from this cross grow exceedingly well and are a favorite of the broiler growers.

There is a definite reason why the improved breeds recommended here will produce more efficiently than many others that might be selected. High egg production is an inherited characteristic. Just like eye color or baldness in humans, the ability to lay large numbers of eggs is transmitted from one generation to another. Just as in your garden, you do not expect a highly improved variety of vegetables when you plant seed of unimproved varieties. Inheritance is inescapable.

The Rhode Island Red pullet will weigh about 4 1/2 to 5 pounds when she comes into laying at about 5 1/2 months of age. She will gain a pound or more and will weigh 6 pounds or more when a year of age. The Barred Plymouth Rock is slightly larger. Both lay a large brown egg.

10/5/2017 12:33:23 PM

We have had quite a time with Rhode Island Reds and our heat. They have been the first each year to succumb to the severe temperatures that we have in our Arizona/Nevada desert. We have lost at least two per year. This year we lost 12 birds total out of our 150 bird flock. The temperatures were more harsh earlier on reaching to 122 in June! We do everything we can to keep our flock cool, including misters and multiple water stations with a constant dripper system that allows for cool water. Its funny that the Cochins, which have even more feathers have been one of the hardiest breeds for us.
10/5/2017 5:58:19 AM

A fun little read. Didn't mention Icelandic chickens, though, which we want to try. That April-September rule of thumb is good. I've found that giving the neighbors eggs now and then helps with the crowing. We also cull the guys down to the most mild-mannered one. I think the comment about lots of high schools having Ag programs dates the article, though. None around here, anyway!



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