Chicken Breed Selection Made Easy


When we started our journey into chicken keeping, we found that some things were not discussed in books and articles we read while researching the topic.  One of the most basic and helpful tid-bits of information is that not all chickens are created equally.  What I mean is, there are many breeds of chickens, and all of them have their uses based on what you intend to keep them for (whether it be eggs, meat, or a unique pet) and where you live.  In this article, we will discuss breed selection based on use, temperament, climate tolerance, and broodiness.

Eggs, Meat, or Companion

As mentioned above, different breeds of chickens are meant for different uses.  If you are using a hatchery website, such as Meyer Hatchery, this information is usually very easy to obtain under the breed description for that particular bird.


If your goal is as simple as wanting your own eggs, this is an easy determination.  The breed description not only tells how many eggs to expect from that particular breed, but also the color (Yes! Eggs do come in a wide variety of colors!) and size, so you know exactly what to expect (for full disclosure, a newly laying pullet, or female chicken under a year old, will not lay full sized eggs until she gets a little older).  Another thing to note, depending on breed, your chicken can take at least 6-8 months to begin laying.


Another popular, and obvious, reason to keep chickens is for meat.  There are a couple of ways to go about this, and which way you decide to go will greatly impact your selection of breed(s).

Method One:

The most common way people choose to raise meat birds is by selecting a breed or two in the meat bird section on the hatchery page.  These are often called “broilers”, and are hybrids (meaning they will not breed true i.e. you cannot buy two hybrids expecting to breed offspring that is the same breed), which are bred to grow very large, very quickly and are meant to be butchered and processed at 8-10 weeks of age.  If you are looking for a sustainable flock, then these hybrids (such as Cornish Cross) are not for you.

Method Two:

Dual-purpose chickens are the perfect way to have the best of both worlds. Dual-purpose chickens allow you to get eggs and meat at your own discretion. The only drawback is that they take a bit more time to reach processing age (more on that here!), and you WILL need a rooster.  Alternatively, you can also breed hybrid breeds, such as Cornish Cross, by breeding the two parent chickens to make that particular breed (Cornish chicken and Plymouth White chicken make up a Cornish Cross, just FYI).


Perhaps neither of the two reasons discussed above fits your sudden need to enrich your life with our feathered friends (though, considering you’re checking out articles on a prepping site, I doubt this is the case…but maybe!).  Bantam breeds are often kept alongside dual-purpose flocks.  Bantams are miniature breeds that are primarily kept for their looks and companionship. Yes, they do lay eggs which you can eat, but they are roughly half the size of a standard sized chicken egg.  Some people do use bantams to brood eggs as, many of these breeds are very broody.  I know what your next question is…. What is broodiness?!


So, what is broodiness?  I sure didn’t know and had to research this at first, because like most people who had never been around chickens, I made alot of assumptions just based on the typical bird behavior expectations.  Broodiness is a hen’s instinct to sit on eggs and hatch them….and depending on what your intended use for these chickens are, that can be a good thing or a bad thing.  For instance, if you ONLY want eggs, you’re not going to want to worry about having to break a hen from being broody, especially if it’s on a regular basis; however, if you intend to raise a sustainable flock without the hassle of incubating your own eggs, you may want a broody hen-or two!  The typical broodiness probability is also information you can find under any breed description.  Broodiness also goes hand in hand with temperament, which we will discuss in our next section.


So, you’ve decided why you want to raise chickens, and maybe you have your eye on a few different breeds at this point, but there’s still a couple of more things to consider before making that final decision, and temperament is one of them.  I personally find this to be very important, ESPECIALLY if you have children and are considering a rooster (not sure if you need a rooster or not? Click here).  Like everything else we discussed, temperament varies from breed to breed so it is especially important to look at that under breed description if you plan on getting a little crowing velociraptor with spurs.  Keep in mind that, just like any other animal, although a hatchery will state the typical premise of temperament for a particular breed, chickens have their own individual and unique personalities.  Okay, so you’ve successfully navigated though all this info and you’ve gotten your selection narrowed down a bit more…I still have one more thing for you to consider before you finalize your choices, and it can be a huge make or break moment.  Let’s talk about your climate.


This is the last topic we will touch on in this article, and I know what you’re thinking, can this really be all that important.  Yes, indeed climate is a pretty big factor in chicken health.  Certain breeds excel in colder areas, and other breeds excel in warmer areas….and then you have breeds who do equally well in both.  We are in zone 6, which means we get the joy of having some pretty warm (ok, HOT) summers, as well as decently cold winters.  While there are some tricks you can do to make chickens a bit more resilient in extreme conditions, it also comes down to having the correct breed for the correct areas (You wouldn’t try to grow an Avocado tree in Alaska, right? Think of it like that).  So, for us, we went with chickens who do well in all climates, such as Rhode Island Reds, Dominiques, and Speckled Sussexes.


We have covered alot of information in this article, and luckily all of these determining factors can be decided by looking at the breed description (yes, even which climate they do well in).  The takeaway here?  Well, truthfully, there is no cut and dry, one-way only, how to on raising chickens because everyone does it differently; however, these key points brought up in this article will help ensure that you successfully pick a flock that is right for you and your family.  So, whether you’re raising chickens for meat, eggs, or as a hobby, keeping chickens can be an interesting and satisfying step toward being self-sufficient.

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