Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chicken breeds

I noticed a post in The Poultry Journal about breeds of chickens so that inspired me to tell about the breeds I've had over the years. I haven't been able to figure out what breeds lay the most eggs since I have so many breeds in the same coop. I often order pullets so I rarely get roosters. I don't think I've got all the breeds listed here since I only had a few birds of certain breeds and I didn't have anything to say about them. Here are some of the breeds I've had:

Golden Ca
mpine ~ I never had many of these but they are pretty. The roosters don't have normal saddle feathers. The rooster got frostbite on his comb during the winter. In this picture, he does not have a tails since he lost it to cannibalism.

Silver and golden Lakenvelders ~ I only had hens of this breed but they were nice hens and they tend to be pretty healthy. I also noticed that the scaley leg mites don't bother them as much as some other breeds. (The chicken in the back is a mutt.)

Buff Orpingtons ~ The hens are calm and range long distances which I like. It seemed like it took a long time for the cockerel to mature which seems common in the heavier breeds.

Rhode Island reds ~ I only had two hens so I can't say much about them.

Cookoo Marans ~ I only had hens.. I liked the dark shelled eggs.

Welsumer ~ The hens I had seemed to be good birds that weren't too wild flighty.

lver Spangled Hamburgs ~ Hamburgs have a very rebellious streak. Mine decided they wanted to sleep outside so I had to bring them in at night. Next thing you know, they're laying eggs outside so I had to start hunting nests. (The remaining one I have does behave.) Because of their small size, they lay smaller eggs. They are very hardy birds though. The rose comb is a trait I'd like to breed into my flock since rose combs seldom get frost bite. The Hamburgs do tend to be flighty and they are very good at flying. They have a body built like an overgrown bantam.

White and Brown Leghorns ~ These chickens are considered good layers by many people. I have no brown leghorns left but I still have some white leghorns. I've had some that died on me but others seem pretty healthy. The white leghorn hens seem very calm and are quite intelligent. They range a fair distance too. The biggest problem is that the roosters have a huge comb that tends to get frozen in winter.

Silver Phoenix ~ This breed is smaller than a Hamburg but larger than a bantam. Even with their small size and the fact that they can fly well, they tend to be calm. The problem is, they also lay small eggs. They are very broody but I've never let one raise chicks so I don't know if they're good mothers or not.

Partridge Plymouth rocks ~ This breed will travel a long distance to forage. We lost three to heat stroke. They will go broody and raise chicks too.
(The Plymouth rock is the brown one. The one beside her is a buttercup and the one under her is a buff silkie.)

Polish ~ I got a Polish mix and got about one of each breed. None have died yet but I had one hen who had an eye problem and is now sickly and blind in one eye. These chickens aren't really something you want for your layer flock. Some are healthy and do fine but in cold weather, the ones with really big top hats tend to get the feathers wet then the water freezes so the bird has icicles on its head. Because of their top hats, they're easy to catch so I'm guessing predators would think the same thing. (I had to cut the feathers that got icicles off some of the Polish and I also cut some feathers so another one could see better.) I haven't had much trouble with the other chickens picking on their head feathers. The rooster I kept was aggressive and had to be butchered. The cross breed chicks I got from the Polish tend to have smaller top hats that are not a problem. I personally like half Polish birds better than pure Polish.

Molted Houdan ~ I've only got one hen so it's not much to go on but she's a calm hen. She has the huge top hat that can be a problem but it's not as big as the top hats of some of the Polish.

Black Sex link ~ These bird are good sized and seem to be good hens for laying.

Gold Star sex link ~ The ones I have now are very
intelligent and calm. I really like them because of their laid back personality. They tend to be good foragers too. (If stealing dog food counts.)

Dark and Light Brahmas ~ I had one light Brahma that was hatched in '02. She died last winter at age seven so these are pretty hardy birds. The Brahma cockerels take a long time to mature so they're not a very good breed for butchering because the other breeds of cockerels are ready to butcher before the Brahmas are. They are a very calm breed and the one that hatched chicks was a good mother.

Easter Eggers ~ These are pretty laid back hens and they were good layers. I've still got one that was hatched in '04 and she lays pretty well but the egg shells aren't perfect any more. Some of the Easter egger roosters can get to be very large while others are medium sized. Their combs don't get frost bite easily.

Black and Buff Minorca ~ These hens reminded me of l
eghorns because of they look a lot like them. They are nice hens and lay good sized eggs. One hen killed a pheasant chick that hatched under her. Some of them are good foragers.

Blue Andalusian ~ These hens are a lot like Minorcas and leghorns because they have the same body structure. They will come up to the front yard so I class them as good foragers.

Black Australorp ~ These chicke
ns were good layers. One hen would kill chicks if her eggs hatched but another one was an excellent mother. I have an Australorp/brown leghorn cross and she's seven years old and still lays eggs regularly. She is also a very good forager.

Gold and silver laced Wyandottes ~ I only had three of these birds. If I remember correctly, at least one of them was a bully toward the other chi

Sicilian buttercups ~ I thought it interesting that these birds were a light breed but the body structure reminded me of a larger chicken. They were not too flighty.

California greys and whites ~ They are much like white leghorns and they have an intelligent personality and are good foragers.

Blue, black, buff, and white silkies ~ This is not a breed for anyone who wants eggs. If you want a natural incubator, this is the right breed to get. I never trusted the blue one with chicks because I caught her pecking one but she never killed any. I put five eggs under each of them and kept two of the birds in the same box while they were setting. Using this method, they would fight over any egg in sight and thus keep the eggs underneath them. Since they liked to sit in low nests, it was easy to train them to stay in a box on the floor. My other hens like high nests so they generally left the silkies alone. I've hatched a turkey egg, a pigeon egg, duck eggs, and chicken eggs under silkies. They normally don't range too far from the coop and they can't fly.

Old English bantams(I think) ~ I got three of these tiny things from a friend and I think they were Old English but I'm not sure. I have no idea how old they were when I got them and two have died now. The other one no longer lays eggs. One was a good mother and another one went broody on a hidden nest and died. They seemed to be resistant to scaley leg mites. (I think they may be the ones who brought the mites into the flock.) The surviving one is calm and not flighty.

Other Poultry

Turkeys ~ I had some black mixed breed turkeys. They went wild but I managed to grab some of their eggs and hatch one. The turkey poult was raised with the chicks and seems to think she's a chicken. She does lay in the summer but tends to go broody. Turkeys are the smartest species of poultry I have had. One of the original seven turkeys had a broken leg and the others would stay close to her and protect her from the wild turkeys that they eventually joined. The tame turkey hen I have now sometimes lays in the chicken nests even though she is too big. (She hasn't laid any good eggs this year.)
So far, I have had no problems with blackhead even though the turkey is with the chickens every night. She is a bit of a bully since she's the biggest bird in the coop.

Ducks ~ I had three Roan(I think) ducks, one female and two males. (One was butchered early on.) They like to try to flip water out of the water buckets to take a bath and it makes a mess. They also fill the buckets with mud. I never figured out how they can get that much gunk in a bucket when the coop has just been cleaned and new wood shavings are on the ground. Before the hen got sick, she laid eggs almost every morning. One thing I like about ducks is that they herd well so I could herd them to the creek in the morning. After some training, they stayed at the creek all day and came back at night. Later on, they started staying there over night but I think they did that because the hen was sick and did not want to go up the hill to the chicken coop. After she died at the creek, we butchered the remaining male. I like duck meat almost more than chicken but ducks don't have much meat on them. They're all bone.

Ring neck pheasants ~ I got the eggs when dad cut hay and ran over the nests. If you think chickens are dumb and flighty, just get a pheasant. The things have a death wish and I could write pages on the different ways they will kill themselves. If you get some and more than fifty percent make it, you did a good job raising them. I found out the best way to raise them is with a hen or chicks that are slightly smaller than they are. They will never get tame and most are so flighty that they can harm themselves in an attempt to escape people.


  1. well hi =) i might be getting a hen (which i shall call penny LOL) but im wondering are they hard to keep can they be affectionate and should i get one when i have two dogs ? they (the hen will be put somewhere safe) and what type of hen is the best layer

  2. My chickens are meant for laying so I haven't had much experience with getting affectionate ones but, I do have a few who are reasonably tame so I'd guess you could get them much tamer if you worked at it. The tamest chickens I have are probably gold star sex links.
    If you want one for eggs, I'd suggest one of the production breeds like California Whites, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, or sex links. (Sex links are hybrids of two different breeds.) Since these breeds are common, it would be pretty easy to find the chicks at your local feed store in spring.
    When it comes to keeping a chicken, they aren't hard to keep as long as they have food and water. (Chicks are a little harder to raise since they need heat when they're newly hatched)
    If you have limited space, you could get a bantam since they are smaller. (Bantams lay smaller eggs and don't lay as many as a production breed.)


  3. I thank you for your blog! After I read your profile I felt like I was looking at a mirror image of our family. We live in central Illinois,have 5 children who are home-schooled (at least the ones old enough to)and live and work as the 5th generation on our dairy farm. We have always had "fryers" raised twice a year for butchering, hogs for butchering, of course our cows and a collection of leghorns and rhode island reds for eggs. Recently we moved the chicken house from grandma's to our farm (1/4 mile down the road). Since becoming in charge of them, we've had to sort the old, non productive birds and the productive. I've also added 2 silver laced wyandottes and what I believe are either araucanas or easter eggers. We were given them by a neighbor who bought about 40 chicks for his grand daughter but then only wanted the hens. It turns out that his "roosters" were actually 2 roosters and 4 hens! I'm wanting to expand our flock. My main goal is egg production, but I would like some variety in the breeds. I really appreciated your down to earth profile and experiences with your collection of breeds! Thanks again, Annie


  5. I think the Plymouth Rock hens we had were average layers. They also tended to go broody and were good mothers. None of the Plymouth Rock roosters we had were ever aggressive.