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A lot of people start their homesteading journey with chickens. Even if you’re still living in the city (check your zoning laws) you can have a small flock of backyard chickens.
After deciding to add chickens to your homestead or backyard you’ll need to take a few things into consideration when choosing the perfect breed or breeds.
Choosing A chicken Breed For Your Homestead
Oh the choices, if you’ve ever looked at a hatchery website or catalog you know there are tons of choices, to the point of overwhelm.
First off, you’ll want to ask yourself some questions about chickens to help you decide which breed or breeds suit your needs best.
What is your reason for raising chickens?
Do you want meat, eggs, or both?
What kind of climate do you live in?
Does egg color matter to you?
I know that’s a lot of things to go over but we are gonna break it down and go over some of my favorite breeds of chickens for the homestead or backyard.
If you are adding chickens to your homestead to provide eggs for your family. You’ll want to look for chickens that are heavy egg layers. Some of my favorites are Rhode Island Red, Black Sex Link, or Dominique.
Most of the egg-laying breeds will lay every day.
If you’re looking to raising chickens for meat only there are two main choices Cornish Cross or Rangers.
Cornish Cross are a fast-growing hybrid. They typically are ready to process in 8 to 10 weeks. They grow rather large breasts and are more consistent in size no matter what sex they are.
Depending on what hatchery you buy from they may be called Cornish Rock or Cornish X, but they are the same type of bird. Each hatchery has its own line of these birds and sometimes give them their own name.
Rangers are foraging slower growing bird. The size of the birds very some depending on sex. Typically take 12 weeks or longer to be big enough to process.
These also are called different things depending on the hatchery you use. Some of the ones I’ve seen are Red Rangers, Freedom Rangers, and Red Broilers.
I’ve personally grown both types of meat birds and don’t see much difference in Cornish Cross or Red Rangers. Both birds when put out on fresh grass will forage. I think that it just comes down to personal preference.
These breeds of chickens can produce a good amount of eggs and are meaty enough to process for meat too. These work great if you want to hatch your own and raise for meat, especially if you’re working your way to being more self-sufficient.
Some of my favorite dual-purpose breeds are Black Asterlops, Speckled Sussex, and Jersy Giants.
We tried raising dual purpose hoping to get the best of both worlds but as much as I wanted it to work out it just wasn’t a good fit for our homestead. Mainly because I would rather process several birds at a time twice a year.
If you live in a climate with much winter at all you’ll want to look for chicken breeds that will still lay in the cold. Even these breeds will be spotty at times when the weather is cold and the days are short.
Some of my favorites include Easter Eggers, Wyandottes, and Dominique.
Just like with the cold some breeds of chickens are more suited to deal with hot and humid climates.
Some of those breeds include Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds, and Dominique.
Color of the eggs.
For the longest time, we just had hens that laid a consistent large brown egg. After a while, I became bored with it and decided we needed a rainbow of eggs to look at sitting on the counter.
Along with my own enjoyment, the homestead kids really like guessing what hen is laying which egg.
Rare and unique breeds.
There are some breeds like polish or topknots that are just silly looking birds. My youngest especially enjoy this fun to look at breed of chickens.
Unless you plan on hatching eggs there’s little point in keeping a rooster. Some people believe they help keep predators away but I’ve not found that to be true with our chickens.
Roosters also tend to get mean as they age. It’s something to keep in mind if you have small children who enjoy helping you with the chickens cause they do have spurs that do hurt when they hit you.
How many Chickens Do you need?
The size of your family and how many eggs you typically use in a week determines how many chickens you’ll need.
For my family, there are 6 of us and we use eggs at least 4 days each week. We have 13 hens and during the summer I have more eggs than we can eat most of the time. I actually sell my extras to our neighbors. Now that we are in winter they have cut off laying so I don’t have any extras.
My homestead Chicken Flock
I’ve found we enjoy having a mixture of chicken breeds, from colorful eggs to silly to look at.
Hopefully, after reading this you’ll be able to choose what breed or breeds of chickens are best suited for your homestead or backyard.
What’s your favorite breed of chickens? Let me know in the comments, I do read each and every comment and enjoy reading them.