Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Backyard chicken breeds

I made the statement in another post that it's about time that the Crunchy Chicken got chickens. Then Greenpa made the excellent point that maybe I should get some suggestions of what breeds of chickens to get.

This Sunday we are having our coop delivered. It is made by someone in our neighborhood, who is a laid off carpenter and turned to making chicken coops. I'll be sure to take pictures and show you our setup. Of course, we will still need to get chickens.

My plan is to get pullets, mostly because I don't feel like getting chicks at this point, but I also wanted to get your opinion on your favorite breed. I'm looking for a chicken that is mellow, quiet and a good layer, but I'd rather have mellow and quiet over production, if I can't meet those needs.

So, what's your favorite chicken breed and why?


Green Bean said...

We've got a Barred Rock (aka Plymoth Rock), an Easter Egger (the feed stores often call them Americaunas which is technically incorrect), and two Cochins. By far and away, the Barred Rock and the Easter Egger are the loudest and the craziest. Fortunately, we just moved to a new place with a much bigger yard but our neighbors at our old place were none too pleased with their early morning (ready 6am) clucking and squawking. They do it when they lay an egg, when someone else goes to lay an egg, when they wake up, when they want out of the run, when they are bored. Whenever. They are also fairly hyper and really seek out the free range time - which isn't too bad if you don't mind the chicken poop all over your yard. It just depends on the set up. These two ladies, however, lay like clockwork. Nearly everyday.

The cochins, by contrast, are as mellow and quiet as can be. They're super cute - though occasionally poop gets stuck to their feathered legs and they need a bath or some light cleaning up. They don't mind being penned up, are happy to free range too. One lays fairly well. Maybe 4-5 eggs a week. The other went broody on us and I tried to ride it out. It lasted 4-5 weeks. During that time, she didn't lay any eggs. She's back to laying one or two a week.

I definitely would get a mix. With 4-6 chickens, even if they aren't big producers, you should have more eggs than you need. Good luck!

Sarah said...

We have Barred Rocks, bantams, leghorns, buff orpingtons, rhode island reds, and Americuna. My favorite are the Buff orpingtons. They are quiet, friendly, good layers, and well mannered. Followed by a second place tie between the barred rocks and rhode island reds. Chickens are so much fun!

greengirl512 said...

Silver-laced Wyandottes! Mine are pretty, good tempered and lay well.

Issa said...

I have four Red sex-links. I don't know much about different breeds. I have this kind because that's what was available at the Amish market the day I went to get chickens. They do seem to meet your criteria. They are quiet, only making much noise all if a skunk is near the coop at night or if they've come up on my porch to beg for treats. They seem pretty mellow to me. They were content to be in the movable coop full time when I first got them, and they're happy to meander about the yard these days, never getting far from home. And they are great layers! I'm getting four beautiful brown eggs a day.

Anonymous said...

My Barred Rocks have...erm, strong personalities too. My White Sussex is the loudest.
Any cross with Rhode Island Red in will be a good layer, and generally a bit more docile.

It depends what you want from your hens.
If getting eggs is your priority, go for a commercial hybrid.
If you want cute chickens or novelty eggs, or to protect a rare breed, go for a pure breed, but remember that generally feathers and looks have been bred at the expense of egg laying, and they'll lay more like 180 eggs pa (some crosses can churn out 320 eggs pa). I have an Aracauna who lays beautiful blue eggs. When she feels like it.

Avoid any bird with a pom-pom or mad head feathers. They're tricky to keep clean (special feeders needed) and the birds tend to be less hardy.

In the UK we can rescue ex-battery hens, I'm not sure if that's a possibility in the US? You pay a couple of £'s for a scruffy oven-ready bird that is otherwise headed for dog food after a year, and give it a happier life. They'll carry on laying well for quite a while and watching them re-feather and learn how to perch, scratch around and discover slugs and dandelion leaves is very satisfying.

I really think it's also worth considering spacing your birds out if you aren't going to cull them. Try to avoid only having one, or introducing one bird at a time, but say you wanted 4 birds, get 2 and then add 2 more next year. (For 6 add another 2 the year after). It's tempting to go out and buy them all in one go, but hens live easily to 8 or so, and 4 x 8 year old birds aren't going to give you many (any) eggs.
Sorry, rather long, but HTH,


Carolyn said...

I'd love to get chickens but my backyard is too small :(
But good luck with yours. Keep us posted...

knutty knitter said...

We have bantam crosses here. They lay small eggs of course but are not anything like as noisy. We reliably got 4 to 5 eggs per week but they do tend to go broody occasionally. Our present ones are a bit long in the tooth now (5 and 3x8 year olds) so we are considering what to get next.

viv in nz

Maria said...

I have two red crosses, two black sex-links and a silver laced wyandotte. All are hens (no roosters allowed) and are quiet and mellow. They would fit your criteria. The red crosses are great layers except for the dead of winter. I'm not sure how cold your area is, but CT was cold last year and they stopped laying in December and didn't start again until March.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Silkies are mellow, and smaller... not sure yet about egg production.
Our Buff Orpington is a real sweetheart and has been giving us lovely brown eggs!

Anonymous said...

My sex-links (rhode island red crossed with barred rock) are a bit noisy and not too friendly. Had a polish hen that was incredibly nice, allowed herself to be petted by tours of school children, and was pretty quiet. I've heard that polish chickens are in general docile and not overly noisy. She laid pretty regularly as well.

Some breeds are also more adapted to specific climates. McMurray Hatchery ( has good descriptions of many different breeds.

Jennifer Liane said...

We have Barred Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Buff Orpingtons. The Barred Rocks are deffinitely louder and love to free range. We have to keep them penned up in the summer though because they destroy the garden and the flower beds. They even started digging holes in the lawn. The Rhode Island Reds are awesome chickens. They are quite, very friendly and excellent layers. Perfect for an urban setting. I see that others have posted that their Buffs are quite docile, but ours are crazy! They are scared of everything and scatter every which way when I try to get them in their coop at night. All of our other chickens just go in on their own but not the Buffs. So my suggestion for you would be the Rhode Island Reds.

E said...

We're happy with Buff Orpingtons. Calm, cluck a bit when eggs happen.

Do you have a plan for the whole chicken life cycle - all the way to death/disposal?

Sue said...

We have two buff orps (one dominant and very loud, one reasonably quiet), a RI Red (beautiful, calm and quiet enough), a turken (bare-necked, mean spirited and loud), an americauna (a lovely, quiet lap-chicken) and a black australorp (hen-pecky troublemaker along with the turken.)
Adding new birds to a flock is often quite traumatic (and noisy) with much henpecking, so I'd recommend getting at least as many as you think you'll need right off the bat (predation happens sometimes too). Four of mine are two years old now, two are 1 1/2 years old. We get about 4 eggs a day in summer from them, and that tapers down gradually to nothing for about a month in the dead of winter. As Green Bean says, they will make a fair amount of noise at various points in the day, egg laying, wanting out, etc. They're pretty quiet if you let them free-range (because they're happy and expressing their chicken-ness,as Joel Salatin would say) but you risk losing them to predators if they free-range all the time.

Shannon said...

Hmmm - so many favorites. Luckily, with a flock of 200 I have room to experiment. We buy pullets in bulk every spring, and usually have to settle for Rhode Island Reds, but when we raise our own from chicks, I like Turkens (lay forever and are great moms too), Buff Orpingtons (not as productive, but really nice mellow ladies), Barred Rocks, and Americaunas.

Lise said...

I have 3 chickens. My goals were gentle with children (i.e. mellow), suited to our cold climate, a good layers. Our choices were 2 Buff Orpingtons and a Black Australorp. I love them all, but it turns out the Buffs go broody fairly often (significantly lowering our egg count). I'd highly recommend a friendly, gentle, reliable australorp, though!

Greenpa said...

Hiya Crunch; boy, gave ya an easy post, huh? :-)

And a good one, I think.

This is the tool I started with:

It's a very useful start.

Our chickens are not here for egg production; we are building a flock of 20ish chickens whose job will be hatching and mothering a clutch of guinea eggs every year (20 clutches). So we WANT broodiness; and excellent free range capability. Our free range is REALLY free; if they wanted to emigrate to Canada or Texas, there would be nothing to stop them (though we do put them in at night).

So far, our experience: Buff Orps- all but 1 rooster eaten by the dog; Dominique, all but 3 hens/1 rooster, ditto. Both those roosters are still with us, both more agressive than is good. The Orp we have killed intentionally, twice. He keeps getting up, and after being killed behaves himself for a while. But he put Spice in the emergency room a month ago- attacked from behind, and stuck his very sharp hooked beak into her calf, around a half inch deep. She had to pull him out, then have the doctor clean the deep puncture. We call him "Stewie" now. He's not stew yet because he does protect the flock, and we've had a rash of losses recently; cause not determined. But he's actually dangerous, particularly for small kids visiting.

Then we got a batch of free chicks from a neighbor who temporarily was out of space; about 15 Black Australorp/Buff Orps, and 15 Americauna/Dominque. Down to about 10 each now; the Americaunas seem to be calmer, and we had one adopt our next whole brood of chicks; 20 Dark Brahmas; 5 Dominiques, and 7 Cochins of 3 types. She'd try really hard to cover them all at night; 3 different Australorps refused to be interested.

Regarding egg numbers and temperament; one of the best sources we found pointed out - the statements about "this breed does this, and that breed does that" - are only AVERAGES. You can still find an individual mean Cochin, or an Araucana that lays eggs everyday, 340 days a year, and modern breed chicken that really wants to be a mommy.

So, take your eggs, and chickens, with a dash of salt.

Greenpa said...
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debmoulton said...

We have a buff orphington, a black sumatra, a barred rock, two white leghorns, and two booted bantams. The buff orphington is by far the quietest and gentlest, but she lays the fewest eggs and eats the most food. The sumatra is also quiet, but she tends to be a meaner bird; she lays well and eats to maintain her girly figure. The barred rock has a dietary problem; she only likes to eat junk food. We have to feed her yogurt and milk regularly to get her to lay a hard shelled egg. She is quiet, and other barred rocks we have had have not been so finicky. Our gold standard for egg production are the two white leghorns which each lay about an egg a day for months at a time. The do "announce" the arrival of the eggs rather loudly, and squawk up a storm when a predator is prowling. They eat less than their cage mates, and lay more. The booted bantams are noisy, and lay small eggs, but they do lay very regularly, and are very tame hens.

I think if I had to build a flock today, I would go with the buff orphingtons. Even though she eats the most, she has personality and is the quietest.

Keri said...

We have barred rocks and buckeyes (look similar to rhode island red but actually are a heritage breed). They are so friendly and love to follow us around especially my kids. As for noise, I'm deaf so can't help you there. ;)

Farmerlady2 said...

I currently have Buffs, Rhode Island Reds, Americaunas and Black Australorps. The Buffs are quiet but go broody a LOT! I do really like them though...I'd probably go with the Australorp as mine don't go broody.

annie said...

All of our chickens make noise. The Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds are the calmest in temperament but the Rocks are definitely chatty. They are constantly talking to each other and the rooster. We also have Minorcas, Araucanas, Brown Leghorns, and Anconas. I like them all! The Anconas are very skittish and won't let me get near them... lots of squawking when I try.

MKD said...

We have a Rhode Island Red (lays beautiful big brown eggs), 2 Plymouth Rocks (lay light brown smaller eggs), 2 Austrolropes (haven't started laying yet but will lay brown) and 2 leghorns (great layers - lay HUGE white eggs).

We started out with 3 and just got the last 4 in March. they are fairly quiet. When they lay you'd think they were asking for an award though -- crowing and cawing all over the place! They also get all fussy when someone ELSE is laying and they want to lay in THAT nest. Its so silly -they have 3 nests to choose from, but they are women.

We let our roam around the yard and do whatever they want. At night they get put into their house and locked up for fear of a racoon or cat might get them. They make a little noise in the morning to be let out of their pen even though they have a small pen off the coop to peek around.

Chickens are very friendly and love to follow us around and tolerate our dogs even. They love it when we weed the garden and they get to pick apart the weeds, dirt, bugs, whatever. Some of our chickens will let us hold them even, but I think they are a bit dirty to do that. ;)
The poop drives me crazy, but we have a big yard for them to fertilize all over and fertilize they do!
you'll enjoy them. you can't go back to store bought eggs - they are just so weak and watery!

Christine F. said...

Rhode Island Reds are my favorite. We have 10 of them now (had 12 but lost a couple to predators) I had Rhode Islands along w/ an assortment of other breeds when I was growing up. When hubby and I were researching which breed to get we decided to go w/ them b/c they are great layers year round even in cold temps (it gets pretty damn cold here in NH during the winter) and are friendly and low maintenance. My girls love them and are constantly petting and holding them. My husband and I love all of the eggs. We have been able to sell our surplus eggs too. It is nice to get some $$ to put towards grain and shavings.

Anna @ Blue Dirt said...

We have Dominiques, New Hampshire Reds, Ameraucana, Australorp, Cuckoo Marans, and Chanteclers. The Dominiques and New Hampshire Reds are good layers, with out the cocks around they're fairly quiet. The other four breeds we just got as chicks this spring and are about ready to start laying any day now. The cuckoo marans are quite literally cockoo. The young roos made the most noise and jumped and played rather strangely. Hard to describe. Ameraucana's are the easter eggers and super fun for kids. Very docile and the white ones are gorgeous.

Rhonda Jean said...

It's great you're getting heirloom breed chickens. Like heirloom seeds, we backyarders need to help them survive. Without us they're doomed.

At the moment I have RIRs, new hampshires, faverolles, orpingtons, sussex, plymouth rocks, australorps, and a white leg horn. The New Hampshires are the best layers. The RIRs, sussex and orphingtons are dual purpose chickens, in that you can use them for meat or eggs, but they don't lay as many eggs as a smaller bird. Check out this chart. It will tell you everything you need to know from temperament to temperature. Good luck!

Laura said...

For sheer egg laying power I would go with Rhode Island Reds... esp if you have hot summers. If you have cold winters, the Barred Rocks tend to keep laying better then. Americaunas or Auracanas are FUN and lay pretty eggs. They have great personalities too. If you want mellow chickens and don't care how often they lay, I do enjoy cochins. Pretty much any bird that lays a white egg is a little more overly excited/anxious - leghorns are the primary white egg layer and the ones we have had have all been a bit crazy. Good luck with your chicken adventures! I love those crazy birds.

amy said...

we have buff orpingtons and black sexlinks and red/white sexlinks. the buff orpingtons are very intelligent, adorable, sweet. because they are intelligent, they get bored very easily and make tons of noise all day long. because they are backyard secret chickens, i can't let them have the whole yard. they have a large, 20x30 area that they are free to run around in on nice days, but that isn't what they want. they want out in the garden, and they yell about it all day long. it's gotten to the point where we have to take them to a farm nearby and donate them because they are blowing our cover!! i will miss their sweetness, but they are often moody and won't lay. when they do lay, half the time it's on the ground and half the time in the box.
the sexlinks are the opposite. they are the dumbest chickens i've ever met. i've had them over a year and they STILL bite my finger whenever i open the door. they think it is food each time they see it and they never learn. they lay like little machines, though. i have to make sure they have enough greens and sunlight and oyster shells to keep them healthy since they lay so consistently. they are so dumb that they don't get bored. the only time they make noise is if our neighbor is running his circular saw (it makes a high-pitched whirring sound that freaks them out).
as soon as we donate the buff orpingtons to a farm, we'll replace them with more sexlinks...unless i can find some other chicken that is that quiet. we used to have Araucanas and they layed beautiful green eggs daily. however, they would just stand there and "yell" for no apparent reason. we had some silkies, too, but their eggs are so small it just isn't worth it. they were basically silent, as i recall. we had a couple rhode island reds, and they were quiet--until one turned out to be a rooster...then he wasn't quiet anymore. :D

Anonymous said...

I have a Barred Rock hen and she is the friendliest little thing EVER!!! I love her so MUCH! the only thing is, is that it sounds like we have a rooster on our property! =) She used to lay eggs, and then my friend turned her upside down (with her belly up) and she hasn't layed an egg since!!!!