Need 4 hens, what breed is best?

billc-2007December 15, 2007

I am going to purchase four hens for egg production this coming spring. My feed store has about 25 varieties. Most are egg laying birds. Do any of you have a suggestion on which chickens are best in the back yard city? I have 1/2 acre and would like some that are not noisie if possible. I know they cackle after laying an egg. I have roller pigeons and the neighbors don't seem to mind them cooing all the time. So I am hoping to have some fresh eggs. I will have a cage built soon and plan the let them roam in the back yard once they are old enough to be out for a day to eat bugs and after the garden has gotten big enough that they won't eat the small plants. any sugestions on which breed would be helpful if you have a special breed you like and why. Thanks Bill in Norhtern California

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My personal favorite is Plymouth Barred Rocks. They're even tempered, reliably productive, and aren't attractive enough that you'll get attached to them. The egg production of chickens declines after several years, so you either replace your flock or suffer with low production rates. The Barred Rocks come, they go, no one notices or cares. Aracaunas, for instance, are just about impossible to get rid of. They are very attractive and distinctive from bird to bird, thereby developing individual identities and become pets instead of stock.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 12:40PM
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Bill, I've had Australorps a few times in the backyard and will buy them again. Interestingly, I had Birmingham Roller pigeons in with the birds as well!

The Australorps are commonly available these days and I'm glad they are. They are just a quiet, healthy breed and they lay really well. The only rather odd thing about them is that their egg shells seem to characteristically thin. It was true 30 years ago, too. This wasn't a problem, tho'.

The Australorp hens never tried to get out of our yard. It is fenced but the fences are 6 feet, 5 feet, and 3 feet in the front yard. Generally, there was always someone out in the yard when they were out.

I think Fruithack give the Aracaunas a little too much credit. Just because they are each distinctively colored - doesn't make the hens of the other breeds somehow less of a chicken nor Aracaunas blessed with dazzling personalities.

I've only had one Aracauna and have never been very impressed with their laying abilities. I also had Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Light Brahmas, even kept some Cornish Crosses as laying hens once - boy, was that last one a mistake.

I think that the Sex-Links would have been better choices than some of these other breeds and not just the Cornish Crosses. My brother gave those darn Cornish to me and had Sex-Links for years and years.

You can see that I've chosen the heavier breeds but that was mostly because the cold weather here can be taxing for the smaller birds. Further, Leghorns and such are more "flighty" and I certainly didn't want the hens going over the fences.

My 2 cents.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 7:33PM
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gran2(z5 INDIANA)

I've had aracaunas and loved them - especially the colored eggs that you get -- always makes me smile. They seem to be reliable producers too, as much as any other. the barred rocks are always good, and we've had rhode island reds too. What's best survivor/producer in your climate? Can your local extension office help? As a matter of fact, I've gotten several chicks free through our extension office because of their incubators in the classroom programs. Excellent chicks, very healthy, and FREE!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2007 at 9:40PM
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White leghorns are best for low cost eggs , easter egg layers lay colored eggs , Austrolops lay lots of eggs and are dual purpose birds (good for meat as well as eggs )as are Rhode Island Reds . Check they can give you poultry advice .

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 12:22PM
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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

Hi Bill,
you may want to stay away from the real heavy breeds if you live in a very warm climate (zone 9?) if the summers get too hot. I agree w/fruithack on the americaunas, they are terrific egg layers but when they do slow down in their production they are difficult to let go. Leghorns sound like a good choice, I've never had them but they have a good reputation for egg laying and are on the lighter side for the heat factor.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 9:35AM
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Of all the breeds, Delawares consistently lay the largest eggs. Plus, they are critically endangered and you do a good thing for the world if you help sustain the breed. They're quiet, gentle, handsome birds.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 6:56PM
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I've had good success with Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, and White Leghorns(kind of high strung though). My personal favorite are Buff Orpingtons. They're reliable layers, have good temperment, are good eating, and are just fun to sit watch(exciting life I lead, lol). They will also go broody if given a chance, if you want peeps running around. That is as long as your neighbors don't mind a cock crowing any time a light comes on. The old boys round here get to calling each other a few times a day too.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 10:06PM
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We are kind of partial to the Rhode Island Reds. Great egg production...even in cold weather if you keep the drafts off them.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 10:07AM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

If you want white eggs a good choice would be white leghorns. They produce a lot of white eggs at a good feed to egg ratio. If you want brown eggs, then Rhode Island Reds or Red Star (occasionally called sex-links) will produce a lot of brown eggs. If you want pet chickens, then pick any breed according to your preferences.

The link below is for Henderson's Chicken Breed Chart which has more information about the various chicken breeds than you may want to know.

I'm preparing to replace our backyard flock with Rhode Island Reds just so we will get more eggs. At the moment there is Cuckoo Marans which lays a nice dark egg but not as many as I'd like. Buff Orphington which lays a light brown egg, smaller and not as many. Araucanas which lay light blue and green eggs and quite a few of them, but not as many as the Red Star does. The Red Star produces the most eggs although she is old (seven years) and doesn't lay much now.

Here is a link that might be useful: Henderson's Chicken Breed Chart

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 12:20AM
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I'm curious why a guy named Buckeye Brian wouldn't go for Buckeye chickens. Hotzcatz has given you a good place to get ideas about breeds but the link will be fun to look at just about everything chicken.

Not recommending Buckeyes since I don't really know a thing about 'em. But, they are very similar to RIR's in appearance and because of their small combs should have little trouble with frostbite.

Steve's digits

Here is a link that might be useful: more about Buckeye chickens here

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 6:46PM
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Thanks for all the information guys and gals.
I think I will get two plymoth barred rock hens and two Australops and two Delawares if I can find them. I am not getting six maybe 7 incase one dies young.
I am making a hen house 4X8' and plan to have two chicken runs about 15/10' planted with chicken free range plants. Got some seeds from Peaceful Valley Farms in grassvalley calif. They only sell organic stuff and had these paticular seeds you plant that chickens like to eat.
This is thse seeds in it incase any of you want to plant some from a seed place near you. Cow peas, Buckwheat, non dormant alfalfa,ladino clover B.L. trefoil and flax seed. I will plant one and wait about a month and plant another crop so the chickens will have plenty fresh greens to eat. I will feed them layer pellets too. Plus after the garden gets old I can make a fence and let them at the weeds and plants in the fall and winter in the yard.
I am also going to make the hen house with exterior doors to each nest box so I can collect the eggs from outside the cage with out having to track the waste on my shoes. But I might enjoy going inside also. I plan to have the hen house about 7 feet tall inside with next boxes up 2 to 3 feet and perches up 5 and 6 feet with a ladder for them to walk up. I will have to make them all wire outside, even on top to keep the wild birds out and keep disease from getting in. Thanks for all you advice, They tell me at the feed store I should have chicks in by the middle of February. Ca't wait to get those cute little guys ( I mean girls) home. Maybe I can post a picture of the hen house and running pen when I get it all made. Bill C

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 11:44PM
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I have finally got some chicks, I really appreciate your suggestions on stock. I have decided on two Plymouth barred Rocks, Two white Delawares, two red Delawares and two Austrolops. They got birds in Thursday and I got there to buy birds today Friday at 2 pm and they had sold out of the Australops but I will get those two at another feed store next week. I may have to keep them seperate with the age difference. They have almost sold all the others. I got the last two white Delawares they had left and many only had five or six chicks left out of 50 of each breed. They did have a large amount of rooster though, I did not want one eihter. They are at 90 to 93 right now and I finally got the right height of the heat light and has been steady for two hours so I can go to bed now. They are in the chicken. My wife is mad, she said this is not sanitary, first you have worms in the kitchen and now chickens. I had to bring in my redworms too as they got flooded when I left the lid cracked and i moved the worm into another bin and I want the egg capsules to hatch so i brought them inside for a few weeks. When the temps get up to 5o at night I will move them outside again. Life with me is a bit crazy for a city girl. Oh well. Bill C

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 1:50AM
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