Into my eighth year now keeping chickens and I have sampled LOTS of breeds since 2012, 44 to be exact.
In the early days I had one simple goal. I wanted all the colours. Who cared about productivity? or size? or feed efficiency? or temperament? Not me. I loved my colourful flock, lorded over by my Plymouth Barred Rock rooster Foghorn Leghorn.
Over the first few years, as my chicken-lady mantle settled around my shoulders, I started paying attention to breed characteristics. Much like dogs, chicken breeds come in all shapes and sizes, designed to meet a whole range of environmental conditions and purposes, from pugilist to docile companion to egg producer to Sunday dinner.
There are always special birds like BattleChicken, but generally speaking, brahmas behave like a brahma and australorps act like an australorp. (Birds of a feather really do flock together too, which is fascinating, but a whole other topic.)
Over the next few years I discovered I loved some breeds, while others really irritated me! Some are stupid, others are boring. Some eat a ton of food and their big butts take up half the available roost, but they only produce scrawny little eggs. Some are mean to their flock mates, or flighty to the point of being neurotic. I also learned that I especially can’t abide a whiny, demanding chicken.
There is nothing as effective as direct experience at helping one form an opinion. Therefore, my fellow chicken people, may I present, for a limited time only (until my tastes shift), my current favourites, and why. I hope my opinion helps you, even just a little bit, along on your own individual explorations through the universe of chicken keeping.
#1 – Wyandottes
I keep a mixed flock (all the colours!) of these pleasant, respectful birds. They lay like stink, are drop-dead-gorgeous with their delicately laced feathers and pleasingly rounded bodies, forage very well and not one of mine has ever gone broody. (Watch, now I’ve said that, tomorrow I will find a broody one out there). ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
#2 – Cream Legbars
After a few false starts I have finally established a strong line here in our muddy valley. A good size for their type, mine lay prodigious numbers of big, round, blue blue eggs. Trim little birds, legbars don’t eat to excess and the roosters are handsome. They get along with everyone, the chicks practically leap from their shells and I can tell their sex at hatch. Way, way better blue egg layers than any Ameracauna lines I ever kept (and I tried several), except for the hardy, prolific hatchery version, who were in truth Easter Eggers sold as “Americanas”, not purebreds. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
#3 – Silkies
Ok, I know. Silkies are impractical, they lay small eggs, can’t fly, not much of a carcass (and it’s a funny colour), take forever to start laying and are IMPOSSIBLE to sex, but gosh I love my silkies. Silkies don’t count when I do my chicken census, they aren’t really chickens anyhow. They are little gentlemen in snowy trousers and little ladies in flouncy tulle gowns, sedately stepping out to take the barnyard air, with their blue earrings on and their parasols twirling in the breeze. They are powderpuff mamas, devoted to their cotton ball children. Silkies are by Monet. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
#4 – Alsteriers
A somewhat obscure old European breed, I got my Alsterier eggs a couple years ago from Briarwood in Mill Bay in a fun pack of breeder’s choice eggs. All four of my Alsterier eggs hatched, and all four were girls. With their jaunty crests and intelligent eyes, my Alsteriers get along with everyone. They lay incredible numbers of massive, pinky almost white eggs and fertility is spectacular. Almost every Alsterier X chick I hatch is a girl too! And Alsty the broody is one of my best mamas. Femininity is strong in my Alsteriers. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
#5 – Silverudd’s Blue Isbar
The person I got the eggs of this unusual breed from promised me I would love her isbars, and yup. Petite with big personalities, my three cheeky Isbar pullets have been popping out almost an egg a day apiece all winter long, decently sized green ones, some with brown or peachy spots. Exactly the same age as, and in the same flock with, my beautiful silver laced barnevelder pullets, my isbars lay twice as many eggs at least! I am so impressed with these gals that I may see if I can hatch them a man this year. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
6 – Black Copper Marans
Made the list for their egg colour of course. I’ve tried a few; blue, black copper and wheaten, and I like the black copper best. These super mellow birds lay huge cinnamon to chocolate coloured eggs. I just wish they laid more of them. My Marans usually take the winter off laying, lazy things. And I wish my dominant rooster would shut up. He yells a lot. I can only spare four stars for my Marans. If their eggs weren’t so cool, they’d be GONE. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
That’s my short list for 2019. I shall probably choose one or two new breeds to try this year. Right now I have no idea which, but I am looking forward to ruminating on my choices. Because with adventures in chicken keeping, just like so many of life’s other pleasures, half the fun is in the journey, isn’t it!