A common question I receive from people who are looking to start their own adventure in raising chickens is, "which breed is best?". The short answer is that there is no "best breed". Every chicken breed comes with ups and downs. I have, however, owned and been introduced to a variety of chicken breeds that I have favored and found to be more sustainable than others. This list narrows down the 5 breeds I believe to be best when it comes to sustainability and earning their keep.
All pictures are taken by me.
The Silkie is a very popular and fashionable chicken breed well known for their fluffy hair like feathers and black skin. Silkies are renown for their broodiness. Their desire to hatch and care for their chicks makes them, on average, the most broody chicken breed in the world. Silkie chickens will incubate any chicken egg and ensure a good hatch rate. Every silkie hatch that I have had, has been overwhelmingly successful.
Unfortunately, the downside to Silkies is their maintenance. Silkie feathers are not very waterproof unlike chickens with normal feathers. This makes it very hard for Silkies to survive in areas where it rains often. If you desire to own Silkies, your coop should be weather hardy and prepared for tropical storms and floods. It is important that their coop resists mud using sand or other types of bedding. Silkies covered in mud "drown", silkies covered in water perish from the cold.
2. White Leghorn
The large white eggs that you pick up in the grocery store are laid by white leghorns. These birds are prolific large egg layers and in my experience are docile.
The downside to these birds is that they are not generally broody birds, preferring to lay their egg and vacate the nest box. So don't count on them trying to hatch your eggs. They are also not very meaty birds. So don't count on them to become your source for chicken meat unless you plan on feeding them especially fattening foods.
3. Red Ranger
The Red Ranger has a large body and lays large brown eggs. It is a broiler type bird with breast meat that is always propositional to leg meat. UNLIKE the Cornish Cross that generally lives up to 7 months on a meat bird diet Red Rangers have wonderful livability and are weather hardy. Red Ranger roosters can be high strung depending on personality and do pack a wallop if they decide to spur you. I suggest this bird for experienced people who are not afraid to wrangle big roosters in case they decide to challenge you.
4. Easter/Olive Eggers
Those crazy blue and green eggs you'll find in backyard chicken coops are not the signs of a rotting egg, but the beautiful work of an Easter Egger. Easter Eggers are mixed breed Ameraucana/Araucana chickens. Their most defining features are cheeks, chin feathers called "earmuffs" (some Easter Eggers don't have them) and green or olive colored legs. They are decent egg layers and because of their mixed breed heritage may lay more eggs than brood them (although they do occasionally go broody).
Easter/Olive Eggers can lay blue, green, gray, and olive colors. They can lay darker shades and lighter shades of these colors too.
5. Mixed Breeds
Mixed breed chickens are a fun, colorful and educational way to see what genes your chickens are carrying and the possibilities of endless colors. Mixed breeds like the sex link, buff rocks and others are prolific egg layers. Sometimes laying 2 a day depending on the seasonal changes. They do not usually get broody and if they do it is easy to break them of it.
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