The most important thing you can do is pick the right chickens for you. There is lots that goes into this and a a bad choice on any one of them can make for a disaster. Here are some of the most important elements to think about when picking you breeds.
- Why are you doing this? Do you want a few eggs? Are you part of that backyard flock movement? Do you want to fill your freezer filled with chickens? Do you see yourself selling eggs and or chickens?
- Where do you live? City, country, or in some subdivision with its own rules. There are laws that may impact how many and what types of chickens you may have. You many not be able to have roosters or more than three, six or some other legal arbitrary number.
- Where will you keep them? They need space and the more chickens you have the more space you need. They need shelter from the elements and predators. You for sure need coop space and preferably some outdoor space as well.
- How much time do you plan to put into this? Animals take time, chickens are no different. They need full food dishes, clean water and a clean coop. Like everything else they poop. Don’t kid yourself they poop plenty. So just like a horse stall or a kitty box they need to be cleaned up regularly not once a week or month.
- Can you afford chickens? Chickens have ongoing costs for feed and bedding. The start up costs can be huge if you need to build coop and pen space. If you plan to butcher there are costs associated with setting that up as well. Imagine what you think it will cost and double it for sure, triple it if you want to be safe.
- What is your climate? Some breeds don’t do well in the heat, others can be prone to frost bite. Do your research and learn what traits work well in your neck of the woods.
- What are your emotional desires? We are human after all and there is some emotion that goes into picking your dog, cat, horse and even your chicken. Do you want them to be friendly? Do you care if you can pick them up easily or not? Do you want “cool looking” or pretty chickens?
There is no perfect breed for anyone but knowing the answers to these questions can help to set you up for success.
I will share will share some insights in to my answers and hopefully that may help you as you muddle through trying to find the best breed of chicken for you.
- I am mostly an egg person, who has few qualms about eating poor layers, older birds that need to be rotated out, roosters and when I end up with too many birds in the fall
- I live in the country, in a rural subdivision with covenants long since ignored. I am not near anyone and in Montana generally speaking property owner rights are pretty strong.
- My chickens live in a shed with a coop within it. They have a fenced run and get lots of daylight free range time.
- I use my chickens as an excuse to get up out of the home office, so gather eggs often. I check water in the AM and PM and use self feeders. I scrap their poop board at least every other day. In the summer every day.
- My initial investment was such that they will never pay for themselves. I soon decided I wanted more chickens than my initial coop would support and found myself building a second larger coop, and giving them access to my shed in the winter. I get my feed and bedding at the local feed store. In the summer they eat very little because they free range forage so much. In the winter they eat much more.
- My climate is windy, windy, windy. In the winter you can add cold, sometimes bitter cold to that.
- I want cute, pretty birds. Plain white or brown birds have no place in my coop.
My favorite birds are dual purpose birds with cushion combs, who are active foragers. I won’t shy away from the right bird if they have a single comb. I tend to like gravitate toward the old fashion breeds because they were developed for the lifestyle they live on my place. I am not opposed to stretching my limits for something new, but don’t hesitate to send something that doesn’t work out to freezer camp if it is best. I have been known to be swayed by a pretty feather pattern a time or two. Some of my favorite breeds are wyandottes, Brahmas and rocks. They seem to work well for me. Find what works well for you.