February 28, 2009

The Chicken List. Argh! I can't decide!

If you have been following my blog you know that I would like to bring some chickens home to our farm this year. We have never owned chickens but I have been thinking about them for a couple years. I have always put off buying any, the old "maybe next year" syndrome. This year is going to be different, the chickens are coming home to Shiloh Prairie Farm to roost... if I could ever decide which ones that is.

I should have already ordered them but Jamey and I are having a difficult time deciding which chickens would be best for us. He wants productivity, but I am a sucker for a beautiful egg and a nice personality. Last night I researched and read about different breeds in hopes of narrowing our list down. That did not work at all because instead of paring the choices down my research only gave me the names of a few more chickens to add to my chicken wish list.

I never had any trouble deciding which breeds of goats to raise. I knew what I liked and I liked what I liked, but these chickens.... Argh! I just can't decide! I planned on ordering from Cackle hatchery since they are so close to us, but they require a minimum order of 5 chicks per breed. There will only be room for twenty chickens so I would like to narrow it down to four or five breeds only. I am indecisive, I am running out of time, I am in chicken hell here...would ya help a fellow blogger out? If you have experience with any of these breeds I would love to hear the good, the bad and the ugly about them so I can narrow my list down. Thanks so much!

The Chicken List

Ameraucana - It sounds like theAmeraucanas from most hatcheries are actually "Easter eggers", whatever you want to call them, they are on my list for productivity and egg color. Blue eggs, come on...that is cool!

Australorp - On the list for size, productivity and personality. They seem to have it all.

Barnevelder - My first choice of dark chocolate egg laying hens for rating as more docile, but they are not available in most hatcheries. My second choices are the Welsummer or Maran.

Delaware - On the list for productivity and personality, sounds like an all around good farm hen.

Faverolles - They just sound like sweethearts. Adorable and odd with muffs, a beard, and feathered feet...who doesn't want a chicken that will make them smile every time you look at them. Apparently they are too nice and submissive, often being the target of bullying. That is a concern; those poor, sweet, feather faced girls. (Have you guessed this is the breed I want yet?)

Buff Orpington - They were not rated quite as productive as some of the others on the list, but still not bad and their personality was described as "calm and patient". Since these will be our first chickens, I can't help but think calm and patient would be very good virtues for these chickens to have.

Barred Plymouth Rock - Smart, docile and beautiful producers of large brown eggs. Sounds great!

Rhode Island Red - Jamey's family had some when he was very young and he originally just wanted to get 20 of these for our farm, but how could I tell them apart then! Jamey loves their productivity and hardiness. I have heard they are dominate to other chickens and I don't want them picking on my poor, sweet Favorolles. Other than this they sound like great, red, egg laying machines and that is important too.

Red Star - Sounds like a very productive, good all around chicken.

Speckled Sussex - Supposedly these lovely birds lay well in cold weather and they are docile, mellow and easily fenced in. This was one of the chickens that got ADDED to my already too long chicken list.

Two of the places I read about these breeds at were My Pet Chicken and this handy dandy chicken chart of comparative breed information.

Clip Art by
If you are looking for some nice poultry web art, you should check out Judy's Jems.


Patrice Farmer said...

The red stars are really good. I like them alot as well as the Rhode Island Reds. So far from these I've gotten eggs daily. Barred Rocks are good but I don't know if mine is laying daily though. Its either her or the Black Sex Link that isn't laying daily but every other day.

I had some giant buff oppringtons for a short minute. They were too loud for me but if you have a farm that's probably not a problem for you. I needed quiet birds and they were way too loud, even the small one I kept was loud. I don't know about the rest but I hope to get some americaunas one day.

Amy said...

Good luck with that! We haven't raised chickens just some roosters that came on to our property from neighbor's.

Nikki said...

All I have is RIRs. So I could not say if they are bosy or not to other breeds. They give me an egg a day each. The rooster is a mean one but I think that is just the males typical way if not handled. I love my chickens but I can not name any because I can't tell them apart! They are a good breed. Good luck deciding maybe do one of those large breed mixes and let them decide the mix!

Lisa said...

OH i just went through this!! I ordered from Ideal and we ended up getting completely different chicks than I started off wanting. I wanted the speckled sussex but never ended up ordering them. We were looking for dual purpose so we got New Hampshire's... plus we are in New Hampshire lol

I also got Brahma's because they are cute and then sex linked chicks.

Good luck! keep us posted on your choices.


ChristyACB said...

I wish I could tell you which would be best, but I'm partial to the Faverolles myself as a non-current, but future chicken flock owner. I will say that the last home flock I was exposed to had some issues with the Rhode Island red picking on the more docile ones, though I don't know what those breeds were. Something to really consider if you don't want to wind up building multiple locations for different types.

Mama said...

Ameracauna's are great layers and I love that they have different styles and colors.They are pretty laid back and hardy birds.Mine is throwing pretty babes and great big green eggs.
Buffs are good layers.But my best layer right now is Black Sex Links,both have good attitudes and are top girls in the pecking line.Not really bully's.More down to business and the very first to greet me as I open my truck door(looking for food only)
Never had Fav's but they are on my short list;)
Barred's are nice,sweet and great layers.
The only one on the list I have had that I didn't like was the Austrolurps(sp)Mine had this mean look in their eye,when I sold them it was peaceful.Must have been given the stink eye to everyone LOL
Just get what you like and then go from there,always buy a few extra.Chicks are delicate..
As for more docile or mean I have propably 6 or 7 breeds living together and the meanest one is an ugly little Silkie(she stays cuz she's a good sitter).I haven't seen them pick on one breed or another.They all get along or move out the way when someone they don't like or is above them in line comes along.They just work it out.Levi my Roo is bigger than all and he trips over himself to get away from my top bantam hen LOL
Either way have fun;)

Christy said...

I adore my buffs! They are so friendly and calm. We got them at 5 months old and were able to quickly tame them to let us pick them up. They run over to us for cuddles now. I can't even imagine how friendly they'd be if we got them as chicks! They lay well too.

Flartus said...

We had a mixed flock of Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds. I don't remember the Reds particularly picking on the Buffs; I think they just established themselves at the top of the pecking order. Don't know which ones laid the best.

Our rooster was a Buff; every spring he got fiesty with me, until I did a little foot-boxing for 5 or 10 minutes with him--then he was fine for the rest of the year. We never had any problems with hens being fiesty, though.

We also had a black Polish with a white crest. Stanley was supposed to be a hen, but turned out to be a second rooster, at the bottom of the pecking order. Poor guy never grew a full crest, but we loved him anyway.

If I ever move to a chicken-friendly zone, I'd like to get some Ameraucanas, 'cause, y'know BLUE EGGS! Tcha!

Cat said...

Oh I don't envy you. I can't wait to be making those types of choices though...and I can't wait to see which ones you pick!


Carolyn said...

Just a warning. I ordered from Cackle and they sent me straight run instead of all females...

I was not happy. They refunded me for the males...but I didn't figure out they were males until they were 4-5 months old...so all that feed to waste. (I didn't have the heart to eat them so I gave them away.)

I know you really need one more option, but have you ever considered ducks. I love my ducks. I have Pekings and a Khaki Campbell Hybrid. The eggs are soooooo tasty and in my opinion much better for cooking than chicken eggs. Some duck breeds don't even care much about water. They are hardier than chickens and much cuter (also my opinion.) Their egg laying is also comparable to chickens, plus the shells are thicker so they last longer. I have never put it to the test...we eat them within a day or so here...but that's what the books say.

If ducks are not an option I would go for the barred plymouth rock...so cute. They were my chicken of choice before I discovered ducks.

~~~~~~Tonia said...

Living in Lebanon I have got my chickens from Cackle ever since I can remember. I have never had a problem whether I just walked in a bought some or ordered special..
I Absolutely LOVE my Ameracaunas! They have layed almost all winter and are so healthy!! Such a variety in colors too.
The Australorps I have are okay... I wouldnt buy them again though.
I love my silkies too! They make great mommas. I am going to use a Barred Rock Roo on some of my Australorps and Ameracaunas to see what I get.
I also have Light Brahmas. My rooster is a big baby and you can carry him around BUT it will get heavy! He weighs about 12 pounds! I like them alot! They are decent layers and easy going.
I have a couple of Barred Rock hens they are sassy and good layers even at 3 years old..
Next to goats, Chickens are my favorite! If I had to get rid of all my animals but 2 I would pick goats and chickens!!
We went thru the catalog and marked which ones we wanted and then narrowed it down. Extremely tough to do!! But you finally just have to order... And you can always get some next year to add what you get this year!!LOL WE have Ameracuanas, Light Brahmas,Australorps, Mottled Houdans(well 1 roo now) Silver Spangled Hamburg, Silkies, Barred rock, White leghorn, assorted banties... Some we just have 1 or 2 of but it gives a good variety. I have more Ameracaunas than anything I think I have 12 of those.
So many breeds and only so much room!!LOL

KathyB. said...

We have had chickens for many years. The Australorps are a nice, giant breed and will take anywhere from 7 to 9 months to begin laying eggs. Since they are large they will consume a lot of food and take up a bit more space than the average chicken. The Favorelles have feathered feet, which are a trifle more labor intensive during the wet months. If you are in love with the breeds in spite of shortcomings or extra work, then go for it!

The Americaunas will give you pretty eggs and have all been easy keepers and good layers. Red Stars are really great in egg production, as are all the other breeds you mention.

When it comes right down to it, it is nice to keep chickens that appeal to my eyes and heart, and the eggs are also appreciated. Go for what you like in chicken breeds and eggs.The interest in the breeds I choose keeps me excited about my chickens. And hey, any chickens that don't meet with approval are pretty tasty in the pot!

Jennifer said...

THANK YOU all so much for taking the time to help me out with all of this great information! Books or charts are always nice but they can't beat real experience. I have read all of your comments several times and they were enormously helpful to me. With your experiences and opinions in mind I was able to go ahead and remove the Australorps from my list and put some check marks next to a few breeds that will definitely stay on the final list. Thank you!

JK said...

Our birds come from the Cackle also. We run to Lebanon and pick them up.
I have a mix of breeds mainly Dominiques, Ameraucanas and Buffs.
My favorites are the Ameraucanas, Jim's are the Buff Orps.
See if any of the breeds you are interested in are considered winter layers.

Mom L said...

I can't help with the chicken quest - all I ever heard about were the RIRs and only since reading these blogs did I learn there are some funky, beautiful chickens out there! I don't think my landlords would approve of having chickens in my apt. But I DID look at that cackle website just for the heck of it - and discovered my sound was turned up too loud! Suddenly had a blast of chicken clucks coming out of the computer!

Nancy in Atlanta

Claire said...

I love the blue eggs we get from our Ameraucana/Easter Eggers. I have to put in a word for the Speckled Sussex - very nice temperament and also on the list for the American Livestock Breed Conservancy, so a good choice! I'd also choose a dark layer - the barnevelders are lovely, and then I'd go with the buff orpingtons. I love mine. The Faverolles are also lovely, if you have a way to keep their feet clean.

amanadoo said...

Get a mix! We've got Polish, Plymouth Barred Rock, White Leghorns and Turkish (the naked necks) running around here, and they all get along splendidly.

Those Barred Rock, and Leghorns have given us a steady supply of eggs right through this Cleveland winter. We average 6 eggs a day, but frequently get up to 13.

The Polish are useless for eggs, really. But they are more fun than you'd believe.

And the two Turkish hens we have, though ugly AS SIN, lay these great big, fabulous eggs that are almost double the size of the Barred Rock ones. Weird, since the birds are about the same in size.

I guess it depends on how many chickens you want, but I would just get two of each one that you want. We (or rather my MIL, since I probably won't be around) are adding some Amerucaunas to the flock this spring, just for the fun of their eggs!

Kate said...

I have no idea about chickens but I am excited to find your blog. I grew up on a goat farm and I miss them. I remember waking up to milk 150 goats before school. My parents used to make cheese, ice cream and pasteurized milk that they sold all over Utah. Great blog.

~~~~~~Tonia said...

Oh I forgot we have a couple of Polish too!! The polish roosters tend to get cocky!! Hmm imagine that but the hens are sweet little conversation pieces! Cackle has the Rainbow layer special too. You dont know which ones you are getting but I do believe you get a variety of breeds.

Stephanie said...

I only have expereince with the Reds and the Buffs. Both are good layers. Buffs have a reputation for being good winter layers too. If you are looking for dual purpose the Buffs are bigger for meat.

Are you getting a rooster? Red roosters are notoriosly mean. I had a lot of trouble with ours and the kids. He never hurt the kids, but scared them almost daily. We got rid of him.

Our Buff rooster is very gentle. He takes care of his girls, but has never threatened us.

The Red hens temperment is not as fierce (unless they have chicks) The Buff hens are very gentle. Some of my best hens are from a Red hen and a Buff rooster.

I haven't ordered my chicks yet either. I'm behind everywhere! (As I sit reading blogs! LOL!)

Jenny said...

We had our decision made for us when some friends told us they had 10 baby chicks we could take! We didn't have any idea what they even were. But they turned out to be easter eggers. We have three green egg layers and one brown. Yeah, out of ten chicks, we had six roosters! But so far we have put four of them in the pot, and one more to go. Keeping one rooster so we can raise some babies with an incubator. It's so fun going out to pick up fresh eggs, though. You'll have fun with whatever you decide!

Brenda said...

I don't have a farm now,but was raised on a farm and my grandparents had a farm. I think the Road Island Red has been a favorite for years. I can see why your husband ants them. My dad always has some Ameracauna's mainly for us to have the colored eggs,but I do remember they were sweet and gentle.The Barred Plymoth Rock is another old faithful that has been around for sometime.I guess it depends if you ant what is pretty or what breeds have really been around.Best of luck,Brenda

The Forge Village Farmer said...

My Australorp is super-sweet, and has beautiful black feathers that are irridescent green in the sun. She's still a pullet, but has started laying every day. I also have a great RIR, and a New Hampshire Red, who is fiestier, but also a good layer. I got my chickens from My Pet Chicken, and had a great experience.

Jennifer said...

Wow! I am blown away by the number of comments and how helpful everyone has been with my chicken dilemma. Thank you all so much, both DH and I have read all of them and we are about too a final list with your help!

FarmHouse Style said...

I have Buffs and have found them to be very good layers and the hens are very gentle. I even have one, Miss Honey, that follows me around like a little puppy and lets me hold and pet her. My Rooster was a bit aggressive but he took good care of the girls.

Thanks for stopping by to visit me. I hope you will drop in again sometime.


Alix said...

Skip the chickens and get White Pekin ducks. Their poop smells just as bad, but they are prettier. Oh, and their eggs are yum!

DayPhoto said...

You could try a mix of different ones, the factory should do that for you. And if you get them all at the same time they will grow up as brothers ans sisters. If you don't want any roosters let them know, if you do decide to get roosters try for one roosters for every 10 hens.

I managed to get three roosters, but I didn't want any. So I gave away two and kept one. He was a little mean at first but seems to be calming down every day. I have too many girls for him 15, but it keeps him moving to keep guard on them so he is too busy to care what else is happening on the farm. :)


JamieH said...

I love Buff Orpington's....my grandpa had some for awhile and they were very calm birds. Rhode Island's are pretty common and produce well. My grandpa has had all of the breeds you've got listed here but 3 and did really well with all of them.