7 Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners
Does the idea of rearing your own chickens excite you, and you don’t know where to start? From supplying you with healthy meat and eggs to providing you with great gardening fertilizer, keeping a flock of chickens is quite beneficial. Chickens are also low maintenance and can help you embrace sustainable living practices from the comfort of your yard or acreage.
However, finding the right breed of chicken to rear as a beginner can be pretty challenging. You may not know exactly what to consider or where to look. Even more, with the variety of chicken breed options available in the market, picking an ideal one can be frustrating.
We prepared this guide to keep your dream of rearing chicken someday alive. Here are the seven best chicken breeds a beginner should consider keeping:
1. Black Australorps
Black Australorps are one of the most hardworking chicken breeds you’ll ever find. They can lay more than five eggs per week and have an impeccable personality that makes them ideal for backyard rearing. Even more, they enjoy spending time with their keepers.
When you first encounter a Black Australorp, the chicken will be quiet and shy. As they get familiar with their new surroundings and owner, they’ll become friendly. These birds are also curious and intelligent, which makes them great feeders.
Based on appearance, Black Australorps have black feathers and an upright carriage. They also come with a dark-colored beak and red earlobes and wattles. Their body is rectangular in shape, while their back has a slight 45-degree angle inclination.
Male Black Australorps weigh between 8.5 to 10 pounds while females weigh between 6.6 to 8 pounds. Both genders have clean, yellow legs and white soles on their feet. You may find hatchery Australorps with willow-colored legs too.
A 4-square-foot coop space will be ideal for a Black Australorp since the chicken is big in size. If you’re rearing roosters, give each one of them between 10 and 12 inches of space to shuffle around.
Australorps enjoy foraging and pecking the yard for tasty green snacks, seeds, and bugs. If you can’t keep them as free-range birds, spare a few minutes every day to let them roam in the yard.
2. Rhode Island Reds
If you are looking for a laid-back layer to introduce to your flock, you may want to consider Rhode Island Reds for their hardiness. These chickens can withstand summer sun, snow, or rain. They also make great companion pets and are easy to care for.
Rhode Island Reds have hard feathers, inherited from their Java and Malay genes. Their ideal color stands between rich mahogany and a dark rust color. They also have red/orange eyes and red ear lobes, comb, and wattles.
As dual-purpose hens, Rhode Island Reds can be reared for both eggs and meat. The egg-laying ones start laying around 18 to 20 weeks, with others starting at 16 weeks. They can also lay between 200 and 300 eggs every year.
In terms of temperament, these hens can be docile, pushy, or even raucous. They can even be friendly, curious, or exuberant.
Thanks to their incredible pecking abilities, Rhode Island Reds scavenge for seeds and bugs. They also tolerate confinement provided optimal rearing conditions are met. Like with other birds, ectoparasites like mites can be a threat, which can be contained with dusting, careful checking, and dust baths.
If you’re keeping them in a coop, use a basic coop setup that allows them to access sunlight and proper nutrition. Rhode Island Reds get along well with other hens. However, the roosters can be aggressive when reared in plenty.
3. Sussex Chickens
Since they are very tolerant and docile, Sussex Chickens are a great breed to rear around your family members. They enjoy being stroked and held and are relatively easy to maintain. These birds are also excellent breeds if you’re looking to run a 4H project for your kids.
Sussex Chickens have long, broad backs and strikingly rectangular bodies. Their stout nature and wide shoulders make them easy to handle. They also appear perky since their tails are inclined at a 45-degree angle.
With closely-fitted feathers, Sussex Chickens look really full when you take a close look at them. You can find them in a variety of colors such as white, speckled, silver, red, light, coronation, buff, and brown.
Cockerels weigh an average of 9 pounds, hens weigh about 7 pounds, and pullets weigh about 6 pounds. As an egg-laying breed, Sussex Chickens lay between 4 and 5 large brown eggs in a week and 208 and 260 eggs per year, depending on the variety. Since they have a natural overweight tendency, feed them scraps, mealworms, and scratch grain in moderation.
Sussex Chickens can forage for food or be fed from a coop. If you have them in a coop, give each Sussex at least 4-square feet of space. They may need up to 6-square feet of space if you’re rearing them with more assertive or aggressive birds.
4. Buff Orpingtons
Buff Orpingtons are large dual-purpose chicken breeds that are perfect for beginners or children. They are also excellent backyard birds with impressive egg-laying ability. These birds mature quickly and are friendly and hardy.
Temperament-wise, Buff Orpingtons are docile, affectionate, and easy to tame. You can also keep them together with other breeds without worrying about fights. Due to their calm personality, they are also kid-friendly and love being petted.
Buff Orpington hens tend to exhibit broodiness upon reaching maturity and are excellent mothers. Both genders are cold-tolerant though their feathers are prone to waterlogging. Hot weather conditions can be challenging for these birds since they have dense feathers that overheat quickly.
You can keep Orpingtons as free-range birds if you have a backyard or land they can forage. The birds also tolerate confinement if you prefer to keep them in a coop. The egg-laying ones lay large, light brown eggs and have egg-production abilities of about 200 to 260 eggs a year.
As a heavy bird, the Buff Orpington has polished copper-colored feathers, a low stance, and a curved, broad back. The bird comes with soft, rounded, and profuse feathers, copper brown eyes, and a creamy pink beak. They also feature a bright red comb and well-rounded, medium-sized, bright red wattles.
5. New Hampshire
Though they have striking similarities with Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire chickens have triangular-shaped bodies. They also have a deep, broad body that makes them excellent for meat production. Their feathers are light red in color and feature a chestnut shade coloration with pale-yellow bits.
New Hampshire chickens lay about 200 large, tinted, or light brown eggs in a year, which amounts to 3 eggs weekly. The female ones also exhibit broodiness frequently and can make excellent mothers when left to hatch chicks. You can get one for your household when looking for a companion pet.
Males weigh around 8.5 pounds, while females weigh around 6.5 pounds. New Hampshire Bantams weigh about a quarter of what a large fowl weighs.
Since they are robust and sturdy, New Hampshire chickens rarely fall ill. However, you have to scan them for parasites like mites. Though they tolerate confinement, they grow well when reared as free-range birds.
If you prefer keeping them in a confined space, ensure that the space is properly fenced. New Hampshire Bantams fly pretty well and can escape a basic coop setup when you fail to guard them properly. You should also rear them with similarly assertive breeds to avoid conflict.
6. Naked Neck Chickens
Ranked among the strangest-looking birds in the world, naked neck chickens are a rare breed of chickens you can rear as a first-timer. They have long spindly feathers and look like a tiny-sized ostrich.
Naked neck roosters are quite taller than their female counterparts and may reach a height between 26 and 30 inches. The hens weigh between 8 and 10 pounds and may increase to a weight of 13 pounds. Since they grow faster, you can actually have one ready in three months for meat.
As one of the most intelligent breeds of chickens, naked neck chickens use their survival instincts to escape obstacles and predators. They are also very social and love being petted. When reared under optimal conditions, they can have a lifespan of up to 12 years.
Naked neck chickens produce relatively more eggs in a day compared to other chicken breeds. However, egg production reduces when you confine them in a space due to lack of exercise and diet restrictions. When properly fed, expect the hen to give you between 6 to 12 eggs in a week.
You can feed your naked neck chickens a grower feed or broiler starter with about 28 percent of protein. Reduce the feed to 16 to 18 percent of protein in the third month and switch to meat-producer feed or layer feed after six months.
If you have to rear your naked neck chickens in a confined place, give each bird between 5 to 6 square feet of space. When reared as free-range, the birds are excellent foragers and will require little nutritional supplements.
Due to their friendly and sociable nature, Ameraucana chickens are an excellent addition to a backyard flock if you’re looking for a breed that lays light blue eggs. These birds enjoy being reared in free-range since they are good foragers. Most people confuse them with Araucanas and Easter Eggers as they have genetic similarities.
Ameraucanas feature red wattles and pea combs with a face covered with a muff and beard to give them a fluffy appearance. They also have a compact U-shaped body that’s noticeable when their tails are held upright.
Standard-sized male Ameraucanas weigh 6.5 pounds while female ones weigh 5.5 pounds. Since Ameraucana Bantams are tiny-sized, their weight ranges from 24 to 30 ounces. Common color varieties include white, black, wheaten, blue, silver, blue wheaten, buff, and brown-red.
Ameraucanas have an inquisitive and friendly personality, which is suitable for beginners and families. They are also docile when reared with other flock members and rank mid-level in the birds pecking order.
In terms of egg production, Ameraucanas lay 3 to 4 blue-shelled eggs every week, which amounts to about 200 eggs a year. The blue coloring on the eggshells is created by oocyanin, which the hen’s body applies early in the egg-laying process. Set up their coop with a space of 4 square feet for each chicken.
Tips for Beginner Chicken Keepers
As with rearing any other animals, introducing chickens to your flock can be quite a challenge that requires a well-mapped-out strategy. If you have never reared or owned any chicken breed before, you need to acquaint yourself with information on raising the birds.
Here are some of the tips to get you more confident and informed about chicken rearing as a first-timer:
Before getting the chickens or chicks, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s your purpose for raising them? – Pleasure, meat, or eggs?
- Where do you plan to rear them?
- Do local laws allow you to have chickens, and if so, how many
- Do you plan to spend time with them?
- Are you prepared to clean the coop when necessary?
- Who will watch over them when you are on vacation?
Once you have a flock of your preferred chicken breed, stick to these tips for the best outcomes:
- Have adequate coop space with water containers, a feeder, a nest box (for every three hens), and roosting area
- Start with mature birds or chicks rather than eggs
- Opt for dual-purpose chicken breeds
- Give the chicken between 12 and 14 hours of daylight
- Ensure they have access to clean water and plenty of food
- Budget for the feed prices
- Establish a realistic routine with the flock
- Do regular spot-checking on the coop to ensure it’s clean
- Always empty the nesting boxes to prevent the hens from eating the eggs
- Keep the coop door open for the chickens to come and go as they wish if you’re keeping them as free-range birds
- Count the birds every night to ensure they are all safe and well
The chicken breeds listed in this guide are all easy-going and easy to care for. All recommendations factor in the fact that it can be difficult to choose a chicken breed for the first time. Good luck rearing the birds in your backyard or farm for whichever purpose you have.