10 Best Chicken Breeds to Keep in California
The vibrant agricultural character of California now extends to the backyard of cities from the large farms. More residents are keeping poultry in their backyards for an egg bounty and an almost endless supply of quality meat.
Several municipal laws dictate how many chickens you are allowed to keep and the buffers you should have to ensure your poultry keeping does not affect the peace of other residents.
One of the main determinants of the benefits you will reap from poultry keeping and what you need for the venture is the chicken breed you choose.
Your climate, the qualities you are looking for, and the purpose of your poultry keeping are some of the elements that should guide your choice of a chicken breed. To ease your decision-making, below are the ten best breeds for poultry farmers in California.
The Australorp is a cross of Orpington, Minorca, Langshan, White Leghorns, Rhode Island Red, and possibly Plymouth Rock chickens to get an exceptional layer. Its original color is black, but there are white, blue, buff, golden, wheaten laced, and splash varieties.
The Australorp is a heavy bird with soft, close-fitting feathers. The males weigh 8.5-10 pounds, while hens with 6.5-8 pounds. Bantam hens weigh 1.7-2.2 pounds, whereas males weigh 2-2.7 pounds.
An Australorp tolerates confinement well but will enjoy free-ranging as it loves being active. Free-ranging also keeps the bird from being obese. Though initially slightly shy, an Australorp will start following you around and be friendly when it settles in.
It is a calm, quiet breed that can be bullied by aggressive chicken breeds since it is often in the middle of the pecking order. The bird will lay about 250 eggs annually, translating to about five medium-sized brown eggs weekly. Austalorps live for 6-10 years.
Barred Plymouth Rock
The first Plymouth Rock chicken was seen in 1849 before going under for about 20 years and reappearing around 1869. The ‘’barred’’ in the breed’s name comes from its plumage which has black and white bars.
The males have equal white and black bars with feathers ending in dark tips, while females have slightly wide black bars compared to the white ones. A standard Barred Plymouth Rock hen weighs approximately 7.5 pounds, while roosters have maximum weights of 9.5 pounds.
Barred Plymouth Rocks are mellow birds that get along with almost all chicken breeds. They are docile, calm, sweet, and curious explorers. The birds love free-ranging though they will tolerate confinement well when given enough space.
Once they establish a relationship, the birds are trusting and get along well with kids. Barred Plymouth Rocks are dual-purpose birds. They lay about 200 large brown eggs annually and grow quickly to be considered adequately-sized table birds at 8-12 weeks.
This is not a recognized breed but rather a hybrid of the Rhode Island Red and Leghorn. The bird is reddish brown and matures to six pounds if male and 4 pounds if female.
The Golden Buff is sex-linked, meaning you can tell its sexes apart from chickhood. Roosters are white with reddish-brown hues around their wings and necks, whereas the hens have buff hues.
Golden Buffs are ideal for beginner poultry keepers because they are calm and friendly. They are also quiet birds that handle confinement well, making them suitable for urban settings.
Golden Buffs lay about 250 large brown eggs annually and start laying at around five months old.
This chicken breed is aptly named because it is one of the largest you can pick for your coop. The Jersey Giant is also named after the state in which it was created.
The rooster can weigh 13-15 pounds and reaches heights of 22-26 inches, while the hen weighs about 11 pounds and reaches 16-20 inches. Its body is broad and deep, giving it a square-like look. There are white, blue, and black Jersey Giants.
Despite its size, the Jersey Giant is a mellow, docile, and friendly bird. It is good with kids though its size can intimidate very small kids.
Though primarily kept for meat production, the Jersey Giant lays 150-200 eggs yearly. Its large size makes the bird an excellent table bird. Unfortunately, it does not mature quickly and can take about two years to reach a good weight.
The Leghorn is thought to have originated from the Landrace chickens in Tuscany, Italy. Though most birds are white, there are also buff, silver, black, brown, and red varieties. Leghorns also have rose or single combs.
The rose combs are specifically meant for the U.S. to survive in the region’s harsh winters. A standard rooster weighs about 7.5 pounds, and the hen weighs 5-6 pounds.
The Leghorn is intelligent and can find its own food when free-ranging because it is resourceful. It is active and can roost in trees when allowed because it is a good flyer.
Unfortunately, it can be noisy, so it is not ideal for urban settings. The Leghorn lays 280-320 eggs annually. Its eggs become larger as the bird ages.
This chicken breed originated in England. It was created by crossing Langshan, Plymouth Rock, and Minorca chicken to get a good layer with quality meat. The Orpington has soft contours and rich plumage colors, making them popular show birds.
They reach adult weights of 3.2 to 4.8 kg, with the bantams reaching 1.6-2.0 kg. The most common color for Orpingtons is buff, but there are also white, black, splash, and blue birds.
Orpingtons are docile birds that are excellent with kids. They are very personable and thus connect well with their owners. The chickens lay 175-200 eggs annually on average though they can lay as many as 340 eggs in the right environment.
The Plymouth Rock chicken was named after its landing place when the pilgrims brought it to America. It is one of the first established chicken heritage breeds. Researchers theorize that the breed was developed from the Dominique and Black Java chicken breeds.
The varieties of the Plymouth Rock include Barred, partridge, silver penciled, blue, buff, Colombian, and white. The standard weight of a rooster is about 9.5 pounds, while the hen weighs 7.5 pounds on average.
Plymouth Rocks are naturally curious birds that will quickly become your friends. They are docile and interact well with children. They can even become lap chickens when handled early because they enjoy the attention and getting stroked.
The Plymouth Rock is a dual-purpose breed. Unfortunately, its egg production reduces after the first three years.
Rhode Island Red
This bird was initially developed as a utilitarian dual-purpose breed rather than for its fancy looks in New England. The Rhode Island Red is a Malay rooster refined through mating with the Chinese Cochin, Plymouth Rock, Brahma, Malay, Java, and Brown Leghorn breeds.
The hen weighs about 6.5 pounds, while a rooster weighs approximately 8.5 pounds. A bantam rooster weighs about 2.1 pounds, whereas a hen weighs 1.9 pounds.
Rhode Island Reds are curious, friendly, exuberant, and lovable. Though they tolerate confinement well, they are active foragers. Unfortunately, they are noisy, so they might not be the best choice if you live in a cramped neighborhood.
A Rhode Island Red will start laying eggs at 18-20 weeks and lay 150-250 eggs annually, with their sizes increasing as the hens age.
It is believed that the current Sussex was bred with Dorkings, Brahmas, and Cochins to get a well-proportioned, robust bird. It comes in buff, coronation, white, brown, silver, red, and speckled varieties. The bird is graceful, with wide shoulders, a rectangular-shaped body, and a broad back.
The Sussex is friendly and docile. It is easy to handle, making it ideal for beginner poultry keepers and places with kids.
Sussex chickens are very curious, so they might follow you around. They tolerate summer heat and cold weather incredibly well. Sussex hens lay 240-260 eggs annually, with the white and brown varieties being the best layers.
The chicks mature quickly, making them ideal for meat production. You can harvest the cockerel at about six months of age.
This breed was created in the Northeastern region of the U.S. and is renowned for its reliability in meat and egg production. It is the first dual-purpose American breed named after the Wyandotte Indian Nation in honor of their aid to the first white settlers in the region.
The Wyandotte is a large bird with roosters weighing about 9 pounds and hens weighing 6-7 pounds. It comes in silver-laced, gold-laced, silver penciled, blue, Colombian, partridge, buff, white, and red varieties.
Wyandottes are friendly, calm, docile birds. Though they stick together, the birds are often high in the pecking order and will not be bullied by other breeds. They enjoy free-ranging but tolerate confinement well. Unfortunately, they are noisy and thus inappropriate for those with close neighbors.
They live for 6-12 years and lay about 200 eggs annually, even in the winter. They also grow to decent sizes for table birds.
If you have been considering poultry keeping in California, you now have adequate information on ten of the best breeds for your venture.
Remember that the care of these breeds is different so take time to study what you can comfortably handle. Care, in this case, primarily entails housing, managing health issues, and feeding.