Growing up on a farm and helping to manage her and her husband's homestead, Cindy has a wealth of knowledge to share with others.
There are hundreds of breeds of chickens!!!
With hundreds of chicken breeds in existence, picking only 10 as the best hens for the homestead can be a daunting task. Fortunately, lots of information about the different chicken breeds is available in books and on the internet. In my research to discover the chicken breed or breeds that would be good for a homestead or small farm setting, I found that several characteristics are better suited for most homestead situations.
My first requirement concerning chicken breeds was that the breed had to be non-hybrid. This would allow me to hatch future generations of chickens from the eggs that the chickens laid. So after my initial purchase of chicks/chickens, all future chicks would, or could if I chose to do so, come from my chickens. The eggs laid by hybrids have a very low fertility rate making them unsuitable for this purpose.
The next characteristic that was important was that the chicken had to be a dual-purpose breed. Some chickens are raised entirely for their egg-laying abilities, while others are raised for their meat-producing abilities. Dual-purpose breeds are a happy medium that can be found between these two extremes.
The next thing that I considered was the temperament or personality of the different chicken breeds. I knew there were traits that I did not want to deal with: aggressive, flighty, noisy, wild or restless, and not able to deal well with confinement. The traits that were important to me were: friendly, easily handled, fairly quiet, calm, docile, deals well with confinement or free-range environments. Although no chicken will fit exactly within these temperament parameters, there were tools that helped make this selection process much easier. (Link is provided below for use in selecting breeds that might be appropriate for your situation.)
Other important criteria included egg production which should be medium to high, egg size which should be medium to large, and the chicken should be broody seldom to average. Broody means the propensity for the chicken to want to sit on a nest of eggs in order to incubate them. A chicken that is very broody, can be aggressively protective about keeping you away from her eggs.
And the last criteria that I used in breed elimination was that the breed could not be white. Since I intended to allow the chickens to free-range, this was critical. White chickens are easier for the predators (such as hawks, coyotes, and foxes) to see and snatch from my flock. Why was free-range so important? Free-range chickens are healthier and their eggs are more nutritious.
And the 10 winning homestead breed recommendations, listed alphabetically, are:
Chickens known as Easter Eggers because of the various shades of blue and blue-green shelled eggs that they lay are often sold as this breed. The hen will weigh approximately 5.5 pounds. Easter Eggers are common and easy to find. The standard Ameraucana is rare and harder to locate. Either is acceptable for the homestead.
Because the Barnevelder is a rare breed, it is harder to come by and their initial cost can be many times more than the other breeds. They are famous for their eggs which are a very dark reddish-brown with a matte finish. Their feathers have a very striking lace pattern. The hen will weigh 6-7 pounds.
This breed is also rare, making it a little harder to locate. Their eggs which are a creamy white to lightly tinted can be a little on the small side, but the bird fattens up easily. But for future generations of chickens, they are good brooders and good mothers. The hen weighs approximately 6.5 pounds. An interesting fact about this chicken is that it can have 5 toes, rather than the normal 4.
4. American Holland
Despite the name, this breed was developed in the United States after about 15 years of experiments and was established in 1949. This hen can also be broody but is good-tempered and calm. The hen weighs in at about 6.5 pounds. Two color choices are available, white or barred. Barred would be a better choice because of predation.
This breed has been described as a good, old breed, like a fine cup of coffee. It is also a rare breed and has been endangered in the not too distant past. It was used in the development of many breeds. It is a good brooder helping to ensure future generations. The hen weighs in at approximately 7.5 pounds. There are several color variations to choose from; however, the mottled coloration is very striking.
6. Jersey Giant
Although this bird, weighing in at a whopping 10 pounds lives up to its name, it is my least favorite breed. The main reason being that because of its size it is not considered to be an economical eater. But if you are not concerned with your feed bill, and you want to raise a bird for meat, this one can’t be beaten. It is an occasional brooder and a protective mother.
This breed is often described as a big gentle bird and can be bullied by other breeds in the flock. The buff-colored bird is very common, whereas, the other colors – black, blue or white – are quite rare. This breed is a good brooder and an excellent mother. The hen weighs in at 8 pounds and produces an above-average sized brown egg.
This breed was developed in 19th century New England and was once a very common homestead bird, and was considered to be America’s favorite bird at the time. The hen weighs approximately 7.5 pounds and produces a pinkish-brown egg that is above average in size. This breed has very many color choices to choose from.
This breed is an Old English favorite, which is uncommon and somewhat difficult to find. The hen weighs in at 7 pounds and is considered to be a good brooder and a good mother.
The Welsummer is also considered to be an uncommon breed, however, I was able to find many hatcheries who carried this breed. This breed is especially known for its large, rich dark terracotta brown eggs. These birds have a beautiful red partridge color and weigh approximately 6 pounds.
This is my top ten list of chickens that I would consider for a homestead, or backyard flock, for the reasons that I mentioned above. Obviously, if your criteria for choosing birds are different than mine, your list will be different. And with 100’s of breeds to choose from, no two lists will be the same.
Breed Selection Tool
This Breed Selection Tool can be used to help you determine which breed of chicken will best fit your situation. And Henderson’s Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart is an excellent source of information providing characteristics of the different breeds. Happy chicken hunting.
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© 2011 Cindy Murdoch
Comments: "Hens for the Homestead or Backyard Chicken Coop: Top 10 Chicken Breeds "
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on July 21, 2020:
Thanks for stopping by.
Richard Lindsay from California on March 29, 2016:
I have a few free range chickens that I keep. Mine are Rhode Island reds and they do really well. I like your point on not to have white colored chickens for free range, that' s a very good point.
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on January 05, 2012:
Eddy - good to see you again! You spoke of "nature's other wonders", and when I see the intricate patterns on some of these chicken feathers, it is truly wonder that I feel. It is almost as if each one has been individually painted.
I hope that you someday get your chickens.
Thanks for making me see and feel the wonder once again.
Eiddwen from Wales on January 05, 2012:
Even though I don't keep chickens at the moment I still love reading all about them and any of Nature's other wonders as far as that goes.
I have to vote this one up up and away.
Take care and enjoy the rest of your day.
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 30, 2011:
davenmidtown - I know what you mean about exotic birds. My husband and I bought a pair of lovebirds one time. We took them back to the store the very next day! We lived in an apartment at the time and knew the neighbors would complain because we were complaining and they were ours!
.... very well done...hahaha
David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on September 30, 2011:
Sacramento is embroiled in a huge fight over chickens... this from a farming city. There is a parrot seven houses down that drives me crazy. It is loud and squawks at the top of its voice all day long. Some days I must close the windows and still I can hear it. I am not sure why people can not have chickens and yet they can have these kinds of pets. Regardless though, I loved this hub... very well done... no pun intended. hahaha
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 30, 2011:
davenmidtown - thanks! I'm glad I was able to trigger fond memories of your childhood. I remember some very mean chickens growing up myself. Many cities are changing their regulations and allowing people to have chickens, minus those roosters who like to get everyones attention in the mornings. So maybe things will change in Sacramento city ... or if you are looking for a reason to move, well, there you have it!
David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on September 29, 2011:
Hello Homesteadbound! Great hub... as usually! I enjoyed reading this hub a great deal. It took me back to my childhood. We had many kinds of chickens growing up. I remember the Plymouth's in the yard. We also had Rhode Island Red's and those were pretty mean. But I miss chickens. We can not have them here in Sacramento city....another reason to move maybe?
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 29, 2011:
Jackie - Well, here's hoping that you get your million so you can make that dream and many come true. Thanks for the comment and the votes.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on September 29, 2011:
I love chickens and have always wanted to have some. If I become a millionaire I will have a chicken farm, I swear! Great hub. Chickens get several votes.
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on September 29, 2011:
Cloverleaf - That's a hard question to answer. I like 3 of them: Barnevelder, Welsumer, and the Ameraucana. If I had to pick one it would be the Barnevelder because on the farm we generally had what looked a Barnevelder rooster and he was always beautiful. Eventually, I would hope to have all the breeds. Thanks for stopping by and making me have to think about it. i had even forgotten that I had purposefully placrd them in alphabetical order.
Cloverleaf from Calgary, AB, Canada on September 29, 2011:
Hi homesteadbound, I notice that you listed your top 10 breeds alphabetically, so I guess my question is: what would be your number one breed overalll and why? Personally I would go with the Sussex but then I am probably biased towards English mothers :-). Voting up and interesting!
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on August 31, 2011:
Joe Macho - I hope you don't have to wait too long! I'm glad that it helped. When you get yours in the future, you'll have to come back and let me know which breeds worked for you. Thanks for coming by!
Zach from Colorado on August 31, 2011:
The day that I get some space is the day that I get chickens. I haven't looked into the different breeds, so this article is a big help. Thanks so much.
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on August 29, 2011:
jodiejay71, not only are the good, but they are good for you. They are much higher it vitamins that the egg laid by caged birds.
jodiejay71 on August 27, 2011:
The free range eggs that I have received have been very good! I need to get some soon. Thanks for the very informative article.
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on August 10, 2011:
Thanks for the comment, kntrygal95. If you get a couple guinea to mix in with your flock, they will take care of the snakes and ticks. They can be noisy though. Free range eggs not only taste better, but are better for you.
kntrygal95 on August 10, 2011:
We get fresh eggs from our neighbor who has chickens. Beats store bought anyday! Not sure what kind of chickens they are, but they are fun to watch. We thought about raising them, but was concerned about snakes.
Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on August 07, 2011:
I'm so glad that you enjoyed the hub, sagebrush_mama. I did a lot of research while trying to decide which breeds would be appropriate for my flock.
sagebrush_mama from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound! on August 07, 2011:
Wonderfully informative hub, and welcome to HubPages! I have an Ameracauna hen, a few Buff Orpington chickens (3 hens and a rooster), a few Welsummers, and some Marans. All in all, they have produced spectacularly, even through our summer months, when egg production tends to fall off. I love the dark egg shell color of the Welsummer chickens, and the blue eggs of the Ameracaunas are very fun to collect.
Rated up, and useful!