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chicken breeds

What's the Best Chicken for You?

When selecting hens for your backyard chickens, it's important to pick breeds that do well in your climate and match the temperament and production level you seek.

By Leah Zerbe

tags: BACKYARD CHICKENS



RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Maybe you're going to start raising a handful of backyard chickens because you want to know where you food comes from. Maybe you've heard that chickens allowed to forage and live more natural lives on pasture rather than in small cages produce the healthiest eggs, ones rich in beneficial omega-3s. Or maybe you're disgusted after learning that drug-resistant bacteria like MRSA fly off of highway poultry trucks as they ship factory-farmed chickens to slaughter, or that your typical supermarket chicken—even after undergoing chlorine baths—is often contaminated with harmful bacteria. Or maybe you just want a friendly pet who also eats the ticks in your yard and occasionally provides a delicious egg or two.


More about backyard chickens:
Do You Have What It Takes to Raise Chickens?
A Guide to Raising Chickens in Your Small Yard

Whatever the reason, if you're joining the backyard chicken revolution, you'll want to choose a bird that meets your needs. So Rodale.com turned to chicken expert Christine Heinrichs, author of How To Raise Chickens: Everything You Need To Know (Voyageur Press, 2007), spokeswoman for the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities, for advice on picking the right chicken breed. The good news? Whatever breed you end up with will probably get along fine with your family. Heinrichs says that early experiences make a big difference in chickens. "Being raised around humans, being gently handled from day one, can make a pet out of nearly any chicken," she says.

The first step, of course, is to figure out if you have what it takes to raise chickens. If you do, and you understand the ins and outs of raising backyard chickens, it's time to figure out which breeds might work best for you. (You can order chickens from your local feed mill, or from MyPetChicken.com, a site with additional information on choosing breeds.) If you can, Heinrichs suggests attending poultry shows to see different breeds, and talking to breeders to make sure the birds you get are from a flock that meets the standards you are looking to enjoy in your flock. But be warned, the decision isn't just a matter of adding up the pros and cons. "Almost certainly, once you have decided that you want chickens, you will see the birds you can’t live without," Heinrichs says. "That’s the breed for you."

Published on: May 24, 2010
Updated on: May 24, 2011



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I love our Americaunas! They are mostly very friendly and definitely associate us with food. If they are outside their pen and we come walking across the lawn/field they will RUN flat out toward us to see what treats we have. They are also great layers. We generally get a bit less than one per day. Shades of blue-green with one hen laying a pinkish-brown. We also have one Cuckoo Maran and one Buff Orpington. They are both great too.

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We have a few of them as part of our large (700+ bird) egg flock. Over the years our adult Americanas have tendeded to be more independent than most of our other chickens, but reliable egg layers and not a problem with the other chickens. Since you have just a few hens yours will learn to be more social with you than they might be as part of a large flock. All chickens learn to associate their humans with food, and will even learn to eat out of your hand and be petted/picked up if you want to. Each hen will have her own distinct personallity and some are chummier than others.

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