We decided that we were getting chickens a good 8 months before we actually picked up the chicks. This gave me a lot of time to figure out which breeds of chickens I wanted.
At first, I was overwhelmed by just how many breeds there were. A quick search on Google pulled up hundreds of breeds and tons of information. How was I supposed to wade through all that chicken data? But as I read about the birds I had to choose from, I learned there were some basic qualities of each breed to look for that would help the decision process. Some of those categories are: egg color, feather color, temperament, size of bird, size of egg, broodiness, egg production, and rate of maturity. While I’m sure there are more criteria than that for picking out breeds of chickens, those seem to be the main reasons.
We’re only allowed to have 4 birds in my community so I had to narrow all this down somehow. Being new to this, I used what I could glean from information online and photos I could see. So I made my top two priorities in choosing breeds based on color; color of egg and color of bird.
I wanted a colorful basket of eggs from my chickens, so this was my first credential while choosing a breed. When you look at a chicken catalog, often the birds are sorted into groups by the color of the egg they lay; the main groups being brown, dark brown, blue & white. While there are other colors such as cream, pink & olive for example, they are rare and often lumped into the color group they closest resemble.
I quickly decided that I wanted blue, brown, and dark brown eggs from my chickens. There isn’t much choice when it comes to blue toned eggs, which made that choice easy: Easter Egger. They are sort of a mutt breed of chickens that always incorporates a blue egg gene from a much more expensive breed, the Ameraucana. Each hatchery has their own way of breeding these birds and there is a huge range of how they look. So it would be a mystery of what that bird would actually look like until we brought her home from the hatchery.
The dark brown selection was a bit harder. There are at least a dozen breeds that lay darker colored eggs and even then there is variation within the breed itself. Just because you bought a breed that lays chocolate colored eggs doesn’t mean that your particular hen will lay the egg that is show cased as the perfect egg for the breed. Better get two breeds, I thought, just to be sure I get some darker colored eggs. Welsummers lay dark terracotta colored eggs, sometimes with speckles. Speckles?!! I must have one of those. Then I looked at the Marans, which are supposed to lay some of the darkest eggs in the world of chickens. There are also many different colors of Marans as well. The Blue Splash variant was so pretty – I had to have one of those as well.
So now I had three breeds picked out, there was only one left to choose and it was from the biggest egg color category: Brown. I was trying to choose a range of egg colors that my future birds produced and one of the things I found interesting is that the color group of brown runs the gamut of pale cream to pink to medium brown. And to top that off, most of the breeds have a huge range in the actual color of “brown” eggs they produce. This was quite the conundrum, so I thought better to just pick a bird for the feather color. I fell in love with the color pattern of the Gold Laced Wyandotte. With feathers such a lovely shade of yellow, each one delicately outlined with a black edge to set it off from the adjacent feathers. Just lovely! Mark it sold!
I placed my order for the selected birds in fall and then poured over photos of what they might look like when I picked them up in the spring from the hatchery. Late March I brought them home and doted over them like a mother hen (pun intended). Slowly I realized that some of my birds didn’t enjoy my company as much as the others. See, what was important to me when I had the actual chicks in my hands was temperament; a quality that I had overlooked very much while picking out breeds. And while I had expected the lovely Gold Laced Wyandotte or the Easter Egger, who would eventually lay those pretty blue eggs, to be my favorite bird. It was the Marans that became the beloved hen. She is quite the tolerant bird and lets me pet her and hold her on occasion.
One of the breeds that I looked over with prejudice was the Golden Buff. I didn’t want to get one because everyone had them. I wanted something different. But what I failed to realize was that they are popular for a reason and it’s not just because they consistently lay an egg every day. Golden buffs are extremely friendly. I didn’t realize just how friendly until the recent Coop Tour when many owners could just reach down and pick up a hen (and not chase them halfway across the yard). So next time I pick out a pet chicken, you can bet that temperament will be on the top of my list. Maybe it will be a Golden Buff, or an Australorp, or a Delaware, or oooo look at that pretty one over there (here I go again)…
What was you reasons for picking your birds?
*Please note that I love my birds and their personalities. They eat out of my hand and come back to the chicken coop when I call them in for the night. Sometimes I wish that at least one of them was more of a lap chicken…