Choosing The Right Hens To Keep

“Hello, I’m VERY excited about your newsletter! My question is: when deciding what chickens to get for the first time, what should a person look for? There are SO many choices I’m a bit overwhelmed. I’ll be raising them for their eggs and as pets for our family to enjoy. I’d like the most friendly but also good layers. Please help. Thanks for coming to my rescue!” ~ Tami

Hi Tami.

I have to tell you that I’m so glad you are asking questions before you’ve committed to bringing home a flock.

All too often I find that people get excited about the prospect of keeping chickens and the next thing you know, they’re on their way home with the birds, having made no provisions for them. They’ve spent less time researching the animals they must to commit to caring for, than the research they did on their latest car purchase. (Tangent complete, thanks for listening.)

There are a few things to take into consideration when selecting the right breed for your particular situation:

As you mentioned, you must ask yourself if you want your chickens for eggs, meat or both.

For any readers who want meat birds, remember that the earlier you butcher the better. The point being, don’t expect to have dual purpose birds, let them lay for a few years and then to butcher them, the meat will be good only for the stew pot.

You might have other interests like exotic breeds or show breeds. Whatever reason you have for wanting chickens, determine that first.

Once you’ve determined your needs, you’ll want to look for a breed within that classification that does well in your climate.

Some breeds are better suited to extreme weather conditions than others. If your winters stay blow freezing for extended periods of time or your summers are sweltering for weeks at a time, be sure you select breeds that will handle those extremes well.

If you care what color your eggs are, white, brown, blue, green, etc. check on that too.

Now that you’ve narrowed your choices down, you can select among the breeds based upon personality.

Some chickens are skittish and flighty but are exceptional layers, some are extremely friendly but don’t lay as many eggs. Some can be aggressive but are good dual purpose birds. You’ll find breeds that are active and outgoing, others are calm and docile. There are a lot of choices but once you’ve narrowed your search with the first two steps, this part should be easier.

Of course there will be variation in individual personalities within a breed as well as the variations within the breeds themselves.

Although some breeds are friendlier as a whole, I’ve found that with love and attention from you, particularly from early on, most chickens will become friendly with their owners.

An additional help, one that I recommend often, is to talk to the people in your area who are keeping chickens. Experience is worth so much!

Tami, best of luck with your chicken keeping adventure.

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