What Are The Best Chicken Breeds For Beginners?

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“I’m thinking about starting a small backyard flock, but I’m not sure which chicken breeds would be best for a beginner like me. Can you recommend some easy-to-care-for breeds that are good for both eggs and meat? I live in a suburban area with limited space, if that matters. Also, are there any breeds that are particularly friendly or good with kids?” Thanks a bunch, Karen, Melbourne, Australia.

What Are The Best Chicken Breeds For Beginners?

Hey Karen! It’s great to hear you’re interested in starting your own backyard flock. Choosing the right chicken breeds can make a huge difference in your experience as a beginner chicken keeper, especially in a suburban setting like Melbourne. Let’s explore some of the best chicken breeds for newcomers to the world of poultry keeping, focusing on those that are easy to care for, good for both eggs and meat, and suitable for your limited space.

1. Rhode Island Reds

Rhode Island Reds are often considered the quintessential beginner’s chicken breed, and for good reason. These hardy birds are excellent layers, producing around 250-300 brown eggs per year. They’re also relatively calm and easy to handle, making them a great choice for families with children.

Key characteristics of Rhode Island Reds:

  • Excellent egg layers
  • Adaptable to various climates
  • Friendly and docile temperament
  • Dual-purpose breed (good for both eggs and meat)

2. Australorps

As an Australian yourself, Karen, you might appreciate this homegrown breed. Australorps are known for their gentle nature and impressive egg-laying abilities. They’re also well-suited to the Australian climate, which is a bonus for your Melbourne backyard.

Notable traits of Australorps:

  • Prolific egg layers (up to 300 eggs per year)
  • Calm and friendly disposition
  • Heat-tolerant
  • Good foragers

3. Orpingtons

Orpingtons, particularly the Buff Orpington variety, are often described as the “golden retrievers” of the chicken world. They’re known for their docile nature and make excellent pets, especially for families with children.

Why Orpingtons are great for beginners:

  • Exceptionally friendly and gentle
  • Good egg layers (200-280 eggs per year)
  • Cold-hardy
  • Decent meat producers

4. Plymouth Rocks

Plymouth Rocks, especially the Barred Rock variety, are another excellent choice for beginners. These birds are known for their friendly disposition and adaptability to various climates, making them suitable for your Melbourne backyard.

Key features of Plymouth Rocks:

  • Good egg layers (200-280 eggs per year)
  • Friendly and easy to handle
  • Adaptable to confinement or free-range
  • Dual-purpose breed

5. Wyandottes

Wyandottes are beautiful birds known for their laced feather patterns. They’re also hardy and adaptable, making them a good choice for beginners in various climates.

Wyandotte characteristics:

  • Good egg layers (200-240 eggs per year)
  • Cold-hardy
  • Docile temperament
  • Attractive appearance

Considerations for Your Suburban Melbourne Setting

Karen, given your suburban location in Melbourne, there are a few additional factors to consider when choosing your chicken breeds:

Space Requirements

In a limited space, you’ll want to choose breeds that are content in smaller areas. Fortunately, all the breeds mentioned above can adapt well to confined spaces, provided they have enough room to move around and engage in natural behaviors.

As a general rule, allow about 2-3 square feet of coop space per bird and 8-10 square feet of run space. For a small suburban flock, 3-5 chickens would be a good starting point.

Noise Levels

In a suburban area, noise can be a concern. Hens are generally much quieter than roosters, so you might want to stick to an all-female flock. Among the breeds mentioned, Australorps and Orpingtons are known to be particularly quiet.

Climate Adaptation

Melbourne’s climate is generally mild, but it can experience hot summers and cool winters. Breeds like Australorps and Rhode Island Reds are well-suited to this climate variability.

Caring for Your Beginner Flock

Regardless of the breeds you choose, Karen, there are some basic care requirements you’ll need to meet:


Provide a secure coop that protects your chickens from predators and the elements. Ensure it has proper ventilation, nesting boxes, and roosting bars.

Feed and Water

Offer a balanced chicken feed appropriate for your birds’ life stage (starter, grower, or layer). Always provide clean, fresh water.

Health Care

Regular health checks, parasite prevention, and maintaining a clean environment are crucial. Consult with a local veterinarian who specializes in poultry for specific advice.

Egg Production Expectations

While all the breeds mentioned are good layers, it’s important to have realistic expectations about egg production. Factors that can affect laying include:

  • Age of the hens (peak production is usually in the first 1-2 years)
  • Daylight hours (hens typically lay less in winter)
  • Diet and overall health
  • Stress levels

On average, you can expect about 3-5 eggs per week per hen during their prime laying years.

Raising Chickens for Meat

While the breeds mentioned are dual-purpose, meaning they’re good for both eggs and meat, it’s worth noting that dedicated meat breeds like Cornish Cross or Freedom Rangers grow faster and produce more meat. However, these breeds require more specialized care and aren’t typically recommended for beginners.

If you do decide to raise some of your chickens for meat, Karen, be prepared for the emotional aspect of this decision, especially if you’re keeping them as pets as well.

Chicken Breeds to Avoid as a Beginner

While we’ve focused on beginner-friendly breeds, it’s also worth mentioning a few breeds that might be more challenging for newcomers:

  • Leghorns: While excellent layers, they can be flighty and nervous.
  • Game birds: Often aggressive and not suited for families with children.
  • Silkies: Require extra care due to their unique feathering.
  • Brahmas: Their large size can be intimidating for beginners.

Legal Considerations

Before you start your flock, Karen, make sure to check local regulations in Melbourne regarding keeping backyard chickens. Some areas may have restrictions on flock size or whether roosters are allowed.

Building a Relationship with Your Chickens

One of the joys of keeping chickens is the bond you can form with them. Spend time with your birds daily, offer treats (in moderation), and handle them gently. This will help create a friendly, easy-to-manage flock.

Final Thoughts…

Karen, starting a backyard flock is an exciting adventure, and I’m thrilled you’re taking this step! Remember, the best chicken breeds for beginners are those that are docile, hardy, and good egg layers. Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes all fit the bill and would be excellent choices for your suburban Melbourne setting.

Whichever breeds you choose, the key to success is providing proper care, attention, and love to your feathered friends. Don’t be afraid to start small and expand your flock as you gain experience. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying fresh eggs and the delightful company of your backyard chickens. Good luck with your new flock, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions along the way!

Whether you're a complete beginner and don't know where to start, or you're a seasoned chicken keeping professional and just want practical "how to" advice on tap our guide to keeping chickens has got you covered...

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