People around the United States are starting to take up keeping chickens in their backyards. Their reasoning for this is for egg production and in some instances meat production. Watching the film Food Inc. and how commercial farming takes place it gave me enough courage to take action. However, when there are close neighbors, city laws, and predators in the area not all chickens are created equal. Roosters are not needed to have eggs. I have had over a dozen chickens, and they all laid eggs with no rooster in sight.
Some of the most fundamental characteristics for keeping backyard chickens are docile, quiet, adapt well to confinement, egg production, and if they are cold hardy. I have compiled a list with the help of Henderson’s chicken breed chart of the top five chicken breeds that fit these criteria.
Buff Orpington The Buff Orpington is a favorite of mine. I have been able to teach some of mine tricks. They will come when called and can handle them immensely easily. Those looking to keep these chickens for meat purposes this is the way to go, as they are a dual-purpose bird. However, if you have a different breeds in a flock they tend to be bullied. Buff Orpington chickens are cold hardy, and one of the few breeds that will continue to lay during the winter, which I have experienced first hand. They start laying around 24 weeks of age and get one every other day.
Barred or Plymouth Rocks Barred Rocks are also an excellent dual-breed bird, but is also useful in egg laying. However, they do well in confinement and are also docile and quiet. Buff Orpington chickens are quieter in my opinion. Barred Rocks tend to produce more than Orpington chickens. Barred Rocks also have a larger egg.
Sex Link Chickens The advantages of these chickens are they are bred to be able to determine the gender of the chicken at birth. This is extremely important, as no one wants a 5 am wake up call for your entire neighborhood from one of your “female” chickens. I have one of these chickens, and she is on top of the pecking order. She is more vocal than all my other chickens, but the funniest to watch. They are better egg layers, and yet quiet enough.
Delaware Chickens Delaware chickens are the best egg layers on this list and are cold hardy. They are also dual-purpose birds. They are smaller than the Orpington or Barred Rock chickens. They are calm and docile, as well as adaptable to confinement.
Brahma Chickens Brahma chickens challenge the Buff Orpington chickens in docility. Brahma chickens are the largest breeds on this list. However, they are probably the worst of the egg layers, and the slowest to mature. Brahma chickens are the best choice if looking for a meat bird.