By Ingrid Fromm and Kristen Warren
Kristen and Ingrid Give Their Recommendations for Your First Flock
Chick season is upon us, and we know many people are starting their adventure into backyard chickens for the very first time. So we wanted to share with you top our picks for the best backyard chickens for your starter flock.
Let’s talk chickens.
STARTER FLOCK RECOMMENDATIONS
We broke our choices down to 11 different chicken types. Keep in mind, many of these chickens will fit into multiple categories. Here they are in no particular order.
Examples of chickens with stripes include the Plymouth Barred Rock, Cuckoo Marans, and Dominque. These three breeds look very similar, especially the Barred Rock and Dominque. Dominques have rose comb, where the Barred Rock has a traditional pointed comb. The Cuckoo Marans sport less distinct stripes, but will likely give you a dark brown egg. Barred Rocks also tend to be chatty. (One of Ingrid’s personal favorites)
SPECKLED OR MOTTLED CHICKEN
Some of our favorite speckled chickens include the Jubilee Orpington, Speckled Sussex, Mottled Java, Millie Fleur D’uccle. Any chicken with a Millie Fleur (million flowers) description will be speckled. The feather pattern is fun and all those breeds are wonderful additions to any flock.
LACED PATTERN CHICKEN
This is where the Wyandotte chickens come into play. There are Silver Laced, Blue Laced Red, Gold Laced, and Partridge Wyandottes that all sport a laced feather pattern.
They have a rose comb which makes them a great choice for cold climates and tend to be a bit reserved. They enjoy the company of other Wyandottes, so that’s a perfect reason to get two different laced types!
Wyandottes are decedents of the Brahma chicken, which brings us to the beautiful laced patterned feathers of the Dark Brahma. Plus, who can resist those big booted feet. Barnevelders and Partridge Rocks are also great choices for beautiful laced feather patterns.
COLORFUL EGG LAYER
Everyone wants the multi-colored eggs, so why not get some colorful egg layers? The Ameraucana are known for its blue eggs. Most people see chickens labeled Ameraucana, but they are probably getting an Easter egger, which is a generally a mix that lays a blue or green egg (and sometimes brown). It is bred to carry the gene for a blue egg, but you know how genes go sometimes.
Cream Legbars and Whiting True Blues also lay beautiful blue eggs. While we don’t have experience with those breeds in our flocks, but they are definitely worth mentioning.
Olive Eggers (also a mix) can lay eggs in various shades of olive green. The outward appearance of Easter and Olive Eggers can vary dramatically depending on what they are mixed with. Many have those puffy cheeks (like the Ameraucana, have dark legs, or are blue (grey colored).
COCHIN: FOR BROODINESS
Cochins are great chickens if you want to have a broody hen and let her raise babies to add to your flock. It truly is the best way to add to your flock. Cochins (like all broodies) will raise any kind of chicken. They are large and have a chubby appearance with booted feet and tend to be docile with a great disposition.
Other broody breeds include Silkies, many Bantams, Orpingtons, Brahmas, and Speckled Sussex.
DARK BROWN EGG LAYER
Once you add those colorful eggs to your basket, you need a dark brown egg. Black Copper Marans, French Copper Marans, (the French type always have lightly feathered feet, Black Copper Marans can have sometimes have feathered feet) and Cuckoo Marans are known for their rich, dark brown eggs. Just keep in mind, this is the result of breeding, so there is no guarantee that all Marans will lay truly dark brown eggs.
Welsummer and Barnevelders also can lay dark brown eggs, many times the eggs are speckled.
GREAT EGG LAYER
There are lots of chickens that fit into this category. We love the Rhode Island Red. They are remarkable, classic egg layers. We feel every flock should have one at some point.
There are also Rhode Island White and Rhode Island Blue chickens. Red Comet, Red Star, Isa Brown, Red or Black Sexlinks are also amazing egg laying chickens and a great addition to your flock.
We both personally feel every flock needs a bantam or two. There are true bantams, such as Seramas, D’uccles, Pekin bantams, Silkies, and Seabrights, which are chickens that only come in a small size.
Or the other type of bantams are those which have a standard counterpart, such as old English game bantam, bantam cochin, or practically any breed bred to be small. As a rule, these bantam chickens are typically 1/4th or 1/5th of the standard sized chickens.
Bantams are delightful little birds that can be broody, booted, have big cheek feathers, speckled, or pretty much anything under the sun. And we personally believe true bantams don’t even count when it comes to chicken math.
Known as the Golden Retriever of chickens or lap chickens, Orpingtons are truly a must-have for any flock. They are friendly, can be broody, and make great momma chickens. They come in different colors; Buff (most popular), Chocolate, Lavender, Black, or even speckled. (like the Jubilee Orpington mentioned above). English Orpingtons are even larger than their American counterparts and have a similar friendly disposition.
It’s also nice to have a fun breed in your flock, and by this, we mean something unique or silly looking. The Polish and Silkies are great examples of this. However, keep in mind, these two breeds do not have good chicken instincts. Silkies cannot get up on high roost bars and both have feathers in front of their eyes, making it harder for them to escape from predators.
There are also frizzle varieties of chickens which are breed to have feathers that curl upward and outward from the body instead of laying flat. Certain breeds are more prone to frizzling than others, such as Cochins, Polish, Plymouth Rocks. The frizzle trait is an incomplete dominant gene, so those distinct feathers are not always guaranteed when breeders are trying to get a frizzle. If you cross a silkie with a frizzle, you get a sizzle!
Lastly, we wanted to include a barnyard mix. In fact, many of those blue and green egg layers are mixes, which makes them sturdy, unique looking, and healthy. Because mixed breeds have a deeper gene pool their general health tends to be better. Certain pure breeds can be subjected to poor breeding or genetic predispositions for various ailments.
The mix of two or more breeds in a chicken makes for a great addition to any flock. It’s like getting the best traits of different chicken breeds wrapped up in one chicken.
That’s our top 11 types of chickens for a starter flock. Many of these types can satisfy two or more traits we love. For example, a speckled bantam chicken, a barnyard mix that lays green eggs, or a silver laced Cochin. There are so many great breeds and types of chickens, you really can’t go wrong. While there are certain characteristics that may be expected, keep in mind, they are all individuals and chickens usually break the rules, so enjoy your flock, no matter what!