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The 7 Best Chickens for Beginners [Easy to Raise and Great Layers!]

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Chickens can add a new dimension to your life, whether you’re homesteading or living in an urban environment. Their most incredible super power is their ability to produce eggs but that’s not all they’ve got going for them.

Black Australorp chickens lounging on their roost.

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying Chickens?

Chickens bring multiple benefits to your backyard, homestead, farm, or garden, gobbling up unwanted bugs and weeds, providing you with an almost limitless supply of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, and disposing of kitchen scraps in an eco-friendly manner. They’re also highly entertaining and make excellent pets.

You can’t just go out and buy a flock and hope for the best, however. Chickens need to be secured at night to protect them against predators.

They also need a coop, space to lay – around two to three square feet per chicken – and space to roam – around eight to 10 square feet per bird.

Your chickens will need feed, water, and regular maintenance to keep them in good health. Both the birds and their coop will need cleanly from time to time to prevent common healthcare issues such as mites, respiratory conditions, coccidiosis, and avian influenza.

best-chickens-for-beginners

When choosing the best variety of chickens for new homesteaders, consider all critical variables! Details like chicken temperament, size, cold hardiness, broodiness, and egg-laying are vital. Also – do you want chickens for meat? Or just eggs? Food for thought!

When looking for the best chickens for beginners, it’s also important to decide whether you want layers for eggs, or broilers for meat, or a more multi-functional chicken that can do both.

Some breeds of chicken are more difficult to keep than others.

The Buff Orpington, for instance, has “a tendency towards obesity” and may struggle in hot temperatures.

Similarly, the eye-catching La Fleche is a rare breed for a reason – it doesn’t do well in confinement, making it a difficult breed to maintain, especially as their secretive nature leads them to hide in obscure places.

What Are the Best Chickens for Beginners?

  1. Rhode Island Red
  2. Australorp
  3. Orpington
  4. Leghorn
  5. Speckled Sussex
  6. Plymouth Rock
  7. Ameraucana

When you start looking for your first flock, you should ask yourself what is the friendliest type of chicken, and make sure you avoid the more aggressive breeds, like the Malay chicken which is both “intolerant of close confinement” and “among the most aggressive”.

The breeds for beginners are generally the friendliest. These include the adorably fluffy Silkie (made famous by the actress Tori Spelling), the lesser-known Speckled Sussex, who will do anything for a cuddle, and the more common Rhode Island Red.

Read More – How Many Hens Can a Rooster Live With Safely? This Many!

1. Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red free range chicken on her morning stroll

Out of these, the Rhode Island Red is our favorite chicken for beginners. Not only is it friendly and easy to keep, but, as one of the most successful dual-purpose birds, is both a good layer and delicious to eat (if you can face turning your friendly fowl into food).

  • Appearance: Rhode Island Reds (RIRs) have a rusted to dark maroon or black plumage. They are medium-sized, robust birds.
  • Uses: RIRs are excellent dual-purpose chickens suitable for egg production and meat.
  • Size: Hens are around six and a half pounds, and roosters are around eight or nine pounds.
  • Eggs Per Year: Hens lay around 180 to 250 light brown-colored eggs annually.
  • Personality: Friendly, adaptable, and cold-hardy.

Rhode Island Red chickens hail from New England and are tremendous egg layers. You’ll notice that Rhode Island Red roosters are relatively large – and since the breed comes from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, they are rather cold-hardy.

Other good dual-purpose breeds include:

2. Australorp

australorp

Australorp chickens are another excellent breed for new homesteaders. They’re dual-purpose birds, prized for their delicious eggs and meat. They come from Australia – and in 1929, they gained status within the American Poultry Association.

  • Appearance: Black Australorps have glossy black feathers with a greenish-purple sheen.
  • Uses: A majestic dual-purpose breed for both egg and meat production.
  • Size: Hens are around six to seven pounds, and roosters can weigh up to nine pounds.
  • Eggs Per Year: Expect around 280 to 300 light-brown eggs per year.
  • Personality: Calm, gentle, and good foragers.

Australorp – in addition to being a good layer, the Australorp is also a hardy breed and produces great-tasting meat. They also do well in a mixed flock.

3. Orpington

orpington

Orpington chickens are one of our favorite chicken breeds – originating from William Cook in the late 1800s. William’s goal with Orpington chicken was to create a (nearly perfect) breed that lays bountiful eggs – even during winter. Orpington’s are larger birds than average – and markedly well-tempered.

  • Appearance: Orpingtons come in various colors, including black, buff, and lavender. They have a plump, robust appearance.
  • Uses: A stately dual-purpose breed for eggs and meat.
  • Size: Hens weigh seven to nine pounds, roosters around eight to ten.
  • Eggs Per Year: Expect around 200 to 280 large, brown eggs annually.
  • Personality: They’re laid-back, friendly, and good layers.

Orpington – these large friendly birds are known as “the “Golden Retriever” of chickens. They are one of the best in terms of egg production, producing around 250 light brown eggs a year, while their large size also makes them great for eating.

4. Leghorn

leghorn

Leghorn – although somewhat noisy and not as friendly as our other top dual-purpose breeds, the Leghorns make up for their shortcomings by producing between 280 to 320 large-sized eggs per year, making them perfect for the omelet-lover.

  • Appearance: Lightweight with striking white plumage.
  • Uses: Renowned for exceptional egg-laying abilities.
  • Size: Hens are around four or five pounds, and roosters are around seven to eight.
  • Eggs Per Year: They’re famously prolific layers, averaging 280 to 320 white eggs annually.
  • Personality: Hardy, adaptable, and excellent for backyard coops.

Leghorns are arguably the most popular Mediterranean chicken breed. They are smaller than other chickens, but they’re spirited and make great foragers. I’ve heard differing reports as to their origin – the best I can find is that they derive from Northern Italy.

If you’re more interested in cuddling your hens than eating them, then you’re probably asking yourself, “What breed of hens are the best layers?”

While we’ve already mentioned a couple in our summary of the best dual-purpose breeds, there are a couple of others that might appeal to those who want a good egg rather than an egg on their faces!

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05/26/2024 07:46 am GMT

What Breed of Hens Are the Best Layers?

build-chicken-coop-homesteading-skills

The Rhode Island Red, Australorp, Orpington, and Leghorn all earn themselves a high rank in the laying department, producing between 250-300 eggs per year (Rhode Island Red, Australorp, and Orpington) and 280 to 320 eggs per year (Leghorn).

Other similarly productive breeds include:

5. Speckled Sussex

speckled sussex

We adore the vibrant and colorful plumage of the Speckled Sussex! These birds are beautiful, calm, and cold-hardy. Speckled Sussex hens are also famous for broody behavior – and they love caring for their young.

  • Appearance: Their plumage features a beautiful combination of dark brown to mahogany coloring with black-blue white-tipped feathers, giving them their characteristic speckled look.
  • Uses: Good layers and meat birds.
  • Size: Hens weigh around seven pounds, roosters nine pounds.
  • Eggs Per Year: Expect around 200 to 350 light brown eggs per year.
  • Personality: Robust, good mothering skills, and prone to broodiness.

Speckled Sussex – these large, friendly birds make excellent pets and will produce between 200 and 350 eggs for you each year.

6. Plymouth Rock

plymouth rock

Plymouth Rocks are likely one of the most popular general-purpose birds – and for a good reason! They have a rich history dating back to 1829 in Boston, Massachusetts. They’re also efficient layers and happily lay during the cold winter months. Perfect!

  • Appearance: Famous for barred plumage with black and white stripes.
  • Uses: A cold-hardy dual-purpose breed.
  • Size: Hens weigh around six to seven and a half pounds, and roosters weigh around eight to nine or ten pounds.
  • Eggs Per Year: Approximately 200 to 280 brown eggs annually.
  • Personality: Docile, adaptable, and good for backyard flocks.

Plymouth Rock – while generally friendly, these active birds are hardy and capable of producing between 200 and 280 eggs a year.

7. Ameraucana

ameraucana

Ameraucana – although not the greatest layer, the Ameraucana is highly sought after for their pale blue eggs, of which they lay around 150 per year.

  • Appearance: Ameraucanas have distinctive beards and muffs and various color variations.
  • Uses: Known for their colorful blue or green eggs.
  • Size: Hens weigh two to three and a half pounds, and roosters weigh three to four pounds.
  • Eggs Per Year: Expect around 150 colored eggs per year.
  • Personality: Active, friendly, and good foragers.

We love how the Ameraucana produces colorful blue eggs! Perfect for Easter. Ameraucana chickens also have stellar personalities and make excellent first-time birds for your flock. They also look uncommon compared to other chooks. For sure!

Looking at those figures, the more curious among you are probably wondering, “Can a chicken lay two eggs per day?”.

The answer, surprisingly, is, yes, although it is uncommon. A White Leghorn currently holds the world record for egg-laying, having produced 371 in 364 days!

By now, you should have figured out what are the best chickens for beginners so now it’s time to look at the logistics of buying, housing, and caring for your flock.

Read More – Do Chickens Need Lights at Night to Lay Eggs? What About Baby Chicks?!

How Much Should I Pay For a Laying Hen?

Two black and white Sussex chickens in a flowerbed.

Prices for backyard chickens vary according to the chicken’s age and breed. You could pick up a Rhode Island Red chick for under $5 (10 for $36 at Hoover’s Hatchery), for example, whereas an Ameraucana chick could cost as much as $7.50 (10 for $38 at Hoover’s at time of writing).

If you want to avoid the hassles of rearing the tiny balls of fluff more commonly known as baby chicks, you’ll need to be prepared to shell out a bit of extra cash for an adult flock.

Most breeders sell more mature chickens at four-weeks-old and at 15-20 weeks, by which time they are known as point-of-lay or pullets.

A four-week-old chick will cost you between $20 to $25 while a pullet will usually cost between $25 and $30.

Given how fragile chickens are at four-weeks, it’s worth paying the extra for a stronger, more mature hen that will start paying off your initial outlay by laying her first egg within a week or two of purchase.

Is It Cheaper to Buy Eggs or Raise Chickens?

If your main motivation for getting a flock of backyard chickens is to ensure a steady flow of eggs, you’re most probably wondering, “Is it cheaper to buy eggs or raise chickens?”, especially now you’ve seen the price of hens!

To be fair, if you’re happy eating eggs produced by caged chickens then it’s probably cheaper to buy them, especially as the United States Department of Agriculture is predicting a dip in egg prices over the forthcoming year.

If you’re committed to eating only organic, free-range eggs, however, you’ll find your backyard chickens save you money. It’s really up to you but, as the average American eats around 290 eggs per year, a flock of five (four hens and a rooster) could keep you in eggs for years to come.

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Are Backyard Chickens a Good Idea?

So, are backyard hens a good idea?

If you’ve got the space, enjoy the company of other species, and have a love of eggs, then the answer is a resounding YES!

If you’re rarely at home and have no desire to spend your precious free time cleaning out a chicken coop, then having a flock of chickens roaming around will probably cause you more annoyance than happiness, in which case, you should leave it to the professionals.

Personally, I love my chickens, even though they are a little tatty and spend more time outside the kitchen door than roaming the yard.

When they’re not laying eggs, they’re cleaning up after all the other animals, reducing the bug population, producing compost, and entertaining us with their unique and bizarre behavior.

What have you got to lose … except all the vegetables in your garden and the contents of your compost bin?

Read More – Is Cracked Corn Good for Chickens and Egg Production? Or Not?

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