Help me to choose chicken breed please?

njrookie(6)February 23, 2008

It is better for me to start a new thread.

I wish to have 4-5 chickens in the backyard, and have read a lot online (thanks everyone for posting on the topic, especially Velvet. I feel much more confident now). I would like to hear your suggestions about my plan.

I am considering the following breeds to get started:

1. Delaware

2. Buff Orpingtons

3. Barred Rocks

4. Australorps

5. Wyandottes

Our criteria are:

1. docile, calm and friendly (I have a 6 year old daughter and another boy coming this summer).

2. good egg layers (prefer brown egg, but will take white). I was leaning towards Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns earlier, but after some more reading I start to worry about handling them.

I will build an elevated 4'X4' coop, with 4'X8' or 4'X10' attached pen in a chicken tractor setup.

thanks in advance. any suggestions or comments appreciated.


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I am a RIR fan. They are great producers (brown eggs) and we have never had any trouble out of their temperment. We also have a few Araconna's (terrible speller...sorry) and we like them also.

We have never had any of the breeds that you have mentioned so can't comment there. This is definitely the place to be asking this question.

I just posted a question about coup we are in same boat


    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 2:51PM
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We too are just starting out with chickens. We have our tractor, are finishing up the coop area in the barn, and have our chickens ordered. We went for Australorps because: they can take our Texas heat, are docile and friendly, and Austrolorps are gorgeous! Our second choice was Buff Orpingtons. Any of the breeds you mentioned should be a joy to have in your backyard. If they are all hens, you can even have two of this breed, two of another, and have a mixed group of lovely ladies.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 3:54PM
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zootjs(zone 5 MA)

Of your list, I've had:

2. Buff Orpingtons
3. Barred Rocks
4. Australorps

I've also had a dominique, two bantam cochins, and four auracanas.

The buff orpington was my favorite chicken, seconded by my barred rock. Big, fluffy, tame, and very beautiful. Both lay brown eggs. They are everything one could want in a chicken, and unfortunately, the fox thought so too.

The australorps are nice enough, though not as personable, maybe. I personally don't find them as attractive as the others, but to each his own. They lay brown speckled eggs, which add a certain something. They were a gift and I'm happy to have them; I wouldn't go out of my way to get them again, but it's really nothing against them.

I understand that in RI Reds, its the roosters that are particularly aggressive, not the hens. I can't speak from personal experience.

To me, another criteria is how endangered they are. If you don't know about the American Livestock Conservancy list, it's worth a read. Very good information up there.


Here is a link that might be useful: American Livestock Breed Conservancy

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 4:32PM
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Thanks everyone to follow up. Delaware is an endangered. There are a few more things that are also relevant:

1. cold and heat hardiness. we live in the transitional zone of NJ. Winter can get to 10, but usually above 20 F. Summer could be rather hot and humid for about a month.

2. related to above, how good the hen is at handling confinement. We live in 2+ acre of wooded area. I have seen lots of oposums. not racoon and fox in my lot but definitely they are there. So we will keep them in the run during the day and lock in the coop at night. the winter can be extended indoor time for the girls.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 4:56PM
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Just added two more candidates, Ameraucana and Sussex. So now the list of candidates becomes:

1. Delaware
2. Buff Orpingtons
3. Barred Rocks
4. Australorps
5. Wyandottes
6. Ameraucana
7. Sussex

and also open to

8. RI Red
9. White Leghorn

Please note that I will only get started with 4-5 hens, proably one of each chosen breed. My wife is very much suspicious. So it is important that I get easy to handle (docile, quiet, non-aggresive) yet productive types to begin before I move to harder to handle type.

thanks for your inputs.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 5:20PM
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Flowerhen(z4 Maine)

Please,,for goodness sakes if you are looking for docile calm birds, you DON"T WANT LEGHORNS !!! They are the worst !! VERY FLIGHTY, Crazy, Nervous birds. I am speaking of the Hens,,AND the one rooster that I had was A MONSTER !!! He attacked me and my daughter on several occasions and fortunately got eaten by a fox before I could get rid of him. I just ordered new chicks after not having any chickens for over a year. I have ordered Barred rocks, buff orps, RIR, Partridge rocks, and black giants. They are great birds !!! very nice, calm and great layers. goodluck to you,,and enjoy your birds. They are so much fun to watch pecking around on the ground.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 5:55PM
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So Leghorn is out.

Great to hear you like Black Giants. I thought originally they were not very productive for eggs, but grow to a big size. I would love to include it in the list since we are in NJ if it is a bit more productive. Please let me know if I got it wrong.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 5:59PM
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Flowerhen(z4 Maine)

HI NJrookie, I am actually not sure about their production, but I do know they are a good calm bird. Yes, the leghorns are aweful as far as my experience goes. I raised birds for about 6 years,,and I NEVER ONCE had a nice calm white leghorn. They DO however guarantee a nice big white egg every day !! but other than that, they are nuts !!!. They are actually considered one of THE BEST for production,,but if you are looking for a nice docile bird they do not fit in that catagory. RIR's I hear and from my experience do lay well along with the barred rocks and buffs.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 6:25PM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

I have a nice flock of Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks and my new gal, a Delaware.

By far, the Delaware is the sweetest, most friendly and gentle. She will hang out and visit with us, instead of pestering us for treats like the rest of them. She likes to be picked up, and will perch on my wrist like a Falcon(G).

The Buff Orpingtons are next best, and the Barred Rocks, while beautiful, huge, great layers, can be very bossy. They will peck at bare feet if not fed promptly(G). And they expect food every time they see us, even with full feeders!

I'm very impressed with the Delaware due to her temperament.

I used to have Cornish, Americaunas, Sex Links, and RI Reds. They were skittish and not touchable like my current breeds.


Here is a link that might be useful: Poultry pictures

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 6:27PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

There's a website that gives photos, characteristics, temperament, egg-laying strengths, etc., for most of the chicken breeds. I'll copy it here, and try to link it below.

Here is a link that might be useful: chicken link

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 7:53PM
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Hi Dibbit,

thanks for the link. i have seen it before, but the description was too brief for me to get a good sense about the birds. the members' discussion really helps me here. so delaware is a definite yes. heard lots of good things about it now. it is also an endangered species.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 8:56PM
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zootjs(zone 5 MA)

I really wanted a Speckled Sussex. In fact, I ordered two, but the chicks all got mixed up. Now, my neighbor/friend has them, and they are reportedly very lovely birds. (She offered to give them to me, once they grew up and we knew who was who, but I decided not to be a home wrecker.)


    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 9:04PM
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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

Hi rjrookie, this is a loaded question you ask, so many chicken people so many opinions. Now just to throw my two cents in lol! I suggest trying orpingtons as well, they are very good with people/children and come in other colors besides buff. Mine are good layers and have a calm disposition and they don't mind being picked up and handled.

If you really want a docile bird I suggest a non-laying type breed to try like silkies or cochins, I say non laying because they are not dependable layers as the production types are. But they are very sweet and pretty, also quite ornamental.

My experience w/RIR and BR's are they don't like to be in confinement, my mixed flock free range in a fenced chicken yard now. When I had them in a covered pen they got bored and started bullying and feather picking. (they had plenty of room and hanging cabbage to peck at) I also found the BR's to be VERY bossy. I gave all mine away last year and didn't miss the BR's at all. I did miss the RIR's for their pretty purple brown eggs. They seemed to form a gang like mentality so last spring I bought an assortment of chicks and ordered one RIR, she's doing just fine w/my multi breed flock.

One must have! Americauna, you just have to have at least one of them for their colored eggs, another nice feature they have is they all look different so they are easy to name and tell apart.

My experience w/wyandottes are they are very pretty but not very friendly, mine was a rescue from a shelter so I don't know if that had anything to do w/her disposition but she is a bit stand offish.

Well, I better stop here, I could go on and on!


    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 6:19AM
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msbeekeeper(Zone 3)

My favourite chickens were the ISA browns also known as SEX-SAL LINK Browns. They lay large brown eggs and are the quietest gentlest hens I've ever had. Could go pick up any one at any time of day.They also lay early in the day so the egg gathering is usually done before noon.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 1:51PM
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Thanks a lot for sharing, everybody. Your response is exactly what I was looking for.

As for sex-linked brown, will this one count (see description and link below):

MoyerÂs Brown Egg Layers are a hybrid cross between a White Rock egg-layer type female and a Rhode Island Red male. Sustained production peaks of months over 90% are the norm, producing 270-300 eggs by 72 weeks of age on 4.0 - 4.3 lbs. of feed per dozen eggs produced. The mature layer weighs 4.75 - 5.0 lbs. and is very docile, making it the ideal layer for small family farm flocks as well as large, commercial operations.

In this case, I can get a few pullets to give a quick tryout since I can drive there in one hour for pickup.


Here is a link that might be useful: Moyers Chicks

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 2:59PM
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Is Moyers's Brown Egg Layer same as "Red Star" sex-linked chicken sold at other hatcheries?


    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 4:37PM
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susandonb(NC 7)

Could I ask a question here... we too are hoping to get chickens this year, have a long way to go need to get or build a coop, put up fencing and also want to build a tractor so they can move around outside of their pen and be protected.

My question is about Orp's, are the black ones as sweet natured as the buffs?

I am leaning toward Orp's but will also look into the Delewares since a previous poster had such good things to say about them. I want chickens that will like being handled.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 6:53PM
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I had gotten some chicks just a week ago. I had gotten alot of advice on another forum here. Most recomended Austrolops and Delawares and barred Rocks. So I went to get two of each. THey sold out the Aucstrolps the first day. I had gone there the second day and got the last two white Delawares and two brown Delarwares and two plymouth barred rocks. I too have them for the back yard. They are in the kitchen now and my wife hates me. But THey have to stay warms and with a heat light they are comfortable. THe barred rocks will eat out of our hands, they are very curious and brave. The delawares are calm and relaxed. I had a lot of advice for getting the delawares as they are big and wont fly over the fence and very calm and friendly like pets. My boys love them so far. 10 and 6 years. They named them Stormy, thunder and rock star so far.
The price of eggs have double here in North. Calif and Ihave an acre of land so we will have some free range when they get big enough that the cats and hawks wont get them. I have several compost bins goin in the yard ( 10 ) they have all kinds of bugs, ear wigs, pill bugs and snails so it will be a big help as I dont use any pesticides in the yard. We eat fruit right of the trees and vines.
anyway I just thought I would tell you what I had chosen to get for good egg layers that work good in a yard in the city. all hens of course! Bill C

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 10:52PM
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We have had many breeds of chickens--we choose for cold-hardiness as well as multi-purpose meat and eggs. Orpingtons were the calmest for us (we only had the Buff variety) and I think the Australorps were the prettiest (subjective opinion). We also had small children during most of our chicken raising years, and never had any problems with the hens. Most of the roosters became problems at about 1 year of age. They became very protective and we usually ended up slaughtering them as the kids couldn't feed, water, or gather the eggs with the roosters in the pen. I think the australorp and the Rhoade Island rooster were the calmest of all, but we never had a male with our Buff Orpingtons, so I can't offer an opinion there.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 3:43PM
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I have a backyard flock in a suburban setting.
I have only hens
2 buff orps
2 easter eggers-mixed breed bule egg layers
1 red-star(sex-link)
1 Black Australorp
1 Barred Rock
1 Silver laced wyandotte-she died last summer :(

My buff orps & my black australorp are total lap chickens, not only are they docile but they expect to be held & petted like toy dogs, also great layers. The Black Aus is my "top hen" & she is the noisiest, she sings all the time. My Red Star is a super layer & she is very curious & likes people better than other chickens, she is also the quietest of my flock. My EEs are great layers of blue eggs & just slightly flighty but their beauty & eggs make up for it. My barred rock is an odd ball, she doesn't care to be touched by humans while BRs are known as a breed to love human interaction. She is by far my largest bird & a great layer.
My SLW died suddenly last summer, but she was the bird people thought was the most beautiful & she laid lovely light brown eggs, she was bossy with the other birds but friendly with humans, she was also very vocal.

I have a 4X6 raised coop with an attached run & it works quite well. I have two nest boxes & two roosts with a drop down poop pit. During winter we allow them to free range our backyard but as soon as spring comes if we want to have grass we need to keep them confined to their run.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2008 at 8:00AM
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suzannesks(z 7 WA.)

Hell-o to you all,I am new to this forum even though I've had layers and a few roosters for the last 22 years.For those of you that are new to chickens for egg production and only want a few chickens like rjrookie,it is likely that you may have one or two die as chicks.So with that said,it would be wiser to order a few extra.I always have around a dozen at all times. When the ladies are laying good I'm collecting 6 to 10 eggs a day.There is nothing like the taste of fresh eggs :) Suzanne

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 5:39PM
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"nothing like the taste of fresh eggs".

unless you have tried balut !

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 7:40PM
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Miss_Kitty(6a KY)

I've had RIReds. My DH got rid of them. The Roo was beautiful but man was he mean!

When I went to look for docile chickens I found out about an endangered breed: the dominique, or dominicker. I have 7, and I really love them. I am breeding them, and joined the Dominique Club of America. That's head-over-heels for me.

They are a black and white barred chicken. With a pea comb and thick feathers so they are winter hardy. The roosters are rather shy. The boys are silver with black barring, the hens mostly black with white barring.

I'm looking forward to having my best hen go broody and raise another batch for me. I've had no luck with the incubator.

Take care!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 11:30PM
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I started out with Australorps ten years ago and just ordered 4 new chicks from my feed store. I lost my last Australorp last fall and I truly miss her. They are the most gentle, productive hens I have ever owned. My first hens would come up to our front porch and hop up in my lap while I sat in the rocking chair. They are very hearty and in our area, they are great producers in our cold climate. My last Australorp lived to be about 10 years old. She was still laying up until about 8 1/2 and she was a sweetie. I have had a variety of hens over the years and I really like the Australorp breed the best. Just my opinion.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 1:39AM
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thanks again everyone for the advice. you are truly helpful.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 12:24AM
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If you are new to chickens I recommend starting with pullets only of ONE selected breed. I have kept leghorn and they vary quite a bit on temperament from one batch to another. They are the lightest eaters and best foragers of all and are hands down the most efficient egg layer of white eggs there is. The larger breeds will make better pets of course and Buff Orpington is well known for that purpose. I recommend to stay with all 5 birds the same breed and sex as it will minimize the differences leading to advantages or disadvantages in fighting and pecking on one another. Plenty of space with no shortages in food or water as well as ideal temps while young will also diminish fighting. Your birds will need 6 months and favorable day lengths to commence laying. Good layers such as leghorns lay over 200 eggs a year others a bit less typically. Be sure to feed proper feeds as outlined by any number of county extension publications a high protein crumble the first few weeks followed by a starter grower switching to layer ration when laying begins. When switching feeds usually best to mix 50/50 a few days then go to 100% new ration. I prefer pellet for birds about 8 weeks on, as it seems they waste less

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 1:27AM
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I'm new to this group, but not to the farm. In my 30+ years experiance I have learned a few things. Even though they sexed the birds you are ordering, that does not mean you will not get a rooster. If you are looking for docile birds to be around little ones RIR is not one of them. They are flighty and can be aggressive. So is the Barred Rock Rooster. For winter eggs, if its not a leghorn, go with the Astralorp, they usually lay all winter unless the weather is really bad and you don't suppliment the light. If you want something gentle with heritage, go for the Dominique. Even the Roos are friendly and they look almost like the Barred Rock EXCEPT the comb and the attitude. I have barred hens with my dominique roo. Buff orph are nice, but they really don't stand out as anything in my flock. They are not spectacular layers, foragers or anything, but I keep them because they are gentle and pretty. Bramahs and Cochins also are on my good list. I am picky as to what I will feed for the winter. I did not like the leghorns we had (brown), I would happily do away with my RIR hen, but the Dominiques and Astralorps stay. The Americaunas are pretty too and are not aggressive, but the roos can be. Just for what its worth. Good luckBillie

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 8:38PM
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I'm late to the posting party, but thought I would add my experiences. We currently have 4 barred rocks, 2 black sexlinks and 2 Rhode Island Reds. We have had Australorps and Golden Comets in the past. We've never had a rooster...until borrowing one a few days ago. We've never had any problems with any hens being aggressive -- but that may have something to do with the amount they were handled by kids during their first few days and weeks -- they were forced to be used to people from the very beginning. Our current small flock of 8 hens laid throughout the winter, though production slowed down quite a bit -- it was a rare day we got no eggs, I suspect we averaged 2 a day. This spring it's a rare day that we don't gather at least 6 eggs. We live in Maine, so the winter is harsher than yours in NJ -- except for the water, the coop is not heated at all, not even on the nights that go below zero.

From my experience and from what I have read, you are over analyzing the breed choice. Pick a breed (or two or three) that you like the looks of and that will do fine in your climate. If you buy at your local feed store or farm supply that's a pretty good way of being sure that the breed you get is appropriate for your region.

And, of course, there are plenty of internet sites that will list the characteristics of many breeds, including whether they are cold/heat hardy, how productive they are at laying, what color eggs they produce, and how they cope with confinement. This page:

is pretty good and includes links to other sites that will give more detailed information on each breed listed.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 3:31PM
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buff orpingtons are very gentle i have had alot of chickens different kinds the reds can be mean sometimes im trying buff rocks next might try braggs m.t. buff after the rocks hope i was some help

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 10:17PM
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I have had leghorns and while they are flighty, they do lay an egg almost every day and are very smart. Sweet but dumb is the best way I could describe my Light Brahmas. My barred rocks border on being mean. I have a Brahma rooster 'by' accident' , thought he was just a really big hen for a while! He is calm, does not crow loudly and really looks out for his girls. Unfortunately the foxes have been too smart for him and I will need more chicks in the spring.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 3:19PM
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