Choosing the Right Breed Of Chickens

rooster and hen in the background, title of "Choosing the Right Breed of Chickens" in front

We’re going to bite the bullet this year and not just restock our layers but buy some meat chickens to sell too. I did say that I never wanted chicks in the basement again, but… So right now, I’m breaking down the budget and figuring out the breeds.

rooster and hen in the background, title of "Choosing the Right Breed of Chickens" in front


Chicken Math

We actually need to buy three breeds of chickens, at least. Chicken math naturally translates that to six. Those of you wondering what “chicken math” is just hold onto your hats until you own chickens and then you will learn very quickly! Chicken math is when you go to the store to buy 6 chicks and come home with eighteen. Chicken math is when you only have twenty chickens, but it looks a lot more like forty-eight. But I digress…


Chicken Breed Considerations

As you figure out what chicken breeds you might want to get you need to consider a few factors: First and foremost, you need to consider their purpose. Are you looking for meat, for eggs, or a combination of both? 

Second, are you concerned with their disposition? Some breeds are a lot friendlier than others. Some are more broody (likely to collect eggs into a nest and sit on them to hatch them (fertilized or not)) than others.  Some are quite content in a smallish pen, others like to freerange a huge swath of land.

Third, environmental needs. For me, living in northern Vermont I need a breed that is hardy in cold temps. Someone in Florida, for example, has the opposite needs with hot and humid temperatures to contend with. 

Fourth, are you looking for a particular look in your chickens or your eggs? There are some crazy looking chickens, and there are a whole collection of egg colors, too.


Chicken Rotation

We need to replace some of our flock with new pullets. It works well to do this every 2-3 years. But, I don’t band our chickens, and until now we have been a bit haphazard adding to our flock, so we needed a plan. Someone on some blog (I really wish I could credit them right now, but I don’t remember who) mentioned that they are constantly rotating their chicken breeds each year with new pullets and butchering the old into broilers. This brilliant person buys a different breed each year and doesn’t repeat until the third year. Duh, how brilliant is that?

I have mostly Rhode Island Reds right now with a few Barred Rocks. So I could get any other breed, and pull out my older hens. Then next year, I again butcher my oldest hens and buy a different breed. By year three, I can buy Rhode Island Reds again because I don’t have any left. Year four I replace whatever it is that I bought this year. Wow! So simple! Also, it leads to a bit of variety in the eggshell colors which makes them more fun.


Easter Eggs are Real??

Speaking of color, I don’t have a lot of colored eggs right now, mostly brown with only a couple blue or green. So Breed 1 this year will be about 10 Americanas or Easter Eggers. I have two right now that may get mixed in and not culled when they should, but…it will be ok. Next year, I can add in another type of EasterEgger for another color. If I add ten hens of “pretty colored” eggs each year, and again don’t repeat the breed until three years later, it should be simple.

Breed 2, as suggested above, needs to be a layer, but will be a “typical” brown or white layer. These eggs sell fine, but the chicks are cheaper. Honestly, I’m not enough of an egg connoisseur to be able to tell the taste of one breed of egg from another. Neither are most people. So, there are benefits to having a carton of “regular” eggs with some highlights of the other more expensive breed’s eggs.

Breed 3, that we need this year are meat chickens. We are looking at starting with 20-30 of these. We have never raised chickens purely as meat birds before so we may actually purchase a “mixed bag” or “assorted package” of five breeds to see which we like the best. These birds may be male or female and will be butchered after 8-12 weeks. Once we go through the butchering process we’ll see if we want to purchase another set for this year. Or, we might want to wait until the next year. We might even decide to never do it again.


A group of funny hens
Photo by Engin Akyurt on

Other Barnyard Fowl

And, if we’re buying all these chickens, maybe we want to buy some quail, too. After all, quail are ready to butcher at 16 weeks or begin laying around week 24…But peacocks are crazy expensive. A pair to mate is about $1500-1700, a single female is $700! Umm, no, I don’t need peacocks.

What would be your criteria for choosing your “perfect” chicken? 


You may also be interested in:

5 Uses for Extra Eggs

Things We Learned in the First 6 Months of Homesteading

Winter Planning on the Homestead



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