Having grown up rural, I can’t remember a time without poultry. The soft peep-peep of hatchlings coming from the brooder box in our mudroom and the watchdog call of buck-wheat, buck-wheat; put-rock, put-rock from my father’s flock of guineas are what started me down what some might say a fowl path. My first show hen, CC, a silver-laced Sebright Banty, let me paint her toenails, and I was hooked. Being a poultry fanatic, I often have friends, family, and community members ask me: What is the best breed of chicken? With hundreds of breeds and varieties to choose from, there is no wrong answer, but these five breeds will not disappoint.
Renée and her husband, Aaron, are “do-it-yourself” homeowners in Armory Park. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These graceful, hardy, talkative, robust birds hail from Spain. Hens produce large white eggs and they enjoy the great outdoors. Their blue-gray feathers remind me of velvet; if you decide to breed them, their offspring will be blue, black, and splash colored. Breed two blacks or two splash and you will get 100 percent blue!
This relatively new breed has a long heritage. It was first admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1984 and comes from the unique Araucana breed, which was developed in Chile in the early 1900s, and also comes from the Collonca and the Quetero, which some say were pre-Columbian chickens. These hens lay beautifully colored eggs that range from blue to turquoise to deep olive to pink. Their feathers can also vary in color, but they always have muffs and pea combs. A hit with families, it is hard to deny the joy of having such a range of color each morning in your nest box.
If you live outside the city limits, then this Mediterranean white egg layer might be a great breed for you. The dark feather pattern with white speckling on the tips creates a natural camouflage; its observant temperament alerts the rest of the flock when birds of prey pose a threat. They are good foragers, making them a great addition to any country flock, and rarely sit on a clutch of eggs.
My brother-in-law Luke swears that these chickens have the best personality; perhaps it is to make up for their odd appearance. One urban legend is that they are half turkey, half chicken, but really these birds just have 40-50 percent less feathers than other breeds. With fewer feathers, they need less protein to thrive; fewer feathers also means less plucking. Hens lay large brown eggs and do very well in the heat; why not add a few of these strange, friendly, multipurpose birds to your coop?
Iridescent in our Arizona sunshine, these black beauties come from Australia and won’t disappoint. If you are looking for a dual-purpose bird for egg and meat production that does well in the heat, then this docile, fluffy large English breed will do the trick. Their pinkish white skin is pleasant to look at on the dinner table, and they are excellent producers of light brown eggs.