When you see chickens for sale, it’s easy to get excited and pick the first chicken you see. But, this is a huge mistake that can have big consequences. Not all chickens are great at producing eggs, and not all chickens are suited for certain climates.
Different chicken breeds have different temperaments. You’re going to want to look for a breed that is docile and doesn’t mind interaction. If you have animals or small children that like to play outdoors, this is extremely important. Some chicken breeds can actually be quite aggressive and mean – so make sure you do your homework!
Chicken breeds can range in how vocal they are. If you like your peace and quiet, you will want to pay extra attention to this trait when you are researching breeds. You’ll also want to consider bylaws regarding noise in your area. Often, communities will have noise limits between the hours of 9 PM – 7 AM.
Chicken breeds range in the amount of eggs they can produce. The most efficient egg-laying breeds can produce an egg every single day, while some breeds can only produce a few eggs in a week, or even a month. If you intend to sell your eggs as a business, this is a big factor that should dictate the type of breed you select.
The climate and weather in your area are important elements to consider when researching chicken breeds. You would hate to get a bunch of chickens, just for them to get sick, because they are unable to adapt to your climate. This is an easy mistake to make, but it’s also an easy mistake to avoid.
If you live farther North, you want to be especially careful with the type of chicken you select. There are several breeds of chicken that do not do well in colder climates. On the other hand, there are also a few breeds with thicker coats of feathers that can function very nicely in cooler weather.
The key is: do your homework! There is no magical breed of chicken that works well for every purpose and climate.
Do you live in a colder climate? Check out "7 Chicken Breeds That Do Well in Cold Climates" by The Happy Chicken Coop.
To get you started with your chicken breed research, here is a quick summary of some of the most popular backyard breeds.
( via TheHappyChickenCoop.com)
This breed is known for being friendly and good natured towards humans and other animals. Plymouth Rock has a lot of variations within the breed; the most popular types are the barred and white chicken. This breed doesn’t require a lot of care and is generally a good chicken for first-time owners. You don’t have to worry about this breed becoming aggressive with pets or children.
If you are looking for a chicken to raise for meat, this is an excellent choice. It can reach a weight of 9.5 pounds. These birds also produce large brown eggs relatively fast – at least a few a week.
It’s easy to spot a Rhode Island Red – their feathers are a nice, rusty red color. These birds are a bit smaller than Plymouth Rock chickens, but they are still a decent size. Plus, they lay lots of eggs! This is another good option for first-time chicken owners.
Learn what Rhode Island Red chicken owners have to say about the breed at backyardchickens.com.
McMurray Hatchery has started pullet chickens for sale including Rhode Island Reds. Started pullets are a great option if you want to get your eggs sooner.
Leghorn chickens are a special breed that produces plenty of delicious eggs. However, I don’t recommend the Leghorn chicken for first-time owners, or individuals who have small children or other animals around. These birds can be a bit noisy, and have been known to be flighty as well. If you have other farm animals, these birds can easily disrupt them with their skittish behavior and loud squawks.
If you want a chicken for a big meal, the Jersey Giant is the one for you! The name says it all – it can get up to a whopping 13 pounds in a relatively short period of time. They also produce nice, large, light-brown eggs.
Had issues with chickens being broody before? You can buy this breed knowing that you won’t have a problem collecting your eggs. Jersey Giant chickens seldom brood. They are also a great breed for colder climates.
Purely Poultry has Jersey Giant chickens for sale starting at just over $4.
( via The Chicken Chick )
This breed of chicken might look a little funny, but it has a lot of benefits. It is a calm and friendly bird that interacts well with pets and children alike. It lays blue eggs, which is a unique egg, compared to the standard white and brown eggs most chickens lay.
If you want a chicken breed that will fatter up for a nice meal, this isn’t the breed for you. This breed is ideal for egg-laying and getting along with animals and kids. (And entertaining guests with their fluffy feather manes!).
If you are a first-time chicken owner and are seeking lots of brown eggs, this is an excellent option. These birds do well in colder weather, require little maintenance, and have a great personality to mix with pets and kids. Stromberg's hatchery has a page dedicated to brown egg laying chickens for sale including Orpington Chickens.
As a matter of fact, this breed enjoys contact with humans, and their chicks have been known to playfully jump on humans when being fed. Adults birds also like human attention, and will sit nicely in your lap and take a nap.
These birds can weigh over 8 pounds, so they can be good for eating as well. Of course, it can be hard when these birds are so affection!
Find out more about the Orpington chicken breed, as well as the book recommendations, articles, and clubs dedicated to the breed.
The Cornish chicken is known for growing big and meaty, fast. Cornish males can grow up to 11 pounds, and females can get up to 8 pounds. These birds don’t like to be very active, so smaller coops and areas of land are fine for this breed.
This breed does well in colder weather, thanks to their meaty frames. However, these birds are slower, and more likely to be an easy target for predators. If you pick this breed, make sure you have a well-secured coop to keep your chicken’s out of harm’s way.
This breed is known as a “teddy bear” chicken, because of how cute it looks! If you want a chicken for a pet, this is a very good breed. These birds are very calm, and remain small, so they are easy to take care of. They don’t require a lot of space and enjoy being near other Silkie chickens. Just be careful when winter comes – their beautiful crest and feathers can freeze!
Remember, there are a lot of other chicken breeds out there. You’ll want to spend a fair amount of time and energy deciding what traits you want in a chicken, and which chicken breed has those traits.
Chickens need a place to call home, too!
You’ll need to get your chickens a clean and comfortable coop if you want them to be happy and healthy. You can either create a coop yourself, or purchase a store-bought one. Either way, you’ll want to make sure it is an appropriate size for your yard, as well as for the chickens that will be living in it.
Check out 22 DIY chicken coops on countryliving.com.
You’re not off the hook yet, though – a good coop depends on more than space. You’ll want to create a coop with:
You’ll want to feed your chickens a balanced and complete diet. The better you feed your chickens, the more delicious their eggs and meat will be.
Poultry pellets are an important staple in every chicken’s diet. You’ll want to pick a high-quality brand that is full of nutrients. Check the ingredients for grains like wheat and corn; they are good for chickens (and chickens enjoy the taste!).
Don’t know where to start? Morning Chores has a great Chicken Feed Comparison Article.
Animals aren’t all that different from us when it comes to diet. Fresh foods are normally healthier for chickens than pre-packaged cuisine. Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a ton of great vitamins and nutrients that help chickens grow.
Of course, buying fresh produce for your flock can add up quickly, especially if you are buying fruits and vegetables from a grocery store. If you have your own garden, feeding your chickens fresh fruits and vegetables is a more realistic and sustainable idea. Chickens do well eating spinach, beets, cabbage, and an assortment of fruits.
In some cases, it is okay to add leftovers to your chicken’s dish. Meals that are simple are the safest options – things like legumes, breads, beans, cooked pasta, rice, and rolled oats are fine. Never feed your chicken anything spicy or sugary.
If your chickens are going to be producing a lot of eggs, it’s a good idea to include lots of calcium in their diet. An easy way to ensure they get enough calcium is to take an egg shell, ground it into a powder, and add it into their regular feed.
Chickens are relatively simple to raise, but they can get sick from time to time. If you don’t catch their health ailment early on, it can lead to much bigger, more expensive problems. So, remember your new chickens are living animals, and need to be looked after properly if they are to thrive.
Good old lice – it can affect dogs, cats, humans, and even chickens! Lice can live on your chickens and eat their skin cells and dead feathers. It’s not a pleasant experience for your chickens, and it can lead to infections if the lice aren’t addressed.
Lice is easy to spot on chickens, and easy to treat as well. Check your chicken’s feathers for a white substance around the feather shaft. This is an indication of lice. Lice powder is quick and easy to dust over your chickens. Be careful to use this treatment on all chickens – lice spread fast, so you want to treat all your birds!
The easiest way to deal with lice is, of course, prevention. Encouraging your chickens to preen and dust bathe helps lice stay away.
Chicken mites (also called roost mites) drink your chickens blood. These little bugs are more serious and harmful then lice. They can make chickens very sick, to the point of death.
The easiest way to tell if your chickens are sick with mites is by checking the eggs. If there are tiny red spots on the eggs, it’s a sign mites might be effecting your birds. You’ll want to check their skin and feathers at this point. Another sign is when chickens are refusing to lie in their nest box.
It’s a good idea to always check for roost mites when you look over your chickens for lice and other issues. If you discover your chickens have mites, you should use the insecticide permethrin. You’ll need to thoroughly clean out the chicken coop and nest boxes, as well.
Read more on identifying lice and mites, as well as the importance of dust bathes.
Egg eating isn’t so much a health concern, as it is a very big (and messy) inconvenience. Egg eating typically starts when an egg gets broken in the coop, and a chicken goes in to see what it tastes like.
Once a chicken has tried egg and knows what it tastes like, it will continue to eat broken egg that is readily available, and even break their own eggs to snack on. As you can image, this can lead to a big mess in the coup, and a lot of wasted eggs.
The best way to avoid this situation is to try your best to prevent any eggs from breaking in the coop. Be diligent collecting your eggs in the morning and cleaning up any eggs that have the potential to break and make a mess.
Broody hens can be an issue when you want fresh eggs and not baby chicks. Hens can naturally become broody from time to time, when they want to their eggs to hatch. Brooding hens will become very protective and aggressive about their eggs. They won’t want to get off their eggs, and when you try to reach for the eggs, they might peck, hiss, and nip at you.
The best way to get a brooding hen away from her eggs and her mind off hatching, is to separate her from the rest of the flock. Put her somewhere isolated and far away from her nesting box; give her some water and food. This is normally enough to settle her down and refocus her.
Yes, chickens are relatively easy to care for and don’t need a lot of maintenance. However, they are a living animal, and you need to be careful around them in order to keep you and your chickens healthy and safe.
Here are some simple tips and tricks you should start practicing as soon as you buy your first chicken:
Get more chicken coop cleaning advice at HenCam.com.
You should be aware of a possible health risk before buying, though. Have you heard of ocular histoplasmosis? If not, listen up! This is the one of the most extreme types of sickness that chickens can give to humans.
Known as the “Bird Droppings Disease,” humans can contract this fungus disease from just being around chicken feces. This disease most commonly effects individuals aged 20 – 40 who are in contact with chickens, pigeons, starlings, and bats.
Histoplasma capsulatum fungus spores thrives in soil that is rich with bird and bat feces. These spores can get enter the human body when humans are working around this soil.
Some individuals do not respond or get sick from the spores, but most people will show very mild symptoms like a cold or flu, as the spores lodge up in the breathing tissue. One-tenth of individuals will have a serious lung or eye reaction. The worst cases of ocular histoplasmosis can lead to central-vision blindness that can qualify you as legally blind.
Most people can’t avoid exposure to these spores – animal droppings are a normal part of life in many areas. However, there are certain things you can do to help prevent airborne spores.
Want to learn more about ocular histoplasmosis?