Chickens are great animals to keep around. They provide an abundance of fresh eggs, make excellent pets, and can be used to provide meat as well. However, there are a variety of different chicken breeds that are available. These breeds range in size, color, egg production, temperament, and climate preference. This makes it hard, especially for beginners, to decide what types of chicken to add to a coop.
For those who are in that situation and don’t even know where to start looking for chicken breeds, here are the 9 best chicken breeds for beginners.
1. Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is arguably the best chicken for beginners. As the name suggests, these birds are known for their red feathers. They are a standard bird, averaging 6.5 pounds for the females and 8.5 pounds for the males.
These birds are part of a large breed, but they are calm and docile. The Rhode Island Red chickens have high adaptability. They can thrive in a smaller coop or free-range.
These chickens require little care beyond food, water, and shelter. They are very hardy and can survive in a wide range of temperatures. They are not prone to disease, and they can survive through a lot, so they are an easy breed for beginners to keep alive.
Furthermore, if you are looking to raise chickens for their eggs, the Rhode Island Red chickens consistently lay around 5 eggs a week and they can produce over 300 eggs per year.
2. Black AustraLorp
Black AustraLorps, as the name suggests, have black soft feathers with hints of green and purple. They are a standard-sized chicken, with the hens weighing around 6.6-8 pounds and the roosters weighing 8.5-10 pounds.
This chicken breed has an easy-going temperament and can get along very well with most other breeds. Black Australorps are also very tolerable of small, confined spaces, which makes them good chickens for smaller, beginner coops.
Black AustraLorps love spending time with humans and are naturally curious about what their owner is doing. Although they generally do not become lap chickens, they don’t mind being held or petted, which makes them a good chicken breed for someone with smaller children.
Black AustraLorp chickens lay about 5 eggs per week, averaging anywhere from 200-300 eggs per year.
3. Plymouth Rock
The Plymouth Rock is another popular beginner chicken breed. This chicken is distinguished by its black and white striped feathers all across their bodies. The hens weigh around 7.5 pounds, whereas the roosters weigh about 9.5 pounds.
The Plymouth Rock chicken is known for its longevity, calm disposition, and reliable egg production. In a year, they lay about 200 eggs, and they are known to lay well into their 10th year. They can function well in small spaces or in wide-open spaces, which makes them very adaptable to almost any living condition.
Another great option for beginners is the Leghorn breed. These chickens generally have white feathers and are a very common backyard chicken breed. They are characterized by their large, single comb and full tail. These chickens are part of a large breed that has lots of diversity from one chicken to another, so it may be hard to determine the exact temperament of each bird.
These chickens are also able to handle heat very well, which makes them adaptable to most climates. However, they are very active and like to forage. They can tolerate more confined climates, as long as they have something to do. They can be high energy, which means that they also can get bored easily.
Although these chickens are not the cuddliest or calmest, they do excel in the egg-laying department. They lay 4 or more eggs a week and can lay up to 320 eggs in a year. They lay well into their third and fourth year as well.
5. Jersey Giant
Jersey Giants are one of the largest chicken breeds, with the hens weighing around 10 pounds and the roosters weighing around 13 pounds. These chickens can come in a variety of different colors, although the most common are black, white, and blue.
Jersey Giants are great free-range chickens that love to forage. They also fare well against predators, especially the black breed. Due to the size of these chickens, some of them will even fight potential aggressors.
The Jersey Giant lays around 150 eggs per year, which is less than other breeds of chickens, but their eggs are larger.
The Jersey Giant is also a good breed of chicken for meat. This chicken breed is very large and therefore will be able to feed a whole family. If you are looking to raise a chicken that you can eat, the Jersey Giant is a good choice.
The Sussex hen comes in 8 different colors, although the most recognizable is a white body with a black tail and neck feathers.
These chickens are known for their docile temperament and can be trained to eat straight out of your hand. This makes them an ideal breed for beginners. Unlike other breeds, the Sussex hen will not destroy a yard, which is an extra bonus that beginners should look for.
Furthermore, Sussex hens are hardy and can handle both heat and cooler temperatures fairly well. They are non-aggressive birds and even the roosters are reported to be mellow. This calm demeanor may cause them to be picked on by other birds, so they should be separated from more aggressive chicken breeds.
Sussex hens reliably lay 250 or more eggs per year.
7. Buff Orpingtons
Buff Orpingtons are fluffy and characterized by their tan feathers. These birds are perfect for new chicken owners who have children because their gentle and pleasant temperament helps them get along well with humans. They are tranquil and well suited for smaller, confined spaces.
These birds are fairly low maintenance and make an ideal bird for beginners. However, their docile nature puts them at the bottom of the pecking order, which means that they should not be placed in a roost with aggressive breeds such as Rhode Island Reds or Welsummers.
Buff Orpingtons lay around 200-250 brown eggs each year. They make great mothers and are an excellent choice if you want to raise your own chickens. Not only will they lay and raise their own, but they will likely accept and hatch any egg placed beneath them.
The Silkie chicken breed is a Bantam breed, which means that they are smaller than other breeds of chicken. They have intricate plumage that comes in a range of different colors, although the most recognizable are white feathers with black skin.
These are a popular chicken breed for beginners, especially with children, because of their sweet nature and temperament. They get along well with most other breeds and are very friendly with children, which makes them the perfect pet breed.
A downside to these chickens is that they are an ornamental breed, so they may lay fewer than 100 eggs in a year. However, they have a strong maternal instinct and will accept and hatch any egg that is given to them.
The Barnvelder chicken is identifiable by the brown arrowhead design on its black feathers and plain black neck feathers. This design is unique to these chickens and adds a stylish flair to any coop. These chickens are large birds, with the hens averaging around 6-6 pounds and the roosters averaging around 7-8 pounds.
Barnevelder birds are friendly birds that are easygoing and rarely squabble. They are talkative, but they are not as loud as other breeds, such as the Rhode Island Red. These birds are docile and kid-friendly, and they make great pets. They have minimal health issues and are very tolerant of temperature changes. They work well in both confined spaces and free-range.
These birds are also known to have an infectious attitude. They are very even-tempered and don’t have very many bad days.
Furthermore, the Barnvelder birds lay 3-4 large brown eggs each week.
How to Determine the Best Chicken Breed for Me?
There are a variety of options for beginners, but it can be hard to decide which breed will work for you personally. There are several things that need to be considered when choosing your specific chicken breed:
Climate: Do you live in a place with a hot, humid climate? Or are you located somewhere with harsh winters? The climate matters when choosing a chicken breed.
|Chicken Breed||Best Climate|
|Rhode Island Red||Can thrive in all climates|
|Black AustraLorp||Does well in cold climates|
|Plymouth Rock||Does well in colder climates|
|Leghorn||Does better in warmer climates|
|Jersey Giant||Does well in colder climates|
|Sussex||Does better in colder climates|
|Buff Orpington||Does best in climates with colder winters and mild summers|
|Silkie||Does better in warmer, more dry climates|
|Barnvelder||Does not like hot and humid climates|
Space: Another issue to consider is how much space you have available. Many breeds of chicken are free-range birds that prefer foraging and exploring. However, there are many birds that can tolerate and do better in more confined spaces.
It is important to note that a lot of chicken breeds can tolerate confinement as long as they have something to do, however, it is best to get the type of chicken that will fit best with the space you have available.
Breeds that tolerate confinement:
- Buff Orphington
- Black AustraLorp
If you don’t have a whole lot of space for chickens to roam, these chickens are the best options for confinement.
Breeds that do better free-range
- Jersey Giant
- Rhode Island Red
- Plymouth Rock
These chickens do better with lots of space to forage, explore and roam. It is suggested that if you want to purchase these chickens, you should be sure that you have the space to allow them to roam.
Eggs: Another important consideration for choosing chickens is whether you want a lot of eggs or if you are looking for a more ornamental breed.
Best chickens for eggs:
- Rhode Island Red: The Rhode Island Red chickens (as mentioned above) are reliable egg layers that produce around 300 eggs each year. They consistently produce eggs for about 4-5 years.
- Leghorn: The Leghorn chicken consistently lays around 280-320 eggs per year for 5 or more years, making them a good choice for egg production.
- Plymouth Rock: Although these chickens don’t lay as many eggs yearly, they can lay eggs consistently for up to 10 years.
Meat or pet: are you looking for a chicken that you can raise and eat, or are you looking for a chicken that will serve as a pet only?
Best meat chickens:
- Buff Orpington: The buff orpington chicken is one of the most popular chickens for meat because they are a good weight and do not require a whole lot of effort to maintain and care for. They are hardy and can withstand most conditions.
- Rhode Island Red: Rhode Island Red birds are good size and quality and are easy to care for and hardy enough to withstand most conditions.
- Jersey Giant: The Jersey Giant is a good bird for meat because of their size. A single Jersey Giant can feed many people, and they are hardy birds that are easy to care for.
Best Chickens for Pets:
- AustraLorp: The AustraLorp are very friendly chickens and get along very well with humans. They adjust well to being handled and they require very littel special care.
- Silkie: Silkies are popular chicken breeds for pets due to their fine, fluffy feathers and cuddly nature. They enjoy being held and cuddled and have a very easygoing nature.
- Sussex: Sussex hens are very curious and enjoy people. They make excellent pets because they enjoy spending time with their owners and are naturaly curious and playful.
Temperament: A final consideration when buying chickens is to consider the temperament of each chicken. The majority of the chickens listed above have easy-going and friendly temperaments, which is why they are such good pets.
However, the easy-going temperament of these chickens can sometimes result in them becoming bullied by other, more aggressive breeds of chickens. When housing a coop of chickens, it is important to evaluate the temperament of each chicken breed and make sure that they are compatible with one another.