What Are The Best Chickens For Beginners?


Forage in Fall

Do you know how every now and then, you’ll get asked a question that is supposed to be a really easy question to answer, but it’s not? That is exactly how I feel when someone asks me what breed of chicken they should get.

There is just soo much to choose from. And even when you do narrow in on a range of behavior and physical characteristics that are ideal for you, there is always that random ‘wild card’ regarding the personality of the individual chicken. Sometimes, you’ll end up with a bird that just ‘didn’t get the memo’ and they do their own thing instead of conforming to what you should expect.

So, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t play the lottery because you already know what kind of luck you have, then you should really keep an open mind and plan for the unexpected when ordering your chicks.

That being said, you shouldn’t let this get you discouraged. For us, it’s always been the ‘wild cards’ that are the most fun!

While personal preference is always a factor, it has been our experience that the Barred Rock chicken has the best combination of intelligence, resilience, output and behavior for anyone new to raising chickens.

This breed of chicken can do well in both hot and cold climates, while living happily in both caged and free-range environments. It does not go broody often, which is a behavior that can be detrimental to a bird’s health if left unchecked. And the hens lay medium sized eggs with good frequency. It’s plumage and comb has visual appeal, and the breed tends to be very interactive with its host.

I have yet to see a Barred Rock hen get aggressive with a child, though they can be a bit surprising when feeding them treats. This breed has proven to be comfortable enough with human presence to jump up and snag a treat out of your hand if you don’t deliver it fast enough. While this usually results in protest and laughter on the part of adults, it can be startling to some toddlers.

What Is The Friendliest Breed Of Chicken?

It can be difficult to credit any particular breed of chicken with the behavioral title of being the most friendly as personality varies from bird to bird. Another factor that determines your bird’s social disposition is just how much you interact them, especially when they’re chicks. Even the most grumpy of breeds can produce the occasional ‘sweetheart’ if handled properly. But this is an exception, not the norm to be planned on or pursued.

It has been our experience, that the Barred Rock and Black Australorp breeds of chicken have proven to be the most docile and most engaging with strangers.

A mixed flock of these two breeds, if raised properly, should have no problems in approaching visitors (including the UPS driver) in hopes of receiving a treat. And should you spend anytime outdoors speaking with your guest, you can expect your flock to want to be a part of things – even occasionally stealing your thunder.

Our flocks are primarily free-range and we have never had an incident regarding company. However, it should be noted, that we keep any rooster far away from guests as roosters can be ‘spontaneously troublesome’ regardless of what their breed might be.

This is an especially crucial thing to note around toddlers, as a rooster’s behavior can change around the ‘little one’ – which is very close in size to a lot of predators.

It is a well established fact that a rooster is more than capable of impaling an arm or a leg with its spur. And with a toddler’s face being well within reach, this means a child could easily lose an eye.

Don’t get me wrong, chickens are an absolute blast! But they are animals with innate instincts. And a rooster’s instincts can kick in without warning. It is your responsibility to respect those instincts and enjoy your feathered friend for what they are. Nothing frustrates me more than to see people selfishly expect their animals to be something that they are not.

Do yourself and your flock a solid and keep your rooster away from company…especially small children!

What Is The Calmest Breed Of Chicken?

In general terms, chickens are, well…chicken.

I can remember when calling someone a chicken was an insult. And for those of you who have no idea what this means, calling someone chicken infers that they are somewhat cowardly.

So when someone asks me, which breed of chicken is the calmest, I have to cringe a little bit, as there’s really no such thing as a calm chicken. That’s like asking, which breed of snake is the most cuddly. Snakes aren’t supposed to be cuddly!!!

And it’s the same with chickens. These birds behave the way they do and for good reason – everything wants to eat them! Chickens have very limited tools for self-defense and are too fat to fly any notable distance. For a chicken to survive in these conditions, it pays to be a little paranoid.

So with a chicken’s behavior established, there is one breed that stands out as different from the rest.

The Buff Orpington is a breed of chicken with a sweet and gentle disposition. While other breeds are noted for their aptitude for friendly engagement, the Buff Orpington is usually much more reserved – to the point of being shy.

They will still run for cover at the first sight of threat. But we have found that they are more likely to hover quietly around us, as we work in the garden, than any of our other birds.

And this behavior extends to parenting.

Buff Orpingtons go broody, (behavior associated with wanting to raise a batch of chicks), much more often than other breeds of chicken.

So if you’re looking for a breed that is naturally inclined to act like a gentle mother hen – to you or to baby chicks – then the Buff Orpington would be a good choice. However, I do not recommend this breed to anyone new to raising chickens as broody behavior includes forgoing food and water as the hen waits for baby chicks to arrive. This means, if you do not correct this broody behavior, you could very well loose a bird.

Do All Breeds Of Chickens Get Along?

We love to get a variety of breeds, pretty much with every purchase of chicks. It’s just fun to see the differences in appearance and behavior. To date, we have never had any issues related to specific breeds not getting along. That’s not to say that it’s impossible, but we are careful to select new breeds with the labels of either ‘calm’ or ‘docile’. We never purchase birds that are ‘flighty’ or (my personal favorite) ‘originally bred as fighting birds’. That’s just not a good idea.

Chicks that are raised together, will generally form the flock bond regardless of their specific breed.

For example, our last batch of 15 chicks included 4 Barred Rock, 4 Orpingtons and 7 Easter Eggers. Aside from establishing the natural pecking order, there has never been any issues with these birds getting along.

But it is important to note, that these are all hens. Roosters live by the creed of, ‘I am king, all others will submit.’ This is obviously problematic when there is more than one would-be-king.

And it doesn’t matter if the roosters were all raised together or not. I know this first hand as my very first flock of ‘straight run’ birds, turned out to be all roosters.

Starting at 8 weeks of age, the boys started fighting and it only got more intense the older they got. In the end, I was forced to intervene as the roosters were literally killing each other.

Conclusion

While it is easy, to select a certain breed of chicken because of their personal appeal, I strongly recommend that you purchase more than one breed. It’s kind of like the phrase, ‘don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.’

Each chicken will have it’s own personality, but it’s worth stating that being a part of a flock has its own bearing on individual behavior.

We had a group of 6 Buckeye chickens early this spring and all they ever did was hide. No matter how hard we tried, they just didn’t want to socialize with us. However, once the confident and slightly mischievous Barred Rocks were introduced, our Buckeye came out of hiding and played right along side the new flock members.

If you are a beginner and are considering raising your first flock, then think about something like this; 2 Barred Rocks and maybe 3 or 4 Easter Eggers (make sure that they’re all hens). This kind of flock would give you a good supply of eggs, as well as, a wide range of plumage and egg shell color.

Barred Rocks tend to be slightly stockier than Easter Eggers, so there’s a good chance that one of them would be at the top of the pecking order – meaning the other birds would be apt to follow their confident leader as it barrels down on you for treats.

If you’re interested in starting your own flock, then I highly recommend you check out, ‘Raising Chickens: Five Easy Steps For The 1st Timer.’