There are many different reasons for keeping chickens, however it is important to be clear on your own reason for keeping them in order to choose the most suitable variety for you and your family.
It may come as a surprise, but not all chickens are good egg layers – some varieties can lay less than a hundred eggs in a year, while some can lay an egg almost every day. This is important to ask when you buy chickens as you may only learn about good layers through experience.
There are two main types of chickens, (1) Pure Breeds and (2) Hybrids.
- Large selection of breeds.
- Very pretty to look at.
- Some breeds are poor layers.
- Large Fowl and Bantam variety.
- Breeds include Orpington, Brahma, Wyandotte, Sussex.
- Very unlikely to be vaccinated.
- Less variety than pure breeds.
- Very strong and robust chicken – excellent starter chickens.
- Fantastic Egg Layers – up to 300 in a year.
- Varieties such as Hybrid Rhode Island, Black Rock, Clarabelle.
- Most likely to be fully vaccinated.
My advice is if you are after a good laying hen that is easy to keep in a family environment, and then a good Hybrid hen from a reputable source is hard to beat. If they are cared for you will have eggs almost year round, about 6 eggs per week per hen. If you are after looks then the pure breed might be the one to go for or added in to the flock at a later stage to add in some variety.
It is really important to get healthy birds to start with. Consider buying direct from a farm or breeder where you can see and be satisfied with the environment your birds are coming from. This also allows you to have back-up advice from this farm down the road if you ever need it.
The age of your chicken when you buy it should be what is called ‘point of lay pullet’, this means a female chicken at least 16 weeks old. Hybrid chickens typically start to lay eggs sometime between 20 to 24 weeks old, pure breeds would be older by the time they begin to lay eggs. If you buy younger they may not be strong enough for a new home and if you buy older they could be very old as it is hard to tell age once they have passed the pullet stage.