Chicken Breeds

Selecting A Breed For Your Chicken Flock

In this video by Victory Farm, chicken breeds are discussed.

Please find a full transcript of the video below.

Start of Video Transcript

In 2002 we left the big city and decided to start a farm.  We started with sheep, that was a bad idea.  Then we got some chickens, just a few we thought.  That was a good idea.  Now we produce over 20,000 eggs per year, and may be one of the largest producers of grass fed eggs in the state.  That’s us, we’re victory farm.

This is a chicken, and this is also a chicken.  But this is still a chicken.  There are many breeds of chicken, most fare, some fowl. And depending on your goals, whether you want a small backyard flock or a full commercial farm, the breed of chicken you select is very important.

Consider this:

This is a barred rock this is a favorite amongst backyard flock owners. They are very self reliant, very healthy and hearty, but they only lay about 150 eggs per year.  They also tend to be flighty and less friendly than other breeds, catching this one was a little bit challenging.  They can be hard to handle and they do go broody.  Broody means they try and pick your hands off when you try and get their eggs.  Now this one really wants to go they don’t like to be handled or held, so we’re going to let her go.  And off she goes.

This is an ISA type hybrid layer. Hybrids are specialty strains crossbred to have certain traits.  These girls lay about 300 eggs a year and are the friendliest birds you can ever hope to meet.  They’re easy to handle and rarely get broody.  Now when we first got our strain of these, these aren’t red stars, these are actually just called production layers, there’s a certain type called ISA developed in France.  When you first got… of these, they were the most delightful birds to raise, they were friendly easy to take care of.  They will come up to you for petting, the problem is they aren’t good on the range, they don’t know when to hide from predators and the don’t fare well in the winter.  Look how friendly she is, other birds would be in the next country by now.  ISA, hybrid layer, lovely birds.  Don’t pick my eye out, Ok go!  Fly be free!  Be free!  Fly!  I’m not holding you anymore!  Go Ahead!  You’re all free!  Born free, as free, you won’t go.  You’re just going to sit there…

Hybrids are tame and gentle and you can catch one in mere moments.

This is a hybrid layer.

But most pure breeds are a lot harder to catch.  Here’s farm hand going after a barred rock, and as you can see a barred rock does what a chicken should do when something is chasing it.  It should run, and run it does.  These birds are almost impossible to catch outside, and that’s one of the many reasons they are better for free range environments because they will run from a predator.  And off she goes into the woods.

Hybrids however are fairly easy to catch and make a quick meal for most predators.  Hybrids are also less hardy than pure breeds.  We live in New Jersey and this winter we had more snow than has ever been recorded.  We lost many birds to weather stress and nearly every one was a hybrid.  But if you live in a warmer client and don’t free range, Hybrids can offer great advantages, such as being incredible friendly, easy to handle, less flighty and they’re very well suited to a closed coop and run.

But for our farm, our favorite bird has always been the rhode island red.  They’re hardy, fairly well behaved and lay about 280 eggs per year.  This is a purebred rhode island red, they are purebreds, they’re not hybrids so they are harder to catch. Took me quite a few minutes to catch this one, and if you notice in their feathers, there’s no white underneath, they are brown all the way through.  The rhode island reds are a deeper mahogany color and these are one of our favorite birds for free ranging production farm.  This is one of our favorites.  One of the reasons it took so long to catch is the rooster didn’t want us to catch so he was getting rather aggressive over here.  We’re going to cut this before he comes back.

There were some confusion between red stars and rhode island red.  Red stars are hybrids and you can identify them by the white feathers underneath the more maroon feathers on top.  Whereas the rhode island red has the dark maroon feathers all the way through.

This is an … but that’s arguable.  There’s a lot of debate in what can consist a true … and what doesn’t.  Some say these guys are americanas, some people say they can only be called green egg layers or blue egg layers because that’s what they lay.  I like … on a farm because they do lay interesting eggs, they lay a fair number of eggs, they are generally good in the winter, and they know to run from predators.  They are a little flighty you can’t handle them very well, as you can see.  THis is a … which is why I was able to catch her, the full grown birds are kinda hard to catch.

But every now and then we like to get a breed that isn’t the best for production just because we like them.  THis is a five week old … you can always tell they’re … because they have feathers on their feet.  WE got a …  by accident a few years ago.  A male, and he had such a sweet disposition… are very well known for just being sweet disposition, pleasant friendly birds.  So we were at the hatchery a few weeks ago, five, six weeks ago and we saw these guys and we picked out about four or five of them.  And we’re looking forward to them.  Again they’re not the best production birds, but sometimes you just want to have friends.

So which breed is best?  It really comes down to your goals of having a flock and your personal choice.  If you want a few backyard birds then having a mixed flock is great.  If you’re going to free range and live in a moderate to cold climate, pure breeds are the best.  I would recommend a mix of breed because each one has their own characteristic, personality, and charm.  If you live in a warmer climate and or you’re not free ranging, hybrids can offer great advantages such as being easier to handle, less flighty and are better adapted to captivity.  If your goal is to produce eggs, they same criteria hold true.  Hybrids are great in warmer clients in confined coups, they’re friendly, they don’t go broody as much and they’re really easy to handle.  But if you live in a moderate to cold client or plan to free range, I would strongly recommend pure breeds.  They are far more savvy when it comes to predators, and far more hardy when it comes to surviving hard winters.  They do go broody and are more flighty but they simply survive better.

If you have questions or comments please visit our blog, or hit us on twitter where our username is @VictoryFarm.  This and other webcasts are available on ITunes.  Just go to podcasts in the ITunes store and search for Victory Farm.

End of Video Transcript