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Chicken Breeds for the Small Farm

Which Breed Is Right for Your Farm or Homestead?

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Once you've decided to keep chickens, you need to choose the chicken breed or breeds you are going to raise on your small farm or homestead. Chickens come in different colors, sizes, and personalities - and with over 200 breeds, it can be hard to choose! This list of the most popular breeds will help you figure out the best fit for your farm.

First, learn about the different characteristics of breeds and why you might want to choose one over the other:

When you're ready to buy, find out where to get chicks:

Keep checking back here, because I'll be adding more breeds all the time!

Ameracauna

An Ameracauna hen.
Photo © Lauren Ware

True standard Ameracaunas are a rare breed of South American chicken that lays blue eggs. Most of what are called "Ameracaunas" or "Easter Eggers" in the United States are a mix of South American breeds. In any case, these are fun, interesting birds who are primarily good for laying eggs, not so much for meat. Their personalities can vary and their eggs, in all shades of blue, green, and even cream, are favorites among children and farmers market customers.

New Hampshire Red

A New Hampshire Red hen.
Photo © Lauren Ware

New Hampshire Reds are a vigorous, early-maturing breed known for their meat more than their eggs, although they are a true dual-purpose bird, good for both meat production and egg-laying. They originally derived from Rhode Island Reds. Their personalities can vary by bird, from focused on the pecking order and a bit aggressive toward other birds, to mellow and docile.

Orpington

A Buff Orpington pullet.
Photo © Lauren Ware

The most common Orpington variety is Buff. Buff Orpingtons are known for their big, fluffy-feathered bodies and gentle hearts. These are the Big Birds of the dual-purpose chicken world. Sweet, docile, and easy to confine in a fenced area, they are a favorite of families with young children. They'll tolerate a lot of picking up and handling. This means that they may also be more vulnerable to predators, though. They were originally developed for meat, but also lay eggs well, and lay right through the winter months. Great for cold climates. One of my favorite breeds overall.

Plymouth Rock

Barred Rock hen.
Photo © Lauren Ware

The most common Plymouth Rock variety is the Barred Rock. With their black and white stripes, Barred Rocks are a good-looking breed and stand out in the flock. Plymouth Rocks are solid, sturdy dual-purpose birds and very popular for the small farm and homestead. They were at one time the most popular breed in America.

Rhode Island Red

A Rhode Island Red hen.
Photo © Lauren Ware

Rhode Island Reds are prolific egg-layers, and at one time a standard for small poultry farms. Although they're good for meat, too, they are known for their high egg production. They are active, but also calm and docile, although roosters can tend toward the aggressive side in this breed.

Sussex

A Speckled Sussex hen.
Photo © Lauren Ware

An English breed, Sussex chickens were at one time the most common British table bird. Speckled Sussex is the most common variety, and they stand out from other hens with their brown plumage with white speckles. It's also good camouflage from predators. They are known for their unique, friendly, and curious personalities. Another of my favorite breeds - we have a hen named Miss Friendly who is a Speckled Sussex, and she was named because she is by far the most "pet-like" of any of our chickens.

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