If eggs are the important factor, look for chickens that average 260 or more eggs per year. Chickens that are good layers include Dominiques (one of the oldest breeds in the U.S.), Leghorns, Marans, Orpingtons, Ameraucanas and Malines to name a few. Of the ones mentioned, we have had experience with Dominiques, Orpingtons, and Malines and all have been excellent layers with most averaging an egg a day when they are not brooding or molting (down times). We found the Dominiques (especially the roosters) to be more aggressive towards people. It bears mentioning however that if you just want eggs, you do not need a rooster. All chickens will have down time when they are brooding, molting and during weather extremes which effect their laying averages.
If your desire is meat and eggs, you'll need to find good dual purpose birds. Larger birds are normally the better meat birds obviously. Some examples of good dual purpose birds include Australorps (Australia's "national breed"), Brahmas, Dominiques, Marans, Orpingtons, and Malines to name a few. Again our experience is with the Orpingtons, Dominiques, and Malines. These birds are large in size at around 6 months of age. After looking around, we found a woman that will process our birds for around $4. each. We have several in our freezer as we speak. The birds we have are also excellent layers. This gives you the best of both worlds.
If you want eggs, but desire that they be certain colors (some people do) then good choices would be:
Araucanas - blue eggs, Ameraucanas - blue eggs, Easter Eggers - blue, green, rose , brown, sage, olive or cream eggs, Cream Legbar - blue eggs, Marans - deep brown eggs, Welsummers - chocolate brown eggs, and Penedesenca - dark reddish brown eggs. I'm sure if you do your research, you will find others. We are not so much into the color of the egg so most of ours lay cream to light brown eggs.
If a pretty chicken is what you desire with eggs just being a bonus, look for the ornamentals. These breeds include but are not limited to Serama, Cochin Bantams, Cochins, Silkies, and Phoenix to name just a few. Most of the bantam sized chickens lay small to medium eggs. This group would include the Serama (very small eggs), Cochin Bantams (medium eggs) , Silkies (medium sized eggs) and Phoenix (medium sized eggs) of those mentioned. Opringtons are not an ornamental but are gorgeous birds that come in a variety of colors especially if you get into the more rare Orpingtons such as the Jubilee and Silver laced varieties. The benefit to these birds is that they are excellent layers and good meat birds as well as pleasing to the eye.
As far as temperament goes, we have found the Orpingtons (all varieties), Silkies, Serama, Belgian Malines and the Phoenix all to have wonderful personalities and dispositions. That's not to say that some of the others wouldn't do just as well. These are the breeds that we have dealt with. We won't have birds that our grand daughter (who is almost 18 months) can't be around.
We wanted it all - eggs, meat, pretty, and calm natured! We chose Jubilee and Silver Laced Orpingtons for their eggs, meat and looks! Jubilee Orpingtons are still considered a rare color in the Orpington family, but the Silver Laced Orpingtons are even more rare. These are gorgeous birds with all the other qualities as well. We also selected the Belgian Maline which is know as the "gentle giant" of chickens. These birds are very large with a very calm demeanor. The hens are excellent layers and mothers. As I mentioned before, temperament is also of extreme importance to us.
|Silver Laced Orpington|
For the smaller "pretty" breeds, we chose Seramas, Silkies and Cochin Bantams. The Seramas are the smallest breed in the world, come in a seemingly infinite combination of beautiful colors, and have a sweet confident attitude. They are wonderful pets and show birds. There are specialty shows for Seramas where the birds compete in Tabletop competitions which spotlight their "attitude" and type. They look like tiny soldiers when posed! The Silkies are a big beautiful ball of sweet fluff. These are the chickens that girls LOVE! They have sweet personalities, and come in a variety of colors (black, gray, lavender, blue cream, blue, splash, and paint to name a few). These are also great show birds and pets. The Cochin Bantams also have our heart. They are such sweet, fluffy, beautiful small chickens with feathered legs. They always look like they are in their big footed pajamas and are great as show birds and pets.
We have a few other breeds such as the Phoenix. These birds are gorgeous with the roosters having long beautiful tails. They are good layers of medium sized cream colored eggs. They are excellent mothers as well. We have not had any problems with them as far as temperament. They will even come up and eat from our hands when we whistle (the sign that we are bringing treats).
As you can see - for us - just any bird would not do. If any of these birds interest you, contact us. We have a facebook page - The Singleton Roost and a website under construction that will be at www.TheSingletonRoost.com when completed. We are more than happy to share any insights we have gained from raising our birds.