Best Picks for the Small Farmer
With so many choices it’s hard to know which are the best backyard chickens to raise. Much of your decision depends on whether you want meat or eggs.
While most chickens are bred to produce either eggs or meat, there are a couple dual-purpose breeds that can provide both and we’ve had good luck with.
We have been raising chickens for egg and meat production here on our homestead for six years and have found that the best egg producers remain thin no matter how much we feed them while meat breeds become fat quick, but lay fewer eggs.
To get started with your own backyard chickens you can buy chickens at any age, but we like to buy day-old chicks so we can watch their development. It is so exciting to see that baby chick grow into an egg producing hen. Purchase your chicks from a local hatchery, your local feed store, or online. The last few batches we have ordered online from Meyer Hatchery. If you’re just starting out they allow for small orders, where many of the other online hatcheries have a 25 chick minimum. Most hatcheries will routinely vaccinate before shipping.
Be aware that day-old chicks are much cheaper than buying older pullets, but they do require some extra attention to get started. If you are interested in egg production only, purchase all females, since a rooster is not necessary unless you want fertilized eggs.
The number of chicks you order depends on the number of eggs you want; a good laying hen will lay an egg a day. Plan that egg production will go down during colder and darker days and when the bird is molting, so always order a couple more than the number of eggs you want daily.
There are many different breeds to choose from, but we have found that Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks are our picks for a dual-purpose bird. They are good egg producers, have an easy temperament and double good as a meat chicken when needed.
Do you raise chicken? Do you have any hard learned lessons you can share with us?
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