5 Best Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead

Updated on August 2, 2017

With homesteading on every level and scale becoming more and more popular, many people want to know which are the best chicken breeds for a small farm or backyard flock. Of course, different families' needs will vary, but here are a few guidelines to help you first decide what your needs are.

What do you want your chickens to do?

Before you can decide what breed is best, you have to decide what you want your chickens to do.

  • Do you want them just for eggs?
  • Do you want them to feed your family?
  • Do you want birds that will set eggs and raise chicks?

Not all chickens will do this last one, so that is a very important consideration, especially if you are on a primitive homestead and powering an incubator 24 hours a day for 21 days is not an option.

Many specialized production breeds are best for one purpose only. Many egg-layers are small, and meat birds generally become very large very quickly, making them an unsustainable option for anything else. Because of this, most homesteaders raise dual-purpose birds. This means that the chickens are excellent at egg production but still large enough to dress out well on the table. Heritage breeds are great for this.

Where do you live?

Where you live is an important consideration when choosing a breed for your homestead. Some breeds are better-suited to certain climates. For example, the Wyandotte is a very cold-hardy breed. They are large, have a comb that is generally not at risk for frostbite and they will often lay straight through the winter as well.

Here are a few great dual-purpose breeds that are wonderful on the homestead or in any backyard chicken flock.

The Plymouth Rock

Barred Plymouth Rock hen.
Barred Plymouth Rock hen.

The Plymouth Rock chicken comes in a few different varieties. The most common are the white and barred types. This is a hardy American breed that has been around for a long time. Rocks are part of the “heavy” class of poultry, weighing around 7-8lbs when grown, which makes them excellent dual-purpose birds. Some get quite large. They lay between 200-300 large brown eggs a year. Most breeds of bird have had the broodiness bred out of them over the years, but Plymouth Rocks have been known to become broody and sit on eggs.

Plymouth Rocks are smart and tolerate confinement very well. They are happy foraging or living in a pen, making them particularly suited to life on a homestead or in a backyard flock. They are social and talkative.

The Orpington

Buff Orpington hen.
Buff Orpington hen.

Extremely popular among homesteaders and backyard chicken enthusiasts, Orpingtons come in many different varieties and colors, from English to Lavender. They are a medium to heavy bird and lay up to 200 large brown eggs a year. They are social, calm and very pretty, making them a favorite with small children. These birds are great foragers and will often lay well into the winter, but the biggest advantage of the Orpington is that they are extremely broody. Orpingtons need no encouragement to set eggs. Simply let nature take it's course and in spring you will have new chicks!

If you are looking for a breed that will ensure your flock is self-sustaining, Orpingtons are the way to go. Even just one or two on your homestead can guarantee that your homestead or backyard flock is able to grow without the need of an incubator -- Orpingtons will set and hatch any eggs you give them!

The Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red hen.
Rhode Island Red hen.

Remember the story of the little red hen? She was a Rhode Island Red! The Rhode Island Red (RIR) chicken is a cold-hardy heritage breed that has been around for a very long time. RIRs are part of the “heavy” class of poultry, weighing in at around 7-8lbs when grown. These are excellent dual-purpose birds. They lay between 200-300 extra-large brown eggs a year. Some types of Rhode Islands are known to become broody or sit on eggs.

Rhode Island Reds are calm and generally non-aggressive (though males have been known to be aggressive), making them great in any backyard flock. The RIR rooster can be crossed with a barred Plymouth Rock hen to make the next bird on this list.

The Black Star

Black Star hen.
Black Star hen.

Technically not a breed, these heritage hybrids are also known as Black Rocks, Red Rocks and simply black sex-links (because you can tell what sex they are when they're born). These birds are some of the best brown egg layers you will find! They will lay more than 300 large brown eggs a year -- more than both heritage breeds they are crossed with! Considered part of the “medium” class of poultry, weighing in at around 5-6lbs when grown, Black Stars are good dual-purpose homestead birds (although their specialty really is egg-laying). They are not known to go broody, though any chicken certainly can.

Black Rocks are very friendly and docile, very easy to handle. If you are looking for a serious egg-laying bird that can also be a pet, you can’t go wrong with a few Black Star hens.

The Wyandotte

Silver Lace Wyandotte hen.
Silver Lace Wyandotte hen.

Named after the Native American tribe that created them, Wyandottes come in a variety of types and colors. Part of the "heavy" class of poultry, they are a cold-hardy American breed, excellent for homesteaders in colder climates. Wyandottes will lay right through the winter in many cases, even when your other chickens have stopped for the season. These tough ladies will lay up to 200 large brown eggs a year or more (around 4 a week) and some are known to go broody.

The Wyandotte chicken has a docile and easygoing personality. They are easy to handle and great fun to have in any backyard flock. They are also very beautiful.

Honorable Mention

A few breeds or hybrids that deserve honorable mention are:

  • The Silkie
  • The Cinnamon Queen
  • The Australorp
  • The Easter Egger
  • The Leghorn
  • The Barnevelder

Keeping chickens is fun, fulfilling and a must for any self-sustainable lifestyle. With a little bit of research and planning, your flock can be healthy, happy and sustainable for years to come!

SinDelle runs The Georgia Herb & Egg Co. in Dublin, GA

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Chook 6 months ago

      That looks like my rhode island red and Plymouth rock!

    • ashleyeatsveggies profile image

      Ashley Threadingham 10 months ago from Durham, NC

      Thanks for the great article! I enjoyed the lovely pictures of the hens and dream of the day I can own backyard chickens. :)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)