There are hundreds of different chicken breeds out there from which to choose. Large or small? Meat, eggs, dual-purpose, or merely for looks? Colors, shapes, sizes, feather designs, temperaments, hardiness, and personalities vary just as much. A beginner’s mistake when raising chickens is to set one’s heart on a particular breed without knowing much about that breed. Chicks may look alike, but the chickens they will become could not be more different. One might choose the unique-looking Aseel, for example, without realizing that the breed likes to fight and tends to be quite strong and aggressive. The Malay chicken truly stands out from the crowd in looks and height, but they are likely to fight, are not meaty, and do not lay eggs frequently. The wide variety of chicken breeds out there may be overwhelming, but fear not. Here are some of the best chicken breeds for beginners.
Top Layer—Try the White Leghorn
The White Leghorn is one of the best layers out there. This medium-sized, white bird with a striking red comb lays frequently and their large, white eggs are extremely popular. While not particularly docile and broody, this breed is hardy, active, and quite intelligent. They produce about 300 eggs per year. They are not that great for meat and can be flighty and nervous. Still, when it comes to egg laying the White Leghorn is hard to beat.
A Friendly Dual-Purpose Choice—- The Orpington
This UK breed is not only large and fluffy, but extremely docile and also excellent dual-purpose birds great for both laying eggs and meat production. Unlike White Leghorns, the Orpington thrives on human contact and tends to enjoy being held. Their inability to fly for long distances is another quality that makes this breed a good backyard bird. Orpingtons are thick and meaty birds while also producing around 200 eggs annually. They are a great breed for beginners, experienced farmers, and families alike. While not extremely flashy or brightly colored, they are extremely easy to care for. If you have children, the Orpington is a breed that is hard to beat.
Best Bet Chicken Pet—The Silkie Chicken
Are you looking for a striking chicken that truly stands out from the crowd? Small, unique, and known for their silky smooth feathers, the Silkie Chicken is extremely tame and loves human contact. They are popular pets and love to be held. If you want a pet chicken and are not overly concerned with eggs or meat production, this may be the breed for which you are searching. This ornamental breed lays around 150 small, cream colored eggs annually and is extremely broody. They will even hatch eggs from other chickens. The Silkie Chicken is a fantastic pet for children and is a soft, adorable addition to any backyard.
Hardy and Easy-to-Care-For— The Rhode Island Red
Docile, easy-to-care-for, and tolerant of both cold and heat, the Rhode Island Red is an excellent chicken breed for beginners. A good layer, the Rhode Island Red produces around 200 large, brown eggs each year. This bird is making a big comeback on small farms and in backyard coops throughout the United States and with good reason too. They are very hardy, produce well, and don’t require much care. They are loving and friendly too, although roosters have been known to be mean. If you want a hardy, dual-purpose chicken, the Rhode Island Red is a beautiful and useful bird to have around.
A Visually Appealing and Useful Bird- The Barred Plymouth Rock
The Barred Plymouth Rock adds flair to any backyard with their black and white checkerboard patterned feathers (other color varieties exist too). Laying 200 cream-colored eggs annually, the Barred Plymouth Rock chicken is a great layer and a great meat bird too. This bird matures and grows quickly and also enjoys a long lifetime. She makes a brood mother hen. Most Barred Plymouth Rocks are friendly and love human contact. They are a fantastic bird for any beginner.