“We see a thousand miracles around us every day,” American clergymen, writer, and Christian radio broadcaster S. Parkes Cadman once said, “What is more supernatural than an egg yolk turning into a chicken?” It is indeed an incredible feat to witness. Children can learn so much from the incredible miracle that is an egg hatching into a living, breathing chicken. They’ll learn the value and fragility of life, the importance of responsibility, and how to care for and raise a living being. What is better than that?
If you have the space available and the time and energy to devote to raising chickens, incubating eggs and hatching chicks is one of the most meaningful and amazing projects you can do as a family. With proper care and nutrition, your baby chicks will grow into healthy chickens and entertain and teach your family for years to come. Yet before you purchase your eggs and commit for the long-haul, consider this: some breeds are great for the novice while others are much more difficult to raise. Don’t order a specific chicken breed just because you fancy its looks.
When considering breeds, look for a common breed that is friendly, tame, and easy to care for. If you want a layer, choose a breed known for good egg production. If you want to raise your chickens for meat, choose a broiler breed known to gain weight quickly. Orpingtons are fantastic chickens for families, friendly, productive layers, hardy, and full of personality. Plymouth Rocks, Cornish breeds, and Silkies are also great bets. Other popular breeds include Wyandotte, Sussex, Cochin, Brahma, and Jersey Giant. Do your research to find just the right bird for you. There are many great choices!
Then there are breeds that aren’t quite as promising. While one can certainly be successful, these breeds are not as easy to raise to adulthood. Belgian D’Anver and Sebright chicks are difficult to rear. Japanese Bantam Chickens are beautiful but difficult for beginners; its form and plumage is difficult to achieve, 25% of chicks die shortly before hatching due to an allele combination common in the breed, and the breed is not cold-hardy. Aracauna chickens are great to raise, but a lethal gene combination common to this breed means that some of the chicks will die before hatching. This can be pretty depressing.
Certain chicken breeds tend to be aggressive too, making these poor choices for families with children. Breeds known for aggressive tendencies include Crevecoeur, New Hampshire Reds, Dominiques, Old English Game Fowl, and Rhode Island Reds. Tendencies vary by bird, too, and roosters are more likely to be aggressive than hens.
Raising chickens is a great opportunity for learning and well as a healthy way to bring food to your family’s table. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to purchase the first eggs or fluffy chicks you come across. Looks can be very deceiving. Take your time to find a docile, friendly, easy-to-raise breed and you’ll have a much better chicken-raising experience. Good luck!