Do you have any idea how many breeds of chickens there are? Neither did we… Selecting the perfect breed of chicken is not easy. It is even harder to find the perfect small chick order. By small, I mean less than 10 ordered online! Picking out the breed and finding a place to order only 5 chickens involved a variety decisions, discussions, and research. I’ll be honest it was a painful process. Well, at least for me. Adam just kinda went with whatever I thought we should have. Way to dodge the responsibility for bad chickens there!
I actually felt overwhelmed by the variety of chicks and underwhelmed by the choices of where I could order from. I finally broke it down into some easy steps that let us come to a final choice of Easter Egger (Hybrid) chickens from Efowl.com. If you follow these steps then this will really help narrow your selection if you choose egg laying chickens. I will fully admit to just glancing over the meat breed selections, so keep that in mind if you use this to help narrow your breed.
1. Do you want chickens for eggs, meat, or both?
We wanted egg laying chickens. That cut our selection a ton. While I am not entirely opposed to killing my own chickens I am entirely opposed to plucking a chicken. Hello?! I find chopping vegetables to be more prep work than I want to do in the kitchen. What are the real chances I am going to go out back and catch dinner? Um… None…
2. Alright we chose egg laying chickens turn to page 52. Oh wait, this isn’t a choose your own adventure! Here is the real question: What size chicken do you want?
The following are stats for hens:
- Full Grown: 1-2 lbs
- Eats: 1 3/4 lbs per week
- Pros: Need less space in the coop, eat less
- Cons: Fly, small eggs, may need special consideration in cold weather
Standard Sized (Light Breed)
- Full Grown: 4-6 lbs
- Eats: 2 1/3 lbs per week
- Pros: Many options for breeds, good for warm weather
- Cons: May need special consideration in cold weather
Standard Sized (Heavy Breed)
- Full Grown: 6-9
- Eats: 3 1/2 lbs per week
- Pros: Large eggs
- Cons: May need special consideration in hot climates, eat large amounts of feed
You can get plenty of detailed information, but this gives you the initial stats. We wanted a non-flying bird. Ain’t nobody got time to clip wings and we can’t let them fly around the neighborhood. The lighter breeds seemed like a good compromise. Decent egg size, but we didn’t have to make a huge coop or invest a ton in feed. Our climate is fairly mild so they should be fine all year round.
3. Rank the following in importance:
- Egg Color
Having trouble ranking? Guess what?! Me too! That is how we ended up with Easter Eggers. They are hybrid chickens, meaning I could never mate them and get more Easter Eggers. Seeing as roosters are not exactly okay in the neighborhood I doubt we will be breeding chickens anytime soon. But guess what else this means?!: They tend to be healthy, with even temperaments that are good for kids, and have eggs in blue, green, and rarely pink/brown. The looks are up in the air… Which is the only thing I didn’t get with this breed. It was important to me to have a nice resilient bird. I have no clue what I am doing! I need a good healthy bird that can withstand a few mistakes on my end.
Let’s say that maybe looks ranked higher. Have you seen a Polish breed like a Golden Laced Polish?! Crest Yes! Or what about a beautiful feathered leg variety like a White Sultan? Or the long legged beauty of an Egyptian Fayoumis? Yeah… If you are in it for the looks then pick a beautiful breed. They are out there, but the Polish tend to be flighty since they can’t see. A white sultan requires lots of grooming to look that good, and an Egyptian Fayoumis… Not going to be happy penned in our back yard. For us it was more work for the beauty. Maybe after we know what we are in for we can try a fancier breed.
If you are in it for specific egg color most websites will break down their chicken selection by egg color. That makes it pretty easy.
Intelligence is just up in the air. I scouted many a forum post at backyardchickens.com and read plenty blog posts my favorite being the ones at Northwest Edible Life. I figure it is like Amazon reviews. If most everyone says it is a smart good chicken breed it probably is. There are always going to be the 1 star reviews.
4. Finally and maybe most importantly how many chickens do you want and where do you plan on getting them?
Depending on the time of year and how many chicks you want you may find yourself S.O.L. Locally sourcing (craigslist and auctions) are the way to go for a small number of chicks, but takes time and often limits your choices. The internet opens up a lot of options for various breeds, but guess what?! You want 5 chicks? Suck it. Most hatcheries have a minimum order of 10-25 chicks. They have good rational reasons such as needing to keep the chicks warm etc. So if you want a small chick order (fewer than 10 chicks) your options are slimmed immediately. You will have to look at some of the specialty websites and choose from their selection. We looked at the following (these are not affiliate links, just places we checked out)
- Pros: Order as few as 3 chicks
- Cons: Had lots of customer service complaints
- Pros: Minimum order is 3 BUT…
- Cons: Minimum order is based on your zip code ours was actually 7
eFowl (Don’t Laugh at the name)
- Pros: 3, 5, & 10 chick special orders
- Cons: Not all breeds are available at the special order sizes
The reason I say these options may be the most important factor for ordering is because we lost out on the Easter Eggers on Meyer and My Pet Chicken. Literally, I had a cart full, went to lunch, came back to buy them and they were sold out of female chicks until July…. If you want a certain breed, at a certain time, in a certain sex, and you only want a few. Good Luck! It would be way easier to look at the choices available from the various websites and choose from there.
Finally, you can always ask other chicken owners. I asked a former co-worker of mine for advice and she was heartily behind the Easter Eggers for the reasons supplied above. It is always good to get an experienced chicken owner’s opinion. If you don’t know any there are plenty of chicken forums to read like I mentioned above. Good luck selecting you breed!