Choosing Backyard Chicks
Do a little research before you buy chicks, especially if you are purchasing online. Not only do you want a variety that suits your needs, they should be able to handle the weather in your area. Here in the northeastern Pa., we look for hens that can handle the cold. Often the breeds recommended for our area have smaller combs, avoiding issues with frostbite.
Some examples of breeds recommended for colder areas are the Barred Plymouth Rock, the Orpingtons, Australorps, New Hampshire Red and Rhode Island Red. Easter Eggers are one of our favorites and do well in both the cold and in heat.
You have probably already decided whether you just want eggs, want to breed chicks, are raising hens for meat, or for a combination of reasons. If it is just for the eggs, any hen suited for your area that is prolific will do. Check into their expected production rates, usually about 4-5 eggs per week during the warmer days. Know that production is directly associated with day length, and usually will drop off in the winter.
You can have a little fun and choose a few breeds that lay different color eggs, especially if you intend to give them away or sell them. The variety of colors looks so appealing. They range from white through many shades of brown including chocolate brown, and with additional colors like blues, greens, even lavender. Another reason why we like the Easter Eggers, they usually produce green eggs. Can’t help but think of Dr. Seuss.
Just a note here to let you know that you only need a rooster if you want to raise chicks; you don’t need to have one for eggs only. In fact, if you want to be sure your eggs are not holding unborn chicks; don’t add a rooster to your flock.
If you are looking to raise chickens primarily for meat, check out breeds especially well-suited for this purpose. These are often bred to grow large very fast. Also look into different ways to harvest the hens, so you will know what you are getting into before you get started.
If you are not entirely sure what your plans may be down the road, look at breeds that are suited well both for egg production and hen size.
Like any other hobby, owning a backyard flock will be much more rewarding if you do a little homework first.
- Gardening Jones