THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO CHICKEN BREEDS
An Introductory Guide to Choosing the Right Flock
By: Amber Bradshaw
Published: March 23, 2021
Publisher: Rockridge Press
During the pandemic, many people were looking for new hobbies and things to do since we were all stuck at home for months. Several people took up gardening and many others started raising chickens. Having eggs at your disposal, just by walking out to your backyard is handy, plus eggs from your own chickens are so much better! One of our friends became the owners of several chickens during the pandemic and is now selling eggs to local families. I was raised on a farm and gathered eggs as one of my chores, but unfortunately, due to our community’s ordinance, there won’t be any chickens in our backyard. So, I happily get our eggs from a local farmer and close friend that produces the best eggs!
If you have thought about raising chickens for eggs, for meat, for breeding, or even…as pets….this is the book to get you started. Bradshaw writes in an easy-to-understand format with simple explanations and bullet points to highlight the important aspects of each breed of chicken. She uses categories for each breed so you can look for what is most important to you…climate, temperament, egg production, meat quality, appearance, etc.
I was surprised how much I learned about chickens, including the color of the chicken’s ear lobes shows you what color their eggs will be. You will also want to be sure to note the breeds ability to fly based on where your chickens will be raised. If you can’t have a high fence, you’ll need chickens that have smaller wings. Bradshaw also debunked a common myth, that the eggshell color is what determines the nutrition value of the egg. This is NOT true. Instead, it is the chicken’s diet that determines the nutritional value of the yolk and white.
If you are still unsure about what breed is best for you, there is a Best Fit Questionnaire included in the book to help you determine what chickens are right for your location, setting, and needs.
The book features numerous breeds, many that I had never even heard of. Then its origin, purpose, best climate, temperament, average weight, egg color, size, and production/year, and more are listed for each breed. If you use eggs for baking or in recipes, you may want to be sure you choose a breed that produces large eggs. If you just want them for eating, a small or medium egg would work fine. Choosing the right breed to produce the eggs you want is important.
Chickens can see in color. Chickens can actually see in four different types of cones: blue, red, green, and ultraviolet. Humans can only see in three cones; this makes a chicken’s color vision superior to ours.
Chickens are a fascinating animal and can become fond of their owners, remembering faces and sounds. I had never heard of chickens becoming pets, but there are certain breeds that would make better pets than others if you are interested in having a chicken for a pet.
I was surprised to learn that the Black Star breed of chickens was created after WWII to be an “egg-laying machine.” It is a cross between a Rhode Island Rooster and a Barred Rock Hen. This chicken helped families by providing many eggs and nutrients after rationing during the war. I also didn’t realize that there were pink eggs. The Easter Egger, yes, an actual breed of chickens, can produce blue, green, or pink eggs.
I knew that egg production slows down in winter and I always assumed it was due to the cold weather, especially here in Iowa. But, the reason for the slower production is actually due to less light. Hens need up to fourteen hours of light daily to develop eggs. At least, here in Iowa, during the winter months, we don’t have fourteen hours of light. But, some breeds can handle this lack of light and for those of us in the northern states, finding those breeds makes sense.
Overall, I found this book quite interesting and even though I can’t personally raise chickens, I can share my knowledge with those who can.
Amber Bradshaw is the author of Beekeeping for Beginners and The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Goats. She is also a former 4-H leader, as well as a blogger and public speaker. Amber is happy to share her knowledge with others through public speaking, private instruction, and online at MyHomesteadLife.com.