What are the best chicken breeds for homesteaders? Whether you are raising chickens as egg layers, for meat, or dual-purpose birds, you have a lot of options.
Give your backyard chicken flock New Heritage Feed Co. for happy, healthy birds.
Best Chicken Breeds for Homesteaders: Getting Started
Let’s start with what differentiates homesteaders from other types of poultry farming. Homesteaders raise animals or grow produce for themselves, whether for self-sufficiency or as a hobby. If you’re committed to producing eggs and/or want to raise meat-producing birds for your own home, you’re homesteading.
This option is attractive for people from all walks of life, including in urban environments. It may seem counterintuitive that you can raise poultry flocks in a city, but people do it all the time!
If you have a bit of a yard, you have an opportunity to raise your own chickens. The key is knowing the best chicken breeds for homesteaders.
What Are Heritage Breeds?
First, we’ll take a look at heritage breeds, which are popular with many homesteaders who are raising backyard flocks. A heritage breed is something very specific and must meet certain criteria to claim the title. If you are committed to conservation and sustainability, consider raising heritage breeds, many of which are endangered.
Crucially, a heritage breed must date before the mid-20th century (hence the adjective “heritage”). They also need recognition from the American Poultry Association and must be slow-growing breeds.
Heritage breed hens need a long, productive life outdoors, ranging from 5 to 7 years. For roosters, a long, outdoor productive life ranges from 3 to 5 years.
Ideal Heritage Chicken Breeds
Here is a list of heritage breeds that are a good fit for your backyard coop.
Rhode Island Red
These dual-purpose birds tend to do well in confinement. This versatility makes them a favorite of both rural and urban farmers alike.
The Rhode Island Red boasts both cold and heat tolerance. It is also a reliable egg layer and producing more than 200 eggs per year.
This breed made its appearance in Australia in the late 19th century. Australorps make for terrific laying hens, typically laying in the 250 range annually. These friendly birds lay large, brown eggs you’re sure to love.
Australorp hens are also gifted at mothering their baby chicks, so they can definitely be broody. Be advised: to raise genuine heritage Australorps with APA recognition, the feathers must be black.
If you’re looking for an ideal dual-purpose chicken, look no further than the Barred Rock. Their proper name is the Barred Plymouth Rock chicken, and they hail from the good old US of A. These birds are reliable egg layers and produce meat with an exceptional taste.
They lay medium-sized brown eggs, but less likely than the Australorp to go broody. Keep in mind that if you are committed to raising them free range, they will accept nothing less. Barred Rock chickens prefer free-range, which means you will likely fare better if you provide them with space.
Beneficially, they have gentle personalities. This docile breed also has the advantage of being hardy: they can tolerate both heat and cold.
If you want really authentic heritage, the Houdan chicken is among the best chicken breeds for homesteaders interested in history. This breed’s development began all the way back in the 4th Century BCE. Houdan chickens arrived in the US in the mid-19th century, and the APA currently lists its status as threatened.
Houdans fit in well with a mixed flock, and while they are not cold-tolerant, they do well with heat. This affable, confinement-tolerant bird boasts France’s “Label Rouge,” a recognition conferred on productive, outstanding-tasting breeds.
This iconic chicken is renowned for its egg production, laying up to 300 eggs annually. Their eggs have the traditional white color many associate with the eggs they purchase at the grocery store. If anyone in your household is skeptical of brown eggs or prefers commercially-produced eggs, a white leghorn might be desirable.
These chickens are known for their large size and first gained APA recognition in the late 19th century. They aren’t exactly champion layers, but they do lay consistently in the colder months, which can be valuable.
When it comes to raising chicks, this breed can be extremely broody. Ultimately, they are gentle giants. Brahmas’ personalities make them one of the best chicken breeds for homesteaders with young families.
Another dual-purpose bird, Delaware chickens, are prolific egg-layers as well as producers of excellent-tasting meat. They only narrowly meet the “heritage” criteria, since they came on the scene in the 1940s.
While they aren’t particularly heat tolerant, they manage just fine in the cold, and do well in confinement. These broody chickens are also people-pleasers, with docile personalities ideal for homestead flocks.
For versatile birds that thrive either in confinement or in free-range circumstances, consider the Buff Orpington. These hardy birds are easy to care for, and they produce delicious meat; they are not prolific layers, however.
Buff Orpington chickens do have broody tendencies, however, which is something to consider before raising them.
New Heritage Feed Co. Chicken Feed for Your Backyard Flock
When you’re raising chickens at home, you need to ensure you have the right breeds for your situation and circumstances. If you are a veteran homesteader or a first-time hobbyist, consider New Heritage Feed Co. chicken feed. We offer a range of feeds to suit the needs of different kinds of flocks.
For organic eggs, use our 17% Organic Layer Feed; it’s also available in a soy-free variety for soy-free eggs. Our 20% Chick Starter-Grower is suitable for mixed flocks, as are our 18% Layer Pellets. Both of these all/mixed-flock feeds include our proprietary blend of essential oils.
Essential oils provide a natural complement to your birds’ immune systems, growth, and development. Feed with essential oils allows you to prevent disease and parasites naturally while providing optimal nutrition.
Make the best chicken breeds for homesteaders even better. With our locally-sourced, natural ingredients, you can feel good about giving your chickens New Heritage Feed Co.