The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chicken Breeds

Hello, Frank here.

Next to housing, fencing, feed, predators and anything else I left out, the chicken breed you choose will probably be the most important selection you make. In other words, all the above mentioned are just as important, but tonight we're going to talk about chicken breeds. And in the future we'll talk about houses, fencing and other stuff.

I'm going to give you the Murray McMurray Hatchery site. I gave it to you last time also. There are lots and lots of other hatcheries, maybe some right in your neighborhood. The reason I'm giving you the Murray McMurray site is because this is who I buy the vast majority of my birds from. I have been using them for 25+ years, and am very happy with their service, their product and their service after the sale.

Now a short tutorial here. If you choose to use the Murray McMurray site, then familiarize yourself with how their website operates. On the site's top right hand corner in white letters, you'll
see 'home', which takes you back to the original site; 'chick selector' which is a nifty little tool to help you choose the right bird; and 'FAQ's' which is frequently asked questions. We're going to use the FAQ right now, click on it, scroll down and you will see lots and lots of questions. Pick the ones that interest you 
first or start at the top and just go down the list. This FAQ page will answer the vast majority of your questions. Now, always take something into consideration, this company, like all companies, has to make a profit. Therefore, most information available here is geared toward selling you some type of fowl. So take everything you read with a grain of salt. But this company wants their customers to be happy and return again and again, just like I have.

Let me give you a small example of what I am talking about. A few years back, actually many years back, I ordered chickens from another hatchery that will remain nameless. I called to check on the baby chicks' status and they could not find my order. When I questioned them about it, the lady got extremely belligerent and ended up calling me a liar. There are reasons why people shop with the same company over and over.

Okay. Now let's go back to the home page and right under the picture of the little girl and the Murray hatchery symbol, you'll see a bar going from left to right. It's starts with baby chicks, which is where we are going now. A window opens and I am going to standard breed chicks. If you go on across that bar you will see water fowl and other fowl. If you're interested in ducks, geese, guineas, turkeys and other birds, they will have them here. 
But, I'm under baby chicks in standard chicken breeds. Okay, look around through here. You're going to see brown egg layers, white egg layers, meat birds and other assorted groups. So, look through all of these, you might find something you really enjoy. Some of you may want strictly meat birds. There is information provided here that will help you. Just play in this site for a while and you are going to see that there are some weird looking chickens. If you read any of my radio posts, then you know I use the phrase, "It's a big stadium, there's room for everybody to play in it." But if you're an average homesteader, you're probably going to be the most interested in the brown egg layers/heavy breeds, which is where I'm going next.

Okay. Now I clicked on the brown egg layers/heavy breeds, the page opens with all of McMurray's selection right here. Okay, let's scroll down and look and see what they have. They have Orpington's, Giants, Wyandottes, Rocks; example Buff Rocks, White Rocks, Barred Rocks and Partridge Rocks. 

Alright, let's pick one and we're going to click on it. Let's go to the Buff Orpington, it's on the left hand side about five or six birds down. Okay. Now let's take a look. You have a catalog number, a description, you'll see males, females, that's pretty self explanatory, and what's called straight run, which is a mix of roosters and hens, normally about 50/50. If you'll notice, all roosters cost less, because you only need one rooster to about 15-20 hens. Okay, so let's say you order 25 straight run. You're going to get, let's say, 13 roosters and 12 hens. When they get to be about 10-12 weeks old, you butcher 12 roosters. Very tasty. Okay, so now you have one rooster and 12 hens. This is the beginning of your flock.

Okay, let's scroll down a little bit and there will be a description of this chicken. Let's take a look at the picture on the right hand side.
The bird has a single comb, which is that red thing going across the top of it's head. This particular breed is called a Buff Orpington because all Orpingtons whether buff, white or black will have the same basic characteristics. What I mean by that is the same type of comb, the same number of toes, same skin color and most of the time, the same features. I'll talk more about that right now. 

Opposite the picture of the chickens, on the left side of the page, it says quick stats. On the bottom of that quick stats square, click on 'more here'. Here are the quick stats for this particular chicken, and as I just mentioned, there is a black, white and buff Orpington and they all have the same basic features which are exhibited, in this case, under quick stats. So, read down through the stats. So they lay a brown egg, egg production is
better, they are heat and cold tolerant. Next is the description disposition. In this case it is good. Why do you care about disposition? You don't want your five year old little boy being terrorized by a giant aggressive rooster. Believe it or not, I know people to this day that will not go into a chicken pen because of a fear that was entrenched in the psyche when they were a young child. Now to most of us, this sounds silly, but to the person with the fear, it is very, very real. Something to consider when you're getting chickens. Some chickens will eat feed out of your hand and other chickens will peck your skin until you bleed. So, if you have children, give this serious thought.

A funny here. Once upon a time, we had Rhode Island Reds and my wife had a pair of Red Wing boots. Anytime she wore the Red Wing boots into the chicken pen, the big red rooster would attack her little Red Wing boots. This story had a sad ending for the rooster.

Okay, back to chicken breeds. Most of the breeds featured on this web site have the quick stats chart available. But, while we're on the quick stats, look about five spaces up, 'likely to sit on eggs'. If you're going to want to have your chickens hatch your replacement hens then you have to have a hen that will set. Surprising as it may seem, most chickens have had this bred out of them. The reason why? When a chicken wants to set, it will quit laying eggs so your egg production drops. All of these are things to think about.

Okay, let's pick another breed. I'm going to go back to brown egg layers/heavy breeds. On the right hand side, down
about three chickens, let's click on the Rhode Island Red. Let's scroll down, at the quick stats, click more here, and go down to where it says disposition. You will notice it says better. I'm going to guess that probably the most popular dual purpose, homestead type chicken in this country is the Rhode Island Red. These are good overall birds, but they can be a little bit aggressive. Once you learn how to handle an aggressive chicken, it's no big deal. Also notice that the hens are not likely to set. So if you plan on raising your replacement flock in an incubator, this particular breed is a fine choice.

Okay, read their quick stats and it is going to give you some information
that you are going to need to look for. Let's go back to the brown egg layers/heavy breeds page. Let's choose the Barred Rock, it is top left. Scroll down, click on 'more here' on quick stats.
This is also a very, very popular bird. This being a Barred Rock, is just one of many of the Rock family. Also look at the quick stats and see if it meets your needs. I have raised these birds, and I think they are an excellent choice for a homestead, as are the Rhode Island Reds and the Buff Orpingtons. I have never raised a bird that didn't have a standard single comb until now, and they are not in this list of chickens. So, I can't speak about Wyandottes, or Brahmas, and there is a number of chickens on this list I have not raised. But there is one other bird I would like for you to look at. It is the Speckled
Sussex. It's in the right hand column about half way down. Read their quick stats. These birds are fairly docile and they are a pretty bird. Another one I would recommend you look at would be the Partridge Rock. I have found this to be a good performing bird.

One more, I'm going to ask you to look at. It's in the right hand column of the brown egg layers all the way to the bottom. It's called heavy breed assortments. Please click 
there. This might be something liking to your need. The heavy assorted, straight run will offer you a wide assortment of birds. Just something to think about.

Okay. Chicken breeds. Please go through the Murray McMurray site and do lots of reading. There is a lot of information that time just prohibits covering. If you know folks that have chickens, ask them what they have and if they like them. Please visit other hatchery websites and look around. I mentioned a Black Orpington. This particular breeder doesn't carry them. Check with your local hatcheries. They may not have a flashy website, but they might have great birds. Educate yourself about chickens. They're relatively easy to raise. Compared to other livestock the financial investment is substantially less. They will give you eggs and meat year round for years and years to come. Go back to the previous post and check out the 6, 12 and 18 rotation cycle.

Hope this helps a little bit. Next time we'll talk about housing. And remember, this is just my opinion about the birds that I have raised over the years. I am by no means an authority on chickens. This is just the way I do it.

We'll talk more later. Frank

P.S. All the pictures and information in this post are from the Murray McMurray hatchery website. I have no affiliation with these fine folks. Just a happy customer.


  1. Nice post . Thank you

    1. Thank you for the comment, Jean. We are trying to post weekly chicken articles. Hope you enjoy them. If you have any particular interest, please let us know.

  2. Thank you Frank....a good solid post with useful and realistic information. Ralph and I look forward to your housing information. We have seriously been looking into a small chicken tractor for the backyard.

    PS; I have almost memorized the description of Buff Orpington....the line "They should be the color of a Gold Watch!" seemsto be used a lot.

  3. Thank you for the link! I look forward to your posts.....I am a new homesteader (but old lady, 68)....steep learning curve for 5 years now. I'm just starting out and have a lot of catching up to do. Your advice is prized.

  4. Thank you for a post with a lot of good information. I've had buff orpingtons and black australorps as well as a few of this and a few of that breed. My hens are old now and I need to get some chicks this spring and you're right that most modern hens won't set on eggs anymore.

    Thank you for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop; I hope you'll join us again this Thursday.

    Kathi @

  5. I really like McMurray Hatchery. I think they have some good solid bloodlines. I've gotten birds from other places that are not as pure? Definitely not quite what they should look like. ie - speckled sussex with quite a bit of white on the underside.

    1. Amy, we tried a couple of other hatcheries over the years, and not always with good results. When we find something we like, we stay with it. We like Murray McMurray hatchery. Thank you for reading.


  6. Been a customer of McMurray for about fifteen years, RIR's and Narragansett Turkeys and could not be more satisfied!

    1. Hi, Everett. I have been a customer of Murray McMurray for about 30 years. I also am more than happy. I have tried a couple of other hatcheries over the years, and I repeatedly go back to McMurray. Their prices are a little higher, but their product is an everyday higher quality. I once had a batch of day old chicks ship and the summertime heat killed about half of them. With no questions asked they were refunded on my next order. Unless something drastically shifts in the world, I will continue to get my store bought chicks from Murray McMurray Hatcheries.

      Everett, I just never had any luck with turkeys. Ducks I find irritating, geese have high velocity, horizontal, projectile poop, and they'll also bite the snot out of you, too. And guineas? Well, Everett, I'm a light sleeper. We tried guineas once. So it is going to be chickens for the long term. Thank you for your comment, I do appreciate it.


  7. Hi Frank,
    Thank you for information on what kind of Hens to get. I may be getting 3 for our backyard here in Orangevale,CA. I'm very green about what I need to buy,what kind of coop to get, etc,so I'm gathering as much info as I can! Would I also want a Rooster too? If so, would a Sizzle Rooster might be quieter?! Now following you, Thanks! Susan