When choosing breeds for your small-farm chicken flock, it can be hard to pick from the hundreds of breeds and varieties available. And really, the best way to pick your first flock is to first decide what purpose your birds will have. Will you be raising them for eggs? For meat? Or will you have a dual-purpose flock that yields both meat and eggs?
After that, consider your climate and your particular needs.
If you give farm tours or have children, you may want an especially friendly breed. If you live in the north, consider a winter-hardy or "heavy" breed, a larger bird with a thicker body that can better withstand the cold.
Large/heavy (7-8 lb).
Red, White. Rhode Island Reds are the most common variety.
Dual-purpose: meat and eggs. But Rhode Island Reds are famous for their egg-laying.
History, Origins, and About the Breed
Rhode Island Reds are more common than Rhode Island Whites. The breed was developed in the state of Rhode Island in the 19th century. They are the official Rhode Island state bird! They were extremely popular in the US in generations past for their prolific egg-laying and all-around hardiness, and are still champion egg-layers today.
Non-industrial strains of Rhode Island Reds are considered "recovering" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
This means they are a heritage breed and a good choice for those who want to focus on restoring a heritage breed population.
Active, yet also somewhat docile and calm. Roosters are known to be on the aggressive side. Rhode Island Reds work well for confinement or free range.
Some owners have described Rhode Island Reds as "curious, docile, loving," although some have had very bad luck with the production lines (those for factories).
Stick with heritage lines and you should be okay. Some owners feel they are more slightly and less friendly than other breeds (that was also my experience). And some feel they insert themselves at the top of the pecking order and may bully other breeds.
Very robust, hardy in both heat and cold. However, their combs are vulnerable to frostbite, making them a less than ideal choice for the coldest climates.
Not prone to broodiness. This means good news for those who want solid egg production and don't want to worry about breaking up broody hens.
Prolific! Truly one of, if not the, top heavy breed, brown egg producer. Production at around 5 eggs/week.
Large, single, or rose combs.