I am dancing in my kitchen right now. After a long battle with the city's planning commission we are now able to raise chickens!!!!! Happy, happy, happy.
So I get to have five. Although all of my friends have them, (country folk), I've not personally raised chickens for a long time. I want good layers, then when they poop out their least egg I will eat them.
Anyone have any breed suggestions?
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Our local farm store gets chicks every spring, and they'll sell individuals, so my first year I was able to get seven different breeds -- one of each. That way I could compare, and they were a lot more individual than a bunch of the same breed. That's usually not possible if you're ordering them, because most places have a minimum per-breed order (and the farm store here doesn't have them this late in the year). But if you can find a place selling them per-bird, you can experiment with several breeds at once.
The most productive layers are Leghorns. They're also the most efficient as far as how many eggs they produce per pound of feed. They're like little egg-laying machines. That's why they became the industry standard, and their white eggs became the most common and cheapest in the store. However, Leghorns are kind of flighty and their light weight makes them pretty good fliers, so they'd be harder to keep fenced in an urban setting than the heavier breeds. In an urban backyard, I'd go for one of the heavier brown-egg varieties. Several of those lay about the same number of eggs, so it's just personal preference: Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red (and other Red varieties), Australorp, Buff Orpington, Cinnamon Queen. The Cinnamon Queens may be a bit more productive than the others.
If you have kids, they often enjoy Ameraucanas, the ones often called Easter Egg chickens, which lay blue or green eggs. They lay fewer eggs than the others, though, so they're a novelty item.
If you plan to sell eggs, many people will pay more for brown than white, so that may be a consideration. There's no difference in nutritional quality -- the feed determines that, not the breed -- but many people insist that brown eggs are better for baking. Who knows, but it can mean another dollar a dozen.
Edited to add: None of the great egg layers are also great meat birds, compared to a true meat breed. But the heavy breeds like the Reds do have some meat on their bones, while a Leghorn carcass wouldn't be worth much more than making stock.
Have you checked out the Backyard Chickens website? You'll get detailed info on anything chicken related ...definitely my go to for any chicken questions I have. We have ten hens right now, two each of five different breeds. I love the variety of their chicken-alities, and while they don't all lay with the same frequency, they all are good layers. My Rhode Island Reds and Golden Sex Links are the best layers, and my Americaunas lay the least frequently, but they make up for that with pretty eggs! My Barred Rocks are the smartest, and the most rascally. The Black Australorps are kind of timid, and the Buff Orpingtons are pretty and fairly mellow. Here's the link for BYC...good luck! http://www.backyardchickens.com/
I love my black australorp. She's my top forager, the most intense insect hunter in the flock. Her yolks are the darkest in the flock. Except for during her yearly molt, she has always laid frequently and very consistent eggs. Right now she lays 4 eggs every 5 days (I keep a spreadsheet). If I had to pick a single breed for a flock, it would be black australorps. They are also very docile and easy to handle. I had a black australorp rooster too, and he was a nice bird but very loud.
I highly recommend Buff Orpingtons. I have had them for years. They are consistent layers, awesome personality, easy to tame, and oh so cute!!
I love rhode island reds..We raised them in the country. THey are hearty and with stand winter very well....I WANT chickens again and have been considering it. We have an acre but are in town limits...I was wondering how to go about it.