Best Beginner Chicken Breeds

Best Beginner Chicken Breeds Blog Cover

So hopefully our post on 5 Reasons to Keep Chickens did it’s job and persuaded you to keep chickens. The next step is picking the breed of chicken you want.

Picking the right breed of chicken as a beginner can be the difference between thoroughly enjoying every moment with your chickens or questioning why you ever wanted chickens in the first place.

Most people when they start out looking at breeds don’t know exactly what they want or need, so that’s why we’ve decided to write this article today.

We’re going to address exactly what you need to think about before you decide on your breed, explain what characteristics beginners should look for, then recommend our top 5 picks for the best egg laying chicken breeds.

Why Do You Want Chickens?

Before we go any further we’re going to ask you some questions- be sure to either write your answers down or keep them in your head.

First of all, why do you want to keep chickens? Are you looking to keep chickens for eggs, meat, pets or a combination of these reasons (although the meat and pet options probably don’t go too well together!)?

Certain chickens are exceptionally good egg layers (Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns) and lay a high amount of eggs whereas other breeds (Broilers) are better for meat but don’t lay many eggs.

The second question you need to answer is, how much time are you expecting to spend with, and caring for, your chickens? Certain breeds require much more maintenance and time from you. Whereas other breeds (such as Buff Orpingtons) are very self-reliant and won’t require much time from you at all.

If you are wondering how much time you need to spend with your chickens, read my plan here.

Thirdly, you need to think about your climate/weather and make sure that it is suitable for the breed you are interested in.

Most of the time you don’t need to worry too much about this, as most breeds will be fine in all climates. Also, if the chicken is being sold to you locally then unless the chicken has recently been imported it will be fine in your climate. However if you’re buying rare breeds (which we wouldn’t recommend to you as a beginner, but more on that later) and are travelling a long distance to get them, you need to make sure that the climate you are taking them to is suitable. For example Minorca chickens require very warm climates so they wouldn’t be suitable in certain areas of Russia.

Minorca Chicken
Black Minorca Chicken on the right © Resak

The fourth question you need to think about is how much room you are going to give your chickens? Before you answer this make sure you read how much room do chicken need.

Are you planning on keeping your chickens in a coop or free range?

Certain breeds require more room than others and if they don’t get this room they can get violent and even start pecking and attacking each other. So make sure you match the breed to what you can offer in terms of roaming space and coop sizes.

The final question to think about is what’s your budget?

Most breeds cost a similar amount per chicken however more exotic and rare breeds can be very expensive – in fact they can cost thousands of dollars.

However as we mention later on in the article, we wouldn’t recommend beginners purchasing rare or exotic birds for their first chicken.

Typical Chicken Characteristics Beginners Look For

We’ve found that most of the time, when people email us asking what breed of chicken they should start with, they are all looking for the same thing.

Most beginners are looking for chickens which are easy to keep, lay lots of eggs, are docile and aren’t very noisy.

This is why we always recommend what’s known as dual purpose birds to begin with. Dual purpose birds are normally great egg layers and very calm- we will discuss specific breeds later on.

Some beginners email us and ask for rare breeds or breeds which produce a lot of meat. We don’t recommend either of these for beginners simply because they require much more time, and are harder to look after. We always recommend avoiding meat and exotic birds until you gain more experience.

Best Egg Laying Chicken Breeds

So if you are like us and want to start keeping chickens for eggs, which breed would we suggest?

Bear in mind that the suggestions below are ideal for people with little experience who are looking for backyard chickens, which are easy to manage, require small amounts of maintenance and most importantly… lay lots of eggs!

1. Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Reds are synonymous with backyard chicken keeping and one of the most popular chicken breeds around (source).

They are friendly, easy to keep and very tough.

Eggs: Should produce upwards of 250, medium-sized, brown eggs per year.

Character: They are very easy to keep, don’t require too much space and lay all year round.

Rhode Island Red Chicken Breeds
© Sammy

2. Hybrid

Hybrid breeds such as Golden Comets have been bred to consume small amounts of food and to lay as many eggs as possible. Whilst this is great for you, this can be detrimental to the hens health as their body never rests.

Eggs: Upwards of 280, medium-sized, brown eggs per year.

Character: Hybrids tend to make excellent layers, consumer less food, and aren’t very likely to become broody. They make a great choice, however make sure you source your hybrid from a sustainable breeder and ensure that it hasn’t been overbred.

Hybrid Chicken Breeds
© Kristine

3. Buff Orpington

Buff Orpington’s are one of the easiest and most popular egg laying chickens around. They originate from Kent, England and are renowned for their good looks and sturdiness.

Eggs: Should produce at least 180, medium-sized, light brown eggs per year.

Character: Orpington’s make great pets as they are extremely friendly and soft. However they do get broody during the summer months hence why their egg production is slightly lower than some of the other breeds mentioned here.

Buff Orpington Chicken Breeds
© Elias

4. Plymouth Rock

The Plymouth Rock, also known as barred rocks, originates from the US and is one of the most popular dual purpose chickens.

Eggs: Should produce 200, medium sized, brown eggs per year- they also lay during the winter.

Character: They are a very active bird who performs best as free-range and would make a perfect backyard chicken. They are also extremely friendly with humans so great if you want to train them to eat from your hand!

Plymouth Rock Chicken Breeds
© David

5. Leghorn

The leghorn breed originates from Italy and was first introduced into the US during the 1800’s. They don’t get broody often and are an ideal pick for year round egg laying.

Eggs: Should produce upwards of 250, medium sized, white eggs per year.

Character: Leghorns will be happy in gardens as they are a very active chicken however they aren’t very tame so aren’t ideal for people with children wanting them as a pet.

Leghorn Chicken Breeds
© Frankie

With these suggestions made its important to remember you always get ‘bad-chickens’ and even the most docile breed can produce occasionally problematic birds.

All of these breeds above should be available from a local hatchery and we’d recommend at the start not to mix breeds within your flock.

Pick a breed and start off with them. This will help reduce pests and stop them attacking each other.

Remember the breed you purchase will require varying amounts of food in their diets, read what should I feed my chicken for more info.

Let us know which breed you’ve picked below, we’d love to see some of your pictures…

Blog Cover Modified From David Goehring



Comments

  1. Kay B. says

    My husband and I are moving to some acreage next year, and have already started researching chickens in order to raise some of our own. This is such a great, informative blog! Thank you!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      We’re glad you are finding it useful Kay 🙂

      Let us know when you get some chickens we’d love to see them!

      • Ella Thomas says

        This blog was very informative
        We have 2 chickens
        A leghorn and a Turcin(Turkey and chicken)
        The leghorn is very nice but I think that will change after the year old mark
        These chickens were hatched in an incubator

        • The Happy Chicken Coop says

          Hi Ella,

          I’m so happy the website is helping you 🙂

          Best of luck to you and your hens!

          Claire

    • Patrick Perry says

      I hadn’t read this before starting, but I got pretty lucky. I incubated my first eggs and they hatched to be very good looking and friendly. I chose a French breed called Barbezieux. My rooster is huge! He is less than six months old and is nearly 9 pounds.. he still lets me pick him up sometimes too! The only downsides: eggs are in the smaller side, and my favorite hen already went broody! She started about 10 weeks after her initial eggs..

      These chickens are meant to be dual purpose breeds, and rumored to be delicious!

  2. Donna Dawson says

    I have 3 of the breeds: RIRs, Plymouth Rocks, and Leghorns. Their characteristics are just like you described! My first time with chickens and I’m getting my first eggs now, so, can’t wait to see how production goes. So far, one RIR girl has laid 4 eggs in 5 days starting on Christmas Day! I hope you are also right about laying in the winter! The eggs are so pretty…light brown, nice shape and hard shell!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      You have some fantastic breeds there Donna!

      Yes it’s true- those girls just seem to lay all year round don’t they.

      How old are your Leghorns?

  3. The Smith Family says

    I think your blog is very organized and helpful. I was kind of hoping you would have information on all of the chicken’s social ability towards humans. My family is getting new chicks this Spring and I am looking for a breed that is social, easy to train, and lays plenty of eggs. So far I am thinking of getting Plymouth Rocks or Buff Orpingtons.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Thank you for the feedback Cecilia!

      We will have an article written about this soon- so keep your eyes peeled…

      Yes either breed would be a great pick and are both friendly and good layers 🙂

  4. Diane Aromando says

    My 6 mo old brown Auracana started laying blue eggs, long after the other 6 (2 White Auracanas, 2 RI Reds and 2 Wyandots), who all started laying at about 5 months. She only laid about 3 or 4 eggs over a couple of weeks, then laid an empty balloon type egg, and now has not laid an egg in over 2 weeks. She seems perfectly normal otherwise, active, eats well, and very sociable. The other hens are all laying just about daily. Any thoughts? Thanks

  5. graeme says

    Got rooster to mate with hybrid, eggs fertile, layed 3 so far, but not incubating yet, what should I expect to happen.

      • Danielle says

        What would be a nice small quiet breed of chicken? I’ve been told bantam but what breed of bantam would be good and quiet as to not bother the neighbors ???

        • The Happy Chicken Coop says

          Hi Danielle,

          Bantam hens can be very erratic at times and sometimes loud!

          If you want a nice quiet breed I would recommend rhode islands 🙂

          Claire

        • Tess says

          I had two Australian Langshan Batams and they were like people. One would come when i called, peck me to tell me to pick her up, or just jump on my lap and sit down for a cuddle. She was extremely loved and lived till almost 10, passed away a month or two before her birthday:( but they were always gems and they both had the best personalities. I have a large black Australorp (who has become the teddy bear now),a blue leghorn (the egg layer), and a silver-laced Wyandote Bantam (the broody one who likes to sit on the leghorns eggs), and the loudest of the lot is the leghorn only when she wants to be let out in the morning or when she’s laid an egg and wants to tell everyone about it haha otherwise chickens aren’t any louder than having a dog so neighbours shouldn’t mind. we are just not aloud to own roosters in my area.

  6. Justina Long says

    Hello i have 2 white plymouth rock and two silver laced wyandottes. All four cane from the same place and they all get along great. They are about 3 and a half months old. And now im looking into getting 2 blue laced red wyandottes that are 4 months old. Since they are around the same age and the same size do i need to separate them before integrating them into my existing flock.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Justina,

      You don’t absolutely need to- however it’s a good idea to separate them first so you can check to make sure your new hens don’t have any diseases or lice before they mix with your existing flock…

      Claire

  7. Mary says

    We are just starting out and I’m waiting on 3 buff orpingtons and 3 white polish from a hatchery. If raised together will they likely get along?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Mary,

      Yes- buff orpingtons are incredibly relaxed and should get along with the white polish 🙂

      Enjoy your new chickens,

      Claire

  8. Simone says

    Hi, I have a small flock, 1 white ameracauna, 2 RIRs and 2 bantams. A couple of weeks ago I got 1 green/blue egg and two brown eggs. I assume from the Ameracauna and RIRs as the bantams are a bit younger. For the past week I have only been getting 1 small brown egg a day. I have been feeding organic layer pellets and changed the brand and wonder if that could be why the Americana and other red stopped laying. Any other ideas would be helpful. The RIRs and Ameracauna are about 5.5 months old. Thank you for any info.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Simone,

      It certainly could be a reason yes. My hens tend to go off lay when I change the feed brand so I don’t change it anymore!

      Also because of their age you should expect them to be intermittent layers for another month or so until they mature…

      Claire

      • Simone says

        Hi Claire,
        Thank you for your response and helping to figure out what is going on…happy chickens is my goal! ?
        Also, great site, very informative.

        • The Happy Chicken Coop says

          Hi Simone,

          Let’s hope they start laying again soon!

          Thank you for your kind words 🙂

          Claire

  9. Penny Bradford says

    We did not understand the worker at the feed store and so took his advice and got 4 RIR and 2 Guineas. Did not realize the Guineas were flyers so have to be very careful opening the cage to feed. They are almost 3 months old now and was wondering if it is too early to get them on pellets? They seem to be resisting the size change. enjoy reading your blog and have gotten a lot of help. We live in a mild climate-central NC-so is it ok to force them to lay this first winter as they won’t be old enough to lay until Nov-Dec time frame?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Penny,

      It is a touch too early, we normally move them over to pellets at 18 months 🙂

      Good luck on your chicken journey and be sure to email us if you need any help,

      Claire

  10. Alissa Krone says

    Hi Claire,

    We are new to the chicken game and trying to find good friendly chickens that are good layers and can handle the Montana winters. I was thinking of Orpingtons (especially the purple ones) and Araucana’s. Do you think these would be good for us? What are your thoughts on Australorp’s?

    I really enjoyed your site!!!!
    Thank you
    Alissa K

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Alissa,

      So happy the website is helping you out 🙂

      Yes I think Orpingtons would be a great beginner breed for you!

      Claire

  11. Jeff Schubert says

    “Hi” Just found your site mate and am very happy that I did, Its great fills in a lot paces for me and I find that tell me what I want before I ask you,,
    Have one other problem that I hape you can help me with , I am a Australian and have just built a house in the Philippines to retire and have been looking for a chicken that lays brown eggs , Eggs are so cheap her that most chickens are breed for food and not eggs , And mate if I ask for a chicken that gives brown eggs i get some very funny looks , and no brown egg chicken only have white egg,,
    So can you help me with a breed that is big and gives brown eggs and is good company in the yard, Ha, Ha,, Also what is the best feed for the chickes that gives a dark golden yoke , GrandMother always told me you have to feed them lots of corn,,
    Hope you can help thanks Jeff,

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Jeff,

      Thank you for getting in touch!

      You want to get Rhode Island Reds, they will lay nice brown eggs for you with lovely golden yokes.

      Claire

  12. Allison Wicht says

    I have one RIR, one blue leghorn, an australorp, Hamburg and Barnevelder. The Hamburg started laying in September and she was a bit sporadic at first but now usually 2 days on and one off, my RIR was as regulate as clockwork and every morning would lay but she hasn’t payed for 2 days now. Should I be worried. My leghorn hasn’t layed at all and I don’t know why. Can you tell their approx age by their comb? Because hers is quite big and floppy and very red. They free range during the day. Should I regularly worm them? Thank you

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Allison,

      I wouldn’t be worried no. Unless they stop laying for more than 3-4 days in a row…

      In terms of worming them, I wouldn’t recommend you do it “regularly” no. Instead you can send their fecal sample to a local vet and they will be able to test it for you 🙂

      Claire

  13. diana says

    I purchased 6 RIR chicks in early April and raised them. They are still not laying eggs yet, am I doing something wrong.

  14. Animal lover says

    I really would like chickens, and I want two on your list, but what are your thoughts on the Colombian Wyandottes and Ameraucanas?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Becky,

      They are good layers, however Wyandottes have a reputation of being ‘diva’ like at times!

      Claire

  15. Lindy Coop says

    I have just come across your website and have found it very helpful. Just a couple of things I wondered if you could help me with please. We were given some chickens by a neighbour who no longer wanted them but did not want to kill them. One of them is a black hen (sorry don’t know the name of the breed) about 4 years old. She had diarrhoea for a couple of months so I took her to the vet who felt that she may have egg yolk peritonitis and gave me Enrofloxacin and Amoxyclav to give her. They made no difference. That was about 9 months ago and she is still walking around and eating and does not seem in any discomfort. She always has a dirty bottom. However, she still goes to the nesting box and sits as though she is going to lay an egg and after a while, gets up and does the clucking thing as though she has laid an egg. Do you know what is going on??? The other thing is I have a Frizzle bantam who is extremely clucky. Can you tell me how to get her out of it as she is starting to be clucky more than not. Just don’t want to her get sick from it. We take her off the nest most days for at least 3-4 hours and then open the chicken coop door again AND IN SHE GOES!!!!
    Thank you so much for your help. Sorry to go on for so long.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Lindy,

      To be honest I’m not entirely sure! I will leave the comment here though and see if anyone else can offer some advice 🙂

      Claire

  16. Melanie says

    Thank you so much!!! This post has been so helpful! Dad has been wanting chickens for ages and mum and I are finally looking at getting him some (for christmas maybe – or just the coop so he can pick his own). Chickens for mostly laying and slightly pets so this post has really helped my understanding 🙂 I definitely didn’t want to go buying any without knowing more about them!

  17. Adrienne says

    What about Easter Eggers?
    We are getting 2 and want to know if Barred Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, or Delaware will get along the best with them.
    They will not be free ranged.
    They will be mostly used as pets for my teenagers and for laying eggs, so they obviously need to be friendly. This is our first time with backyard chickens. What breeds that I mentioned will fit those elements the best?
    Thank you.

  18. bryan says

    i am planing on haching RIRs black australorps
    buff orpington and americana do you think these
    are good beginner breeds? ps your web is very
    good
    thanks!

  19. New Chick says

    Hello, I live in Queensland Australia and even though I have had my 2 Isa Brown girls for less than 1 week, after reading your good advice I reckon I made the right choice.
    I just need to decide about clipping their wings when I give them free range for an hour or so during the day, how to manage one of my dogs who has become obsessed with these little creatures and how to deal with providing correct nesting and roosting.
    My girls are about 16 weeks, no eggs just yet. They are currently sleeping on the ground even though there is a bar off the ground for them to roost upon. The chicken expert at the local produce store said not put in a nesting box or give kitchen scraps until they start to lay. I didn’t think to ask why.
    I feed them premium mash (which I was told contains adequate shell grit) I have provided them with hay and lucerne even though they can peck at the grass and eat bugs, fresh water and good shelter. The tractor pen is about 3m long and 1m wide.
    I think they are getting to recognise me now. I didn’t really have a main reason to have chickens other than they make a lovely addition to an aussie backyard, provide plenty of in-house manure for the garden and the added benefit of eggs, most of which I will give away.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi New Chick,

      I’m happy the article helped you 🙂 All of the topics you mention we have covered within the blog. Be sure to email me any questions which aren’t answered!

      Claire

  20. CrazyChickenLady says

    I am kind of young (not to share age) and I am obsessed with all things chicken. I thought that the Buff Orpington and the Plymouth Rock chickens were absolutely adorable. They will definitely be one of my first chickens!

  21. Kristen says

    I have really learned a lot from reading your site. We are brand new at raising chickens. We live in Arizona were is gets upwards on 110 degrees in the summer. I was looking into the speckled sussex and the Rhoad island red. Will they be ok out here? Also will those breeds get along ok? And finally I have read that Rhode Island red chickens can become mean if they don’t get enough attention from you. Is this true?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Kristen,

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂

      Yes providing you follow our advice regarding the shade and water they should be OK. Both breeds are known for being able to withstand hot climates.

      As for them being ‘mean’ – I personally haven’t experienced this!

      Claire

  22. Kage says

    I’m looking to get my first chickens soon and while eggs are an awesome bonus, what I would love to know is which breeds perform the best bug control. Are some more avid bug hunters than others? We’ve never lived on acreage before, and I love the idea that my ladies could be taking out ticks and silverfish. ?

  23. Lindsay says

    If I want three hens for my yard can I get three different breeds? Or should they all be the same/ similar? For Example 1- Barred Rock, 1-Americauna, 1-Rhode Island

  24. Nathan says

    Thanks for the help. My sister is getting a chicken for her birthday, and I have to help choose it. She wanted a pretty bird that lays green eggs, but I still think she should get a Rhode Island Red. Thanks for all the help!

  25. Maddie says

    Hi! This article was so helpful and I’m really trying to get ahold of some buff oringtons but I definitely do not want any roosters! Do you have any advice on sexing baby chicks? Anything specific to buff oringtons? Any advice would be helpful! Thanks:)

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Maddie,

      My advice would be to leave it to the experts 🙂 I still struggle when they are chicks and even for professionals it’s difficult!

      Most places will offer a moneyback/exchange in case they make a mistake.

      Claire

  26. terry mckinnon says

    I am a first time chicken owner and I think I did ok with the pick of my chicks.I have 6 chickens and my partridge rock has turned out to be a rooster. My hens are a Rhode Island Red,1 Buff Orpington, 2 black sex links and 1 golden comet,they are free ranged for a few hours every day and have a large inside outside coop,all are doing well.The 5 hens roost together at night and the rooster roosts by himself,is that normal?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Terry,

      Yes it can be. Do you have separate roosts or does the rooster sleep outside?

      Claire

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