What are the best chicken breeds for business for startup owners?
With the right breed of chicken, you can start making money on your homestead with little risk.
The best chicken breeds for a poultry business include production birds that offer high egg yield, excellent feed conversion rates, and hearty dispositions.
Knowing which breeds to choose is essential to ensure your venture’s success.
This blog post will explore some of the most popular chicken breeds used in commercial operations.
We will also discuss their unique benefits– offering guidance so that you can select the right breed for your business needs!
The Best Chicken Breeds for a Meat Business
If you’re considering starting a business that raises meat birds, you should look at these chicken breeds.
We have shared a combination of hybrids plus heritage breeds, so no matter your target market or values, there’s a great breed for you.
1. Cornish Cross (Hybrid)
There are three primary strains of the Cornish Cross: the Cobb 500, Ross 308, and Ross 708.
Ross 708 has more and better dark meat and more balanced meat distribution; they are sometimes called Cornish Rocks.
Meanwhile, the Cobb 500 and Ross 308 produce more white meat and are usually sold as “Jumbo Cornish Cross” chickens.
Consider this– you have to keep a steady supply of these birds to fulfill buyer demands.
You need to figure out how you want to source the Cornish Cross Chicks.
If you’re okay with keeping parent-laying birds to support your meat business, you can forgo purchasing chicks.
But if not, a large portion of your expenses will go directly to investing in these birds as hatching eggs or chicks.
This breed is ideal for enclosed growing operations, chicken tractors, or cage-raising.
They do not free-range or forage well, and they cannot protect themselves from predators at all.
After they are ten weeks old, they are too large to move around well.
Their organs may begin to fail, and you’ll run the risk of them being too heavy for their legs.
Either they lay around and waste away, or their legs could break under their weight.
Because of this, to be a humane producer, you must be vigilant with your schedule and strictly harvest Cornish Crosses between six and ten weeks of age.
Size and Age of Maturity for Meat
Cornish crosses are generally ready to butcher in six to ten weeks, making them incredibly fast producers.
Most weigh around six to twelve pounds at full maturity.
You can expect anywhere from three to six pounds of meat per bird.
Hen vs. Rooster
Some producers prefer hens, while others prefer roosters; each has pros and cons.
Hens are perfect for roasting. They have a fine finish to their meat but grow slower than males and tend to be smaller.
Roosters grow faster and typically produce more meat per bird. Their meat is ever so slightly tougher than a female’s, but most people won’t be able to tell the difference.
Most cornish cross chicks cost around $3 to $4 each. Females are slightly cheaper than males.
Straight run is usually a central price between the two sexes.
Why You May Not Want Cornish Crosses for Your Business
Please note that these heavy birds do not thrive in altitudes exceeding 5,000 feet– the air is too thin for them.
High desert and mountain-dwellers should probably skip this breed for their meat chicken business.
Too much heat can be deadly for these heavy creatures, so plan for plenty of shade or air conditioning in a hot climate.
If possible, raise them in the spring or fall.
For exceptionally hot areas, you may want to raise them over the winter.
They don’t forage or free range well either, so choose a different breed if that is important to you.
2. Rhode Island Reds or New Hampshire Reds (Heritage)
Suppose you’re looking for a more traditional bird that doesn’t result from crossbreeding. In that case, you’ll want one (or both) of the classic heritage breeds, New Hampshire Reds and Rhode Island Reds.
Incredibly enough, these birds are excellent layers too, so they’re perfect for raising hens for eggs and roosters for meat.
These two red breeds should give you about three hundred eggs per hen per year.
The eggs are light brown, medium to large, and the hens will start laying them around sixteen weeks old.
It is important to note that each breed has commercial and heritage strains.
Heritage birds lay fewer eggs but have much better meat quality and quantity.
Commercial chickens of these breeds are smaller, with better egg production and less desirable meat quality.
These are the ideal breeds if you want a bird that forages well and can handle itself while free-ranging.
Roosters are aggressive with predators, and hens do a fantastic job of hiding under foliage and cover when roosters let out their warning calls.
Size and Age of Maturity for Meat
They weigh 6.5 (hens) to 8.5 (roosters) pounds at full maturity.
You can expect anywhere from one to three pounds of meat per bird.
Most New Hampshire Reds and Rhode Island Reds are ready to butcher at four to five months (16 to 20 weeks).
Yes, they take double (or more) the time to grow to full maturity than Cornish Crosses, meaning they will eat more feed and cost more to raise up.
However, the benefit here is that you can allow them to free-range and forage a good portion of their feed intake.
Why You May Not Want Rhode Island Reds or New Hampshire Reds for Your Business
Both birds are great dual-purpose birds that can tolerate most climates.
Still, they have single combs and are more susceptible to frostbite.
They may not work for your operation in an exceptionally cold area.
If you want an indoor chicken that can be kept in confinement, these birds probably aren’t a match for you, either.
They crave their freedom and are happiest when they can freely move around and explore.
Lastly, these breeds grow slower than commercial meat chickens, meaning raising them up to the harvesting age takes longer and costs more money.
You may not want these breeds if time and cost are a core part of your values.
3. American Bresse (Heritage)
American Bresse chickens are uncommon in the United States but are an excellent solution for commercial meat production.
These beautiful dual-purpose birds lay four or five golden brown eggs a week.
They also produce this delicious and unique marbled meat, resembling a high-quality beef cut.
Suppose you enjoy juicy, grilled chicken breasts over soups and stew chicken. American Bresse may work for your operation (and taste buds).
This marbling comes naturally but is amplified when they are allowed to free-range and forage– an activity they love to partake in.
They do a fantastic job of sourcing a large portion of their own protein, fending for themselves, and finding fun and enriching activities on their own.
Size and Age of Maturity for Meat
This is a slow-growing bird, but they are worth the extra time and feed.
It takes about sixteen weeks for males to mature to six or seven pounds; hens take eighteen weeks to hit four or five pounds.
You will need a bigger facility to keep your output as high as a faster-growing breed. However, the unique taste and quality of the meat will absolutely offset your costs.
If you’re raising American Bresse chickens, you’re likely catering to a specific demographic of connoisseurs who are happy to pay you more for your time and expenses.
If this appeals to you, American Bresse chickens might be right for your poultry business.
Why You May Not Want American Bresse Chickens for Your Poultry Business
There are four main reasons why producers opt not to raise American Bresse chickens.
They are availability, size, foraging preferences, and time/cost to raise to maturity.
American Bresse chickens are picking up popularity in the United States, but they aren’t common yet.
This makes it a challenge to find hatching eggs, chicks, or breeding stock to power your poultry business.
Not having a rock-solid source is not good for business and can make your entrepreneurial endeavors more stressful than necessary.
These birds also enjoy their free time, so if you plan on running an indoor or caged operation, they would not be happy in those conditions.
However, if you want to run a pasture/grass-raised meat product, you’ll like this quality in the American Bresse bird.
Lastly, these birds take longer to mature with a smaller body size. This means more time, space, money, and resources for each bird before it can be harvested.
You can quickly recoup these costs by marketing to a more health-conscious or affluent customer base. However, doing that requires another set of skills you may or may not possess just yet.
4. Delaware Enhanced Heritage Broiler (Heritage)
If you were sad to see that the Cornish Cross chickens have a very finite lifespan and cannot quickly reproduce– then the Delaware Broiler may be the solution you didn’t know existed.
Delaware Broilers, exclusively sold by Murray McMurray as “Delaware Enhanced Heritage Broilers,” are fantastic dual-purpose birds with high-quality flavor, better overall health, and a naturally long lifespan thanks to their better-controlled size and health conditions.
Another perk is that these birds have better respiratory systems, meaning they can easily tolerate high altitudes.
Remember that most Cornish Cross chickens are not recommended for raising at elevations that exceed 5,000 feet.
They are also excellent foragers and free rangers who enjoy being outside but may also tolerate confinement.
Many producers enjoy Delaware Broilers because they tolerate more extreme hot and cold weather conditions.
While many other fast-growing birds will suffer and die more easily, these fellows are likelier to breeze through it without issue.
You have more freedom to raise these birds throughout the year (and probably with less concern and necessary equipment).
This is a heritage breed, so it’s easy for you to continue the bloodline and keep a steady supply of chickens for your customer base.
You can expect hens to lay about 150 to 200 large brown eggs a year, which contributes to keeping a healthy population in your poultry operation.
Should you ever choose to expand your chicken business to sell live birds to the general public, Delaware Broilers are likely to be a hit with homesteaders and small farms.
Their large bodies, good flavor, good egg production, and ability to free-range make them attractive options for people who want to be self-sufficient.
Size and Age of Maturity for Meat
Delaware Broilers are considered ready for harvest at thirteen to eighteen weeks of age, depending on your desired size, taste, and texture of the meat.
These extra-large birds weigh three and a half to four and a half pounds if butchered at thirteen or fourteen weeks old.
They can grow to five or six pounds at eighteen weeks old.
Why You May Not Want Delaware Broilers for Your Chicken Meat Business
The main downsides to raising Delaware Broilers are that they take longer to grow and have slightly smaller bodies than the commercial Cornish Cross meat birds.
Delaware Broilers may not work out for your business if you want to produce a high volume of meat birds in a small space at a minimal cost.
Other than that, these birds are flexible, dual-purpose, easy keepers who would do well almost anywhere you put them.
The Best Chicken Breeds for an Egg Business
Starting your own egg business can be exciting and rewarding, but you must begin with the right breed of hens who will build your business from the ground up.
Choosing the best chickens for your needs will ultimately help determine success in running your business. These breeds should come to mind when looking for high-quality egg layers.
We’re including a mix of brown, white, blue, and green egg layers in this list too.
Different Colored Eggs
While we know that there are no nutritional differences between brown and white egg producers, grocery store consumers continue to choose white eggs over brown eggs again and again.
Some speculate that this is due to preferences and perceived cleanliness.
In contrast, others say that brown eggs are more expensive to produce, meaning they have to sell for more at the grocery store.
There is a lot of misinformation surrounding chickens and egg production.
Even this article from Insider speculates that white chickens lay white eggs, brown chickens lay brown eggs, and brown chickens are just bigger than white chickens.
While it is more common to see brown chickens laying brown eggs and white chickens laying white eggs, this is not a hard and fast rule at all.
Polish chickens (often brown, black, or golden) lay white eggs, as do Anconas (mostly black hens), Egyptian Fayouimis (mostly black or dark grey), and Hamburgs (black and white feathers).
On the other hand, White Plymouth Rocks (white), Black Australorps (black), Barnevelders (black), Brahmas (some varieties are white), Delaware chickens (white), and Buff Orpingtons (bright yellow) all lay brown eggs.
And as we all know, the heaviest meat chicken available on the market is the massive all-white Cornish Cross chicken.
We’re also including a combination of all egg colors, so you have the best knowledge to choose which market you want to cater to in your egg business.
White eggs are generally better for grocery stores; brown eggs are ideal for specialty grocery stores (or store sections) and direct farm-to-consumer sales.
Generally speaking, colorful egg layers that produce green, blue, pink, or purple eggs are less economical.
Still, they add value to the overall egg basket worth and bring consumers great joy.
They may be more expensive, but this initial investment is usually rewarded with reliable, returning customers happy to pay slightly higher rates per dozen eggs.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
1. Golden Comet (Hybrid, Brown Egg Layers)
The Golden Comet (a.k.a Red Star, Red Sex Link, Gold Sex Link, Cinnamon Queen, or Golden Buff Chicken) is a sex-link hybrid chicken resulting from crossbreeding a New Hampshire Rooster to a White Rock Hen.
This cross utilizes hybrid vigor to create a “super chicken” capable of producing some of the most eggs per year in the world.
Remember that you cannot uphold the hybrid vigor with second-generation Golden Comets. They simply become “crossbred,” and this offspring will mature slower while producing fewer eggs.
You must maintain a flock of White Rock hens with New Hampshire roosters to keep up your steady supply of hatching Golden Comet chicks.
Age of Maturity and Egg Production Stats
Most Golden Comet hens weigh around four pounds (roosters at six pounds) and are ready to start laying eggs when they are sixteen weeks old.
For context, most chicken breeds start laying when they are eighteen to twenty-two weeks old.
Golden Comet hens will continue to lay five to seven brown eggs a week, totaling around 330 eggs per year per hen.
Their production declines slightly past a year and then sharply drops around the two-year mark.
Because of this, it would be prudent and wise for you to replace your laying hens as they hit their second birthdays.
Why You May Not Want Golden Comet Hens for Your Egg Business
Golden Comet hens are only created by crossing a White Rock hen with a New Hampshire rooster.
You’ll need to keep a separate pen of breeding stock to keep your incubators and brooder boxes full and busy. Otherwise, you’ll always have regular new chicks or hatching egg shipments.
If this is too much of a fuss for you, and you prefer heritage breeds for your egg business, then you may like something other than Golden Comets.
Beyond that, there are almost no other reasons for you not to choose these lovely ladies for your operation; they are a solid choice as egg-layers.
2. Goldline or Bovans Brown (Hybrid, Brown Egg Layers)
These hybrid sex-link chickens are another fantastic solution for your egg business.
They were developed by Mr. and Mrs. van Duijnhoven with the help of the van Lankveld, van der Linden, and Bongers families in the UK in the 1950s.
The name was created by combining the three “van” names with the “bo” from the Bongers family, making the Bovans name.
The Goldline strain of the Bovans Brown chicken has been produced, commercialized, and legally titled Bovans Goldline Chickens by Joice & Hill Poultry Ltd.
Some speculate that Goldline/Bovans Brown Chicken is the same as or similar to the ISA Brown Chicken (which we will cover next).
Other “Bovan” chickens, such as the Bovans White and Bovans Black chickens, are available today. Still, we will not discuss those today as they are not the best egg layers of this specific hybrid type.
We believe these chickens are created using Rhode Island Reds, but we don’t know the specifics of their lineage.
Age of Maturity and Egg Production Stats
These sweet and friendly hens will start laying eggs around eighteen weeks old and may lay as many as 330 brown eggs during their first year as producers.
While they take slightly longer to mature than the Golden Comets, they will continue to consistently lay eggs for far longer.
Many remain high producers, laying eggs for at least 50% of the time for their first four years of life.
The second and third years will likely result in 280 to 300 eggs per hen, while the fourth year creates a still-very-impressive 250 eggs per hen.
If you want to get into the specifics, each Bovan Brown hen can lay up to 464 eggs within 18 to 100 weeks.
But this can vary whether the hens are free-range or in a colony.
Layers housed in a colony typically produce more eggs than those in free-range.
Each free-range hen can produce around 312 eggs within 72 weeks, but those in a colony can have about 323 eggs.
But it can increase to 354 eggs per free-range hen and 366 eggs for those housed in colonies in their 80th week.
Why You May Not Want Goldline Hens for Your Egg Operation
Goldline hens are hybrids that require maintaining a separate flock of parent chickens to fulfill your egg production needs. They also lay brown eggs.
While some believe brown, green, blue, pink, and purple eggs are healthier, there is no scientifically proven nutritional difference between white and brown eggs.
Still, despite this incorrect myth, many grocery store shoppers prefer white eggs over brown eggs.
If you want to cater to this specific demographic, you may want to shy away from producing brown eggs.
Another downside to the Bovan Brown Chickens is their availability.
You cannot breed these chickens amongst one another to create another generation of super-star egg layers– you have to have the perfect hybrid cross.
Unfortunately, you cannot breed and produce these chickens independently, as they are trademarked.
You will need to buy your entire laying stock from a hatchery.
On the bright side, they lay a lot of eggs for a long time, reducing the number of chicks you’ll need to raise to replace your aging layers.
3. ISA Brown (Hybrid, Brown Egg Layers)
This ISA Brown is a popular chicken sex-link hybrid, especially in the United States.
They were recently reintroduced and have exploded in population size as commercial egg producers, chicken enthusiasts, homesteaders, and farmers found them.
Originally developed in France around 1978, the ISA stands for Institut de Sélection Animale.
In 1997 the Institut was merged with Merck and Co, and the breed became the Hubbard ISA.
Their genetic makeup is a closely guarded trade secret, but speculation has been pointed at the Rhode Island Red and Rhode Island White breeds with input from White Leghorns.
Because of their sex link characteristics, it would be a reasonable assumption to say that it’s a white rooster over a red hen.
This breed is copyrighted, so pay attention to that, and absolutely do not call your look-alike chickens “ISA Browns.”
One perk about having a sex link (as with the other sex links above) is that you can immediately distinguish pullets from cockerels at their hatching.
This lets you decide who stays in your program and who goes early.
Age of Maturity and Egg Production Stats
ISA Brown hens should start laying eggs around twenty-two weeks old, making them the latest starter on our list of hybrid egg layers.
Once they start laying eggs, you can expect to see 300 eggs or more in the first and potentially the second year of life.
It is standard practice for commercial egg producers to cull hens after their second year finishes up for the sake of respecting the feed budget.
With that said, more and more producers are utilizing charities and chicken-based rescues to redistribute hens after they are finished laying, so they can peacefully retire in a new non-commercial flock.
Britain’s British Hen Welfare Trust is a ground-breaking leader in the practice.
If that compels you, consider putting your older hens up for adoption. You could be surprised by how many locals are willing to keep older hens as pets.
Why You May Not Want to Keep ISA Browns for Your Egg Business
ISA Browns have a few minor drawbacks.
They are copyrighted, so you must purchase every chick you want to raise into a hen.
They also have the slowest mature time and only produce high volumes of eggs for two years (compared to the Bovan Brown’s four years of heavy production).
Another drawback is that the eggs are, yet again, brown, so they won’t appeal to many grocery store shoppers.
If that was a significant component of your marketing and distribution plan, you might want to sit out the ISA Brown hens.
4. White Leghorn (Heritage, White Egg Layers)
Finally, a white egg layer.
You will love the White Leghorn hen if you’re interested in a white-laying heritage breed.
This breed is speculated to be one of the heritage “parents” used to create the above three hybrid egg layers.
White Leghorns can be traced back to Tuscany, Italy, but the exact origins aren’t known.
We know that they were first exported to the United States in 1828 and have been popular in the UK ever since.
In America, it was crossbred with Minorca chickens to make it better for meat production as an attempt to make them heavier with more meat.
They’re heavier at five to seven pounds but still slim in body shape.
Even in 2023, most farms and homesteads use them for eggs because they are still gangly.
Interestingly enough, they are available in several colors, with rose combs, single combs, and various shades of eyes– either orange or red.
The ears are always white, and the waddle is always large.
Most northern producers go with rose-comb Leghorns, while southerners go with the classic signature tall single comb.
The rose comb retains warmth, while the floppy tall single comb allows the bird to circulate oxygen and cool off faster.
This bird is perfect for foraging, as she knows how to care for herself and maintain her health while finding her own feed and protein sources in your yard.
Still, many egg producers keep Leghorns confined in their egg-laying years.
Age of Maturity and Egg Production Stats
The White Leghorn hen will start laying eggs when she is eighteen to twenty weeks old (pretty early).
She will lay up to 320 eggs in her first year, producing slightly fewer eggs each subsequent year.
In general, you can expect 280 to 320 eggs per year.
She will continue laying eggs on a good schedule well into her fourth year of life– very impressive for a heritage breed.
She doesn’t eat as much as the other laying hens on this list, meaning she is a more cost-effective producer.
Her eggs will also increase as she ages; she may start by laying large white eggs and finish laying extra-large to jumbo eggs as a senior layer.
Why You May Not Want White Leghorns for Your Egg Business
If you want to keep laying hens that are happy with close quarters and confinement, then you shouldn’t get the flighty free-spirited White Leghorn.
While this hen is incredibly easy to raise because she is heritage, she is not sex-link.
Because of that, it is not easy to tell the pullets from the cockerels when they newly hatch.
If you like the convenience of being able to immediately sex the chicks, this will be a downside for you.
Of course, the White Leghorn isn’t suited for your egg business if you don’t want white eggs.
5. Rhode Island Red (Heritage, Brown Egg Layer)
The Rhode Island Red hen is an incredible heritage layer.
Like the White Leghorn, she is assumed to be the parent bird for several of the above hybrid sex-link egg layers.
Rhode Island Reds are indeed dual-purpose birds who do well in both categories.
The benefit is that you can raise hens for eggs and roosters for meat. You won’t need to make culling nearly as big of a factor in your program (which is a relief for many people and chickens alike).
Most hens weigh six and a half pounds, while roosters are close to eight and a half pounds.
These chickens love foraging but tolerate being cooped up pretty well, especially if it’s cold and snowy.
One thing to note is that there are two primary “strains” of Rhode Island Red chickens.
The heritage breed lays slightly fewer eggs with somewhat better quality meat. In contrast, the commercialized version lays more eggs over her lifetime.
Age of Maturity and Egg Production Stats
Rhode Island Red hens lay medium to large light brown eggs, slowly increasing in size as the hen ages.
RIR Hens should start laying early, around sixteen to eighteen weeks old.
Each hen should give five to six eggs a week, totaling two hundred to three hundred eggs yearly.
She will continue to lay eggs well into her third and fourth years of life.
Why You May Not Want Rhode Island Red Hens for Your Egg Production Operation
You won’t want these light brown egg layers if you want a white egg-only business.
If you want birds producing more than 330 eggs yearly, you may want a hybrid breed rather than a Rhode Island Red.
Other than this, there aren’t many downsides to raising and keeping these hens for your egg business. They are easy keepers who lay beautiful eggs for most of the year with little effort.
6. Ameraucanas (Heritage, Blue Egg Layers)
If you want your customers to go home happy with a colorful basket or carton of eggs, add a few colorful egg layers to your flock for variety.
Several blue egg-laying breeds are available, but I chose the Ameraucana because she is the best fit for most egg-producing businesses.
They don’t just add a beautiful rainbow to your egg basket but also to your flock.
Ameraucanas come in shades of black, grey, blue wheaten, brown-red, buff (yellow), silver, wheaten, and white.
Their hens lay blue eggs with tints from teal to turquoise to even a muted shade of pale green.
Once an Ameraucana lays her first egg, you’ll know her color for life, as this does not change egg to egg.
This tough winter hardy bird is ideal for colder northern climates, thanks to her dense and fluffy feathers, muff, and beard.
Plus, she is perfectly content staying inside and warm with her friends.
She does prefer the company of other Ameraucanas to other breeds, so don’t keep her away from them.
Age of Maturity and Egg Production Stats
If you are raising Ameraucanas to add diversity to your basket, you must be patient with your young pullets. It takes five or more months before she lays her first egg.
She is a moderate producer, laying three or four medium-sized blue eggs weekly.
On the bright side, if your predator defenses are sufficient, she will lay eggs consistently for several years and live quite a long time, usually up to seven to ten years old.
Why You May Not Want Ameraucanas in Your Egg Business’ Flock
Ameraucanas are slow to mature to produce eggs.
They need more feed per egg than any other birds on this list, and they only lay about three or four eggs a week.
If you want a strictly brown or white carton of eggs, Ameraucanas are certainly a wrong choice.
But suppose you prefer a rainbow of colors to your customers’ egg cartons. In that case, you’ll appreciate the beauty and personality that these hens (literally) bring to the table.
7. Whiting True Blue and Whiting True Green (Standard But Not Heritage, Blue, and Green Egg Layers)
As their names indicate, the Whiting True Blue and Whiting True Green chickens lay blue and green eggs, respectively.
These cuties are lovely birds with gorgeous eggs, and you’ll be surprised by how many eggs they can lay in a year.
At full maturity, you can expect hens to weigh around five and a half pounds.
Dr. Tom Whiting of Colorado, USA developed them. Who knew the combination of a love for fly fishing and scientific research could be so inspiring?
He spent over ten years in the ’90s crossbreeding White Leghorns with Ameraucanas in Delta, resulting in a beautiful breed known as the Whiting True Blue Chicken.
His initial goal was to make a bird that produced the right plumage for fly fishing lures, but the end result was a chicken that laid gorgeous blue eggs.
He later created the Whiting True Green chicken.
These two birds are now some of the most popular alternatively colored laying birds in the United States.
They have gained popularity quickly and are rapidly spreading across backyards and farms nationwide.
I can’t help but believe they deserve a place in several egg-producing businesses too.
Age of Maturity and Egg Production Stats
Most Whiting True Chickens will begin to lay eggs around five months old.
This is considerably slower than other egg producers on this list but a bit faster than Ameraucanas.
Remarkably enough, since they are the result of crossing Ameraucanas with Leghorns, they lay around 250 to 300 eggs per hen per year.
They will continue to lay this many eggs for four years, perhaps even longer.
Whiting Ture Chickens are known to live to ten years, even in novice backyards, because these birds are so predator-smart and foraging-savvy.
Another notable feature of their egg production is their limited feed intake which combines well with their self-sufficiency.
They typically cost less per egg because they don’t eat as much and can find much of their food independently.
Why You May Not Want Whiting True Chickens in Your Egg Program
If you want a solid shade of colors in your customers’ boxes and cartons, you should skip the Whiting True hens.
If you want a hen that will lay upwards of 300 eggs yearly, you don’t want Whitings either.
And lastly, if you want a chicken that will start laying eggs early, like fourteen weeks old or so, these little birds aren’t right for your business either.
The Best Chicken Breeds for Hatching Eggs as a Business
Hatching eggs tend to fetch a better price than food-consumption eggs, meaning your profit margins may be more generous, with little to no extra work.
Some businesses sell fertilized eggs straight from the nesting box.
In contrast, others go so far as to incubate, hatch, sell, and ship day-old chicks to other businesses or directly to purchasers. The choice is yours!
You may want to place more weight on the breeds mentioned above (plus the pet breeds below) simply because they are so beneficial for farms, backyards, and big businesses alike.
Here are two quick components of this business type to take into consideration before getting started:
1. Comply With Government Regulations
When starting a business selling and shipping hatching eggs, ensure you do your due diligence to comply with state regulations.
Contact the experts at your local extension office because they can provide up-to-date information on what’s needed for successful operation within legal boundaries.
To ensure that your poultry and poultry products are healthy, safe, and disease-free for interstate or international transportation, the National Poultry Improvement Plan, or NPIP, is a must.
Through collaborative efforts of various state & federal departments of agriculture and industry representatives, this program uses cutting-edge diagnostic technology to guarantee birds meet national standards, keeping them in top condition across America.
Most states require NPIP certification, a permit with health certification, and a few other vaccines or preventative measures.
2. Learn the Different Breeding Techniques
There are five standard practices for breeding your stock, they are:
- Flock Breeding – one rooster in a flock of hens inside a breeding pen
- Pen Breeding – several roosters with several hens inside a breeding pen
- Stud Mating – one hen goes into one rooster’s pen and is removed after breeding
- Alternating Male Breeding – two or more roosters alternate days with hens to ensure all hens are bred.
- Artificial Insemination – Sperm is extracted from the rooster and placed into the hen by humans. This is the most expensive type and requires special knowledge, tools, and more money.
3. Common vs. Rare Breeds
Do you want to keep common birds to keep the average backyard chicken keeper or small farmer in stock? Or do you want to cater to more exotic and show-type enthusiasts?
Common breeds typically require you to sell more easy-to-keep birds at a lower price.
Rare breeds mean you sell more difficult-to-breed-and-hatch birds but fewer at a higher price.
It’s up to you to decide which aligns more with your values and desired outcome.
4. Heritage vs. Crosses/Hybrid
Heritage birds are relatively simple; you keep males and females of the same breed and breed them together to produce hatching eggs.
Crosses and hybrids are more difficult as they require you to keep specific birds together for breeding.
Some hybrids demand specific roosters of one breed to go with specific hens of another breed to create a hybrid, often sex-link, chicks.
Both types are necessary and appreciated, so it is up to you to determine the market in your area and which type of program you’d like to run.
The Best Chicken Breeds to Raise to Sell as Pets
Suppose you want to sell live chicks or adult chickens as pets. In that case, you will command some of the highest prices for your “product,” but it will probably require the most work out of the other options we’re showing you today.
The following breeds are sweet, docile, and well-suited to be pets.
All of them like human interaction, and some even prefer it over the company of their own kind.
Most in the US are considered the bantam size and weigh around one pound each.
The black color in black Silkies comes from rare hyperpigmentation called fibromatosis, also found in other breeds like Ayam Cemani.
Despite having the same body shape as regular hens, Silkies stand out for their unique character traits. They’re gentle enough to be held or cuddled like little fluff balls!
On par with their general sweetness, the hens are very broody and make good mothers.
Parents with small children often choose these birds to keep as pets, so the kids can bond with them, and the hens will never be culled from the flock.
As long as your children are gentle with them, silkies make for excellent loving pets.
Sussex chickens are so sweet and precious to interact with. They love humans and want to be as close to people as possible. They may even choose the company of people over fellow hens.
Sussex chickens have been raised alongside people for centuries now. Because of that, they are happy to spend time with people.
They come in various beautiful colors, from light, red, speckled (mahogany with white speckles), brown, buff, white, silver, and coronation (white with blue to lavender neck and tail feathers.
As an added bonus, they are considered dual purpose; they are ideal for eggs and meat, though almost every hobbyist keeps them just for eggs and companionship.
It’s no surprise that they are sweet, as they are the offspring of Cochins and Brahmas, both of which made our pet list.
Brahmas are one of the most fun chicken breeds to keep as a pet because it is a massive bird that often intimidates people.
Many don’t expect these giants to be so friendly, calm, and willing to be petted, but they actually do well with people.
Brahmas are less likely to be attacked because of their size.
They rank higher in the pecking order; they can’t fly, making containment a cinch.
Thanks to their thick feathers, heavy bodies, and rose combs, they do well in the cold.
Their only struggle is their feathered feet, which can collect snow and ice and may need your assistance to thaw and dry out.
Mainly in the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, they were bred for the table for a long time. Now, they are used as laying hens, broody mothers, and pets.
They lay three or four medium to large brown eggs a week, and most of their eggs will come from October to May when most of your other hens have stopped laying in the winter.
If you want a sweet chicken to befriend your toddler (who is the same size as your toddler!), then the Brahma chicken breeds are perfect for your family.
As a hatchery, you’ll get many orders from smaller farms and family homesteads who want an all-around bird. Brahma is ideal for most.
If you want to raise petite and delicate pet chickens, Sebright is an excellent choice.
They are pint-sized bantams who are sweet, lovely, loving, and full of personality.
Sebrights will remind you of a much smaller and more grateful version of a Wyandotte– they come in two colors, Gold Laced and Silver Laced.
This lacing is remarkably sharp, well-defined, and striking in appearance.
This is the oldest British True bantam but on the Rare Breed Survival Trust List.
The Livestock Breed Conservancy has it marked as a threatened breed because less than a thousand breeding birds are registered in the United States.
If you’re interested in raising them as a hatchery, you could do a great service to your local community, the chicken community, and this breed.
These quirky little birds are unforgettable.
They’re ridiculously unique fashionistas and just as loveable as they are different.
And the Polish Chickens have a rich history too. We can find paintings of them dating back to the fifteen century.
Here is a print from an original 1880s Cassell’s Poultry Book painting.
All Polish chickens have a crest (a “poof” or “pom” of feathers on their head), but some also have muffs and beards, which make them look even more teddy bear-like.
They may need special care in the winter, so ice doesn’t build up on their crests.
As you can imagine, their crests block much of their vision year-round, which is why they depend on humans for survival.
Other breeds often bully them, so keep them with other Polish birds, or keep them as your personal pet.
Most weigh four and a half to six pounds at full maturity.
As a hatchery, you are in an excellent position to sell these birds daily.
People can’t get enough of their unique appearances.
Most backyard keepers want to add a few to their flock for the sheer joy of diversity.
Polish chickens are calm and docile, and easy to tame.
However, they get flighty when frightened, so they must be treated appropriately.
Frizzle chickens are another fun breed that is unusual but oh so familiarly sweet.
Before we continue, you should know that there are a few distinctions between frizzles internationally.
Frizzles are a breed in Australia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Slovakia, and the UK.
Here in the US, “frizzle” is a type of plumage and not a breed on its own.
Frizzles have a single upright comb, red eyes, a short and broad body, yellow legs, large tails, and feathers that curl outward or upward.
Some chickens look curly yet tidy, while others look wild and messy. All of the feathers look soft and never spiky.
Frizzles are available in many breeds and in standard and bantam sizes.
Most frizzles in the US are Frizzle Cochin Bantams.
If you want a chicken who wants to sit on your lap when you take a seat at your favorite porch rocker for the evening, the frizzle is it.
Some of your buyers may even raise frizzle chicks to be house pets.
Because of these qualities, it is easy to see why these are easy birds to market and sell in a chicken hatchery.
Prepare yourself and your buyers for the upkeep, though.
Frizzles have to be able to groom themselves, or people have to do it for them if proper conditions aren’t met.
They must have access to a clean and dry shelter, dust baths, and mud-free spaces.
These chickens also can’t fly, so their perches must be much closer to the ground than the other hens in the coop.
Other Considerations for Starting a Chicken Business
What You Need To Start a Poultry Business
You need to research chicken nutritional needs and develop a solid feeding plan.
Do you want to free-range them for part of their diet? Give them full access to feed all the time? Do you want to grow your own grains? Mix your own feed? Or purchase from a mill?
If you plan on having a large operation, you need good communication with your feed supplier to ensure you always have enough.
Our best advice is to start small if possible and work your way up with a bigger flock over time.
First-time mistakes are much more manageable with 100 birds than with 100,000 birds.
A few helpful resources:
- The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Own Chicken Feed
- The Top Seven Chicken Feed Brands
- The Definitive List of Chicken Treats: What Can Chickens Eat?
- How to Grow A Garden for Chickens
2. Coop and Run
You need to decide what kind of operation you want for your business and how you want to house your chickens.
Figure out coop type, run type, if they will be caged, free-range, pasture-raised, or part of a regenerative agriculture method. Do you want to move them behind cattle in chicken tractors?
You should take local predators into consideration.
Also, consider weather conditions for your area. Evacuation plans are essential, too (i.e., wildfires, floods, high-speed winds, storms, etc.).
You should also start thinking about how many birds you want and how much space will be needed for them.
For example, the industry standard is 500 square feet for every 1,000 broilers. Do you want to market yourself as a commercial or small farm?
It’s a lot of questions, but having answers for each makes your business much stronger.
A few helpful resources:
- Chicken Tractors Makes My Chickens Lay More Eggs: The Mobile Chicken Coop
- The Top Five Best Chicken Tractors for Your Flock
- Thirteen Free Chicken Tractor Plans
- How to Build a Chicken Coop
- Forty-Four Free DIY Chicken Coop Plans
3. Your General Set Up For Your Values as a Producer
Free range? Cage-free? Grass-fed? Organic? A specific diet for the chickens?
You must know your values and mission as a business owner and stick close to these priorities.
Part of your values also includes (or excludes) vaccines and deworming.
Do you want traditional or alternative health management plans? What steps will you take to ensure biosecurity for your flock as safety and disease prevention measures? All of this matters.
Vaccines to consider implementing into your chicken business:
- Gumbaro Live Vaccines
- Fowl Pox
- Duck Plague (DVE)
4. Waste Management
You have to have a plan for the waste because there will be a lot of it!
You can pay to have it hauled away, store it somewhere on your property, or even go through the process of composting it for another stream of income.
Gardeners love properly managed compost, especially for raised garden beds, and it’s easy to sell by the bag or truckload.
5. Regularly Updated Education for Yourself and Others
Consistent education on good chicken-keeping practices is key.
Even if you only attend online webinars, watch YouTube videos, take courses, or participate in local classes by your extension agent, anything is helpful.
Not only does this make your business better and more manageable, but it can also improve your and your birds’ lives.
Always make education a priority for yourself and your business.
Business Plan for your Chicken-Based Business
You should also make a business plan and keep it somewhere easily referenced by you and your potential employees.
This business plan should include the following:
- Your desired income
- Your plan to reach your financial goals
- Every little step (no matter how small and insignificant) to reach those milestones
- Do you want to hire employees? How many do you need?
- A marketing and distribution plan
- Your target market
- How much of the work will you do yourself or in-house? Will you outsource any of the processes? Who will process the meat birds (if outsourcing, get a spot on their calendar ASAP)? Who will watch the hatching eggs? Who will box up eggs? Who will ship the day-old chicks? Who will handle customer service?
- Where will you sell the meat/ eggs/ birds/ chicks?
- How many chickens do you want to start your farm with?
- How do you want to hatch eggs? Do you want to buy eggs, incubate, or exclusively use broody hens as a smaller operation?
- Do you want to get loans and grants? Or would you rather bootstrap the expenses yourself?
The Specific Costs of Starting a Poultry Business
Here are a few expenses you may want to consider when starting your chicken business too.
We aren’t going to share specific numbers, and that’s because these wildly vary based on location, the size needed, the quality desired, and more.
You should have a good idea of the quantity and quality of materials you want to use, so use this reference below to ensure you don’t forget any key components.
- Buildings / and chicken runs
- Lights and electricity
- Your labor plus hired labor wages
- Egg trays
- Nesting boxes
- Heat systems
- Waste disposal
- Compost space and materials
- Replacement birds
- Education for yourself and your employees
- AI tools and resources
- Travel boxes for chickens
- Equipment like tractors, manure spreaders, feed mixers, etc.
Best Chicken Breeds for Business – Final Thoughts
There you have it; this was our complete guide to knowing the best chicken breeds for business!
We covered the best meat, egg, pet, and hatching breeds to consider.
We also covered the following:
– what you need to start a poultry business
– rules and regulations
– basic cost baselines
– education materials
– tools and equipment needed
– vaccines needed
– how to make a business plan and what to include in it.
We hope you found this helpful.
If you run a chicken business, please share the size of your operation, plus your best tips and tricks for success.
And, of course, which breeds do you raise for your operation? We would love to hear from you!