New to poultry farming or want to keep a new breed?
With so many different choices, it can be difficult to pick the right one for you. We partnered with Farmers Guardian to look at the options.
The Light Sussex is a dual-purpose utility breed which is also popular on the show scene. Available in a range of colours, it is defined as a soft feather heavy bird, but can also be found in the bantam variety. Extremely docile, the breed is ideal for farms with young visitors. Light Sussexes are good foragers and make excellent layers or meat chickens, often being bred to create useful hybrids.
Docile and friendly, yet slow to mature, the Cochin is a large breed which lays small eggs. It is also a quality broody hen. There are no Cochin bantams in the UK, as the smaller variety is classified as the Pekin bantam. The Partridge Cochin variety requires double mating to produce the correct colour and markings in their offspring, and there are few cockerel breeders left, most preferring to produce pullets to show. Cochins will require housing in winter due to the excessive feathering on their feet.
Buff Orpington Bantam
While the large variety can be difficult to house and maintain feather condition, the Buff Orpington bantam provides an easy care version of the distinctive golden breed. As the most popular Orpington, the Buff has complete leg and foot feathering and can come in other varieties depending on colour preference.
Described as the ultimate broody hen, the Silkie, or its crossed offspring, is distinctive due to its fluffy and cute appearance, sometimes making it vulnerable to predators. While its laying ability can sometimes be compromised by its will to sit on eggs, the breed is a useful addition to the hen house if hatching in a natural environment is desired. Silkies are relatively small and easy to care for, but the extra feathering will need checking from time to time.
As the Wyandotte has eight variations of large fowl colour and 15 in the bantam variety, it makes a suitable choice for most breeders wanting a utility breed with a striking edge. New colours and patterns of the breed are still being created today, and it is consistently placed well in showing classes. The Wyandotte is a docile breed and can produce up to 200 eggs in its first laying season.
Originating in Germany, the Vorwerk is a rare breed which is alert and active in character. Easy to manage and very economical feeders, it also does well in showing classes. The breed is suitable for those novices who prefer hard feather types and do not want the burden of caring for mass amounts of soft feathering. The Vorwerk is a quality meat bird, also providing a good amount of eggs for its size.
Have you considered?
Nearly all breeds of chicken have a smaller variety, called a bantam. These are usually between a quarter and half of the original size, displaying the same characteristics but in a smaller form. These small birds are often preferred by many backyard chicken keepers and are generally cheaper and easier to keep.