Chickens are probably the most novice-friendly livestock out there. Granted my husband and I both grew up on farms as children with various types of livestock, but when we decided to start growing our homestead we decided to grow slowly. We did not want to be overwhelmed by getting everything at once, and instead chose to add livestock one at a time until we feel we are at capacity. So the first thing we got… chickens.
Obviously you already know my love for Fluffy Chickens (which have their own advantages) but we needed something that would be good for meat production as well as egg production. I have read several books, websites and articles over the past two years that had information regarding chicken breeds. These include Cackle Hatchery, Backyard Homestead and Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Animals. I also used the Livestock Conservancy website, as I believe it is important to help grow the breeds that are struggling.
The breed I finally settled on was the Delaware. Delawares are a fantastic breed if you are looking for a dual purpose bird. They grow rapidly with weights from 5.5-6.5 lbs for pullets and hens and 7.5-8.5 lbs for cockerels and roosters. Their lovely white feathers also makes the plucking job look much cleaner on a meat bird.
As far as egg production, each hen will lay an average of 3-5 eggs per week. After the “new layer” phase, these eggs will range from large to jumbo in size. Furthermore, I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about a brown egg that makes it feel more “home grown.”
Personality is also HUGE for me when picking out animals; I don’t like creatures that I’m going to have to tussle with. Delaware chickens are known to not only be calm and friendly, but the word “docile” has also been thrown around to describe them. They are also decent setters, which means they will make fairly good mamas if you want to raise your own chicks.
Delaware chickens do well in all weather climates, but the Rooster’s do have a large comb that needs to be monitored for frostbite in the cold. I also found that they are pretty good at foraging for their own food. Even as chicks, mine would go into a tizzy when let out to free range. Hello decreased food costs!
If you do choose to raise your own chicks, the recommended mating ration is 10 hens to 1 rooster. Although I will say that I have currently been rocking 2 roosters with 12 hens in one coop and 4 roosters with 5 hens in another since I got them as chicks 7 months ago. Please don’t judge, they were a gift and I don’t have the heart to “off” them. We haven’t had any vicious battles or injuries to date.
The Delaware also happens to be on the Livestock Conservancy list of “endangered” livestock, if you will. It is considered to be a sustainable heritage breed, yet prior to the 90’s the breed had almost died out. Still lingering between the categories of “watched” and “critical,” and given all the traits mentioned above, I believe Delaware chickens should be top consideration for anyone looking to keep chickens.