I’m often asked by people thinking of starting a small garden flock of chickens of their own as to what sort of chickens I would recommend. There are many different breeds of chicken that have evolved over the centuries and a whole host of hybrid types now available on the market so my response tends to be “what do you want from your chickens and where are you planning to keep them?”. The reason for this is that the vast array of breeds available can be broken down into groups, each serving a reasonably distinctive purpose.
Chickens are generally broken down into two groups initially, these are bantams and large fowl. Bantams as would be expected are small in size and are usually diminutive versions of their large fowl relatives though there are some breeds such as Nankin or Seabright which are known as ‘True Bantams’ as they have no large fowl counterpart.
The large fowl category tends then to be broken into three further groups. ‘Layer Breeds’ as the name suggests are breeds of chicken who are known for the ability to lay large quantities of eggs such as Ancona or Leghorn.
The next group is ‘Table Breeds’, whilst this may not sound particularly friendly, it is for breeds which will provide meat for the table, and not by nature being a heavy laying bird, for example Dorking or Bresse.
The final group is ‘Dual Purpose’ which as the name suggests has the capacity to lay a fair number of eggs and be of a reasonable enough size to provide meat for the kitchen such as Ixworth or Plymouth Rock.
Of course if the wish is for something colourful, character filled and friendly that brings about a whole new host of options, but one thing is for sure and that is that there will be a breed to suit your needs.