When you start keeping chickens and come to choose your first birds, it can all be a bit daunting. For a start there’s so many breeds to choose from. Hopefully these guides will point you in the right direction.
The first thing to decide is what you want from your chickens. Are they primarily pets with eggs as a bonus? Perhaps you’re just interested in a cheap source of the freshest and most wholesome eggs you can get or perhaps you’re thinking of raising table birds.
Many people enjoy breeding hens as a hobby and enjoy going to the poultry shows. Like prize chrysanthemum or vegetable growers, it’s the fun of winning or getting a place in the show that drives them rather than the economics.
At the start of the twentieth century most commercial chicken keepers were struggling to achieve an average of 200 eggs per annum, per bird. As part of this drive for increased productivity, farmers engaged in breeding programs to develop hens that laid more eggs or got to table weight faster.
The rising cost of feed also drove them to breed for birds that converted food into either eggs or meat more efficiently.
These more productive breeds were known as utility breeds to differentiate them from the, usually, more attractive traditional breeds that were shown.
What is a Hybrid Chicken
Simply put, a hybrid is the offspring of two different breeds of bird. During the breeding process, it was noticed that the offspring of two different breeds often outperformed either of the parents.
But breeding from these crosses often resulted in birds that did not perform as well as their parents, even if they bred true. This is a well known phenomenon called hybrid vigour. It’s even utilised in vegetable growing with F1 hybrids.
In the chicken world, a hybrid generally refers to a utility breed with parentage from mixed stocks
Pure Breed Chickens
Whilst there is nothing to stop breeding from a flock of the same breed for a particular characteristic such as high egg laying capacity, in practice these are bred to meet laid down standards in terms of plumage colour and confirmation (body shape).
Some pure breeds have been around for centuries and are quite dramatic in appearance such as the White Crested Polands shown
Hybrid & Pure Breed Chickens