Starting a Flock : Considering Chickens

Backyard Poultry

Choosing the Right Bird

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Purina Animal Nutrition

One of the most exciting parts of flock raising is making fun choices through each life stage.

The first big decision is selecting the type of birds you’d like in your flock: Egg-layers, meat birds or show stock.

Read on to determine which flock variety is best for you.

Egg-layers
Raising birds for fresh, wholesome eggs is one way to provide quality food to your family. With proper nutrition and management, some breeds can produce up to 300 eggs per year

And these eggs are not produced by just chickens. New nutrition programs have expanded egg production into other flock species. Today, several breeds of ducks and even turkeys boast egg laying abilities, with eggs in growing demand. If you choose chickens for eggs, decide which color egg shells you prefer.

The following breeds are known to produce high numbers of colored eggs:
  • White: Leghorn, Campine and Polish.
  • Brown: Rock, Astralorp, Black Star, Delaware and Rhode Island Reds
  • Blue: Ameracauna
  • Light green/olive: Olive Eggers
  • Dark brown: Marans
Many people wanting eggs for their own consumption enjoy a mix of breeds, because the day-to-day variety adds an element of excitement. 

If duck eggs are of interest, consider the Pekin or the Indian Runner breeds as the good egg layers. Most breeds of turkey are comparable in egg production, though the Spanish Black turkey are known for starting to lay at a young age.

For all egg-layers, feed a complete layer feed, like Purina® Layena®, Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 or Purina® Organic layer feed, to provide the necessary nutrients for egg production.

Meat birds
Another reason for starting a backyard flock may be to produce nutritious meat. Raising your own birds allows you to decide how the flock is raised, how each bird is handled and what they are fed.

Meat bird species selection is based on personal preference, with each species producing varying flavors, nutrition and portions.
  • Turkeys are well-known for providing large amounts of flavorful white and dark meat.
  • Duck meat will vary significantly from one breed to the next, with Pekin being the most common meat duck, but Muscovy being the leanest of the common duck breeds.
  • Geese are known to provide lush, flavorful meat. High amounts of body fat can add flavor.
  • Chickens are popular meat birds in backyard flocks. When considering chickens for meat, few compare to the growth rate and carcass yield of the modern Cornish Rock.
Feed meat birds a complete feed that includes high levels of protein, like Purina® Flock Raiser® crumbles. The high protein supports rapid growth and contributes to overall meat quality.

Eggs and meat
If you’d like to produce both eggs and meat, look into dual-purpose breeds. These breeds are often able to produce high numbers of eggs and high-quality meat.

Many flock raisers appreciate some of the larger, brown egg-laying breeds as dual-purpose options. For chickens, Rocks, Jersey Giants, Sussex and Wyandottes are good examples of dual-purpose breeds.

Adjust the feed of dual-purpose breeds based on what they are producing. When laying eggs, provide a complete feed with calcium, like Purina® Layena®, Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 or Purina® Organic layer feed. If raising for meat, focus on protein through a meat bird diet, like Purina® Flock Raiser® crumbles. Chicks and pullets intended for egg production can grow well on Purina® Start & Grow® pellets or crumbles.

Exhibition and show birds
Poultry of all types make an excellent 4-H or FFA project for children and young adults, and the reward can be lucrative depending on the level of competition. Most poultry shows have classes for all types of poultry, with categories defined for specific breeds or types of breeds within the options of chickens, ducks, geese, turkey and wild fowl.

If you are interested in poultry exhibition, first look into local show options. Choosing a popular breed can help build camaraderie with other breeders and provide options for new genetics. On the other hand, selecting a unique breed can help you stand out in the competition.

Showing birds with other flock raisers can help you create a network of flock enthusiasts, perfect your birds’ genetics through selective breeding and learn more about flock care.

Know local limitations
Whatever type of bird you consider, confirm local ordinances regarding what is legally acceptable in your community. Create a long-term bird care plan, including consulting nearby neighbors, before purchasing your first birds. Some property owner’s associations may also have rules regarding outdoor buildings such as coops.

What’s another benefit of raising backyard birds? They help your lawn and garden.