Things to consider before picking a hen...

There are so many things to think about when picking hens for the first time!  Picking the right breed can make all the difference as to whether you flock thrives.  Here are some things that you should consider before picking a hen.

The first is your reason for getting eggs. Some chickens are bred for egg production and can lay as often as once a day; some are bred for meat production and lay few eggs; and some are bred as "dual purpose" and are good for both egg-laying and meat, although not optimal for either.

The hen's age. Some hybrid pullets can start laying as early as 17 weeks, while some heritage breeds can take more than 26 weeks to mature and start laying.  Our Olive Egger and Easter Egger didn’t start laying until about 9 months, although they may have started earlier if we have provided alternate lighting through the winter.  

The season.  The peak season for laying is during the summer.  During the fall and winter egg production can drastically decrease and even stop due to a lack of light and/or molting.  It’s important to remember that while some breeds continue to lay naturally over the winter, others may need to be tricked into laying. 

Egg Colour: Depending on the breed, eggs can be varying shades of brown, white, green, blue and even speckled

What is the breed's climatic hardiness?
  • Climatic hardiness determines whether a certain breed can survive the local temperatures without being placed under a higher than normal stress
  • Each breed has adapted in different ways to cope with temperatures. Make sure to pick a breed that can survive your temperatures, as this can determine whether your flock thrives or dies
  • Some breeds that are cold hardy include Plymouth Rocks, Chanteclers, Orpingtons and Sussexes.

Is the breed you are looking at flighty?
  • Flightiness is the result of a breed’s predator response instincts
  • Some breeds can be easily spooked and will bolt (sometimes through flight) which can make them more difficult to catch if they escape
  • Beginners might want to focus on breeds that are calm and easy to manage, such as Barred Rocks or Orpingtons

Is the breed you are looking at likely to go broody?
  • Broodiness is a hen’s instinct to sit on eggs until they hatch.
  • Broodiness has been selectively bred out of some breeds to ensure they continue to lay eggs on a daily basis
  • There are ways to break a broody hen of her behaviour, but this can be stressful on both the hen and owner
  • Broodiness can last three weeks or longer

Are you interested in ornamental or heritage breeds?
Only a few breeds are currently produced en masse and the continuance of many “heritage breeds” depends on small scale and backyard flock owners.  The wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours among these breeds leads to endless possibilities!  

What's the difference between Standard and Bantam?
Many breeds have what is called a bantam or miniature version of the larger fowl.  These smaller birds generally weigh 1-2 lbs as opposed to their standard (or “large fowl”) equivalents, which can weigh between 4-7 lbs.  If space is limited, bantams are an ideal option, but be aware that eggs tend to be less frequent and are much smaller.  Keep in mind that while many breeds are available as both standards and bantams, some are only available as one or the other.

What's the difference between Chick - Pullets - Ready-to-Lay - ?

Chicks  are the cheapest to buy at $2.00-5.00/each, but remember that chicks require special care and equipment.   There is also no guarantee on the sex of the chick and you will have to wait anywhere from 4-8 months for eggs.  Some hatcheries will offer chick’s that are vaccinated against Mereck’s disease at additional cost.  Although Mereck’s is a contagious and fatal disease, there is disagreement as to whether isolated backyard flocks need this vaccination.  This is a decision that you have to make for yourself.

Ready-to-lay Pullets  are the teenagers of the chicken world..  They tend to vary from in price from $5.00-$40.00, depending on breed.  With these birds, eggs will generally arrive within a month and  you have a far a better chance avoiding roosters.

Laying Hens  can cost anywhere from $5.00-$50.00 depending on age and breed.  They are wonderful in that they are laying when you get them, but they will, therefore, have a shorter laying time for you overall.  On the up side, you pretty much have a guarantee of no roosters.

What does "straight-run" mean?

Straight run means “just as hatched”.  The chicks have not been sexed to determine if they are males or females.

Did you know...

The Egg

Chicken eggs come in many sizes and colours but there is more to this common breakfast food then you might think.

1. Some farmers add marigolds to the feed of their chickens to make the yolks of their eggs a darker yellow.

2. An egg shell can have as many as 17,000 pores all over its surface.

3. Eggs contain lutein which helps prevent cataracts and muscle degeneration.

4. Most eggs are laid between 7 and 11am.

5. Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contains vitamin D.

6. The edible part of a chicken’s egg is approximately 74 percent water, 12 percent protein and 11 percent fat.

7. The most yolks found in one egg was nine.

8. The white part of the egg is called the albumen. The albumen protects the developing embryo from bacteria

9. If you spin a hard boiled egg, it will spin easily. If you spin a raw egg, the liquid with cause it to wobble.

10. Soft - shelled eggs are caused when an egg is released before it has time to develop a shell.

Thanks to for this  great list!