If you're looking for a chicken that's hardy in the winter, keeps up with their egg laying all year long, has a mellow temperament and loves to hang around with their humans, these chickens are the chickens for you.
1. Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red (and White) is a large-ish sized bird about 6 1/2 pounds. It is an excellent all weather bird and a prolific layer of large, light brown eggs. They are friendly, with an excellent personality. A dual-purpose bird, it is also excellent for eating. They are a wonderful bird for the outdoors and have a good disease resistance. Not often broody, hens make excellent mothers. This breed matures a little early too, which means your eggs may come slightly sooner than they would with other breeds. Almost every list of recommendations for a hardy backyard flock will recommend this standard bird as one of the best choices you can make.
2. White Leghorn
If you're looking for less of a pet and more of a utility chicken, then the Leghorn, especially the white variety, is for you. These hens are prolific layers of the standard white egg- they have highest laying rate of any breed. The eggs are larger than some other breeds. It is a hardy bird, well suited for both hot and cold climates and rarely ever broody. They are very early maturing. Leghorns tend to be a bit flighty and skittish. If they can avoid human contact they will. Historically, the Leghorn was honored by the Romans who may have used them in a variety of rituals.
Brahmas are an excellent all around, dual-purpose bird. They have a beautiful feathering pattern, with lacing on the neck and tail but solid colored bodies. This is a large breed of bird with the average weight being 9 pounds, so it is not difficult to see why they are often prized as an eating bird over a layer. Brahmas are good layers with average sized eggs, good mothers but slow to mature. They are hardy in all climates and possess one of the sweetest and gentlest personalities amongst poultry. They do not mind being handled, petted, or hand fed.
4. Plymouth Rock
An American standard, the Plymouth Rock is most commonly seen in the Barred Rock pattern; the feathers are banded giving it the look of an old time striped jail suit. They are docile and friendly and able to reach large sizes, some upwards of nine pounds. They are a dual-purpose bird and good layers of large eggs. They make excellent mothers and mature fairly early. They are hardy in general and excellent for winter laying. Plymouth Rocks are friendly, easy to handle and love being around people.
5. Buff Orpington
Large, fluffy and loosely feathered, the Buff Orpington (and Orpington's in general) is a big, fun bird to have pecking about your yard. Originating in Orpington in Kent, England, this bird lays large brown eggs and though dual in purpose is preferred for its eggs as its skin color is considered too white. They are frequently broody, but excellent mothers. Hardy all year and excellent with winters. The Orpington matures a bit early but tends to be, despite its size, the lowest peg in the pecking order and owners should keep a bit of an eye out to make sure they're not being bullied too much or too often.
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