Many preppers dream of owning a whole ranch but unfortunately have to make do with only a backyard or a small piece of land. No worries!
You can still keep chickens and they can provide food, eat up garden pests and kitchen scraps, bring huge joy to the whole household, and also provide valuable poultry manure for the vegetable plot.
Here are my suggestions for the best hens for the best egg layers overall, hens for mixed-breed coops, and hens that continue to lay eggs in winter.
Before you buy, ask yourself…
Is Your Yard Big Enough?
Local municipal regulations stipulate a certain size requirement for chicken coops and a preferred allowance for outdoor runs.
Overnight, your hens will need to be locked away safely in a coop, so allow at least 3 (but preferably 4) square feet per chicken in your coop depending on the size of the birds.
If you intend to make your own DIY coop, then ensure it is pest-proof too, as family heartbreak occurs when a fox or predator can enter.
Is your yard big enough for the hens to forage for food? This is often an important part of keeping the hens happy and they make great companions for farm workers going about their tasks but it also saves your food bill.
Hens that can scratch for insects and worms, and chew some weeds are far happier creatures than hens kept confined in a coop. Your yard will need safe, protected free-range ground for them to wander about.
You may need to add fencing not only to keep them safe from predators but also to protect your vegetable patch or flower garden.
Hens are scavengers and unchecked, a flock can decimate your growing efforts in a few hours, as I know from bitter experience! You can use a makeshift daytime wire fence and move it around when they eat everything but keep them off your valuable crops.
Have You Got Tolerant Neighbors?
Not everybody will share your delight at the clucking of the hens or the smell of them. If you live in an urban area, this may deter you from having a noisy rooster, for example.
There are quieter roosters to choose from but first, check with a landlord for any legal restrictions regarding pets in your leasehold or your state’s laws. Buy nothing until you check the paperwork first!
Are Your Hens for Meat or Eggs or Both?
Dual-purpose birds are so-called because you can collect eggs from them or use them for meat production, or both.
Here are my recommendations for best chicken breeds for preppers:
The Australorp (Sometimes Called Black Australorp)
This large velvety-feathered hen has to be top of my personal list.
It’s an excellent fit for preppers because it is a dual-purpose bird, providing both meat and eggs.
They are also one of the best layers in the business, so what’s not to love?
This friendly hen loves nothing better than scrabbling on a piece of earth, rolling about, pecking at wildlife, and gobbling up tasty weeds or scraps thrown over by family members so this is a great addition to the prepper’s flock.
The Easter Egger
My second choice is the best-selling hen in 2022 in the US and for good reason.
Its colorful eggs come in cute pastel shades of green and blue and they lay about 200 per year.
So if you want lots of eggs, this is probably not the hen to choose.
However, if you feed your chickens this plant, it will make them lay more eggs than usual.
Easter Eggers are tolerant of either hot weather or cold as their combs are tiny, so you won’t have to worry about frostbite in chilly winters like you do with some chickens.
The Buff Orpington
These attractive, large, dual-purpose hens have thick feathers that keep them warm in cold weather so if you lie in a cooler, northern state, this may be the breed for you.
These are gentle hens who enjoy company, and they lay at least 200 but often a lot more eggs every year.
If you have children or you just like therapeutically stroking feathers yourself, these are an excellent choice.
Marans sell well in the US, particularly the Black Copper variety and their eggs have a unique brown color.
These are birds that rarely fight with other hens.
They like to search for scraps gently wandering around their yard.
Their meat quality is also excellent, making them a versatile choice for both egg and meat production on your farm.
The Rhode Island Red
This bird is named after Rhode Island, where it is the state bird, and is extremely popular with farmers, preppers, and homesteaders.
The Rhode Island Red is not only valued for its ability to produce abundant eggs, but it also offers delicious meat, which explains its enduring popularity.
If you end up having more eggs than you can eat, this preservation method will make them last for up to 10 years without refrigeration.
These have become best sellers in the US for their delicious brown eggs.
These eggs, with their rich flavor and deep hue, have made the Welsummer a top choice among poultry enthusiasts.
These birds are prolific layers, providing up to 200 large, tasty eggs per year.
They enjoy wandering about outside in the fresh air, and will mix happily with others in your backyard.
These hens are quite large, and they move slowly but surely around the yard, keeping an eye on all the other hens.
These are often the chicken that raises the alarm if a stray dog threatens the flock so think of them as the observant older sibling keeping an eye on the others.
These warm feathers make them very hardy hens and they lay 200 large eggs each year. Brahma are often chosen for winter layers because that is when they produce more eggs.
These are often suggested by the chicken selling shops as friendly, inquisitive chickens who get along with other hens and enjoy the run of an outside yard or grass patch.
Wyandottes cluck loudly too, and while this is great for the owner, your close neighbors may not be quite as pleased.
In my experience, they tend to get very “broody” which means wanting to be mums to little chicks, so they build nests outside and sit on top of an egg often refusing to leave even to go back into the coop a night.
Are you feeling ready to go buy some hens now? I hope my list has given you some clarity about the best breed for your homestead or backyard. Whether you only want fresh eggs for the family, or if you need dual-purpose birds, now you know how many eggs to expect each year.
Chickens provide a consistent source of food through their delicious eggs, contribute to pest control, and recycle kitchen scraps.
However, it’s essential to evaluate your yard’s size and construct a secure coop to protect your feathered friends. Additionally, consider your neighbors’ tolerance and legal restrictions before bringing chickens into your setting.
Regardless of space constraints, chicken keeping offers a rewarding and sustainable solution for preppers seeking self-sufficiency and the joys of raising these engaging feathered companions.
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