Commercial hybrid chickens are particular commercial crossbreeds based on those originally selected in the 1950s for the battery cage producers seeking to vastly increase production over the traditional pure breeds. They are based on just a few of the more productive pure breeds and are generally brown in colour; of uniform size and shape; and produce 250 -300 eggs over 2 years. These will be cheaper than other poultry as they are reared in large numbers and are ideal where your primary interest is in providing fresh eggs for the family at minimum cost. Common examples are produced by Warrens, ISA Brown and Hy-line. Beware of very cheap stock which may be “rescued” from commercial units. While this may be very satisfying it can also be distressing as they are often coming to the end of their lives.
Coloured Hybrids have been especially developed for free range and “garden” systems with good feathering, hardiness, and long life (typically 4 years). The original outdoor hybrid was the Black Rock but others offered to the smaller producer through Clogher Valley Eggs and Poultry, now include Light Sussex, Maran, Bluebelle, Amber and Daisybelle.
If your interest is in keeping or breeding birds of more attractive or different appearance then there are a host of different pure breeds (well over 60) to choose from. These Pure Breeds are the traditional breeds of poultry, many of which have long histories which can be traced back to Roman times and beyond. An excellent comprehensive list with illustrations, is provided by the Poultry Club of Great Britain www.poultryclub.org/breed-gallery/chickens .
These Pure Breeds from ancient times were further developed in Victorian times to achieve improved egg and meat production and have subsequently evolved in many countries across the world. Some are particularly beautiful and are now used for exhibition. All breeds have defined Standards for shape and colour. On the whole they only lay eggs during the longer days while some produce meat or are dual purpose breeds. They live and produce 100 – 250 eggs for 4-7 years. This egg production varies with breed and age. The light breeds lay the most eggs but can be flighty and nervous, while heavy breeds lay less and eat more but will produce meat as well. Bantams are smaller so lay small eggs but eat less and require less space.
We recommend that you stick with pure breeds of known performance and characteristics rather than gamble on cross breeds of unpredictable qualities. Also do not go out and take the first breed you are offered; go to a local show , see the breeds for yourself and discuss their characteristics with the breeders . We will of course be pleased to discuss the breeds we offer at Clogher Valley Poultry and share our experience on choosing a suitable breed for your purposes. Make sure whoever you buy your stock from will be willing to answer the questions which will inevitably arise once you get the stock home and start to look after them yourself.
It is difficult to generalise on breeds as so much depends on the conditions under which the birds were reared and their experience of previous contact with humans, but those designated as “Light Breeds” are often more nervous and flighty than larger “Heavy Breeds”. Egg production is usually the primary focus of beginners to poultry keeping, with beauty as a secondary requirement and meat production of very limited significance.
Heavy breeds tend to be quieter, eat more and lay less but regularly go “broody” or sit on / incubate their own eggs. Famous Heavy Breeds include traditional Light Sussex, Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock, while the Leghorn is the most famous Light breed.
Dark brown eggs are the most popular with consumers and two common breeds which produce these are the Marans and the Welsummer. The eggs of the Welsummer are slightly redder than the Marans which are dark brown. The Barnevelder lays a light brown egg as does the old English Orpington breed. The Sussex is a good layer while the Rhode Island Red, Australorp, Plymouth Rock and Wyandotte are also good layers of tinted eggs.
There is a great variation in colours and types and virtually all lay light coloured eggs. The White Leghorn still outproduces most pure breeds, but there are several other colours of leghorn chickens. Breeds of Mediterranean origin include the Ancora and Minorca. The crested breeds such as the Poland and Araucana with its blue / green eggs, are also classified as Light breeds.
These are miniatures of certain large breeds which should be one quarter the size of the large version. Bantams can be excellent for young children and those without much space available for poultry.
Pullets and Cockerels? In its first year a male chicken is known as a cockerel and the female as a pullet. These become cocks and hens from 1 year onwards.
If this leaves you confused don't hesitate to give us a call and we will be happy to discuss your options and show you examples of the breeds we have available and Clogher Valley Eggs and Poultry.