When you’ve finally made the decision to add chickens to your homestead, you might find you need some help selecting the best chicken breeds. There are so many poultry breeds to choose from in the wonderful world of chickens. From laying hens and meat chickens, to small poultry breeds and tinted laying hens — there’s something for everyone!

I can remember the first time we added tinted egg layers to our homestead, and the joy it brought. There’s nothing quite like having all of those beautiful eggs in your basket every morning. It literally took me years to find the perfect birds for our property. Now, this year, we’ll be moving. And that means I might change up my breeds again. Who knows!?

Either way, every backyard chicken keeper and homesteader’s needs are different when it comes to chicken keeping. So, let’s break it down by some of the types of chicken breeds and their purposes, and you may just find the best backyard chickens you’ve ever had.

McMurray Hatchery Blog - Selecting the Best Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead - Barred Plymouth Rock

Egg Laying Poultry Breeds

It’s no secret — we all get chickens for eggs. They bring us so much joy when they are collected warm from the nesting box. And even more joy when they are fried up and placed on our breakfast plate. We make ice cream, baked goods, and more with the eggs our chickens bless us with each day.

There are so many different types of laying hens that you may become overwhelmed when selecting the best chicken breeds. From tinted egg layers to breeds that are specifically bred to lay eggs, here are some of my favorites, and why I love them for every homestead. Choose which ones fit your needs the best!

Sexlink Poultry Breeds
Sexlink poultry breeds are chickens that were specifically created for egg laying. These breeds will start laying around 6-months of age, though some can overachievers that start around the 5-month mark. These breeds will lay consistently, everyday, until they are about 18-months old. Some will begin to taper off to an egg every few days, however, I’ve personally had sexlinks that have layed daily until 3-years of age. It just depends on the chicken.

I don’t often have these on my homestead, but when I do, it’s because I need big production, fast.

Some of my favorite sexlink breeds are:

McMurray Hatchery Blog - Selecting the Best Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead - Fresh Eggs

Tinted Egg Poultry Breeds
Tinted egg layers are my absolute favorite. Greens, blues, pinks, and dark chocolate browns fill my egg basket. These chickens can lay an egg each day, but some tinted egg layers will lay an egg every other day, or every three days. If you want a rainbow colored egg basket, these are the types of chickens you want on your homestead. Better yet, if you sell eggs to customers, they are sure to love these as well!

Furthermore, one of the greatest, untapped potentials of tinted egg layers are the breeding aspect of chicken keeping. For years, when I have the time, I’ve bred my own tinted egg layers. For example, I have high quality French Black Copper Marans that I have taken pride in breeding for many years. Their specific egg color can be hard to come by. But I’ve had a lot of fun adding another tinted egg layer to my breeding line up — Ameraucanas! When I breed the blue tinted egg laying Ameraucanas to my chocolate tinted egg laying Marans, their offspring create a beautiful deep olive tinted egg layer.

You don’t have to put in all that work though if you don’t want to. You can purchase tinted egg layers right from a breeder or hatchery.

Here are some of my favorite tinted egg layers.

McMurray Hatchery Blog - Selecting the Best Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead - Leghorns

Prolific Laying Hen Poultry Breeds
Sometimes you just want a good laying hen that doesn’t have any specialty. You just want a good layer that looks good on the homestead! There are a lot of poultry breeds like this.

Here are some examples.

McMurray Hatchery | Homesteading Blog | Selecting the Best Chicken Breeds | Rhode Island Red

Dual Purpose Poultry Breeds

Next on the homesteader’s list are the dual purpose poultry breeds. If you’re wanting a chicken for eggs, but also a chicken that you can process for meat, then the dual purpose breeds are what you’ll want. It doesn’t mean you have to process them for meat, but for many homesteader’s it’s important to have this option just in case you wish to process them––either as old hens or just for meat in general. These breeds are also very common generic backyard (mostly) heritage chicken breeds.

Here are some of the favorites we’ve had on our homestead over the years.

McMurray Hatchery Blog - Selecting the Best Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead - Meat Birds

Meat Poultry Breeds

Many homesteaders what to raise their own meat, and sometimes that means you need a bird that produces a lot of meat quickly. While dual-purpose birds are great, they don’t grow nearly as fast as some may like. It’s also easier on the wallet when you can grow a bird in 8 to 12 weeks, versus 16 to 20 weeks.

These birds can be grown on pasture with a rotation system, or mingled in with your other chickens.

Here are some of our favorite meat breeds on the homestead.

  • Jumbo Cornish X Rocks — a hybrid breed that is one of the most popular. This breed is very much like the chicken you’d buy from the store. They dress out between three and five pounds in eight to nine weeks.
  • Red Ranger — these birds take a little more time to grow than the Cornish, but their meat tends to be easier to work with during the cooking process. Sometimes people prefer the taste of their meat as well. These birds dress out between three and five pounds by twelve weeks.
  • Delaware Broiler — a new breed to the group, I’m most excited about this heritage hybrid. A lot of people enjoy raising heritage breeds for their homestead. The meat is darker and sweeter. And the chickens don’t look like aliens. These will dress out between two to five pounds, but can take longer to grow out depending on how big you’d like the bird to be.

McMurray Hatchery Blog - Selecting the Best Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead - Landrace Breeds

Landrace Poultry Breeds

Last, but certainly not least in the poultry breeds, you have the landrace breeds. The most self-sufficient chickens you’ll ever find. Landraces aren’t really breeds at all, and the poultry species isn’t the only species with landraces. Landraces are groups and types of animals that have been developed over time to adapt to their environmental and natural environment. They are generally in better health, adapt quickly, great parents, amazing foragers, and quick on their feet to get away from predators.

One of the greatest poultry landraces is the Icelandic chicken. We raised these birds a few years back and fell in love with them quickly. I’m anxious to move so that we can add them onto our new homestead once again. They do best with a lot of space to run and forage, but are amazing mothers, egg layers, and foragers. I rarely had to feed my Icelandics feed in the spring and summer, simply because they wouldn’t eat it! They were that great at foraging.

If you’re looking for an extremely self-sufficient chicken in every way — foraging, breeding, raising chicks, and protective — landraces are for you.

Here are a few of my favorite landrace breeds:

  • Icelandic
  • Swedish Flower Hen
  • Olandsk Dwarf

McMurray Hatchery Blog - Selecting the Best Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead - Amy Fewell

No matter what breeds you decide to go with, remember that chickens are such amazing creatures to add to your backyard or homestead. Whether you’re adding egg layers or meat birds, you’ll find that chickens are entertaining and easy to maintain. Learn what you need the most out of them, get the proper breeds, and you’ll never be disappointed!

Amy Fewell, The Fewell Homestead and Founder/CEO/COO of Homesteaders of America
Amy K. Fewell is a homesteader, mama, and chicken keeper living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the Founder of the Homesteaders of America organization and conference. And she is the author of the books The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion and The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook. She also hosts a weekly podcast called, Choosing Simple.

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McMurray Hatchery is proud to partner with Homesteaders across the country, and support more sustainable lifestyles, by offering our new
Homesteaders’ Special. Our Homesteaders’ Special makes it easier to raise your own flock for meat and eggs:

  • Register as a Homesteader by calling (800) 456-3280
  • Purchase a minimum of 350 birds per year
  • Choose your savings: 20% OFF OR 60-DAY TERMS!
Feature photo courtesy of Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms. Livestock photos courtesy of Amy Fewell, Ann Accetta-Scott and Jessica Sowards.