A slice of

Sourcing your

Buyers guide

Choosing a Breed

Choosing a Breed Summary

Commercial Hybrids

  • If you need lots of eggs
  • Don’t mind if they look the same
  • Don’t mind replacing after two years
  • Cheapest
  • Not very hardy

Free-range hybrids

  • Good numbers of eggs
  • Can get different colours
  • Live a year or two longer
  • More expensive
  • Hardier

Pure breeds

  • Some eggs, most of year
  • Different colours & patterns
  • Live four – seven years
  • Most expensive
  • Hardiest

A popular way of starting with chickens now is to “rescue” battery hens. These are hens which are near the end of their laying life, being replaced by a younger flock. They arrive with few feathers and no knowledge of free-range and it warms the heart to see them discovering a new way of living. This may not be very long, however, as these birds are already old and can bring disease with them. They are likely to have been de-beaked, which can make foraging more difficult.

Other people buy chickens at ‘point of lay’, which means they are about to start laying their first eggs, usually around 18 weeks old. Remember to ask if the chickens have been vaccinated against the major chicken diseases before you buy them. Your chickens should start to lay eggs once they have settled in to their home, although the eggs may be a little smaller at first, known as pullet eggs. Four chickens will keep a family of four in eggs, plus some left over, so only buy as many chickens as you need. Eggs should be collected at least once daily. Remember to wash hands afterwards.

Point of lay hybrid

As winter approaches, many breeds of chicken will have a natural rest period in order to moult and re-grow their feathers and generally recover from the work of egg production. Be prepared for this respite and for going back to buying eggs for a while.