Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Chicken Breeds Suitable for Suburbia | A Buyer's Guide

Many a time I've had people say to me that they'd love to keep chickens, but can't because they live in town. The thing is, keeping chickens in suburbia is entirely possible.

The first flock of chickens we owned was purchased when we were in town - a trio of crossbred heritage breed layers. We named them Hilary, Harriet and Caroline and these three chickens were incredibly spoilt and provided us with three eggs almost every day.
Most backyards will accommodate a trio of layers, which is all you need to keep your family supplied in fresh eggs. As I talked about a couple of weeks ago, chickens are a wonderful addition to your organic gardening system, whether you are growing veggies or flowers.

Chickens not only provide your family with fresh eggs - they give hours of entertainment just watching them, they are a great stress release and their complex social structure is fascinating to watch. They also make lovely pets, whether for your children or yourself.

The key to being able to successfully keep chickens in suburbia is your choice of breed.
If your yard is on the smaller side, a smaller breed that still lays well will be the perfect choice, as they won't need as big a coop.
No matter the size of your town block though, you'll want a breed that is quiet and easily contained.

All six breeds below are quiet enough to keep in town, and are generally easily contained. There are different sizes for different needs and requirements and I've tried to give a good selection below, including a recommendation of what cross to choose if purebreds aren't your thing.

So here are my top six breeds for suburban chicken keeping:

 1 / Sussex

These are large, docile birds that are great layers and also go broody from time to time. It depends on the strain as to whether they are good mums or not, some birds are too large and squash their own chicks. Mothering abilities aside though they are very friendly and productive and also come in an attractive range of colours. Their size makes them excellent for use in a garden system as mentioned here.

2 / Chinese Silkie

It's no secret that Silkies are my favourite breed. I run two flocks, have my own closed breeding system and at last count own 15 birds. These adorable animals make excellent pets and mothers, but aren't renowned for their laying ability as they go broody very frequently. They are very quiet though, making them ideal for suburbia and being on the small side they would be happily contained in a smaller backyard. Silkies can be prone to "scaly leg", and some bird's nails will need clipping from time to time. Show birds will also need their crests trimmed as it can obscure their vision.

3 / Plymouth Rock

Also a large breed, these birds originated in America and are incredibly quiet. The roosters have been described as the gentlemen of the chicken pen, and in my experience you won't find your hens a more chivalrous chap. This breed ticks every box - it is hardy, quiet, lays extremely well and has also retained the ability to raise their own young as well as being a good table bird.
The dark barred variety is the most common, with the light barred being my personal favourite. Other colours are rare and even non-existent in Australia, so be wary of breeders offering colours such as buff, columbian or even white - odds are they aren't purebred.

4 / Australorp

This Australian breed is full of character and is an interesting addition to any backyard flock. I loved our Australorps when we had them, they were quirky little things and their black feathers look so pretty with the beetle green gloss over them. Australorps come in standard and bantam size, and are very good layers. They can be a little more suspicious minded than other breeds listed here and their personalities lend towards the melodramatic, but they are docile and quiet enough for a suburban block. Being lighter than other breeds, you may need to clip their wings if high chicken mesh isn't part of your enclosure.

5 / Wyandotte

These are one of the prettiest chickens around, often coming in silver and gold laced varieties. I have never personally owned them, but they are an incredibly popular breed that is supposed to be quiet, lay well and only require low fences. Wyandottes are also on the large side and can be broody.

6 / Rhode Island Reds

These large birds have stunning red, glossy feathers and thick yellow legs. The hens are similar in personality to Plymouth Rocks in that they are incredibly docile, but unfortunately many roosters tend to be aggressive. Rhode Island Reds are very good layers, having been used alongside Leghorns to form part of the modern day battery chicken. High fences aren't a concern for full grown birds as their size and weight prevents them from flying.

7 / Crossbreds

If you can't find purebreds or are after a chicken with a smaller price tag, the best crosses I would recommend are birds with Australorp, Rhode Island Red and Sussex in them. Ours even had a dash of Leghorn, as when crossed with placid breeds such as the ones mentioned above the noisiness and flightiness of Leghorns tends to disappear.

I hope this has inspired you to look into getting that flock of chickens - you really can have your own fresh eggs even when you live in town!

If you are a first time chicken owner, make sure you check out this Australian chicken book. Backyard Poultry - Naturally is the first book we purchased as new chicken owners and is so good it has remained the only one in our collection. It's now in full colour too, and has been revised to include more natural remedies and breed photographs.

Perhaps you already keep chickens in town? I'd love to hear any advice you have to offer in the comments below.

Happy chicken keeping!

Sarah x

Check out other posts in the Chicken Care series

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  1. Oh you missed Orpingtons .. I just love mine, such big happy birds with loads of character �� Chickens sure are time wasters ..

    1. I quite forgot about them! I've never owned them, but Australorps were created from them. I've always liked the way they look :-)
      Yes chickens are great at wasting time, but so enjoyable! x


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