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Chickens: What's the difference?

At the beginning of the pandemic, many people decided to add chickens to their farms and backyards. I've read more than a few Facebook posts where people seeking egg layers were sold a hybrid meat chicken, who may or may not live long enough to produce eggs. Many people are unaware that there are numerous breeds of chickens, each with a distinctive characteristics and purpose. Before the proliferation of commercial agriculture, most chickens served a dual purpose: eggs and meat. But, when food production was industrialized, chicken breeds became much more specific to their given task. Hybrids were created to make the most meat or the most eggs, respectively, and at the lowest cost. For small farmers, heritage breeds make the most sense. According to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy considers a breed "heritage" if the breed's genetic lines can be traced back to the mid-1900's.

Layer chickens come in many different shapes, sizes and temperaments. Egg colors can vary: green, blue, brown, white, and pink; though it's worth noting that whatever color egg a chicken lays initially that will be the color it lays for it's entire life. For example, a blue egg laying chicken will never lay a brown egg. Another variant is the egg laying rate. Leghorns are known for laying an egg everyday, while other breeds like Cochins are less prolific layers.

Chickens raised for meat are often a Cornish hybrid. These are the type of chicken typically found at the supermarket. These hybrids are susceptible to health problems because of their huge size and tremendously fast growth. Some chicken farmers choose to raise a heritage breed for meat, though this costs significantly more in feed and takes much longer 12-18 week versus 6-8 weeks for a Cornish hybrid.

Here at One Sip we have Black Copper Marans, Welsummers, and Amerucanas in our layer flock. We raise Cornish hybrids and Rainbow Rangers for meat. We will give updates on our poultry flocks throughout the summer!

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