able forage for a good portion of their food
will come home to roost in their coop each evening
will lay at least 200 eggs per year - in their coop nest boxes
provide a nice, meaty carcass with excellent meat quality
able to naturally reproduce
While our American Guinea Hogs are just right for our small homestead, we have yet to find a chicken breed that is equally right for us. We aren't interested in raising the hatchery meat chickens. Rather, we are looking for something that will be wary of predators, raise their own young, produce a decent number of eggs, and furnish a respectable (not Cornish Cross type) carcass. We have tried Orpingtons, Brahmas, Creme Legbars, American Breese, German New Hampshires, Delawares, and Black Copper Marans. Of these breeds, only the Marans came close to meeting our criteria. Unfortunately, those were all taken by a fox.
In 2019 we decided to give two, old-time farm breeds a chance - Speckled Sussex and Barred Plymouth Rocks. The chicks grew well and starting laying in December. That first year, they gave us eggs galore! The Barred Rocks are very easy-going birds and were the first to start laying and, while both breeds will go broody, the Speckled Sussex hens seem to be better setters and mothers. Both breeds seem alert enough to avoid predators. We will hatch some replacement hens in 2021 and process some roosters in order to determine which breed provides the meatiest, most flavorful carcass.
Interestingly enough, we brought in some Mottled English Orpingtons simply to give us eggs while the Sussex and Barred Rock chicks were growing out. They have turned out to be great birds that laid fairly well over the summer and fall, but take very long breaks from laying during the winter. They do have lovely dispositions. The rooster is a rare Mottled Chocolate Orpington and one hen is a Mottled Black while the other is a Solid Black. These hens, when mated to this Chocolate rooster, should produce sex linked chicks. These are lovely birds and we plan to hatch more. We brought in another English Orpington Rooster - Lavender Color - to breed with the solid black hen.