Breed Selections of Chickens

Breed Selection of Chickens

By: Sabrina Schirtzinger, Agriculture and Natural Resource Extension Educator, Knox County

There are various reasons people raise chickens for eggs, meat, and exhibition or simply just for the caring and watching chicks grow. For some raising chickens is a hobby; and others see it as a sustainable part of living.

So, what are your needs? What is your end goal for raising chickens? These questions will help you to determine what category of poultry you are leaning towards.

Is your goal:

Egg Production– These chickens will lay eggs; however, what color egg would you prefer white, light brown, dark brown or colored?

Egg and Meat Production– These chickens are referred to as dual purpose breeds that tend lay an adequate amount of eggs and get large enough for meat production. American chicken breeds where developed for this purpose.

Meat Production– Chickens that are bred solely for meat production. Chickens reach 4-5 pounds in 6 weeks and 6-10 pounds in 8-12 weeks. The best growth rate will come from a Cornish crossed with a White Rock called a Cornish Cross.

Exhibition of Poultry– Showing chickens have becoming popular in the Midwest. The American Poultry Association (APA) has a publication called, The American Standard of Perfection. This book gives you a complete description of all the breeds and varieties of domestic chickens.

Selecting the best breed of chicken can be difficult as there are many to choose from. Understanding their differences will help you to increase you production, reduce your time and save you money. Within in article you will find a chart highlighting a few aspects producers look for in their flocks. This chart is designed to help you come to a decision about which breed is best for your needs.

Breed Varieties Egg Color Egg Size Characteristics Meat
Ameraucana Black, Blue, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Buff, Silver, Wheaten, White Blue/Green Large Medium sized chicken, colorful feather patterns. Excellent egg layers No
Anconas Single Comb and Rose Comb White Extra Large Known for being excellent large egg layers, non-setting and No
Australorps Black Brown Large Popular breed for light brown eggs, heavy bird used for meat as well. Yes
Brahmas Light, Dark, Buff Brown Large Heavy breed will brood and gentle natured. No
Buckeye Only one variety Brown Medium Originated in Ohio. Heavier and wide breed making them an excellent dual purpose breed. Yes
Buttercups Gold, Silver White Medium Mainly used for egg production. No
Campines Silver, Golden White Medium Smaller breed better as an egg layer. No
Cochins Buff, Partridge. White, Black, Barred, Silver Laced, Golden Laced, Blue, Brown Brown Small Fluffy feather, broody breed, and considered one of the largest breeds. No
Cornish Dark, White, White Laced, Blue, Brown Excellent meat chickens Yes
Delawares Only one variety Brown Extra Large Founded in the state of Delaware. Heavier breed that can be used as meat. Mostly white with barred on the tail and hackle. Yes
Dominiques Only one variety Brown Large An American white and black barred breed (also known as cuckoo pattern). Adapt well to climates. No
Dorkings-Single Comb Silver Gray, Colored, Cuckoo, Red, White White Medium Versatile breed used for meat and egg production. Has red ear lobes, but produces white eggs. Yes
Faverolles Salmon, White Light Brown Medium Dual Purpose breed, mainly used for exhibition and has 5 toes. Yes
Hamburg Black, Golden Penciled, Golden Spangles, Silver Penciled, Silver Spangled, White White Medium Known for being excellent large egg layers and good foragers. No
Jersey Giants Black, Blue, White Brown Large Large, heavy breed used for egg production and meat. Yes
Leghorn Light Brown, Dark brown, White, Buff, Black, Silver, Red, Black Tailed Red, Columbian White Extra Large Prolific egg layer No
Maran Black Copper, Wheaten Dark Brown Extra Large Known for their very dark brown eggs. Excellent egg layers and may be used for meat. Yes
New Hampshire Red Red Brown Extra Large Originated in New Hampshire. Dual purposes breed used more for meat production. Yes
Orpington Black, Blue, Buff, White Brown Large Heavy dual purpose breed and an excellent egg layer. Good winter layer. Yes
Plymouth Rock Barred, White, Buff, Partridge, Silver Penciled, Blue, Columbian Brown Large Dual purpose broody chickens that will make good mothers, and do not mind the cold. Yes
Polish-Bearded and Non-Bearded Golden Silver, White, Buff Laced, White Crested Blue, Black, Crested White White Medium Prolific egg layers, similar to Leghorns. No
RedCaps Only one variety White Medium This breed is a good egg layer, meat chicken and exhibition breed. Yes
Rhode Island Reds Single Comb and Rose Comb Brown Extra Large Known for being the best egg layer as a dual purpose breed. Yes
Sussex Speckled, Red, Light, Brown, Silver, Buff Brown Large Dual purposes breed. Yes
Welsummers Only one variety Very Dark Brown Large Good egg production chicken, cold weather hardy with a docile temperament. NO
Wyandottes Silver Laced, Golden Laced, White, Black, Buff, Partridge, Silver Penciled, Columbian, Blue Brown Large Dual purposes breed. Cold weather hardy and also make a good exhibition bird. Yes



Akers, D., Akers, P., & Latour, M. A., Dr. (2002). Choosing a Chicken Breed: Eggs, Meat, or Exhibition. Animal Science Poultry, AS(518), w, 1-4. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from

Breeds of Livestock. (1995, February 22). Retrieved April 20, 2016, from Information on breeds.

Murray McMurray Hatchery. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2016, from Information on breeds.

The American Standard of Perfection. (2015, April). Retrieved April 18, 2016, from Presents the official breed descriptions for large fowl, bantams, waterfowl, and turkeys.


CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE PDF——->Breed Selection of Chickens


Wooden Breast Research Update

Histopathologic and Myogenic Gene Expression Changes Associated with Wooden Breast in Broiler Breast Muscles

Sandra G. Velleman and Daniel L Clark

Department of Animal Sciences, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH 44691

Received 20 April 2015; Accepted 20 May 2015; Published ahead of print 21 May 2015


SUMMARY. The wooden breast condition is a myopathy affecting the pectoralis major (p. major) muscle in fast-growing commercial broiler lines. Currently, wooden breast–affected birds are phenotypically detected by palpation of the breast area, with affected birds having a very hard p. major muscle that is of lower value. The objective of this study was to compare the wooden breast myopathy in two fast-growing broiler lines (Lines A and B) with incidence of wooden breast to a slower growing broiler Line C with no phenotypically observable wooden breast. One of the characteristics of the wooden breast condition is fibrosis of the p. major muscle. Morphologic assessment of Lines A and B showed significant fibrosis in both lines, but the collagen distribution and arrangement of the collagen fibrils was different. In Line A, the collagen fibrils were tightly packed, whereas in Line B the collagen fibrils were diffuse. This difference in collagen organization may be due to the expression of the extracellular matrix proteoglycan decorin. Decorin is a regulator of collagen crosslinking and is expressed at significantly higher levels in Line A wooden breast– affected p. major muscle, which would lead to tightly packed collagen fibers due to high levels of collagen crosslinking. Furthermore, expression of the muscle-specific transcriptional regulatory factors for proliferation and differentiation of muscle cells leading to the regeneration of muscle in response to muscle damage was significantly elevated in Line A, and only the factor for differentiation, myogenin, was increased in Line B. The results from this study provide initial evidence that the etiology of the wooden breast myopathy may vary between fast-growing commercial broiler lines.

Click for full Article –>velleman and clark. 2015. wooden breast



Choosing an Incubator

Choosing an Incubator

Article Written by:

Lucinda B. Miller, Ph.D.

Extension Specialist, Companion & Small Animal Programs

Ohio State University Extension


Hatching chicks can be a rewarding experience, fun and educational for the entire family. Eggs used for hatching are fertilized eggs that hatch only if properly incubated. Fertilized eggs are obtained from reputable outside sources such as hatcheries or breeders, or they may come from your flock.

Shipped eggs have a lower chance of hatching than eggs picked up in person. The less time spent in transport, the better chance of them hatching. Collecting fresh eggs from your flock is the best way to have the highest hatch rate. If stored properly, you can save fertilized eggs until you get enough to set. Typically, hatching percentages continue to decrease the longer the eggs remain out of an incubator.

What Are Your Goals?

Determine your goals before selecting an incubator. There are many styles of incubators, from table top to floor models, ranging in size and price. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What species of fowl do you want to hatch?
  • How many eggs do you plan to set?
  • How many hatches do you want per year?
  • What features do you want an incubator to have?
  • What percent hatch rate do you expect? (A realistic hatch rate is 80-85% if all goes well.)

Purchase the style of incubator that suits your needs before collecting hatching eggs.


Factors to Consider

Less expensive incubators generally have fewer features. They might lack an egg turning device and not control temperature and humidity as well as a more expensive incubator. Egg turning, ventilation, temperature and humidity all affect the success of a hatch. When looking at incubators consider the following features:

(1) Egg Type and Capacity—Some smaller incubators handle only chicken eggs without the possibility for modifications. Larger models usually can accommodate any type of egg. Models for home use hold as few as 3 eggs and as many as 250.

(2) Turning—Turning hatching eggs is vital to their survival. Turning keeps the yolk centered within the egg white so it doesn’t stick to the shell membrane and cause the death of the developing embryo. Do you want an automatic turner or will someone be present to turn eggs at least three times a day, every day, until the last 72 hours before hatching? Some incubators come with rotating devices or tilting trays. An egg turner with racks that hold 42 chicken eggs and that move the eggs from side to side can be purchased for use in tabletop Styrofoam incubators. Racks sized for quail, duck, geese, and turkey eggs also can be purchased for certain types of egg turners.

(3) Airflow—A good airflow is very important for developing embryos, as they use up oxygen fairly quickly and simultaneously generate carbon dioxide. Good airflow is needed to continually replenish oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide. All incubators have vents to help circulate airflow. There are two types of incubators in relation to airflow: circulated air incubators and still-air incubators. Circulated air incubators, also known as forced air incubators, have built-in fans that continually circulate air to maintain sufficient oxygen and keep the temperature even. They are more expensive than still-air incubators but produce a better hatch rate. Still-air incubators, also known as gravity-flow incubators, do not have fans to circulate air, but instead rely on circulation that occurs naturally through vents.

(4) Temperature Control—The temperature inside an incubator is extremely important. Fluctuation in temperature or a difference of as little as one-fourth degree can decrease your hatching percentage or cause hatchlings to have health issues and poor survival rates. Incubators are either wafer controlled or electronically controlled. Many table top Styrofoam incubators have a wafer thermostat which you must adjust for a day or two to get the desired temperature inside the incubator. Wafer-controlled incubators allow for more fluctuation in temperature and can contribute to irregular hatches than do electronically-controlled incubators. Once the temperature in a wafer-controlled incubator is set you must be careful to avoid bumping the adjusting screw.

It is a lot easier to manage electronic temperature regulation. Temperatures for some electronically- controlled incubators are preset by the manufacturer for hatching chicken eggs. These can be adjusted for hatching other species of poultry. Others have a temperature-controlled thermometer that works on a relay switch.

Regardless of the type of temperature control in the incubator you purchase, run the incubator for 24-48 hours before adding eggs to make sure the temperature is adjusted correctly. Even with this precaution, minor adjustments may need to be made after adding eggs.

For circulated air incubators follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for temperature settings.

(5) Humidity Control—Developing embryos must have the correct amount of moisture throughout incubation, as does a hatchling to break out of its egg. All incubators should have water-holding devices. Some have troughs built into the bottom of the incubator. Others have containers that can be attached externally to automatically dispense water into the incubator. Some have removable trays, pans, or plastic liners with troughs. If not included with your incubator, purchase a wet-bulb thermometer (hygrometer) to measure humidity in wet-bulb degrees or a digital hygrometer to measure percent relative humidity. Follow the incubator manufacturer’s instructions.

(6) Ability to Observe—Certain brands or models of incubators offer transparent covers or large observation windows to make it easy to check the temperature and humidity and to watch the eggs throughout the incubation time and during the hatch. Opening an incubator because it has very small windows or no windows at all can reduce the hatching percentage. Therefore it is better to purchase an incubator with a larger observation area if you and your family want to observe.

(7) Cleaning Ease—Consider the ease of cleaning when looking at an incubator’s construction. You will need to clean and sanitize your incubator once all of the hatchlings are moved from the incubator to the brooder.

(8) Cost—How much money are you willing to spend to purchase the type of incubator that has the features you want and will best help you reach your incubation and hatching goals?
This list of incubator features, but not the discussion, is from Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks by Gail Damerow, ©2013, Storey Publishing, MA.

In Summary

Do your research before deciding on what type of incubator to purchase. Consider your incubation and hatching goals and review the various factors to consider. If possible, talk to others who have used the type of incubator you plan to purchase.


(1) Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks by Gail Damerow, ©2013, Storey Publishing, MA.

(2) Incubating and Hatching the American Way: The Complete Guide to Incubating and Hatching from Fowl to Ratites by Alexandra Douglas, ©2013, CreateSpace Publishing, SC.

(3) Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry by Glenn Drowns, ©2012, Storey Publishing, MA.


For a printable PDF of this article:

Choosing an Incubator


Veterinary Feed Directive

The Veterinary Feed Directive OTC changes go into effect on January 1st, 2017. This has the potential to impact the Poultry Industry.



Over the past several years, the FDA has taken important steps toward fundamental change in how medically important antibiotics can be legally used in feed or water for food-producing animals. Now, the agency is moving to eliminate the use of such drugs for production purposes (i.e., growth promotion and feed efficiency) and bring their remaining therapeutic uses in feed and water under the supervision of licensed veterinarians – changes that are critical to ensure these drugs are used judiciously and only when appropriate for specific animal health purposes. The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule is an important part of the agency’s overall strategy to ensure the judicious use of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals.

Click HERE to read the full FACT SHEET: Veterinary Feed Directive Final Rule and Next Steps from

CLICK HERE for a good FAQ link from Texas A and M University.

CLICK HERE for the full FDA PDF on the Veterinary Feed Directive Compliance Guide

NOTE: The coccidiostat Amprolium added to starter feed is not considered “medically important” and will not fall under VFD unless used in combination with a VFD drug (source:TAMU Agrilife Extension)

Raising Baby Chicks

Bringing Your Chicks Home

By: Sabrina Schirtzinger, Agriculture and Natural Resource Extension Educator, Knox County

Deciding to raise chickens is a considerable task; especially, if you this is your first time. Chicks require: housing, a heat source, water, feed, and a bedding source. This article will give you a few quick tips for getting starting raising chicks.

Upon arrival home chicks should be housed in a brooder. A brooder may be an enclosed box, small corner of the garage, or a cardboard guard keeping the chicks in a contained area. Brooders should be free from drafts, or other animals; whichever style you chose to build, the walls need to be 18 inches high. Brooding is approximately six weeks, during this time the brooders size will need to be adjusted to allow more space for the chicks. In 2 week intervals increase the brooder 1 square foot per bird.

For the first few weeks chicks need extra heat to grow stronger and improve feathering. Temperatures should between 90 -95 degree Fahrenheit for the first week, then decrease 5 degrees each week until the chicks gain feathers, or ambient temps are reached. Watching your chicks will alert you to adequate temperatures in the brooder. When your chicks are too cold they will be chirping loudly and huddled under the lamps. Simply lower the lamps until normal behavior is resumed. Normal behavior is described as birds exerting daily behaviors of sleeping, eating and drinking. If your chicks are too hot they will be further from the heat source. There should always be space for the chicks to be warm and cool in the brooder.

Begin feeding your chicks a starter feed with a crude protein of 20%. Use this feed for approximately 6 weeks, then switch to a grower/developer feed. When your chickens reach 18-20 weeks of age switch them to a layer feed with a 15 to 16% protein and 4% calcium. Eating is a socially activity to chickens. When selecting a feeder allow two inches of space for chicks within the first two weeks. After two weeks a beyond allow 4 inches of feeder space per chicken.

Your chicks will require clean, fresh water several times a day. Use the one or two gallon water jugs for the first few weeks, then you can increase the size as they grow larger.

Good bedding sources are ones that catch and absorb the manure; but also, keep the chicks from slipping on the ground. Lining the floor of your brooder with newspaper helps to make cleaning easier. Types of bedding are: pine shavings, straw, course ground cobs, or oat hulls. Producers should clean the brooders several times a week, and then add 2-3 inches of bedding back into the brooder.

Raising chicks can be a rewarding and learn process for your whole family. One that will give you several years of results; for more specific care instruction as your chicks grow older, contact your local extension office.