A Few Breed Choices for High Yield and Excellent Egg Quality
Leghorn / Hen: 4 pounds
The best egg layer and the feed-to-egg conversion ratio are excellent, holding down the cost of egg production. These birds start laying earlier than most at 41/2 – 5 months and on average lay 10 -12 weeks longer than most good laying hens. If you’re looking for the breed that’ll give you the most eggs of superior quality in the smallest amount of space, consider the Leghorn. They are a white egg layer of top-grade eggs with good size. Although these birds aren’t usually found in your local feed store, you can ask a feed store to order them for you when THEY buy chicks, they’re often willing to oblige.
Rhode Island Red / Hen: 6 lbs.
R.I. chicks are readily available in almost all feed stores. They are excellent layers of sizable brown eggs. They do quite well in confinement but can be a bit bossy. These dual-purpose heavy birds are a dark mahogany color and have earned their reputation as a favorite among chicken keepers for years. No other heavy breed lays more or better eggs than the Rhode Island Red.
The Dominique / Hen: 5 1/2 pounds
This is one of my favorite breeds on the farm. They are hardy in extreme heat, confine well, are extremely docile, friendly, and brown egg layers. You can expect the Dominique to lay every other day, and here in Arizona mine lay most all winter. My Dominique hens are non-aggressive to other members of the flock, and I’ve introduced new birds with only minor confrontations. This particular hen is now three years old and still laying quality eggs every other day. More Options… You can also buy pullets (hens at their point of lay) if you want to skip raising chicks altogether. Check your local Craigslist under Farm & Garden, you may find just the breeds you’re looking for right in your neighborhood. Expect to pay $15 to $25 each. Beware of buying chicks though… they’re usually not sexed and you might end up with a rooster, finding yourself in violation of most local city codes.
Mamma is my prettiest Dominique hen. As you can see she eats anything and everything. She is the boss hen and won’t hesitate for a minute to make that point. She is well respected by the other members of the flock, but never oversteps her authority. To me, she is sweet as apple pie.
The Dominique, also known as Dominicker, originated in the United States. They are considered America’s oldest breed of chicken, probably descending from chickens brought to New England from southern England during the Colonial Era. However, most modern Dominiques may be traced to stock developed by A. Q. Carter after 1900.
By the 19th century, they were widely popular and were raised in many parts of the country. The Dominique is a dual-purpose breed valued for meat and brown eggs. They weigh 5 to 7 pounds at maturity, are considered cold hardy, good mothers, and adapt well to confinement or free range. They are early to mature, and although sometimes considered flighty, I personally find them extremely calm. The birds’ plumage pattern, also known as “hawk coloring”, offers some protection against some aerial predators.
Although categorized as a dual-purpose breed, these birds are first and foremost egg producers with hens averaging 230-275 medium-sized brown eggs.
Sexing Dominique Chicks
Sexing the Dominique is really pretty simple, with about a 95% accuracy. The cockerels have yellow shanks and toes, the pullets have a grayish-black coloration on the front of their shanks and also on the top of their toes. The color differences become less apparent as the chicks mature.
Since the 1920’s the Dominique’s popularity was on a steady decline, by 1970 only four known flocks remained. Dedicated breeders participated in a breed rescue and their numbers showed a rise in numbers from 1983 to 2006. By 2007, once again a decline was observed. Presently, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) has put the Dominique on the ‘Watch’ list.
Of all the breeds of chickens I’ve kept here on the farm, the Dominique is by far my favorite. They are very sweet, hardy, and most important in these parts, tolerant to our hot summer temperatures that climb above 110.
I hope other chicken keepers will give them a second look next time they buy chicks. Let’s get them off that watch list, shall we?
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect over 180 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Included are asses, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys.
Founded in 1977, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is the pioneer organization in the U.S. working to conserve historic breeds and genetic diversity in livestock. We hope you’ll browse through these pages and learn more about the diverse and valuable agricultural heritage that is ours to enjoy and to steward.