Before you fill up your small farm with chicks being sold at a local store or farmers market, consider what you will do with your hens when they stop laying eggs. If the thought of having to harvest your own chicken for meat is unappealing, then look for a non-broody heavy laying hen. Non-broody means that the hen will not try to sit on her eggs to hatch them. If a hen does that, they stop laying eggs until after the ones she is sitting on hatch.
Chicken breeds by use
This is not a comprehensive list of chicken breeds and their typical use. However, some breeds tend to be more popular than others, whether they be for show, for eggs or for meat. Some breeds are popular based on a region, some chickens to better in the cold than others, and so on. The breeds mentioned here are either ones we have personal experience with, or that are popular in our area.
Chickens for eggs
Many people will look for a chicken that produces regularly, frequently, and for a long time. All hens will lay eggs, and you do not need a roster for them to do so. Roosters are useful for flock protection, fertilizing eggs or to be used for their meat. Leghorns are a breed that will produce a large white shelled egg every day, nearly all year long. If you prefer brown eggs try a Rhode Island. If you want bluish green “Easter Egg” colored eggs, then you are looking for an Ameraucana. If you want eggs, but are not interested in daily egg production, choose any other variety that suits your likes!
Chickens for meat
You can also choose a breed just for its meat. The most popular of these are the Cornish varieties. Their eggs are smaller and they lay less frequently than several other varieties, but their eggs are still perfectly edible. Several other breeds that were used for meat have been selectively bred over time to also produce a reasonable amount of eggs, making them a dual purpose chicken.