After hours and hours and hours of pouring over various heat-tolerant chicken breeds, and the creation of an in-depth spreadsheet of the traits of about 20+ standard chicken breeds, I made my purchase of chicks for the new farm in the wee hours of the morning on November 16th, 2020.
I ended up buying my chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. I loathe finding out that my selected hatchery is an awful chicken mill and/or otherwise an unsavory business, but I hope that does not happen. Their website is excellent, and they carry a large selection of heritage and rare breed chickens. I even watched their hatchery video tour.
I stuck with my original pick of Andalusians. They are a rare Mediterranean breed from Spain and have been recognized as a breed since the 1800’s. They are gorgeous “blue” birds and as such, their genetics are extremely interesting. The “blue” gene is an incomplete dominance gene that “dilutes” the black color. As a result, breeding two blue Andalusians will result in 50% blue chicks but also 25% black chicks and 25% white or splash chicks. For more information about how the blue gene works, visit this site. Andalusians are active birds that are excellent foragers and their white skin meat complements their large white eggs.
I agonized, however, about what other breed or breeds to go with the Andalusians. I knew I wanted more than just that one breed, but which breed??
I created a list of several must-have and several nice-to-have breed traits that I outlined previously in this post. Using those same criteria, I ended up picking a second heat-tolerant breed, the Welsummer. They are a Continental breed from the Netherlands that lay a lovely brown egg that is often covered in dark brown speckles. They, too, are beautiful birds who are active and excellent foragers. They are described as a bit more friendly and docile than the Andalusians, and are another dual-purpose bird that can provide yellow-skin meat as well as darker brown speckled eggs. I also like that they provide a completely different color palette to the Andalusians.
Because I would like my chicks to ship as soon as possible, I selected a 3/1/2021 ship date (the second one available) and I had to order 25 chicks total to get a ship date prior to April 1st. To meet that 25-chick limit and to better ensure I get mostly females and at least one rooster, I selected 1 male and 12 females for each breed. I realize that up to 50% of my chicks might not survive, so fingers crossed for good survival rates!!
There were a number of other heat-tolerant chicken breeds that deserve an Honorable Mention and will continue to be on my list for the future:
Ameraucanas –> they are a breed developed in the US in the 1970s from Araucana chickens from Chile. They were bred to keep the lovely blue-egg gene but to eliminate the tufted and rumpless lethal alleles of the Auracanas. The name derives from “American” and “Araucana.” I know I want some blue egg layers, and these are likely my best bet that will breed true (rather than a hybrid). Often confused with Easter Eggers and Araucanas and they come in multiple colors.
Speckled Sussex –> they lay large brown eggs and are also excellent meat sources with white skin. Their rich mahogany brown coloring with white and green flecks is sumptuous, and they are an English class of chickens, something I am currently missing (see the 6 classes of chicken breeds for more information)
Buff Minorca –> Minorcas are another Mediterranean breed, and thus have excellent heat tolerance. The Buff coloring is divine and relatively rare, and they are excellent foragers and rarely go broody. The only downside to these chickens is that they are a poor source of meat. My grand plan is that I will butcher and eat my birds as well as use their eggs. Until I see whether that is something I can physically and emotionally do with my own chicken flock, I am not 100% certain whether lack of good meat production is an actual no go.
White-Crested Black Polish –> These guys are utterly adorable, and the chicks have these too-cute pom-pom-looking tuft of feathers on their heads. I love the white plumage on the head in contrast with the black bodies. This is a Continental breed of chicken that lay medium white eggs and their egg production is actually a skosh better than the other breeds I have listed. As expected, given their body type, they are not good meat chickens.
Cream Legbars –> This another blue-egg breed that I have my eye on. Legbars come in multiple colors but the Cream Legbar is a beautiful combination of dusty gray and brown, and the hens have the delightful crest of feathers on their heads. Only problem is that their egg production is only rated as fair and they have poor meat potential. So although I love how they look and their egg color, they fall short on many other of my criteria.
*Thank you to Robert Bottman on Unsplash for the lovely featured image photo at the beginning of this post.