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Reference Poultry - Breeds We've Tried

In our quest to find the best birds for our farm, we have tried a pretty large variety! Below are all the breeds we’ve worked with and have moved away from.

Bielefelder Rooster

Bielefelder Chickens - Brown Eggs

Created in Germany, the Bielefelder just might be the ultimate dual purpose bird! They are extremely docile, large for the table, lay good-sized eggs, and are autosexing. What more could a homesteader ask for? The only flaw we’ve found is that they do eat more than other breeds, probably because of their large size. None of our roosters of any breed have ever attacked us and gone on to reproduce, but these boys have been the most mellow with us and are the least likely to cause drama in the bachelor pad or with the hens.

We LOVED our Bielefelders! They were all like giant teddy bears, laid decent amounts of eggs, and we appreciated that they were autosexing. Our roosters consistently had the best personalities out of all our breeds. Unfortunately, they ate a LOT, their eggs were only medium-sized, they were prone to frostbite, and they let the other poultry bully them too much.

Dark Brahma Chickens - Brown Eggs

Along with the Queen of Chickens, we also have the King! These chickens are HUGE, standing about 2 feet tall and weighing over 10 lbs. They are known for being gentle giants and they have cold-hardy pea combs. Ours are the Dark variety, with gorgeous silver penciling on each feather.

Brahmas are so pretty and, like Bielefelders, they were all friendly! They didn’t lay very large eggs in very large amounts, though, and they also tried to eat us out of house and home. We’re considering trying them again later, but we’re pretty happy with our current breeds for now!

Bresse Rooster

White Bresse Chickens - Off-White/Cream Eggs

Known as the “Queen of Chickens,” the Bresse originated in France. Like Chardonnay, it’s not a true Bresse unless raised in the Bresse region, but our American ones did descend from their lines. Because they metabolize food in a unique way, they have delicious marbling and are thought to be the best-tasting chicken in the world!

Our Bresse were nice, but didn’t really stand out in any way. We didn’t get a chance to try eating one and we sold them before they were laying age, so that might have changed our minds about them. We were worried about their combs getting frostbite, too.

Silver Deathlayer Chickens - White Eggs

German Deathlayers are renowned for their ability to lay eggs throughout their whole lives – most breeds slow down and stop after only a few years! Chicks need more TLC than other breeds – we are working towards increasing hardiness.

Deathlayers are so much fun – we loved how smart and active they were! We only hatched hens and couldn’t find a rooster, and didn’t really want to try another hatch at the time, so we sold them. We would definitely try them again, though! Their main fault is that their eggs were smallish.

Silver Deathlayer Pullet
Dominique Pullet

Dominique Chickens - Medium Brown Eggs

America’s oldest chicken breed, Dominiques are very winter hardy due to their frostbite-resistant rose combs. These chickens are incredibly curious and almost as sweet as our Buckeyes! We love their gorgeous barred pattern, which also helps to camouflage them from predators while they’re out free ranging our pastures. Some lines are autosexing, but ours so far has not been.

After our rooster died, we couldn’t find a new one, so we rehomed our hens. We loved them and hope to get more one day. It was so fun watching our stripey girls zip around our property, and their eggs look EXACTLY like our Buckeye eggs, which can get confusing if someone mixes them in the basket *cough* Ken *cough* haha.

Black/Blue Langshan Chickens - Brown/Sometimes Plum-Bloomed Eggs

Langshans are an amazing dual purpose bird. They are large and sweet, and they lay a decent amount of brown eggs that are OCCASIONALLY coated in a gorgeous pink or plum bloom. Our exhibition-quality line includes stock from APA Grand Master Exhibitor Tim Ballenger. Chicks might be black, blue, or splash. Again, there is NO guarantee that they will lay eggs with a bloom, but they sometimes do!

We liked our Langshans – they were pretty birds, but they didn’t really stand out to us, and we worried about their combs getting frostbite in the winter.

Opal Legbar Roo

Opal/Cream Legbar Chickens - Blue Eggs

Curious and spunky, Legbars do not like to sit still! Our hens love to perch on our shoulders or get into places they shouldn’t. The roosters must have a lot of testosterone – they are feisty! We do not keep mean birds in our gene pools here, but the roosters who have caused the most drama in the bachelor pad have all been Legbars. That being said, they are also the absolute best flock protectors we’ve seen! Legbars prefer to free range, but are also happy scratching around in their run.

We tried Legbars and Ameraucanas at the same time, and we decided that we prefer Ameraucanas. The roosters are more calm, hens lay more regularly, and they’re FAR more cold hardy. Legbars did lay larger eggs and we loved how active and energetic they are! We also appreciated that they’re auto-sexing so that we could cull roosters right away.

Russian Orloff Chickens - Brown Eggs

Orloffs are so cool looking, and they’re built for winter weather! Breeders are trying to improve them, but at this time, they do not lay very many eggs at all – less than any other breed we’ve had – so we sold them in favor of more productive breeds.

Jaerhons Pullet

Norske Jærhøns Chickens - White/Tinted Eggs

The only truly Norwegian chicken, the Jaerhon or Jaerhons is a small autosexing breed that lays large white eggs. They are active foragers and prefer to free range. We have two lines – one from Ideal Poultry and one from a private breeder who imported her birds directly from her family’s hometown in Norway back when it was legal. Chicks need a bit more TLC and are more fragile than other breeds – we are working towards increasing hardiness.

We loved these tiny birds SO much, but just couldn’t handle how fragile they are as chicks. And they had a LOT of trouble with frostbite, even with fully enclosed coops – they kept wanting to sleep and stand outside in the snow and would get depressed locked inside. 

Black Copper Marans Chickens - DARK Chocolate Brown Eggs

The preferred egg-layer of Julia Child (and James Bond), Black Copper Marans are a French breed famous for their chocolate-colored eggs. We select for both SOP and egg color here, with SOP having the edge. Egg color varies from season to season, but if one of our hens lays lighter than a 4 on the color scale more than once, we pull her from our breeding pen.

We tried a few different lines and had the same problem with each – most of the roosters were giant jerks! They’re the only breed that has regularly had roosters attack us. There were a few nice ones in the mix, but we’re over it. We adored the hens, though! We kept a few from Skip Bittner’s line to use in our Olive egger pens. They have gorgeous conformation, although their egg color is lighter than most people expect from Marans.

Skip Black Copper Marans Pullets
Welsummer Rooster

Welsummer Chickens - Dark Brown Usually Speckled Eggs

We were very excited to find our Welsummers – they come from an autosexing line and we are working to strengthen that feature. A Dutch breed, they are friendly and great foragers. They lay gorgeous speckled dark brown eggs – some even darker than our Marans! We breed more for SOP than egg color with this line because we want to keep our beloved autosexing trait. It’s so convenient! Our stock came from Deer Run Farm, who purchased the line from Will Morrow & Kent Ozkum at Whitmore Farm when they retired in 2017.

Our Welsummer roosters have consistently been among our favorites – they’re all so calm, keep other roos in line, and really look after their females. The females are more flighty – not totally feral, but they like to do their own thing. We love them and hope to get more one day, but unfortunately had to downsize due to companywide salary cuts at both of Jess’ jobs.

Wheaten Ameraucana Chickens - Blue Eggs

We have a mix of Wheaten, Blue Wheaten, and Splash Wheaten chickens and they will produce any of those colors. One pen started with genetics from Rachel Heldermon and the other from Brad Hensen. As our starter group of Wheatens from two lines grew, we removed two that had feather stubble on their legs, two whose combs were too large, one that didn’t have a high enough tail angle, and three that didn’t have beards.

We loved our Wheaten Ameraucanas and hope to get them again one day – we had to downsize due to companywide salary cuts at both of Jess’ jobs, and had to decide between the Wheatens and the Self-Blues/Blacks that we’ve been working with longer. We chose to keep the latter, only because their eggs are a tiny bit more vibrant.

Wheaten Ameraucana Roosters
Buff Chantecler Hens

Buff Chantecler Chickens - Medium Brown Eggs

Originating in Canada, Chanteclers are THE chickens for northern climates – they’re cushion-combed and have tight feathering for severe winter weather, are sweet as can be, love to free range, lay a ton of large brown eggs, and roosters grow to about 9lbs for those who have a freezer camp. We started out with the Partridge variety and love them so much that we added Buff! Our Buff Chanteclers came straight from the aaaamazing Mike Gilbert, who keeps absolutely stunning birds. 

Parting with these guys physically hurt – we badly wanted to keep them, but had to downsize due to companywide salary cuts at both of Jess’ job. We sold them to a local farm and hope to buy more from her one day! They lay much better than the Partridge, but their eggs are almost identical to our Buckeyes and we kept mixing them up, so we picked them over others to part with.

Bourbon Red Turkeys

Bourbon Red Turkeys are generally docile and curious, and they’re also great foragers when allowed to free range! With light-colored pin feathers, they make a clean-looking and tasty meal. The biggest perk is that, unlike modern commercial turkeys, the heritage breeds can all reproduce without artificial insemination. During breeding season, we have hatching eggs, poults, hens, and toms from an APA standard line available.

Selling these guys was rough, but we couldn’t find a vet willing to come draw blood for our NPIP testing while HPAI is still around. Their testing requirement is more complex and more expensive than it is for other poultry breeds, which just need a swab and small drop of blood. Since we couldn’t test them, we could only sell in-state and would have had to house them far away from our other birds, which just isn’t feasible at this time.

Bourbon Red Turkey Tom
Cayuga Duckling

Muscovy Ducks

We liked the female Muscovy, but the males were giant sex fiends and kept going after ALL the other birds. After they killed a couple favorite females and hurt one of our geese, we had enough. The girls also regularly flew over our fencing and straight into our dogs who, although trained, can’t resist a meal that yeets itself straight at their faces. Their major pro was that they were our quietest birds. We hear they taste amazing, but never got a chance to try them. The dogs sure seemed to enjoy them, though!

Cayuga Ducks

Originating in New York, Cayuga are considered one of the hardiest domestic ducks, especially in harsh winter climates! They were the #1 breed used for meat in the US before the Pekin took over and are also famous for their eggs, which start out black and lighten over the laying season, like a printer running out of ink. Our line originated from Pete Dempsey and Master Breeder Laura Kershaw.

We liked the Cayuga – they and their eggs were both gorgeous! We only had 5 and they weren’t as friendly as the Welsh Harlequins, though, so we sent them on their way.

Cayuga Ducks
Tufted Roman Geese

Tufted Roman Geese

Critically endangered in the US, this is one of the oldest goose breeds in the world! In Roman mythology, they were the Goddess Juno’s sacred animal, and they are historically credited with saving the city during the invasion of the Gauls. Jess was a Classics major, so she is geeking out and we are incredibly excited to have started our flock from APA Grand Master Exhibitor Nate Rynish!

We’ve gone back and forth a LOT about selling our Romans, but decided to go through with it because we want to use their pen for another Pilgrim group. We’ll probably get more later! We love that they’re quieter than the Pilgrims are, and the males are less overprotective during mating season. The Pilgrims are just so much more curious and outgoing when it’s not mating season, though. 

Welsh Harlequin Duck

One of the newest heritage duck breeds and under Watch by the Livestock Conservancy, Welsh Harlequin Ducks are friendly, good foragers, and excellent egg layers. They’re small but have tasty meat that is leaner than most other ducks. And they are autosexing! During breeding season, we have hatching eggs, ducklings, hens, and drakes from famous show lines (Holderread and Wilson’s Waterfowl) available.

We REALLY like the Welsh Harlequins and will definitely get more one day. There isn’t much of a market for duck eggs lately, though, and they don’t have a whole lot of meat on them to make processing worthwhile. Our whole flock is for sale right now.

Welsh Harlequin Duck Hen