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.
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 pretty decent amounts of eggs, and we appreciated that they were autosexing. Our Bielefelder 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 in the winter, and they let all the other roosters bully them too much in the bachelor pad.
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!
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.
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.
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.
We actually still have a few Dominique hens left and are thinking about getting more chicks and/or a rooster. They’re sweet and curious, and really comparable to our beloved Buckeyes! It’s so fun watching our stripey girls zip around our property, too. Their eggs look EXACTLY like our Buckeye eggs, which can get confusing if someone mixes them in the basket haha.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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. Our whole flock is for sale right now!