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Best Breeds of Chickens

The breed of chickens that a producer selects for his flock depends upon the purpose for which the chickens are intended. The types of chicken breeds to select from falls into one of three categories: 1) egg laying stock, 2) meat-type birds and 3) dual purpose breeds. Each type of bird is genetically developed to satisfy the best attributes for which they are intended. However, no single breed of bird will provide the best characteristics for all three purposes. Each category of birds will be discussed below.

The egg laying breeds of birds have ancestries that trace them to the Mediterranean Class of chickens as classified by the American Standard of Perfection. They have been genetically selected for high egg productivity, but usually have small bodies that make them undesirable as meat producers. The small bodies benefit these breeds because very few nutrients are wasted for producing great body mass. Instead, they direct more of their dietary nutrients into the egg production. The egg producing breeds are further divided into birds that produce white shelled eggs or brown shelled eggs. The best white shell egg breeds are descended from the Leghorn breed with several different feather color patterns to select from. The best brown shell egg production breeds are developed from Rhode Island Red stock. Regardless of which shell color breed selected, there are many modern varieties from which to choose.

The meat-type breeds of chickens are not really breeds at all. Instead, they are hybrid varieties or combinations of many different breeds. The combinations of breeds are selected to produce a variety (strain) with meat characteristics that the producer desires most. Some breeds grow faster and larger while others emphasis traits like larger breast meat yield, more efficient feed conversion, or more disease resistance. The strains are named after the breeding companies that genetically develop them, like Arbor Acres, Ross, Peterson and Hubbard, to name a few. The weakness of these varieties is that they do not lay as many eggs per hen as the egg laying breeds discussed above. These strains are used by broiler producing companies that commercially produce broilers sold in supermarkets.

The third type of chicken breeds are those that are dual purpose. They are not as good in producing eggs as the Leghorn or Rhode Island Red breeds, but they have much better meatiness. They are also inferior in meat production characteristics as compared to the commercial meat-type hybrid varieties, but they are much better egg producers. Typical breeds in this dual purpose category are New Hampshires, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes.

The producer should select the characteristic that is most important for him and then contact a nearby hatchery to see if a suitable breed or variety is available. The hatchery manager will be able to advise the producer about the birds that are available. If a suitable breed is not available at the hatchery, contact the county Extension office for an alternate source of the breed you desire. The publication Breeds and Varieties of Chickens is a listing of all breeds/varieties recognized by the American Poultry Association.

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News

Dressed in a pink T-shirt and blue jeans, broiler grower Teresa Dyess stands next to two wagon wheels in front of a barn on her family farm.
Filed Under: Women for Agriculture, Poultry October 20, 2017

In three days, Teresa Dyess shifted her business focus from produce to poultry.

The change began two years ago with an offhand remark from her husband, Joe Dyess.

 “He told a broiler grower in Wayne County we wouldn’t mind building pullet houses because we wanted to diversify our farm,” she said. “We didn’t think any more about it, and then the next day a poultry processor called and offered us a contract. A banker came the next day, and everything fell into place.”

Lanette Crocker, coordinator for the MSU Extension Service in Wayne County, said Teresa Dyess’ adaptability has helped her maintain success through the farm’s transition.

Hen flock inventories grew after the poultry industry recovered from the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, increasing the number of eggs on the market and driving down the price. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Poultry August 4, 2017

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Mississippi's poultry industry remains healthy with a strong demand for broilers and a positive outlook for the remainder of 2017.

Filed Under: Avian Flu March 30, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- All Mississippians who raise any species of poultry are being urged to follow strict biosecurity practices and review new requirements regarding sales and exhibitions.

Tom Tabler, poultry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said that while avian influenza is not a threat to human health or food safety, an outbreak would endanger backyard flocks and the state’s nearly $3 billion commercial poultry industry.

Choosing the right breed of chickens for a backyard flock is an important decision. From left, Tripp, Luna and Charlie Sanders examine chicks for sale March 8, 2017, in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Poultry March 16, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Families willing to host a flock of feathered friends reap the benefits of fresh eggs delivered daily just outside the door.

What started several years ago as an underground "urban chicken" movement has become much more common and widely accepted. Today, raising backyard chickens has gained popularity nationwide, boosted by interest in locally grown foods that avoid the energy use and carbon emissions typically associated with transporting food.

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