8 Best Chicken Breeds For Preppers

April 29, 2013

Raising Chickens

raising chickens, chicken breeds for preppers

Keeping just one breed of chicken is like putting all your eggs in one basket.

Are you planning to keep chickens to provide food for your family after an economic collapse? They’re the first livestock on the prepper’s list due to their small size, low maintenance, and ability to provide both eggs and meat. They’re also a great addition to your survival plan because they produce fertilizer and eat pests that could ruin your survival plantings. Before you acquire chickens, there are some things to consider. Do some homework so you’ll choose the best breeds to suit your needs.


What climate will you be surviving in…hot, cold, wet? Choose the right breeds for the location. Chickens with large combs, such as the Brown Leghorn, are adapted to hot climates. Those same chickens are susceptible to frostbite on their combs. If you live in the frigid north, choose a cold hardy breed like the Ameraucana. For rainy climates, consider keeping a breed like the Marans that were developed in a marshy region.


You’ll also want breeds that blend into their surroundings. White Leghorns are awesome hens due to their low feed, high egg production. However, they’re easy to spot by predators. Look for chickens that will blend in with the natural terrain. The Egyptian Fayoumi is black and white speckled and will blend into dappled shade. The Brown Leghorn’s color is better suited to sandy areas. Choosing breeds for camouflage will help them forage more safely.


Some chickens will provide a lot of eggs or meat, but they need regular rations of grain to keep them in prime condition. Choose breeds that will actively forage.  Chickens are omnivores and will eat everything from plant material and bugs to small rodents. Be sure they have room to find the nutrients they need. In a dry area with low nutrient density they’ll have to range far and wide for food. The dense foliage and rotting logs of woodland will provide better hunting grounds.  Your chickens will also need dirt to scratch in for grit, minerals, and to take dust baths. Give them any table scraps you might have, as well as finely crushed egg shells to provide extra nutrition. They also need a source of fresh, clean water to stay healthy and provide you with eggs.

If you live in an area with a dry season or cold winter, how will you provide food for them when resources are scarce? Chickens don’t like going out in snow or heavy rains. You may need to collect food for them during the abundant season and store it. The lean season is a good time to cull your old hens, extra roosters, or the less thrifty ones for the table. Feed the guts and ground bones back to the flock.

Eggs and Meat

This is your whole reason for keeping chickens. Will you be able to butcher them when the time comes? Will you have a flock that actually lays eggs for your table? If you’re bugging out and taking chickens with you, keep in mind that moving them to a new location will shut down egg production for at least two weeks while they acclimate. They will also stop laying eggs if they don’t have enough food or water, and also during the winter in areas with shorter daylight hours. Store up extra eggs during the fall to help see you through the lean months. Unwashed eggs in good condition have been stored for up to 6 months unrefrigerated.

You should also be aware that most chickens will not provide you with as much meat as you are accustomed to. Cornish Rock broilers are the premier meat chicken in the US. They’ve been hybridized by the poultry industry to provide a plump, tender bird in 8 weeks. You’ll want to raise dual purpose breeds to get the most meat, but don’t expect anything like the birds you buy on a Styrofoam slab. Older chickens are pretty chewy, too. So you may want to make soup instead of roasting them.

The Next Generation

Look for chicken breeds that will hatch out and raise their own chicks. You can’t incubate eggs without a steady temperature of about 98 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Your best strategy is to let the hens take care of that. Hens that stay on a nest and hatch out their own young are referred to as ‘broody.’ A broody hen stops laying eggs until her chicks can fend for themselves. Not all hens make good mothers. Sometimes they drag their little ones all over and lose them. It takes time to breed for these characteristics. And don’t forget that you need roosters for fertile eggs. Keep more than one rooster for genetic diversity

One last note for the prepper with chickens in their survival plan – Start Now! There is a learning curve to raising livestock. You need to gain first hand knowledge ASAP. When all hell breaks loose, you’ll have enough to worry about. So get your chickens in a row and start prepping now.

My Top Chicken Picks for Preppers

These are some of the best chickens for free ranging, hot or cold climate, raising offspring, and/or laying eggs. Start with several kinds and selectively breed for your conditions. Bring in new breeding stock when possible to prevent inbreeding.

Brown Leghorn – hot climate, active forager, flighty, great layer, seldom broody, brown with green sheen.

Egyptian Fayoumi – Hot climate, active forager, wild, good layer, seldom broody, black and white speckled, disease resistant, early maturing.

Turken – Hot or cold climate, adaptable, decent layer, can be broody, good mother, color varies, docile, slow to mature.

Buckeye – Very cold hardy, adaptable, decent layer, somewhat broody, docile, dark brown, slow to mature.

Chanticler – Very cold hardy, decent layer, broody, good mother, docile, color varies, early maturing.

Dominique – Cold hardy, adaptable, decent layer, broody, good mother, barred, early maturing.

Ameraucana – Very cold hardy, adaptable, good layer, can be broody, color varies, somewhat early maturing.

Marans – Tolerant of wet conditions, adaptable, decent layer, broody, color varies.

For a great resource that lists the characteristics of different chicken breeds, check out the Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart.



, , , , ,

About Lisa Lynn

I grew up on 400 acres of farm and woodland, foraging for wild edibles, learning to preserve food and raise livestock. My favorite book was my Dad’s army survival manual. Everywhere I’ve ever lived I started a garden, stocked up on non-perishables, and planned my escape route. My husband, Tom, and I spent way too much time in the purgatory of suburbia before moving to a small agricultural property. Here we’re learning new skills to survive without the infrastructure that most people take for granted. We plan to move to a larger, off grid property where we can expand our efforts in self sufficiency. It’s my mission to share what I learn with likeminded individuals. I’m sharing my preps with my peeps here and on The Self Sufficient Home Acre

View all posts by Lisa Lynn

26 Responses to “8 Best Chicken Breeds For Preppers”

  1. Marie at Rural Living Today Says:

    Excellent article, Lisa! This is something we’ve been evaluating ourselves. You have a really good point about not putting “all our eggs in one basket.” We have been looking for two great breeds but may think about another one or two as well.


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      Thanks Marie!I think it’s a great idea to have at least 3 breeds based on the characteristics you would like to select for in your future flock. I have about 10 different breeds right now and I hope to bring out the best of each in their offspring.


  2. Rose Petal Says:

    Thanks, Lisa, for this “review” of chicken breeds. We needed something like this a few years ago when we started contemplating how to raise chickens sustainably. We settled for Black Australorps, and they have proven to be hardy enough in the Florida heat the past two years. They are a fairly heavy bird (pretty good for eating), great layers, ready foragers, somewhat broody, good mothers, and quite gentle.


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      Hi Rose Petal,
      I have a couple of Black Australorps left in my flock and they are very nice birds. My only complaint is that they were a bit susceptible to predator attacks last fall and I lost quite a few. But they have many characteristics that I like.

      You may want to bring some new blood in if you plan to be truly self sustaining.


  3. farmer liz (http://eight-acres.blogspot.com.au/) Says:

    great post! We keep white leghorns and rhode island reds, so we have a mix of layers and meat birds. I agree with you, there is no one best breed, but a range of things to consider to chose the best for your needs. We don’t have any broodies at the moment, and its been in the back of my mind that it would be worth having a couple of silkies that are good mothers, as we just use an incubator at the moment.


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      Hi Liz,
      I really like the egg production from the w.l. but I think the Brown Leghorns are superior for camoflage in most conditions, plus they still lay great. Have you tried crossing your leggies with the rhodies? That would be an interesting experiment!

      Thanks for stopping by!


  4. Cindy Freeman Says:

    Thanks for the article! I do have a couple of questions, though.
    When you say “hot climate”, what exactly does that mean? We live in eastern NC, where it can get very hot in the spring/summer, but it can also get very cold in the winter…so not sure which ones would be good for here. If a breed is cold hardy, does that mean it would be bad here?


  5. Matt Says:

    We have found Barred Rocks to be the best multipurpose bird in our area. Something to look into if you never have.


  6. Dawn Says:

    Buff Orpingtons are also good, dual purpose chickens. They are known for going broody on a pretty regular basis, which is important if you want chicks, and they are prolific layers. We are trying Black Jersey Giants this year. They are the largest chicken around. 😉 The roos grow up to 13 pounds, the hens up to 10. They are supposed to winter well, which is a constant theme in all my chicken selections. We always go with Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orps, and Australorps as our basic birds. Barred Rocks are great for egg production, too. Good article, lots of good info. I found you via Knowledge Weighs Nothing. :)


  7. Prep Bob Says:

    Hi Lisa,

    This really is an informative article. Thank you. Which two or three breeds would you suggest that are both good layers and good meat chickens for below zero winters and 90 to 100 degree summers – both for limited time frames of a couple weeks. Temperatures are slightly more moderate most of the year?

    Also, are there any breeds that should be kept apart for any reason? Thanks again for your information.


    • Lisa Lynn Says:

      Hi Prep Bob,
      Turkens (also known as Transylvanian Naked Necks) and Delawares are 2 of the best dual purpose breeds that can handle the heat and cold too. They lay large eggs, although not as numerous as some breeds. They can also go broody and raise their chicks.

      As far as keeping breeds apart, you don’t want to keep really aggressive birds with really docile ones, because the docile birds will be too stressed from living with big meanies. For survival purposes, you won’t want docile birds anyway. They would include some of the fancy breeds with fuzzy hairdos and plumage.

      Great questions! Thanks for stopping by!


  8. Joe Says:

    I have raised at least 10 breeds of Chickens here in Michigan.
    When selecting my breeds I chose for dual purpose,winter hardy, good foragers and broody. To avoid predators chickens must be aware, fast, good flyers and roost high. I allow my chickens to crossbreed to produce great immune systems and this also increases the broody tendency. In my flock only the strong, fast, high roosting broodies survive. I have found that the addition of icelandic and american game blood has greatly added to these characteristics. I recommend the following breeds. Buff and black orpingtons, icelandic, american game, dark cornish, barred rock, rhode island red, and speckeled sussex. Let them cross. Only keep the young from broody hens. let the predators get the week and make them forage for their own food as much as possible.


  9. Bill Says:

    We live in central Minnesota and have been raising a flock of 12 Black Australorps. We live in the country but have not lost any birds to predators even though there are plenty of coyotes, racoons, feral cats, and dogs around.

    They were very easy to raise from chicks and have had no problem surviving the cold Minnesota winters in an insulated, but unheated coop (we do have a 3 gallon, thermostat controlled watering tank to minimize our work).

    In the summer, they tolerate the heat just fine as we let them free range and they will take cover in the shade on their own. They return to the coop each night and lay approximately 1 egg per day. Ours stopped laying after about 2 years.

    We do not have a rooster and have not tried to hatch our own chicks…yet.


    • Bill Says:

      Clarification: 1 egg per day for each chicken, so that would be 12 eggs per day, which is a lot for a family of 4. We’ve found a lot of interest in organic, free range chicken eggs and have had no problem selling the extras.


    • Timothy Ven Says:

      Australorps are great brooders. I’m going to start switching my flock to strictly Austra’s this spring because of the egg value (I have Rhode Island Reds which are good layer but not so much in brooding) and a couple Buff Orpintons which will brood at the drop of a hat lol.They are slightly behind RIR’s in egg production (200 v 190/year avg) but their willingness to brood makes up for that. Buffs are also friendly and docile. Reds? Not so much.
      South Carolina summers and winters can be brutal at times. Especially the summers.


  10. Judy Says:

    We live in NE TX, it gets really hot, yet we had over 55 days with below freezing temps this year. We like Black Australopes best. They are docile, large, heavy layers, broody and well suited to high temps. We have tried many breeds but these seem the best all around for our needs and this area.


  11. Jennafer Jackson Says:

    We have a mixed flock… my astralorp hen is the broodiest hen ever. She’s also a fabulous mom. I like the easter eggers (sometimes called americaunas or aracaunas by hatcheries but are actually mixed thus are easter eggers) for the egg color variety. They are also very docile and lay well. I have a buff orpington that is as sweet as can be and blend with the summer “grass” we have. We are also working on turkeys as well but because ours free range them having the ability to fly and orbnot cooping up at night can be an area for concern. Ducks are great and lay huge eggs but are messy and require a water source for swimming (a kiddie pool with a plug works well). Some breeds fly and others don’t. Our chickens are relaxing and fun to watch but they take time to learn about.

    I agree that they come with a learning curve. Do you know how to help an egg bound hen? What about worms? How about wry neck? Spraddle? Did you know that wild birds can bring respiratory infections to your flock? Do you know how to treat bumble foot?


  12. Laura H Says:

    Certain lines of Buckeyes are more broody than others, and make excellent mothers. As well, the Buckeye handles both heat and cold, and their pea comb means no frostbite in winter. Check out http://www.americanbuckeyepoultryclub.com for more info on this great breed.


    • Rhonda Fredricks Says:

      I keep a few bantam Cochin for the purpose of raising chicks. I have had them go broody as young as 8 months. The seem to go broidy at the drop of a hat, usually 3-4 times a year per bird. I use them to hatch and mother my other birds…rir and old fashioned Dominicks. The tolerate heat and cold well and do well on a free range and grain diet. They tend to be quiet and gentle and the roosters are excellent flock protectors. Only drawback is feathered feet can get messy with wet weather. I keep them on wood shavings in winter and early spring.


  13. David T Says:

    Any of the 8 breeds mentioned would be good choices. However, I would add one more breed and that is the asil. not so much as a stand alone breed but one to cross with all the others. These birds I believe are a game bird from India. The asil is a smaller more muscular compact breed. They are extremely healthy and natural survivors and improve any other breed they are crossed with. I have had great success crossing these birds with buckeyes and leghorns especially with the offspring being 3/4 leghorn 1/4 asil. Doing this allows the off spring to have a great immune system and the survival instinct of the asil and the egg and meet production off the buckeye and leghorns. After experimenting with this breed I can honestly say that there will always be a few running around the barn.


  14. Mr. Z Says:

    When I look for chicken breeds I look at egg production. I live in Florida, so cold hardy is not needed. My breeds are:
    Australorp is by far the best breed for eggs.
    Barred Rocks are eggcellent birds, very people friendly.
    Rhode Island Reds are the second best egg layer.
    Golden Laced Wyandottes are another great egg layer.
    All of these have not been very broody, at least for me.


  15. Diane Says:

    Thanks for such a great article. I’ve been raising chickens for decades and never heard of a Buckeye. Can’t wait to check them out. I always go for a variety flock, mostly for my own pleasure and the variety of egg colors. I love having a broody hen and have had good success getting a new breed into the flock by purchasing day old pullets and trading them out for infertile eggs a hen has been sitting on for 3 weeks. I do this after dark, and both hen and chicks think they belong to each other. Genius!


  16. Brandi D Says:

    Ducks are often overlooked, but my khaki Campbells are more effective layers (year round) and adaptive to the weather than any of our chickens. They also forage for food like my chickens, and have been broody (although they aren’t fertile, no males).


  17. Timothy Ven Says:

    Australorps should be on that list. A dual purpose bird for both meat and eggs, Australorps produce on average 250 eggs per year, hens come in at 6 to 7 pounds, and are very docile and friendly and excellent brooders. Very hardy and can live in extremes of heat and cold


  18. Cindy Hoffmann Says:

    My number one bird I think would be Australorp. For me (in Wisconsin) they seem to take hot and cold well. They are a decent size bird and range well. Some of mine have gone broody but not as much as some others, but are good layers. For a prep flock, I would recommend at least 3 different breeds. And don’t forget, if you plan on chicks, you need a Rooster! A mixed breed one would probably be best. You want to find one with good temperament but protective and good to his girls. A good rooster could be the most important member of your flock!


Leave a Reply