Before you run out to get your chicks, pullets or hens, it’s important to establish the reason you want chickens. Are they primarily pets? Is it important that the flock be colorful? Do you want standard or bantam sizes or both? How important is egg production? If you answered yes to any of the first 3 questions, I cannot offer much help. The following sites may be a good starting point for you. http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html http://www.backyardchickens.com/products/category/chicken-breeds http://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/which-breed-is-right-for-me.aspx
If your primary purpose is egg production than Hybrid hens (Commercial Layers), is the way to go. These hens (also called sex-links) are the best that you are going to get in the egg production department.
Heritage breeds lay on average 200 -250 eggs per year. They also taper off or stop laying completely in the Winter because of diminished day light hours. Hybrids, on the other hand, are not affected my seasonal changes and just keep laying. My 3 hens are ISA Browns. They may also be called Red Sex-Links, Shaver Browns, Cinnamon Queens, Golden Comets or Red Stars depending on the specific breeds that were used in crossing. All 3 of my girls are egg laying machines!
Honda started laying in her 18th week (July 2012) and has only MISSED 1 day of production in the last 20 weeks. Swiffer was a late bloomer and she didn’t start laying until her 30th week, but she has only MISSED 2 days of production in the last 3 months.
Rosie (our newest addition) was purchased at 20 weeks old and has never missed a day of production since she became a part of City Boy Hens.
All in all, we are getting around 21 eggs /week from our three girls. My wife no longer buys eggs at the grocery store and we generally have some extras to give to the neighbors.
Another interesting characteristic about these hens is that they can be easily sexed at hatch. Males hatch out white and can feather out to pure white or with some black feathering depending on the cross. Females hatch out buff or red, depending on the cross, and they feather out buff or red.
This is a great quality for those of us that want to raise our own chicks and ensure that we do not end up with roosters.
If you are interested in detailed technical data on these hens, check out the following info from Hendrix Genetics who own the genetic patent on Isa Brown hens http://www.isapoultry.com/Products/ISA/~/media/Files/ISA/ISA%20product%20information/ISA/Commercials/201112%20ISA%20Brown%20FP%20product%20performance.ashx. For more information on Sex-Link Hens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_link
Finally, I can also tell you that these hens are EXTREMELY comfortable around people and are generally quiet unless you have something of interest for them to eat; they want privacy in order to lay an egg, or they are squawking like spoiled children because they see you in the backyard and want to get out of the run. They generally lay one large brown egg every day before 10am and they never go broody. They also confine well and are winter-hardy. Lastly, they have a great temperament around children and do not protest to being picked up. I can’t say enough about these hens. They are fantastic!