There are three basic choices in the types of poultry to purchase; a breed primarily for egg production, a breed for showing or exhibiting, or one that is bred for meat production. Care and feed requirements will vary for each type of breed. Getting off to a good start is very important. You will want to purchase your chicks or chickens from a reputable hatchery or breeder. It is recommended to purchase chicks from hatcheries or breeders that participate in the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP).
White Leghorns are a very popular breed for laying white eggs. Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons are popular breeds that lay brown eggs. These breeds can lay approximately 200 eggs per year per hen. A rooster is not needed for the hen to produce eggs. Typically, chicken breeds with white ear lobes lay white eggs and chickens with red ear lobes lay brown eggs. These breeds of birds can be purchased as day old chicks or 18-22 week old pullets that are ready to lay eggs.
Cornish Cross is a fast growing breed for meat. They can reach 4-5 pounds as a broiler in 6 weeks or 6-10 pounds in 8-12 weeks as a roaster size.
Chickens are judged depending on the characteristics of that particular breed. The American Poultry Association (APA) publishes The American Standard of Perfection. This book is the official breed standard for fancy (hobby) poultry in North America and it gives illustrations and descriptions of all accepted breeds of domestic poultry. Bantams are a small breed chicken, about ¼ the size of large poultry, often exhibited by young 4-H members. This breed is easy to raise because it is small, and therefore eats less feed and requires minimal space.