|Image courtesy of Wikipedia|
We have three top favorites among our past layer breeds: orphingtons, australorps, and the auracona. Each one a heavy breed bird excellent for both meat and egg production. Orphingtons and Australorps lay an abundance of hearty brown eggs, where as the Auracona lay large blue/green eggs. Roosters are protective of their flocks, yet social with people- not prone to aggression. Hens are good nesters and excellent mothers; setting their clutch even if a snake attacks the nest. My Orphingtons are 'golden buff' meaning their feathers are a yellow/honey color. Australorps are rich black with a green sheen- strikingly beautiful in the afternoon sun. The Auraconas sport multi-colored feathers of every range and tufts of feathers known as 'beards' on their cheeks. These breeds nest well, do not fly (due to size), lay even in inclement weather, and are smart enough to return to the coop when danger threatens.
A few breeds made the 'mediocre' list; I would purchase if need be, but they only had a marginal run. Dominecer, Barred and Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and Wyandotts were excellent layers (all brown eggs of medium size), however, in a short cycle and never in winter months. Each is a smaller breed than my listed favorites and were most often taken by predators. Not known to be broody, they were not good sitters or good mothers; often flighty and easily spooked.
My least favorite breeds from experience are White Leghorns and Production Reds. Both were proficient in warm weather but seemed easily stressed in our Texas heat. Quite unsocial, they scattered at the sight of people and were quite easy targets for the hawks. Not known to return to the nest made free ranging them quite aggravating, and they were not nesters- often leaving eggs everywhere.
One breed that has good qualities, but never worked out for us was the Bantams. Generally one-fifth the size of a standard bird, their eggs were quite small as well. Small and easily taken by prey, they had to be kept in protected housing or a netted range pen (completely enclosed top and sides). They were excellent layers, wonderful mothers and strikingly beautiful in their amazing range of colors- but not practical for us.
We generally use the 'extra' roosters from our favorites list as our home meat birds, however, in recent years our kids have raised Cornish Cross in 4-H. These birds grow rapidly and are easily stressed. I find them to have a high death rate in our extreme Texas weather, yet they do dress out well as broilers, fryers, and roasters. Their time on the farm is short, only a six week run- yet they fill the freezer nicely and serve a good purpose. I don't think I would purchase this breed were it not for the kids' project; I would stick with standard breeds even though their dress out time is longer.
There you have it; our lists of yeah and nays. Experience shared and learned. When considering your own poultry flocks be sure you know what their purpose will be, the stresses most likely found in your area, and what suits your family best.
* a great resource for breeds (with pictures) and their purposes link over to