Spring is in the air. The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and the hatcheries are ready to ship baby chickens to build your new flock. But which do you choose?
There are so many different breeds of chickens and not all of them do well in Hawai’i. Some can’t handle the heat, are poor foragers or just don’t seem to get the fact that they’re a high target for predators. You don’t want to be stuck with one of those.
I’ve been raising chickens for over 20 years now and have some experience on my favorite breeds for Hawai’i. I’ve also asked others who have been raising chickens in Hawaii for their favorite birds. Together we’ve come up with a short list of our favorite chickens for Hawai’i.
Before we get into that, we want to share with you the popular consensus on what many believe the best breed for Hawaii is.
Related: One thing about chickens is that they waste a lot of food. Before I moved my chickens to be 100% free range, I stumbled upon this feeder that cut my food loss by 80%. Now you can get it shipped to your door straight from Amazon!
#1 Chicken For Hawaii is….
Rhode Island Reds
Sticks to the Ground
Great Egg Production
Good for Meat
Stays Off My Lanai!
How to Choose the Right Chicken
Choosing the right chicken is really up to you, your preferences and the conditions you plan on raising your chicken in. Are you looking for a prolific egg layer or a good meat bird? Will the chickens be confined or allowed to free range? Do you have a predator problem?
Some people like the idea of chickens that double as pets. The level of friendliness is up to you. Personally I don’t like my chickens to be that friendly because I do not want them coming up on my lanai looking for a handout, or worse, leaving some fresh poop on my doorstep, right where I’ll step in it. No Thanks.
Plan in advance what you want out of your chicken flock and use this guide to help you choose the right bird for you. No matter which chicken you choose, any chicken will be a great addition to your Off Grid Homestead.
|White Leghorn||280-320||Great||Stand Offish||Very Flighty|
|Rhode Island Red||200-250||Great||Friendly, but keeps to itself||Can fly but sticks to the ground|
|Black Australorps||250+||Good, Supplemental Feed||Shy, then too friendly, visits lanai often||Does not fly easily|
|Barred Rock||200+||Good, Supplemental Feed||Friendly, visits lanai||Sticks to the ground|
|Aracaunas||150+, blue/green eggs||Great||Keeps to itself||Flighty|
|Black Minorca||120, Large Eggs||Good, Supplemental Feed||Friendly, visits lanai||Flies well, but prefers to stay on the ground|
|Cornish Cross||100-, Mainly Meat Bird||Poor. Needs Feed||Friendly||Does not fly, does well confined|
|Brahmas||120-150, winter production, meat bird||Good, Supplemental Feed||Friendly||Does not fly, but likes foraging|
|Jersey Giant||180-200, meat bird||Good, Supplemental Feed||VERY Friendly||Does not fly, but likes foraging|
Best Chicken Breed for the Hawaii Islands
The best breed of chicken for Hawai’i is going to be one that can tolerate the heat, forage well, escape from predators, produce a decent amount of eggs and can double as a meat bird if it comes to it.
Below I have chosen my favorite chickens for Hawai’i. I have raised each and every one of them and have used that experience to guide me when I describe each bird. I lay out to you the details of each breed, it’s up to you to pick the one that suits your needs
Egg Production: These chickens are egg producing machines, pumping out anywhere from 280-320 eggs per year! Plus, they’ll lay like that for 3-4 years! That is some serious laying action. These hens are bred for laying, so don’t expect broody mommas here. If you want chicks, you may need a foster mamma.
Predator Proof: Originally a feral bird, these guys know how to hide when danger approaches. I wouldn’t want to mess with one of these guys if I was a mongoose and there’s no way a dog would be able to catch one either.
Foraging Ability: Leghorns are busy birds that do pretty well foraging on their own. I am used to seeing them run across the yard at the first sign of something to eat. I rarely have to feed these guys extra food as long as they are allowed to roam.
Flightiness: They are good fliers and would rather nest in a tree than your chicken coop. If you are looking to have chickens contained in a coop with a fenced in run, get ready for these guys escaping any chance they get.
Friendliness: Leghorns aren’t exactly running away from you at first sight, but they’re not jumping into your lap either. With extra handling they may warm up to you, but they will never allow you to catch them easily.
Heat Tolerance: Originally coming from Italy in the 19th century to America, these chickens are used to heat. They know how to find the shade and forage for water on the windward side of the islands.
Rhode Island Red
Egg Production: Not the most high output bird, but they do produce a respectable 200-250 eggs per year. What they lack in egg production is their crossover as a decent meat bird.
Predator Proof: I have seen them chased by dogs and they seem to do a good job getting away, unless cornered. They seem aware of their surroundings and can be nowhere to be found when I am out hunting for my next meat bird.
Foraging Ability: I have found these birds to be pretty active foragers, exploring every nook and cranny they can find for bugs or worms. I rarely see them looking for food from me and are normally last to investigate some fresh compost that might get thrown out.
Flightiness: Rhode Island Reds are good fliers but prefer to stay on the ground. I have had good success keeping them fenced in chicken runs.
Friendliness: These guys are curious birds that can be friendly if you try. They do seem to like the company of people, but will keep their distance if you want them to. They can be a little pushy towards other birds but overall seem pretty amenable. I would place them in the middle of the pecking order.
Heat Tolerance: Originally a cross from a Malay Junglefowl and Italian Leghorn, these chickens know heat. They seem to thrive in our Hawaiian climate and are very healthy birds when given the right conditions.
Egg Production: Good egg layers produce 250+ eggs per year. They are moderate brooders that make good mommas to their baby chicks.
Predator Proof: Being that they are a pretty calm breed, Black Australorps can use a little help when it comes to predator protection. If you have problems with dogs or a lot of hawks in your neighborhood, you may want to think about getting a different breed.
Foraging Ability: Black Australorps are a large breed chicken that does well foraging on its own. If kept in confinement they tend to put on too much weight. The exercise that comes through foraging really benefits the health of this chicken. I do notice them looking for food from me a little too often though.
Flightiness: Being a heavier bird, these chickens tend to stick to the ground.
Friendliness: Shy at first, these chickens will warm up over time and tend to follow you around hoping for a scrap of food. They can be very friendly birds, friendly enough for a visit on your lanai. They are a very calm and quiet breed.
Heat Tolerance: These birds have a wide range of weather tolerances. Bred in the hot deserts of Australia, they do pretty well in our Hawaiian climate.
Egg Production: Their egg production is pretty decent, coming in with about 200+ eggs per year for up to 3-4 years. I have a 6 year old bird that still produces between 100-150 eggs per year which isn’t that bad for an older bird.
Predator Proof: These guys need protection. They always seem to be the first to get taken out by a dog. Health wise, they are pretty susceptible to disease as well. One day I went into my coop to find 5 dead barred rocks while the other breeds were doing fine. I don’t know what hit them, but it hit them hard.
Foraging Ability: Barred Rocks are pretty good foragers, but they will go looking for a hand out if you come around. I have noticed their egg production jumps with a little supplemental feed.
Flightiness: Being a heavy breed, Barred Rocks tend to stick to the ground more than fly. They are well suited for fenced in runs, which is what I would do with these birds if you don’t want them visiting you at your home all day. They seemed to do the best in confined spaces over the other breeds.
Friendliness: These birds are super friendly. A little too friendly in fact. I’ll often find them on my lanai or in my house looking for food. And they don’t mind getting picked up either. I’m down for a friendly bird, but I don’t want them leaving their crap on my porch. They would’ve made my list as my favorite chicken for Hawai’i if it wasn’t for this fact.
Heat Tolerance: I have noticed that they tolerate the heat pretty well here in Hawai’i. In fact I’ll often see them sunning themselves on a warm summer’s day. Access to shade couldn’t hurt though.
Egg Production: Definitely not the best egg layer, coming in at 150 eggs per year, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. They make the most beautiful bluish greenish eggs. These are small birds so they are not great for meat production.
Predator Proof: I have found these guys to be very good at evading predators. Being that they are small and light, they can take to the air very quick to avoid capture.
Foraging Ability: Great foragers, I never have to offer these birds supplemental feed.
Flightiness: I have found these to be very flighty birds. I had a 8’ fence around my chicken run and no matter what I tried they always found a way to fly out, even when I clipped their wings! Best for free ranging.
Friendliness: I have found Aracaunas to be very friendly, if you can catch them. I never find them on my lanai though and I like that.
Heat Tolerance: Originally from the warm tropics of South America, these birds love the warm weather. In fact, the warm weather may even increase egg production in some birds.
Egg Production: Producing 120 eggs per year isn’t much, but when they’re the biggest chicken egg you’ve ever seen they kind of make up for it. I have found these eggs to be great in baking. They are a big bird so they double as meat production birds.
Predator Proof: Minorca’s are very alert birds that do well avoiding predators, especially if there is a large rooster present. They have no problem keeping themselves safe while free ranging.
Foraging Ability: These birds are good foragers, but do require some supplemental feed from time to to supplement their need for protein.
Flightiness: I am kind of mixed on their flightiness. They tend to stick on the ground, but have seen them take to the air if they need to. I have only free range these chickens so I do not know how well they would respond to an enclosed chicken run. My guess is they would be so so.
Friendliness: Minorca’s are friendly birds and will follow you around thinking you might have food. You will also find them on your lanai if you allow free ranging. I like friendly birds, but not ones that leave their scat behind for me to step in.
Heat Tolerance: These birds do well in the heat and have no problem in our warm tropical sun.
Before we get into meat birds, I want to advise you that this class of chicken is not recommended for beginners. They require more care and are more suseptible to disease. If you are just getting into raising chickens, I suggest a dual purpose bird such as Rhode Island Red or Barred Rock.
Egg Production: Believe it or not these chickens produce eggs, they just never make it to the age in which they start producing, often times killed for their meat after 8 weeks of growth.
Predator Proof: These birds are so big and clunky that they are an easy prey for predators. It is best that they are kept inside an enclosed coop for their safety.
Foraging Ability: Horrible foragers, they have been bred to eat poultry feed and that’s what they want.
Flightiness: If you saw these birds, you’d wonder if they could fly at all. They’re so big and bulky that I don’t think their little wings can handle their weight.
Friendliness: Cornish Crosses seem friendly enough, but I think its more of a lack of intelligence than anything else.
Heat Tolerance: Not the best at tolerating heat. A well shaded chicken coop would help out their health. Overall a pretty sickly bird though.
Egg Production: These chickens produce about 120-150 eggs per year, but here’s the thing, they tend to ramp up production in the winter when everyone else is slowing down! Their size makes them an excellent meat bird with less of the problems of the Cornish Cross.
Predator Proof: Brahmas are big birds that can make them a bit intimidating, but they are no match for a dog. They don’t fly very well and aren’t too fast so if you have predators nearby, keep them safe.
Foraging Ability: For a meat bird, Brahmas are pretty good at foraging, although they do require some supplemental feed to make up for their large size.
Flightiness: Their large size does not allow for easy flying. These birds will easily stay within a fenced in chicken run.
Friendliness: Very friendly chickens. You will find these birds to be very gentle, coming right up to you to say hello. Luckily for them, they know their boundaries and stay off my lanai.
Heat Tolerance: Able to handle colder climates, they do OK in the hot tropics but do best in an environment with plenty of shade.
Egg Production: For a big bird, Jersey Giants produce a decent amount of eggs, between 180-200 eggs per year. What they are best known for is their meat. Very large birds that can feed a family of 4.
Predator Proof: Being that they are so large, hawks will have tough time with these chickens, but they are still vulnerable to wild dogs as they move slow and do not fly.
Foraging Ability: Jersey Giants are pretty good at foraging, but their size does require that you make sure they are getting enough of what they need to ensure good health. Extra protein and some vitamins and minerals can go a long way.
Flightiness: These chickens are too big to fly, making them great candidates for low fencing.
Friendliness: Another friendly bird, a little too friendly for a potential meat bird. A lot of folks go into getting this breed for the meat but end up keeping them as pets.
Heat Tolerance: Pretty decent at handling our warm climates. With their heat tolerance, being a relatively healthy bird that’s good at foraging, the Jersey Giant would be my favorite out of these three meat birds.
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