The Friendliest Breed of Chicken
People often ask, “how friendly are your Basque hens,” or “what is the friendliest breed of chicken?” I think its important to look a little deeper and try to find out what you’re really looking for: the most docile chicken? or the least people aggressive rooster? or the most inquisitive? There are a number of ways that a chicken can be “friendly.”
We have had several breeds that would allow us to pick them up without any fuss. A few of our Basque hens would follow us around the garden and come right up to our feet, allowing us to pick them up and carry them around. We had a Cuckoo Marans that my youngest daughter could carry just about anywhere.
Perhaps the most “admired” chicken on our ranch was a Speckled Sussex named Lucy. She was one of our original flock, lived a number of years, and would come when called. She loved to “work” right next to you in the garden, scratching and pecking, relentless in her pursuit of the next tasty bug or worm. That said, she wouldn’t stay still if you tried to pick her up, but she didn’t put up a huge fight.
Boys will be boys
As for roosters, both of our Basque hen roosters were quite protective, often challenging us when we entered their pasture pen. Our Barbezieux are rather aloof as a group, but the roo’s and the hens will eat out of your hand if we’re patient. We had a Buckeye roo that was by far our favorite rooster. He was protective of his hens when other roos were around, but was a great provider, never challenged people, and with some effort (in the catching) would let me hold him without too much fuss. That’s no small thing for a nine pound cockerel.
All in all, my experience has been that the more time you spend in and around your birds, the “friendlier” they will be, at least toward people. This has not necessarily held true with the roosters, but how friendly do you really want a rooster to be? Attacking people? No. But protecting hens is really what a rooster’s life is about. We offer our birds food from our hands on a regular basis, and few will refuse this treat. This goes a long way toward creating a friendly flock, allows us close observation of the birds, and makes it easier for us when we need to catch them.
Ranking our breeds for “friendly”
Some birds tend to be more curious about people than others, a trait that makes them great as pets, but can be a slightly less beneficial in the field. That said, among the breeds we are currently raising, here they are in order of “friendliest” (meaning- easiest to handle, calm and docile)
- Light Sussex– These high-producers have all the qualities you want in a dual-purpose bird, and maintain that famous Sussex temperament: docile, calm and curious. As a pet, the Sussex has few equals. That is also lays a mountain of eggs surely puts it at the top of the list.
- Black Copper Marans– Massive birds that lay the coveted chocolate egg. Our roosters are curious, but never aggressive toward humans. Beautiful to look at and easy to “train.” Not as naturally as curious as the Sussex, they are still willing to eat out of our hands. With early exposure, they can be readily handled.
- Barbezieux– More aloof than the others, they will occasionally come to see what we’re up to. Never aggressive, they do however prefer to forage and range, looking for food rather than friends.
- Silver-Grey Dorking– A very docile bird, the beautiful Dorking is happy to go about its businesses. And that’s what makes it the least “pet-like” of our chickens. The hens are not calm, but vigilantly looking for food and monitoring the scene. Our roosters have been “friendlier,” not running when we come near, willing to see what we’re up to. However, the Dorkings “skittishness” is what makes it a great bird for the field, and therefore, for the table. 🙂
Hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to ask any questions. Happy New Year!