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Top 10 Best Chicken Breeds to Raise in your Backyard

The Duterte administration is promoting back-to-basic free-range chicken production for more meat and eggs that are safe and healthy consistent with the Department of Agriculture’s mandate of producing food for the Filipinos.

This is also pursuant to the National Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Program under the Duterte Administration that constitutes the 10 Basic Foundations of a Sound Agriculture and Fisheries Program. Hence, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) of the DA is conducting advocacy and technical briefing in partnership with local government units on the basics of animal production with an emphasis on scientific and sustainable management such as free-range chicken production (FRCP) for meat and egg.

Free-range chicken farming (FRC) is not new, however, in recent years, there is an increasing demand for free-range chicken meat and its popularity has skyrocketed. Growing chicken in your backyard can be a good source of extra income, and also a great hobby.

The government introduced five breeds in the Philippines that are good for FRC farming. This includes the Austrolop, Rhode Island Red, Light Sussex, Blue Isbar, and Plymouth Rock. Additionally,  there are also crossbreeds for the raisers to choose such as the Sasso Brown Chicken, Asil Chicken, Naked Chicken, and the Black Cemari Turken.

On the other hand, social media is getting on fire due to the influx of the number of people who want to raise heritage chicken breeds in their backyards. Although the government has suggested the breeds to raise, heritage chicken enthusiasts have their own line of breeds. These heritage breeds are becoming popular due to the following reasons.

  • High resale value
  • Good egg layers
  • Produces more meat

There are several reasons why people want to grow heritage breeds chickens. Aside from having an extra income, growing chickens is also a great and satisfying hobby for many people whether you want to grow heritage chickens for meat, eggs, or chicks, the following heritage chicken breeds are the best to grow here in the Philippines.

Heritage Chicken Breeds (Pure Breeds)

The following heritage chicken breeds are mostly grown for breeding purposes. Selling hatching eggs, chicks, and adult breeders is the main reason why these are the favorite breeds to raise.

1. Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red rooster with hen partially seen at the backgroundRhode Island Red (RIR) is indisputably the most popular American heritage chicken breed. There is a very low supply of this breed while the demand is extremely high. All available RIRs for sale are for breeding and not for slaughter as this costly breed is not yet ready for the slaughter market. In Luzon, the price of chicks ranges from P130 to as high as P300, while the ready-to-breed birds are priced at around P1,500.

2. Barred Plymouth Rock

A flock of Barred Plymouth Rock

Coming in second and extremely close is the Barred Plymouth Rock (BPR). This beautiful chicken heritage breed is both for meat and egg production, but like Rhode Island Red, this is not available in the slaughter market yet as all stocks are still at the breeding stage. The price of chicks and ready-to-breed BPRs are the same as RIRs. Hatching fertilized eggs can cost between P30 to P60 depending on location.

3. Black Australorp

Black Australorp hen

Black Australorp is a popular breed developed in Australia. It is one of the biggest chicken breeds on this list with males averaging 4kg while females averaging 3kg. There are fewer BAs in the Philippines compared to RIRs and BPRs, making it more expensive than the two above.  The cost of day-old to one-week chicks is around P150 to 330 while the ready-to-breed hens can cost up to P2,000. Black Australorps have black plumage. The underside of the neck is yellow with white wingtips. Their eyes range from dark red-yellow to black. It also has a dark-colored beak, giving it a dreamy, mysterious appearance.

4. Buff Orpington and Light Sussex

©Fluppy-Orpingtons: Buff Orpington, a popular heritage chicken breed

Buff Orpington and Light Sussex are both very attractive breeds of chickens.  They say if you want to raise chicken in a crowded neighborhood you should choose Orpingtons because they are silent. Both chickens are very large breeds with males exceeding 4 kgs and females exceeding 3kgs. Unlike the three heritage chicken breeds mentioned above, Buff Orpington and Light Sussex are harder to find and are more expensive. Additionally, based on this writer’s personal experience, Orpingtons needs utmost care when younger because they are weaker compared to other breeds. Orpingtons and Sussex share the same price range with chicks ranging from P180 to 350 while ready-to-breed adult birds can cost up to P2,500.

5. Brahma

Brahma – one of the most popular heritage chicken breeds

Pure breed Brahma chickens are really huge birds. With males averaging 5.5 kgs while females at 4.5 kgs, this breed is second only to Jersey Giant in terms of size. The big size and surprisingly unique appearance, however, comes with a hefty price tag. Although this breed is common in the US, in the Philippines, Brahma could be the most expensive bird that can be found in someone’s backyard.

One reason why Brahma is very rare is because of its expensive price. A day-old chick could cost around P500 to P800 while a 1-month-old can cost around P1,500. A pair of adult and ready-to-breed Brahmas would cost between P9,000 to P13,000. This sounds too expensive for an ordinary person who is not into chicken farming but if you compare the price of a fighting cock, this is still nothing. You may think that raising Brahma would be a great idea but its hefty price could limit your market reach.

6. Jersey Giant

Image credit Sara Meek

Jersey Giant is the largest chicken breed but also one of the slowest to reach maturity. A large amount of food and time is required for the Jersey Giant to reach its full size. Males can weigh an average of 5.9 kgs while females weigh an average of 5.5 kgs.

Jersey Giants has a huge similarity with Black Australorps. Australorps differ from Black Jersey Giants in that the legs of the Jersey Giant are black (some tending toward willow) and the underparts of the feet are yellow. In Australorps, the legs are black, shading to dark slate in adults, but the underparts of the feet are pinkish white. Black Australorps also have black beaks while the Giants have part yellow.

Some Filipinos raise this bird as a pet and for show. The chick prices can range from P250 to P400 while adult price depends on age.

7. Asil and Shamo

Asil/Aseel rooster (its appearance is closely similar to Shamo)

Asil and Shamo are two closely related breeds and look really similar. These breeds are raised and being crossed to game fowls due to their aggressive behavior. They are also closely related to the local Parawakan (Jolo) breed.

The difference between Shamo and Asil is that Shamo is taller and less compact than the Asil chickens, and lacks the exaggerated curves of the Malay chicken. The tails of the Shamo chicken are small and generally follow the line of the back sloping down to the ground. They have a smaller-sized bright red colored pea comb. Shamo is originated from Japan while Asil is from India. They are also raised as show birds. The cost of this type of chicken depends on the demography and the seller.

8. Ayam Cemani

Ayam Cemani rooster

Ayam Cemani is the most unique breed of chicken on this list. Originated from Indonesia, pure breed Ayam Cemani is all black including meat, bones, and internal organs. The blood is normally red. The birds’ black color occurs as a result of excess pigmentation of the tissues, caused by a genetic condition known as fibromelanosis. This gene is also found in some other black fowl breeds. The roosters weigh 2.0–2.5 kg and the hens 1.5–2.0 kg. The hens lay cream-colored eggs, although they are poor setters and rarely hatch their own brood. Filipinos raise Ayam Cemani for show and also for reselling. There are particular Facebook Groups that are dedicated to raising Ayam Cemani in the Philippines. Ayam Cemani has a native counterpart which is called “Ulikba” and it is not clear whether Ulikba is a descendant of Ayam Cemani. Ayam Cemani is one of the most expensive breeds in the United States with some adults reportedly costs $5,000. The price depends on the degree of blackness of the chicken.

Hybrid Chickens (Crossbreeds)

Hybrid chickens mean a combination of two or more breeds to produce a productive result. Like the broiler chicken, or we simply call 45 days which is usually a cross of Cornish and White Plymouth Rock, there are several hybrids that are becoming popular for backyard farming.

9. Kabir and SASSO

Different Kabir colors with the Cobb-Kabir30 (middle) the most popular in Africa.

Kabir and SASSO are developed separately by two different companies but are now marketed under one company – the Cobb-Vantress, in collaboration with Hendrix Genetics. Both chickens are developed primarily for meat but are also good layers. Both chicken lines are highly popular in backyard chicken farming and even in industrial-grade free-range farming. SASSO and Kabir chicks are sold between P60 to P90 per head with varied prices on adults.

Both Kabir and SASSO brands have different colors but the most popular are reds, which are almost identical.

10. Dominant CZ

A mix of D-107 and D-109 layers (image credit JSJ Cabello Farm)

Dominant CZ is the name of the company the develops Dominant hybrid chickens. Dominant chickens are getting more and more popular to layer backyard farmers as this line of hybrids produces more eggs than most pure breeds. Dominant uses codes to identify its line of breeds like D-107 for Dominant Blue and D-109 for Dominant Black – two of the most productive and popular colors of Dominant CZ. The Dominant line of hybrids is known to produce eggs as early as 4.5 months old.

Dominant CZ chicks cost between P90 and P130 in many parts of Luzon with blue as the more popular than the black.

There are also other layer-type breeds that are used in industrial-grade production like Dekalb brown and Dekalb white (from White Leghorn) but these breeds are seldom raised for free-ranging. The same can be said with the 45-day Cornish Cross broiler.

You may have other breeds in your backyard but the top 3 above are the most popular breeds to raise if your purpose is to sell chicks and breeders.

If you are wondering why we did not mention the Production Red or “production type” here, visit this article.

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