Four chicken breeds survivalist should consider

Are you thinking about getting chickens for urban survival, or as part of your long term survival plans?

Lets say SHTF, what are the breeds of chickens you should focus on?  In my opinion, some of the better chicken breeds for survivalist are the Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Speckled Sussex and Australorp.

Rhode Island Red inside chicken coopRhode Island Red

Cock / Roster average weight: 8.5 lbs
Hen average weight: 6.5 lbs
Good foragers
Dual purpose for egg production and butchering
Egg production: around 200 eggs a year

My grandparents kept Rhode Island Reds back in the 1960s and early 1970s. Dad told me Rhode Island Reds are good at foraging and finding their own food.

Early 2012 my wife and I bought 4 Rhode Island Reds for our flock. Out of all the chickens we have, the RIR are the most friendly and affectionate. When I open the door to the coop, the RIRs walk up the ladder to greet me. I can pick up my RIRs as easily as I can pick up the family cat.

From time to time my wife and I will let a couple of the chickens out of the coop. The Rhode Island Reds go to work scratching through the leaves looking for something to eat.

Barred Rock chickenBarred Rock

Cock / Roster average weight: 7.5-9.5 lbs
Hen average weight: 6.6 – 7.5 lbs
Good Foragers
Dual purpose for egg production and butchering
Egg production: around 200 eggs a year

My first exposure to Barred Rocks was in the late 1980s. When the hens were about 2 years old they were butchered. If I remember right, I had maybe 6 or 8 Barred Rocks in my first flock back in the 1980s.

The Barred Rocks in my current flock are friendly, quiet and good layers. Much like the Rhode Island Reds, when I open the door to the coop one of my two Barred Rocks walks up the ladder and will let me pick it up and pet it.

When Barred Rocks are given the chance, they will forage for food.

If you are looking for a good quality meat chicken, the Barred Rock might be a better choice then the Rhode Island Red. Since the BR weighs a pound more then the RIR, you are going to get more meat from the BR. Also, the breast of the Barred Rock is fuller then the Rhode Island Red.

Speckled Sussex chickenSpeckled Sussex

Cock / Roster average weight: 9 lbs
Hen average weight: 7 lbs
Good Foragers
Dual purpose for egg production and butchering
Egg production: around 250 eggs a year

Out of the breeds we have discussed so far, the Speckled Sussex is the oldest. According to the book Choosing & Raising Chickens: The complete guide to breeds and welfare, the Speckled Sussex originated in England around the time of the Roman conquest of Britain.

The Speckled Sussex in my flock is well tempered, docile, a good layer, hardy and greets me when I open the chicken coop door.

Australorp in laying boxAustralorp

Cock / Roster average weight: 8.6 – 10.3 lbs
Hen average weight: 7.3 – 9.2 lbs
Good foragers
Dual purpose for egg production and butchering
Egg production: around 250 eggs a year

The Australorp is the largest hen we have discussed so far, weighing around 2 pounds more then the Rhode Island Red and 1 – 2 pounds more them the Barred Rock.  And, the Australorp is probably the highest egg producing chicken in the flock.

I have two Australorps, both are quiet, non-aggressive and somewhat friendly. I would rate the Australorp as not quit as friendly as the Barred Rock or Rhode Island Red, but still they still approach me and let me handle them.

In 1922-23 six Australorp hens set a world record of 1,857 eggs. Which is an average of 309.5 eggs per hen for 365 days.

Australorps have a full thick breast which is good for meat production.

Other Breeds

My wife and I are looking at moving to the homestead in the next few months.  When we get moved we are going to buy a few more chickens.  Currently we have 13 hens, which are a mixture of several different breeds.  I would like to narrow those several different breeds to just a handful of good quality utility breeds.

Besides the breeds we have discussed, my wife and I also have a couple of Black Jersey Giants and Silver Laced Wyandotte.  Black Jersey Giants are large chickens that mature slowly. Silver Laced Wyandotte with its white tipped wings may not not good camouflage when foraging.

While my Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red and Speckled Sussex were foraging in a treeline today, I noticed how well they blended in with the undergrowth.  The Rhode Island Red just about disappeared into the undergrowth.  This natural camouflage should help protect the chickens from predators.

Do not discredit the Silver Laced Wyandotte based on its natural camouflage.  An average hen should lay close to 200 eggs a year.  Weighing 6 pounds for a hen and 8.5 pounds for a rooster, the Silver Laced Wyandotte will make a good meat type chicken.

Natural Camouflage

During a long term SHTF situation, chickens and other livestock will have to forage for some of their food.  Ask yourself, do you chickens that have natural camouflage, or do you want chickens that stand out so predators will notice them?  The Speckled Sussex has some white specks in its feathers, but not not like the Silver Laced Wyandotte.  If anything, the dull white specks on the Speckled Sussex help is to blend into the foliage.

When my wife and I get moved to the homestead, the garden and chicken yard will be between 2 wooded areas.  So the chickens can forage, there will be gates on each side of the chicken yard.  That way the chickens can be let out of the yard to access the wooded areas.


Between the four breeds of chickens we have focused on, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Speckled Sussex and Australorp, each chicken should be giving 200 – 250 eggs a year.

Lets say worse comes to worse, all the chickens have to eat is table scraps and what they can forage for.  Lets cut that estimated egg production in half, to an estimated 100 eggs a year.  Or, one egg every 4 days per chicken.

To be able to feed a family of 4 people, you would need at estimated 20 chickens.  20 chickens, with each one laying 100 eggs per year equals 2,000 eggs.  2,000 eggs divide by 365 days = 5.47 eggs per day.

The simple solution would be to balance the chickens nutritional intake so that egg production increases.

To be able to keep 20 chickens, you are going to need more then a backyard like what most urban dwellers have access to. But there are other options, such as having a worm farm just for chicken feed.

From my observations with my hens, the Speckled Sussex, Australorp, Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red were the first breeds to start laying. All of those started laying in the 5 – 6 month old range.

My wife and I have yet to see a Silver Laced Wyandotte or Jersey Giant in the laying box.


For chickens to be a long term solution, you will have to have a rooster to breed your chickens.  Since I do not have a rooster right now, but I plan on getting one after moving to the homestead, how well chickens breed will have to be left for another article, sorry about that.