The first year we raised chickens I ordered 50 chicks from them and raised the most beautiful, healthy birds we have ever done. Not one chick died and we won all blue ribbons and best of show at fair that year!
This last year I bought my chicks from a feed store that used a local hatchery. They are ok, but many of the chicks turned out to be a mislabeled variety called The Red Star and not the Rhode Island Reds like we wanted. Red stars are excellent layers but just not very pretty to look at.
So even though we don't have to we are going to order 25 chicks from the hatchery so we can get what we really want. We always get the heritage (meaning old varieties) multipurpose birds. Not only are they generally more attractive than the commercial layer, but they also dress out nice and plump when they stop laying.
So far the list includes:
Black Australorps: lovely big coal black birds that are unique because they also have black eyes. Excellent layers of big brown eggs and will lay deep into winter. White skinned which I prefer.
Buff Orpingtons: Golden big birds that are excellent layers and gentle. Very pretty and white skinned.
Rhode Island Reds: I'm not fond of red chickens because when they first feather out the other chicks tend to pick them. However my son loves them for some reason and you can stop picking by using red lights in the brooder. They are also one of the best layers of big brown eggs.
Barred Rocks: Excellent layers and setters (if only we could have roosters!) and they lay well. Very pretty with the black and white barring. Developed in the united states these are a true American chicken.
Eldest daughter and Princess in Waiting have yet to pick what they want so I can expect more varieties than these. I wish we could do ducks just because they are so fun but I think we would be pushing the city a bit far. Right now I am getting 7 eggs a day from my 9 chickens. Pretty good with it being the dead of winter and unseasonably cold this year.