Our requirements were to get a breed which was dual purpose. That is, they can be used for producing eggs and meat. As the males do not produce eggs, they are expensive to keep around for no food-related benefit. Since we plan on breeding our own chickens, we will undoubtedly end up with many surplus cockerels. Speaking to some members of the Lawnton Poultry Club, more than 50% of fertilised eggs develop into males.
In addition, given that we are planning on eating surplus birds, we want a chicken that has a bit of meat. Thus bantams are out.
So with those requirements our choice was narrowed down a fair bit. After a bit more research I found the following high level dual purpose breed breakdown:
- general purpose breeds: Houdan, Dominique, Wyandotte, Sussex, Oprington, Plymouth Rock (aka Rocks or Barred Rock)
- better for eggs: Australorp, Rhode Island Red
- better for meat: Langshan and New Hampshire
However when it came time to choose, I found the site http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html to be the most beneficial as it provided a tabular comparison of all the breeds. There is also a shorter dual purpose table, but I have not provided the link.
In Australia, the Rhode Island Red, Australorp, and Wyandotte breeds are more common, thus generally not as dear as the others.
In the end, our decision to go with the Rhode Island Red breed over others was their egg laying capability, hardiness, large size, excellent temperament, free range or containment adaptability, and attractive plumage (i.e. not simply one single colour). As a bonus we found out that due to their size, they cannot fly that well. Thus even short fences present a significant hurdle to them. This has already been handy during the process of fencing of the veggie garden from their incursion.