This is the first question to ask when you're thinking about what breed of chicken to buy. Are you primarily concerned about egg production? If so, you'll want a chicken known to be a good layer. Do you have a preference for the color of those eggs? Deep brown, light brown, white, speckled, blue, green, tinted...who knew you'd have so many choices?
If you've got children, maybe you're most concerned about having a gentle pet. If so, selecting a chicken breed known for it's sweetness or gentleness is in order.
Would you like to have your chickens sit on eggs and hatch them out? This natural tendency for a hen is called being 'broody' and you'll want a chicken breed known for broodiness, and also one that's known to be a good mother.
On the other hand, if you don't want ot lose egg production to a broody hen, you might be after a hen that's had all or most of it's broodiness bred out of her. There are non broody breeds too.
Do you want exotic looking chickens, ones that have feathers on their legs or a hair do like Phyllis Dillar?
Maybe you'd like to raise your own meat. Although there are many dual purpose birds (ones that are both good layers and good meat birds), there are also some that are used exclusively for meat.
Where do you live? Do you have hot summers or cold winters? Make sure you look at chicken breeds that are tolerant of heat or don't mind the cold.
What kind of housing and free range time will you be able to give your girls? If they're not going to get out much (or at all), make sure to pick a ones that do well with confinement.
Would you like chickens bred for productivity and meat production, or would you like a heritage breed? What about raising some chickens that are on the list rare or endangered and help them make a comeback?
Is your head spinning yet?
Read what you can about the best kinds of chicken breeds. Then, see if you can talk to others that have chickens and see what kinds they like and why.
Hop online and find a chicken forum. Join our Facebook page and ask the question to the people who have joined us.
Go to a feed store (or two or three) and talk to the folks there. Most of them have lots of chicken experience. Find out their favorites and the ones they sell the most in their stores.
The hard part isn't finding chicken breeds you'll want to try out. The hard part is narrowing it down to a flock small enough that your city will allow them.
Be Prepared (and Patient)
Once you narrow your selection down, have some on the alternate list. If you're buying chicks locally, some of your decisions will need to be based on what's available, when. If you can't get the exact birds you want the first time, save your list. Chicken farming is so fun, chances are you'll be at it for years, and sooner or later you'll need to replace some or all of your flock. They'll be time to try out some of your other choices along the way.
Would you like to see pictures and information about specific chicken breeds that are popular backyard choices? Here are some for you to start with:
Rhode Island Red
Here's a SUPER AWESOME resource: Henderson's Chicken Breed Chart that lists 60 different breeds and all of their qualities. It's great for comparision when trying to decide what breed(s) you'd like to try.