Homesteaders Special: Chicken Breeds That Are Setters And Those That Are Not

Organic Free-Range Fresh Eggs Daily

This is a valuable bit of info I just learned about chickens. (This will only be of interest to people who now have — or are comtemplating obtaining — chickens.)

We have had chickens, in varying numbers for over 30 years. They are the one species left over from the ’70s and ’80s when I put a lot less time into publishing and more time into raising food. In those years we had goats, bees, and chickens. I eventually abandoned goats (SO much work!) and bees (I’ll get them again when I’m 90, I love working with them, they are an 85 million year old species) but we’ve still got chickens, as the time spent is well worth it in fresh eggs daily. This time we have bantams — Rhode Island Reds, and Auracanas, which lay green eggs.

We get day-old baby chicks express mailed by Murray McMurray Hatchery out of Webster, Iowa. This is a great resource, beloved by homesteaders for the quality of their chickens, and their service:


I ran into a problem with too many of the bantam hens setting. (This is when genes — in some breeds — kick in, and a hen will go “broody,” fluffing out all her feathers, and sitting on the biggest batch of eggs she can find in the nests. Her intent is to stay on them for 21 days or so until they hatch.) It’s a hassle because the other birds have a hard time getting into the nests to lay eggs. Here’s some good info for people with chickens:

Rhode Island Red Bantams vs. Auracana Bantams

I wrote McMurray 6/03/06:

We’ve been getting chicks from you for 30 years. We could always count on Rhode Island Reds not to set. When we got RI bantams a few years back, we found out that they set like crazy. In other words, the non-setting genes didn’t get carried over into the bantams. Auracana bantams, on the other hand, are like the full sized birds in that they don’t set.

Are you aware of this characteristic in the Rhode Island bantams?

Do you have a list of hens, both bantam and full sized that do not set? (I know white Leghorns don’t set.

I ask this because dealing with a half dozen setters is a major hassle. It upsets the other chickens, you have to isolate them, etc.

Thanks for the great birds through the years!

“Good Setters,” “Non-Setters”

Pat from Murray McMurray Replied 6/05/06:


As a general rule, bantams do tend to be better setters that their standard

counter parts. I have very little information on bantams as to which birds

are good setters or not.

The hatchery supplies us with some additional notes on birds that are not

included in the catalog. The following standard sized birds are listed as

“good setters”:

Buff Orpington

Partridge Rock

Buff Rock

White Orpington


Speckled Sussex

Columbian Wyandotte

Columbian Rock

Light Brahma

Dark Cornish

These birds are listed as “non-setters”:

Silver Laced Wyandotte

Black Australorp

Rhode Island Red


Red Star

Black Star

Blue Andalusians

Red Leghorn


Single Comb Brown Leghorn

Rose Comb Brown Leghorn

Breeds that are not listed in either group are listed as “sometimes will set”

or have no notes at all regarding setting.


About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

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