If you’re searching for the perfect chicken breeds for your backyard, you’re in the right place! Although “perfect” usually means different things to different people – what’s perfect in your eyes might not be for someone else – knowing what types of chickens suits your needs and interests will help you build your ideal flock.
Even though you might want colored eggs and friendly chickens, your foodie neighbor might yearn for as many eggs as possible. And not every chicken will work for everyone.
Whether you want pet hens, great layers, or unusual feathered friends, here is everything you need to know about the different kinds of chicken breeds, their strong points, and why they’re popular.
Best Egg Laying Chicken Breeds
- Black Sex Link
- ISA Brown
- New Hampshire
- Plymouth Rock
- Production Red
- Rhode Island Red
- Speckled Sussex
This chicken breed is the honorary bird of Australia and its name is a contraction of “Australia” and “Orpington.” They were bred to be great layers – and they are! The Australorp is a large, heavy bird with close fitting and soft feathers.
Australorps have an upright stance, four toes on each foot, a broad chest, and big solid body. The wattles, earlobes, and comb should all be red, and the comb should be upright with seven points.
Champion egg layer status: They’re champion layers – at one point, an Australorp held the world record for the highest amount of butt nuggets laid! The average hen will lay about 300 per year.
You can discover how to tell if your eggs are fresh here.
Black Sex Link
Sometimes also called “Black Stars”, this breed is a cross between a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire rooster, and Barred Rock Hen. They’re called “sex link” because you can tell the sex of the chick by its down when it hatches: Males have a white dot on their head but the pullets don’t.They tend to be hardier and more productive than their parent’s respective breeds.
Both males and females feather out with black and white “barred” feathers – and they’re VERY beautiful.
Champion egg layer status: They are great layers and can average at around 300 light brown ones per year. If you want your flock to use nesting boxes, you can find my best nesting box ideas here.
Brahmas are an old chicken breed that dates way back before recorded time – and the exact genetic heritage of the bird is unknown.
Brahmas are a large bird that is almost as large as the Jersey Giant – some grow to around 30 inches tall! Because of its size, it’s sometimes called the “King of Chickens.”
This breed has a long, deep, and wide body that stands tall and gives it a narrow ‘V’ shape when viewed from the side. It has black and white plumage that is dense and tight, with thick down-like feathers under its top feathers.
They’re gentle giants with a docile and calm temperament. Many people keep them as pets and for eggs. With Brahmas, you’re not just limited to one option: Light, Dark, and Buff are three recognized color varieties.
You can learn more about Brahma chickens here.
Champion egg layer status: Their eggs come in medium to large size and are brown in color, and the typical hen will produce 3 to 4 per week.
This is a dual-purpose breed of chicken that has brownish red and green plumage. Developed in Ohio (hence the name “buckeye” since Ohio is “The Buckeye State”), they do great in colder weather, and because of their pea comb, they’re less likely to endure frostbite.
This chicken breed is adaptable to a variety of living conditions, but because they’re very active, and won’t do well in confined living situations.
The Buckeye is docile, calm, and easy to manage. With their peaceful nature, they’re less likely to bully others, and are great foragers (you can discover alternative feeds for chickens here). Because their root stock are Cochins and Barred Plymouth Rock heritage chicken breeds, the chicks are relatively slow growers. However, this also makes them hardy and reliable.
Champion egg layer status: Buckeyes are a reliable producer of 3 to 4 medium brown eggs per week, with a total yearly output of about 200. As a bonus, they are also reliable layers in winter.
Delaware chickens were developed in Delaware in the 1940s, and they’re medium-sized, dual-purpose birds that are great layers. Because their root stock is Barred Rocks and New Hampshires, they’re easily confused with other chicken breeds that have a similar appearance.
They have a long, broad, and deep body that weighs in at 7 to 8 lbs for males, and 6lb for females. They are calm, curious, and intelligent birds that get along well with children and have excellent laying capabilities.
Champion egg layer status: They lay 4-5 large brown eggs a week, and are not very broody.
A very popular breed known as “a global superstar” for its laying reliability and good feed-to-egg conversion ratio. ISA Brown chickens are medium sized, with an affectionate and docile nature that is suited for families.
They tolerate confinement well, and are good foragers suitable for most climates (if you don’t plan to free range your chickens, check out the no-waste chicken feeders I recommend here). They have a life expectancy of 5 to 8 years, if fed well and given a clean living environment.
Champion egg layer status: You can expect about 300 brown butt nuggets each year. Learn what chickens eat for better egg laying here and how often chickens lay eggs here.
Originally called “Italians” because they originated in Tuscany, the name leghorn is actually the Anglicization of the word Livorno, which is a port city in Italy where the breed was first exported to the United States. They’re also known as the king of the layer chicken breeds.
Their overall appearance is sleek, long, and aerodynamic, except for that single comb which gives it a sort of comical look, especially when it flops over.
They are intelligent and resourceful, and if allowed to free-range, they can find as much food as they can by themselves. They are also fairly good flyers, and will roost on trees or branches in your coop.
Leghorns that haven’t been handled regularly can be flighty and hide their eggs. If you come across a nest and aren’t sure if they’re fresh, try the egg float test.
Champion egg layer status: The Leghorn is a favorite because of their superior laying capabilities of up to 320 eggs a year. They have been specifically bred to lay a lot and not to brood, so it is rare for hens to go broody.
Maran are known as chocolate egg layers because this chicken breed lays butt nuggets with a deep chocolate brown color. The’re a must if you value a wide variety of colored eggs!
Originating in the town of Marans, in France, their eggs are said to be the best in the world, and the breed itself is raised mainly for its egg color and beautiful appearance.
Varieties of Marans include:
- Black Copper
- Blue Copper
Marans are fast growing and extremely hardy chickens that will thrive in almost all climates. They are generally docile, quiet, and pretty active with a good defense for diseases. Some do go broody and make great mothers.
Champion egg layer status: They average about 200 eggs per year. The darkness of their shells depends on the individual chicken – some will lay a deep chocolate colored one, and some will lay a lighter brown egg. Generally, after your hens lay their first dozen, you’ll know how dark her shell color will be.
This breed is a heritage chicken breed developed in – you guessed it – New Hampshire. They’re a medium-sized bird, derived from Rhode Island Red chickens, so they’re roughly the same size as that breed. With a friendly disposition, they make great pets for families.
Champion egg layer status: They are a good layer that can produce 200 large brown tinted eggs per year (about 3 each week.)
One of the best breeds to hatch chicks! Developed in Britain, orpingtons are great mothers with a superb maternal nature. They’re also great for children and families because they’re good-natured and love attention. The roosters make great flock guardians, but are still friendly towards people.
They come in two sizes: The large fowl that weighs in at 8 to 10 pounds, and the bantam that weighs in at 34 to 38 oz. They tolerate confinement well, although many people keep them because they’re good foragers.
Their feathers are fluffy and beautiful, and the Buff Orpington variety has golden-colored feathers that add flair to any flock. Another popular variety are Lavender Orpingtons.
Champion egg layer status: They are great layers, and reliably produce 300 per year.
A dual-purpose bird that is one of America’s oldest chicken breeds, they’re excellent layers. This breed also has a distinct black and white bar plumage, which is a beautiful addition to any flock.
Both roosters and hens are generally calm, and these birds get along well with everyone. The roosters are good protectors, and aren’t aggressive towards people. They’re curious and generally will prefer to free range and find morsels in the yard, although they do tolerate confinement well (as long as they have enough space.)
To keep them entertained, you can find out what to include in your coop here.
Champion egg layer status: The Plymouth Rock is a reliable layer that can produce 300 large brown eggs per year.
This isn’t a breed per se, but they’re great layers, so they deserve a spot on this list. Production Reds were developed for industrial egg laying, so they’re reliable hens who are often productive even during winter.
They have red and white feathers, although their plumage color can range from a dark red to a light red. They can be flighty if not handled consistently. The roosters are easy going, although for breeding, there’s better options.
Champion egg layer status: They are bred to be productive layers, and they’re a vigorous and hearty chicken that lays a lot of large brown eggs. The Production Red will typically produce around 300 per year.
Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Red chickens are one of the oldest breeds in the USA. They’re also one of the most popular and successful breeds of chicken out there. Aside from regular feed, water, vet care, and housing, they require little care and are usually extremely healthy. Like most chickens, they can be susceptible to chicken mites, so some management might be needed.
They’re usually easy-going, and are active foragers that will tolerate confinement, if given enough space. They occasionally go broody, and are very protective mothers.
Champion egg layer status: Rhode Island Reds are very popular because they’re great layers. They can produce about 300 medium-sized brown butt nuggets per year. (If your chicken stops laying eggs, read this for answers)
An all-time favorite breed in its homeland England, Speckled Sussex chickens are intelligent, resourceful, and curious by nature. They’re also relatively calm, with a friendly demeanor. They can get into mischief, and love to interact with humans. They’re also very cold hardy.
With their beautiful red, black, and white colored feathers, they’re a great addition to any flock. The Speckled Sussex will tolerate confinement well, and if they are allowed to free range, they are also excellent foragers.
You can learn more about Speckled Sussex chickens here.
Champion egg layer status: This breed is an excellent layer and averages at about 4 to 5 large brown ones a week.
Breeds That Lay Blue, Green, or Olive Eggs (Or Pink)
- Olive Egger
- Easter Egger
- Cream Legbar
You can read more in depth about these chickens that lay colored eggs here.
Olive Egger chickens are prized for their dark green butt nuggets. While not a true chicken breed, but a cross of a blue egg layer and a dark brown egg layer, they’re great additions to any backyard chicken flock. One chicken breed combination that makes an olive egger chicken is an Ameraucana hen and a Marans rooster.
The olive egger has a varying temperament due to the genetic diversity of this chicken breed – some are very friendly, and others tend to be flighty and shy away from humans. Generally speaking, they are a mellow bird that gets along well with other breeds, and rarely causes much trouble.
They are also hardy, and breeding olive egger chickens are easy since they aren’t difficult to raise. With their friendly dispositions, they get along well with other birds and sometimes go broody.
Shell color: Dark or olive green
Like olive eggers, Easter Eggers are a variety of chicken that carries the blue egg laying gene. They’re typically a cross between a blue layer (like an Ameraucana, Araucana, or Cream Legbar) and a brown layer (like a Barred Rock).
Like all blue egg laying chicken breeds, Easter Eggers are descended from the ancient Araucana breed that first evolved in Chile to lay blue eggs.
Because Easter Eggers are a combination of a blue egg layer and any other breed of chicken, one chicken can look completely different than another – there’s no breed standard. You might find that each fluffy butt has a different comb style. We have Easter Eggers with pea combs and others with a regular style single comb.
They’re excellent layers who will give you lovely, large butt nuggets. The color of the shell will depend on the genetics of the individual chicken – and each Easter Egger hen lays just one color eggs. They don’t tend to go broody, so you should get a consistent supply year round.
You can read more about Easter Egger Chickens here.
Shell color: Green, blue, brown, pink, cream
Ameraucanas were developed in the USA from Araucana bloodlines. They lay blue eggs, and has a beautifully curved beak, large eyes, and a red “pea” comb. This pea comb, together with the wattles and the round earlobes, should be red.
They also have a distinctive appearance that includes a “beard of feathers” and adorable muffs that sometimes almost cover their face.
They’re consistent layers that can produce about 200 blue eggs a year and Ameraucana the shells can be light blue to almost green to sky blue depending on the individual hen.
You can read more about Ameraucanas here.
Shell color: Blue
This old breed lays blue eggs and are named after the Araucania region of Chile – its place of origin. Araucanas have a very unique appearance – like Ameraucana and Easter Eggers, they have “peduncles” – tufts of feathers that develop near their ears that they’re born with.
This breed is easily confused with Ameraucanas, Easter Eggers, and Cream Legbars – so if you want this type of chicken in your flock, go to a reliable breeder.
Unlike other chicken breeds, Araucanas don’t have tail bones like most chicken breeds, so they won’t grow any long, fabulous tail feathers. It gives them a distinctive profile that can differ from Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers.
You can read more about Araucanas here.
Shell color: Blue
This is a breed is known for laying beautiful blue eggs. It was developed in the 20th century by researchers at Cambridge University by crossing Barred Plymouth Rocks, Leghorns, Cambars, and Araucanas. They’re medium-sized birds, with cream-colored feathers. The hens aren’t very broody which makes collecting relatively easy and hassle-free.
They have tufts of feathers on their heads, and this variety lays about 200 blue or blue-green eggs each year.
Shell color: Blue
Breeds That Lay Dark Brown Eggs (Chocolate Colored)
Barnvelders were developed two centuries ago in the Barneveld region (located in the central Netherlands) from local birds and possibly chicken breeds like Cochins or Brahmas. It was first recognized by the American Standard of Perfection in 1991. The hens have a contrasting black-and-white or buff-and-white “double laced” feathering, while the roosters have blue and green tinged double lacing. The breed has a single, red, comb.
Some unrecognized varieties are auto-sexing (meaning, you can tell the sex of the chick when it’s born). These types include the barred, dark brown, partridge, chamois, blue, and silver varieties.
Either way, they’re unique looking AND they lay chocolate colored eggs – a double win!
Barnvelders are an affectionate chicken that will lay on average 3 to 4 butt nuggets per week (even in the winter, according to some owners) that are dark chocolate in color or speckled. The hen isn’t known for particularly being broody and is generally an easy going bird.
They do well in confined in a run (as long as you build your coop with enough space).
These chocolate eggers originate from France, and are docile and relatively clean. The shell color is often misunderstood topic – many people expect a dark brown shell, but color does vary by each individual bird. Her health and management are also a factor (when stressed, hens can lay abnormal eggs that don’t have a consistent color).
While some hens lay a deep chocolate colored egg, others will only lighter brown one. They average about 200 per year.
Varieties of Marans include:
- Black Copper
- Blue Copper
An under-represented breed in the backyard, Welsummers are intelligent, calm, and docile chickens. They were developed in Holland, and are prized for their dark brown eggs.
Despite the fact that they are sturdy birds, they aren’t aggressive with other breeds and love to forage. Like many chicken breeds, they’re not great flyers – making this beautiful variety perfect for any urban flock.
Welsummers can lay up to 200 eggs per year, while bantam varieties might lay more.
Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners
- Easter Eggers
- Jersey Giants
- New Hampshire Red
- Rhode Island Reds
This blue-egg laying breed is a unique chicken that’s a fairly recent addition to the market. It’s great for beginners because it’s hardy, friendly, lays consistently, and is easy to care for.
They have a unique appearance that includes beards and muffs that can be difficult to differentiate unless with closer inspection.
They lay light blue eggs and is a good layer producing 3 to 4 medium-sized ones per week. They don’t tend to go broody, although it can happen. They’re easily confused with Araucanas and Easter Eggers, so be sure to get your chickens from a reliable breeder.
You can learn more about Ameraucanas here.
These fluffy butts have feathered feet, and it makes them a lot of fun to own. They’re one of the most popular chicken breeds among beginners because they’re hardy, lay brown butt nuggets consistently, and enjoy human company. You can get a full-sized cochin or the bantam variety.
The standard sized cochins have big and beautiful bodies that can weigh in at about 5 pounds and have an abundance of fancy soft feathers. They are gentle giants that are easy to handle which makes them great pets for families and make great foster moms for hatching and brooding.
The bantam variety weighs about 2 pounds, and they love human companionship. You can even train them to sit on your shoulder for a treat. They recognize their humans, and will look forward to your visit.
You can learn more about Cochin chickens here.
Delaware chickens are great for beginners because they’re excellent layers that can produce up to 5 large brown eggs per week. They’re cold hardy, distinctive looking, and friendly. The hens aren’t really broody, so collecting is easy, especially if you have children.
This breed originated in North America (Quebec to be exact)( source), and with their barred feathers, they look similar to Barred Rocks (except Barred Rock chickens have a single comb while Dominiques have rose combs. Barred Rocks also have a more distinct barring, while Dominiques have staggered barring)
They’re great for beginners because they are sweet, calm, friendly, and docile birds that are also steady and dependable layers. They do well in confinement, as long as they have enough space.
They also tend to go broody (since they’re heritage chicken breeds), making them ideal for beginners who want to hatch chicks.
They will lay an average of 230 to 270 medium sized eggs per year.
Easter Eggers are great for beginners because they lay consistently (about 250 per year) – and they lay a variety of shell colors! Because there is no standard for this chicken breed, one Easter Egger can look quite different from another.
They will lay eggs of varying colors that range from light blue, seafoam green, dark green, brow, and even pink. Each chicken only lays one color shell though. There’s also no telling what color your hen will lay until they pop out of her!
You can read more about Easter Eggers here.
With its unusual look, the frizzle chicken is a special bird. While not a breed per se (but rather, any breed that’s also developed the “frizzled feathers”), they have plumage that curls upward and outward from the body instead of lying flat against the body like a ‘normal’ hen. This is called “Frizzling”.
Their feather will often look untidy or windswept depending on the breed of chicken, but it should be soft to the touch.
They’re great for beginners because they’re sweet and friendly, and enjoy human companionship. Just remember that they aren’t prolific layers, but will produce 120 to 150 cream tinted ones per year. You can read about Frizzles here.
Jersey Giants are the largest purebred chicken in the United States, and it’s certainly deserving of its name! Bred as an alternative to turkeys, this breed can weigh in between 11 to 15 pounds!
They’re also great layers (about 200 per year), but they don’t make the best incubators because they could end up crushing and breaking the shell. (If you want to hatch Jersey Giants, you can check out our chicken incubator recommendations here. You can also read my review of the Brinsea Ovation 56 here – it holds approximately 50 eggs.
They’re great for beginners because they lay consistently, and despite their size, they have great personalities that are friendly (even the roosters).
Marans are a breed that comes from the port town of Marans, and are prized for their dark brown eggshells – some French chefs claim they’re the best in the world!
They’re perfect for beginners because they’re generally docile, quiet, and disease-resistant, and are cold-hardy chickens that don’t require a lot of work. The hens are great layers (approximately 250 per year), and the chocolate-colored shells are a great addition to any morning basket.
New Hampshire Red
This old breed of chicken is reliable and incredibly robust. They produce delicious eggs and are friendly and warm creatures, making them perfect for beginners. They make excellent mothers and are winter hardy, which is ideal if you live in a cold climate. They are strong foragers with full strong bodies and a lovely red plumage.
They are easy to care for, and can lay on average 200 butt nuggets per year.
With their “pom pom” crest of feathers that top their head, Polish chickens look unique and cuddly – and they are! They are tame and friendly breed that is beloved by many beginner chicken owners.
There’s several different options, including bantams, and bearded, non-bearded and frizzle varieties. Because of their distinct appearance, they’re usually kept as ornamental birds. They they lay about 150 eggs per year.
Rhode Island Reds
This breed is great for beginners because they require little care (except for food, water, a clean coop, and vet care), but lay consistently. It’s very popular for its laying capabilities that can produce about 300 medium-sized brown eggs.
They are adaptable to various kinds of climates, are cold hardy, and are friendly. You can learn more about Rhode Island Reds here.
Many new chicken owners like starting with Silkies because they’re adorable with soft and fluffy plumage that accentuate their small stature. Unlike other chicken breeds, they have 5 toes, which makes them distinct.
They’re calm, with a sweet and docile nature that makes them a hit with children. They’re becoming a common family pet that lays about 120 eggs a year. For people that want to hatch chicks, Silkies are also commonly kept because they “go broody” easily.
While they can withstand cold temperatures, their feathers resemble down (like chicks have), which can make it harder for them to stay warm in temperatures below 20 degrees F. (In this case, you can always bring them inside for the night, and let them warm up in a dog crate).
You can learn more about Silkie chickens here and read fun facts about silkies here.
Chicken Breeds with Feathered Legs
This gentle giant can be as tall as 30 inches (although this is rare and depends largely on the breeder), and sports lovely feathers on its feet. Brahmas are friendly birds that lays eggs that are a lovely brown color. The hens lay consistently, and you can expect up to 300 per year. However, the number of “butt nuggets” laid will depend on the individual, her diet, and the quality of her environment.
You can read more about Brahmas here.
Cochins are feather-footed chickens that originate in Asia. They were introduced to Britain and America in the mid-19th century. They’re very friendly and cold-hardy birds that lay up to 300 brown eggs a year. In addition to a regular-size variety, you can also find bantam cochins and frizzle cochins (frizzled feathers are turned upward and outward, giving chicken breeds a messy look). Their feathers can get muddy, so be sure to clean them regularly.
You can read more about cochins here.
Faverolles have an adorable fluffy look, and it’s famous for its soft feathers and genial nature. They originated in the town of Faverolles, France. They have beards and muffs (similar to Ameraucanas) that give a distinctive look that makes them a standout beauty in anyone’s flock of fine feathered friends. They also have 5 toes (instead of the usual 4) (source). The Faverolle is also a reliable layer who can produce approximately 240 eggs per year.
There are many varieties; the two most popular are salmon and white, and the salmon coloring is unique to the breed.
These feather footed beauties originate from China (like Cochins), and they lay dark brown eggs (some say their shells sometimes have a purplish tint.) They’re not super popular in the United States, but they’re a hardy breed that’ll fit into any flock. They average about 180 butt nuggets per year.
You can read more about large breeds like the Langshan here.
Silkies also have feathered feet, and they’re very popular because of their soft plumage and easy-going temperaments. They’re oddities: in addition to their down-like feathers, they also have black skin and bones, blue earlobes, and five toes on each foot. They make great pets and can average at about 150 eggs a year, depending on varying factors such as health and their environment.
You can read more about silkies here.
True marans have feathered feet (sometimes you see chickens marketed as Marans but they don’t have the feathered feet). Like other chicken breeds like Welsummer and Barnvelder, this breed lays eggs with a deep chocolate brown color.
They have a lot of varieties, including:
- Silver Cuckoo,
- Gold Cuckoo,
- Black Copper,
- Blue Copper,
- Splash Copper,
- Black Tailed Buff,
There’s a lot of options to choose from! Marans are friendly chickens, and very good layers.
Sultans are feathered footed chickens that are uncommon in the United States. Generally, they’re raised for ornamental purposes, which makes sense: They were originally bred in Turkey as ornamental birds for the Sultan’s palaces during the Ottoman Empire.
There’s three varieties: Black, Blue, and White. They have a fluffy cascade of feathers on top of their head, a V-shaped comb, muffs, and a beard. They aren’t cold hardy, but tolerate heat well.
They’re friendly and docile, and the hens don’t go broody. They’re poor layers, producing only 1 egg per week, but if your goal is to raise a diverse and beautiful flock, adding a Sultan or two is a great idea!
A funny bird with a funny name this is a Belgian breed of bearded bantam chicken that is affectionate and likes human company. They got their name from their place of origin: Uccle, which is just outside of Brussels.
This breed lays about 200 small white eggs. There’s some discrepancy about varieties between the US and Europe (source). One of the more popular varieties in the US are Mille Fleur and Porcelain, which are prized for their beauty.
Booted bantams are similar to the D’Uccle breed, except Booted bantams are non-bearded. They also have very distinctive feathers on their feet (hence the name, Booted). They are mainly kept for ornamental purposes, but they are fairly good layers, averaging at about 2 tiny cream-colored eggs per week. They have friendly personalities and bear confinement well.
The American Bantam Association currently recognizes the following varieties:
- Golden Neck
- Mille Fleur
Friendly Chicken Breeds (Great For Children)
- Cochin Bantams
- Easter Egger
- Polish Bantams
While many breeds have friendly roosters that are great with children, if you’re at all concerned, or if you have very young children, it’s best to stick with hens from a non-broody breed. Note this list doesn’t include EVERY friendly breed, because most chicken breeds are very friendly. It’s just a selection of layer breeds we’ve found to be the MOST friendly.
Cochins are feather-footed chickens that originate in Asia, and are very friendly chickens. If you have young children and plan to keep chicken breeds as pets, then it’s best to go with bantam cochins, because they’re small enough for children to hold. Cochins come in both full-sized and bantam varieties, so make sure you choose the right variety for your situation.
Cochins are cold-hardy birds that lay up to 300 brown eggs a year. Their feathers can get muddy, so be sure to clean them regularly.
You can read more about cochin bantams here.
Easter Eggers lay consistently (about 250 per year) – and they lay a variety of shell colors! They’re friendly, and children love to check the nesting boxes for a blue, green, brown, or pink egg! Each chicken only lays one color shell though, so if you want a variety of colors, choose breeds that definitely lay blue (like Araucanas) or green eggs (like Olive eggers) in addition to Easter Eggers.
You can read more about Easter Egger bantams here.
Frizzles are a a sweet and friendly bird that aren’t prolific layers, but will produce 120 to 150 cream eggs per year. With their funny feathers and “Muppet” like appearance, children love looking at them. Frizzles are very friendly, and perfect for any flock.
Polish bantams, like most bantams, love being held. They’re small – weighing only a couple pounds, and they have slight builds. So, handle with care!
With their fluffy crest of feathers that crown their head, they certainly look unique! There’s several different options, including bantams, and bearded, non-bearded and frizzle varieties. Because of their distinct appearance, they’re usually kept as ornamental birds. They they lay about 150 eggs per year. There’s several different varieties, including Silver Laced and White Crested.
You can read more about Polish chickens here.
These small tufts of feathers is a popular family pet because of their small size and the soft feathers covering their entire body. They live about as long as regular-sized chickens, and coupled with their good-hearted dispositions, many people have welcomed Silkies into their lives.
You can read more about silkies here.
Unusual & Rare Chicken Breeds
- Ayam Cemani
- La Fleche
- Mille Fleur d’Uccle
- Turken (Transylvania Naked Neck)
A black chicken – inside and out. This breed is thought of as good luck charms, and have the distinction of being the most EXPENSIVE chicken breed in the world! On average, a breeding pair goes for $5,000! In some cultures, the Ayam Cemani is used in ceremonies.
They’re the only true 100% black chicken breed (Silkies have black skin and bones but they also have blue earlobes and a “mulberry colored” comb), and they lay medium cream colored eggs.
Because of the value of this chicken breed, if you do buy an Ayam Cemani, please do your research about breeders – there’s many unscrupulous people who try to sell black chickens as purebred Ayam Cemani. It’s also best to steer clear of hatching eggs, except from reliable hatcheries.
Particularly classified as unusual due to their appearance, the frizzle chicken has feathers that curl upward and outward from the body instead of lying flat against the body like a ‘normal’ hen. This type of feathering this is called “frizzling”. This breed is friendly and make great pet chickens.
This breed has an unusual appearance, with it’s “mottled” black and white feathers, a v-shaped comb, 5 toes, and the tuft of feathers on its crown. Like other chicken breeds like Marans, Houdans originated in France and they’re said to be derived from an ancient breed owned by Romans. They’re hardy, and productive layers. They’re very docile and amenable to confinement.
Originating with the settlement of Iceland in the tenth century by the Norse, this chicken breed has much to offer. Icelandic breeders are very strict about their bloodlines to ensure purity of the breed – if you’re interested in raising Icelandic chickens, it’s best to go to an established, well-recognized breeder. This unusual breed is best for flocks with a lot of space; they prefer to have range to roam and they are highly skilled at both foraging much of their own feed and evading predators. They’re very beautiful birds that make a stunning addition to any backyard flock.
You can search this Facebook group for reputable breeders.
Named for the town of La Flèche in France, this is a rare breed was near extinction in the 1970s but has since made a comeback thanks to dedicated breeders. It’s medium-sized, with black plumage, white earlobes, and a distinct V-shaped comb. They lay very large white eggs and lay well (except during winter).
Mille Fleur d’Uccle
This variety is part of the d’Uccle chicken breed. The name translates as “Thousand Flowers,” which is a reference to the black, mahogany, and white feathers that look similar to flowers. This Belgian bantam is kept for ornamental reasons, and is an affectionate bird known for their mysterious, quirky expressions, thanks to their beards and muffs. Mille Fleurs lay about 200 small white eggs per year.
A historic Japanese breed of chicken, the names translates to as “Honorable Fowl.” Best known for its distinctive, long tail of 16 – 18 feathers (source) and long saddle feathers, the breed is considered a “special treasure” of Japan. The breed is endangered, partly because the hens, which are known for being broody, are poor layers of light brown eggs. Breeders can expect about 25 per year.
This is a German chicken breed that’s known for its long tail feathers. The Phoenix might be the root stock of the Onagadori breed. These chickens molt each year or every-other-year and tend to have wide, rigid sickle feathers of two to five feet in length and saddle feather of 12 to 18 inches. They are an alert breed with a pheasant-like appearance. They are fair layers and hardy. If you raise them, remember that they require extra protein to grow their tails.
This good natured bantam breed is named after its creator, Sir John Saunders Sebright. They’re tiny – under 2 pounds – and primarily kept for ornamental reasons. They have beautiful feathering and rose combs that give them a friendly appearance.
They’re fiercely independent, with the roosters being defensive and protective of their hens. They love to explore, so make sure they have enough space to run around, and have secured fences to keep them safe, since their size makes them a target for every chicken predator out there.
You can get my top free chicken coop plans here and learn about the best chicken wire here to keep out predators.
Sebright roosters don’t develop the saddle feathers and long tail feathers characteristic of other chicken breeds (although they do have the neck feathers). This is because they have a genetic mutation that causes androgens (male hormones) to be converted to estrogen (source). They’re also poor layers, and the roosters are sometimes infertile (although that being said, they’re fairly easy to source in our area).
Seramas are one of the smallest chicken breeds in the world, but they make up for it with lots of personality! With their distinctive profiles (which includes a protruding chest, vertical wings, and upright tail feathers), this breed is mainly used for ornamental purposes, although they make a great addition to any flock. They weigh less than 2 pounds, and lay anywhere from 80-160 eggs per year.
Turken (Transylvania Naked Neck)
This unusual but friendly breed is also known as the “Naked Neck” chicken because it has no feathers on its neck (or vent). First bred in Eastern Hungary, they’re kept for eggs and meat. It’s a cold hardy breed that gets along well with humans. It’s not very popular in the United States, but it is in Europe and South America (because it’s suited to warm climates.) Turkens are intelligent, take confinement well, and are quite gentle. It’s best to keep them in a secure coop because they’re a favorite of chicken predators (like raccoons).
This breed is used for ornamental purposes that originated from Germany and comes from the Japanese long-tail breed of chickens. The original root stock is said to have departed from Japan from the Yokohama port – hence the name of the breed. The breed is red or white saddled with long tail feathers and a pea or walnut comb. It’s easily confused with the Phoenix, but only chickens with the red and white saddle feathers are considered true Yokohama (source). They’re poor layers, producing only about 80 eggs each year.
Cold Hardy Chickens
- Plymouth Rock
- Speckled Sussex
- Jersey Giant
- New Hampshire Red
Plymouth Rocks are a well known and popular dual-purpose chicken breed that’s also one of America’s oldest breeds. Developed in the North East, their barred feathers keep them warm in sub-zero Fahrenheit weather. You can learn more about Plymouth Rocks here.
Developed in Britain, these chickens are large, with fluffy feathers that keep them warm. Just make sure they have a warm place to get out of the dampness, since their single combs are more likely to get frostbite. Otherwise, they will do fine in winter. They’re calm and docile as well, making them a great pet for children and families. They are great layers and produce about 300 eggs per year. You can learn more about Orpingtons here.
Named after the town of Dorking in the United Kingdom, these fluffy butts are one of the most ancient domesticated chicken breeds known. While it’s not clear how they developed, there’s evidence that they have some origins in the Roman Empire, and possibly came to the UK when Romans traded them for tin (source). The hens are said to lay all winter, and according to some sources, will sit on large clutches, and protect their young very well.
Developed in Australia, using Orpingtons as root stock, these birds are excellent layers suited for cold climates. They’ll need access to water in the winter – you can learn how to keep chicken water from freezing here.
Brahmas are well suited to winter because of their large bodies and plentiful feathers. They’re excellent layers (although they won’t necessarily lay during the darker days of winter), and friendly birds who enjoy human company. Their pea combs mean they’re less susceptible to frostbite. You can learn more about Brahmas here.
This is one of the most intelligent chicken breeds, and they’re resourceful when searching for food. They enjoy human company, and do well in the cold. Be sure to keep an eye on them – with their bright plumage, they’re easy for predators to spot in the snow! You can learn more about Speckled Sussex chickens here.
Dominiques are said to be the one of the oldest chicken breeds. They do well in the cold because they’re sturdy, heavy birds. They also have rose combs, which makes them less susceptible to frostbite.
Originating in New Jersey (which has cold winters), this is one of the largest purebred chicken breeds in the United States. By nature, it’s docile and friendly. Keep it dry during wet winter days, because it’s single comb might get frostbite. Because of its size, it’s otherwise very winter hardy.
New Hampshire Red
Developed in New Hampshire, this breed is adapted to cold climates, and does well in the snow. It’s also very friendly, making it a great pet bird. They are great foragers with large bodies, which helps them stay healthy in the cold weather.
Heat Tolerant Chickens
- Ayam Cemani
- Blue Andalusian
- Black Faced White Spanish
- Egyptian Fayoumi
- Sicilian Buttercup
Note: While these breeds are heat tolerant, they’re not immune to heat stroke. You can learn how to keep your chickens cool in summer here. You can also learn how to install coop windows here and automatic chicken coop doors here.
This is also my favorite design for an automatic chicken waterer – it’ll help your flock keep cool, too.
Ayam Cemani are heat tolerant all black chickens – both inside AND out. The all black coloring is caused by a genetic condition called fibromelanosis. They originated in Indonesia, on the island of Java, and so are adapted to warm climates. They lay medium cream colored eggs.
An individual bird can cost up to $2,500. Because of their value, if you do buy an Ayam Cemani, please do your research – there’s many unscrupulous people who try to sell black chickens as purebred Ayam Cemani. It’s also best to steer clear of hatching eggs, except from reliable hatcheries.
You can read more about Ayam Cemani and other black chickens here.
This beautiful chicken originated in the warm region of Andalusia, which is located in southwest Spain. It’s particularly heat adapted because of its region of origin. Like many chicken breeds, Andalusians come in different varieties; the older type has darker feathers while the more modern types developed in Britain are a more vibrant blue-grey. They have a curious disposition and is a good layer producing roughly 150 eggs per year.
Black Faced White Spanish
These funny looking chickens are also known as “clown faced chickens” because of their funny white over-developed earlobes that distinguish their face. It’s closely related to the Castilian and Minorca chicken breeds, which gives it better genetics for warm climates. The hens lay regularly, producing large white eggs. They don’t like to be held and are good foragers.
Quite rare in the United States, Egyptian Fayoumis are an ancient breed that has originated in the hot climates of Egypt’s Nile Valley. These slightly built chickens have upright tails, and begin laying as early as 5 months. They don’t do well in cold weather. However, they are fairly nervous in temperament and as a result, can be feather pickers if they don’t have enough room. They have barred feathers, and red, single combs.
Minorcas are named after their home region, the island of Menorca, off the coast of Spain. They’re similar in appearance to Black Faced White Spanish chickens, and sport huge red wattles and large red combs which help their bodies stay cool. They are mainly bred for their eggs; they can produce up to 280 a year.
Originating in the warm region of Sicily (which gives this chicken breed its name), Sicilian Buttercups are an old, heritage breed of poultry that’s rare in the USA. With its unique comb type and beautiful feathers, it’s a great addition to any flock needing heat tolerant chickens.
With their fluffy down-like plumage (which feels like silk – hence the name “silkies”), this breed is perfect for warm climates. The bird has black skin, along with black muscles and bones, and dark beaks, combs, and wattles. This uncommon feature, known as melanism. They make great pets, and are fair layers. You can learn more about silkies here.
Kept mostly for ornamental reasons, this breed originates in the warm climates of Turkey. Sultans are feathered footed chickens with funny feather “pom poms” on their crowns that give them a distinctive appearance. They’re docile and friendly. You can learn more about sultans here.
- Belgian d’Uccle
- Booted Bantam
If you want to learn more about these chickens, you can read more about raising bantams here.
Ameraucana bantams lay blue eggs, producing 3 to 4 medium-sized ones per week. You can read more about Ameraucana bantams here.
Also known as Ukkelse Baardkriel, is a Belgian bearded breed that’s kept mostly for ornamental purposes. They’re very friendly and lay cream colored eggshells, although they generally lay only about 100 a year.
Similar to d’Uccles, booted bantams have feathered feed, and are fairly good layers.
One of the most popular breeds of bantam chickens, they are friendly and fun-loving creatures. They love their humans, and make great pets. They weigh about 20 ounces, and lay fairly well, although the bantam varieties are mostly kept for companionship. You can read more about cochins here.
Loved for their unique plumage, salmon color, and genial nature, they have a distinct appearance. They’re also a reliable layer who can produce approximately 240 eggs per year.
This chicken gets its name from its “frizzled feathers” which curl upward and outward from the body instead of lying flat against the body. Certain breeds are more prone to frizzling than others such as the Cochin, Polish, Plymouth Rocks, and the Japanese bantams who are the main breeds, but many other breeds can be frizzled.
The Polish bantam is a special and unique breed due to the huge bouffant crest of feathers and v-shaped comb. These sweet birds are typically kept for ornamental reasons.
This type of bantam is undoubtedly one of the most popular chicken breeds out there. This chicken has beautiful down-like feathers, and are friendly creatures who love interacting with humans. They will typically weigh in at 3 to 4 pounds, and will lay approximately 120 eggs per year.
This beautiful bantam has gorgeous feathers. It’s also more active compared to other bantam chicken breeds, which makes them a lively addition to your backyard. They’re very tiny, weighing less than 2 pounds. Be sure to hand raise them from the time they’re chicks to ensure they’re great pets for families.
Which of these chicken breeds are your favorite? Leave a comment below!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.