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Chicken Breeds 101: Choosing the Perfect Breeds for Your Flock

by Shannan Reyes
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Rearing chicken is increasingly becoming popular both in rural and urban areas. It’s not a surprise to find city dwellers keeping chicken in their backyards and on skyscrapers. If you are also planning to keep chicken as a hobby or for regular meat and egg supply, you need to know the different chicken breeds available. Continue reading to learn more about the perfect breeds for your flock.

What Is a Chicken Breed?

What Is a Chicken Breed

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A chicken is a subspecies of the red jungle fowl and a type of domesticated fowl originating from southeastern Asia. An adult male chicken is referred to as a rooster or cock, while its female counterpart is known as a hen. Chickens can be kept as pets or as a source of meat.

A chicken breed is a specific category of chicken that breeds true and is characterized by qualities that can be observed externally. Therefore, all members of a particular chicken breed will have the same traits and their progenies will have the same characteristics, including size, feather color, comb type, physique, among others.

13 Different Chicken Breeds

· Black chicken Breeds

1. Australorp

Australorp

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An Australorp chicken breed is known to be playful and friendly. It also has excellent egg-laying abilities. That’s why it is very popular in Australia. Many people also love this chicken breed because of its brilliant black, white, and blue plumage.

This breed was developed in Australia from the Black Orpington stock. However, the Australorp breed is smaller and trimmer than Orpington. It also has an intense beetle-green sheen, dark eyes, and a deep dark body. This chicken breed is very active. Currently, this breed is available in a number of varieties including black, blue laced, and white.

2. Orpington

Orpington

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This chicken breed is cute, courteous, and polite. It is considered the best chicken mother. Introduce by British poultry farmers in the 20th century, the Orpington chicken breed was meant to be a resilient breed that can withstand bitter winters in England, while still laying enough eggs. If you are looking for a chicken breed that will supply you with enough eggs, then an Orpington breed is a good choice.

An Orpington chicken has a large fowl with soft feathers that mask its true size. These feathers help the bird to endure the cold weather better than other birds. Although this breed is considered very active, it can survive well in both free-range and confined husbandries. It has a deep breast, short legs, and a curved back.

The Orpington breed is available in several varieties including black, white, buff, and blue. Its thighs are completely covered by thick feathers. It can either have a single or rose comb. Other unique features of this chicken breed include red wattles and white earlobes.

3. Silkie

Silkie

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The fluffy and puffy plumage of the Silkie breed makes it stand out from other breeds. Although this chicken breed has a small stature, it always leaves a big impression. It is one of the oldest Asian chicken breeds. Currently, it is one of the most sought-after ornamental chicken breeds in Europe, America, and other parts of the world.

Silkies are normally kept for both exhibition and ornamental purposes. Their body is broad and stout-looking, with fine fluffy feathers all over. Since their plumage lacks barbicels, which interlock the second branches of chicken feathers, these birds are unable to fly. The Silkie chicken breed is available in various colors including white, black, partridge, green, buff, and blue.

· White Chicken Breeds

4. ISA Brown

ISA Brown

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Although ISA Brown is a special chicken breed that was invented by a French company in 1978. This breed is popular for optimum egg production. It is also a perfect choice for backyard chicken coop keepers and poultry farmers. Apart from its extraordinary egg-laying abilities, the ISA Brown chicken breed also has a gentle nature and great resilience.

This breed almost resembles the Rhode Island Reds but when looking closely you will notice that the ISA Brown chicken has a lighter red/brown color that is more of a light chestnut brown. It is a mid-sized chicken with a rectangular body. This breed also has a slight dip to the back with an upright tail and some occasional white tail feathers.

5. Rhode Island White

Rhode Island White

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If your desire is to have a laidback layer as part of your backyard flock, then a Rhode Island White chicken breed is your choice. This breed is known for its hardiness in all kinds of environments. A Rhode Island White hen will continue to lay eggs whether it rains or shines. It was developed in the late 1800s by poultry farmers in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

The color of its plumage is pure white. But it has red wattles, red earlobes, and a medium-sized bright red rose comb. It has a yellow beak and reddish bay eyes. Also, this breed has featherless yellow shanks and toes.

· Rare Chicken Breeds

6. Naked Neck

Naked Neck

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This chicken breed looks peculiar, especially due to its featherless neck. However, this is how nature made it. The Naked Neck chicken breed originated from Transylvania. Initially, some people believed that this breed is a hybrid of chicken and turkey, but the truth is that Naked Neck is pure chicken. This breed is very common in Europe and was recognized by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1965.

The Naked Neck chicken breed has a fairly standard shape with a large fowl and a broad back. It is available in a variety of colors including red, blue, black, silver, white, and buff. This breed is a good egg layer and meat producer. It is a great forager and prefers a free-range husbandry method.

7. Barnevelder

Barnevelder

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This is one of the most popular and commonly reared chicken breeds in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world. Its popularity can largely be attributed to its distinctive plumage, quirky personality, and pretty, peculiar eggs. Many people also love this breed because of the lustrous green tinge in its feathers.

A Barnevelder chicken expresses an attractive patterning on its feathers, which includes brown feathers with double lacing to create an arrowhead effect. However, its neck feathers are pure black without patterning. Also, a Barnevelder rooster doesn’t have this patterning. The body of a Barnevelder chicken is compact and rectangular in shape, with a U-shaped back.

· Egg Laying Chicken Breeds

8. New Hampshire Red

New Hampshire Red

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When it comes to laying many and delicious eggs, the New Hampshire Red chicken breed tops the list. It is gentle and warm, makes an excellent mum, and is quietly beautiful. This breed was introduced by New Hampshire farmers in an attempt to improve on the Rhode Island Reds breed in the 1900s.

The main objective of creating this breed was to have hens that would grow fast, lay early, and be resilient enough to withstand harsh weather conditions like winter. The breed has a deep, wide-body, with reddish buff pin feathers. It has a single comb that can be either medium or large in size. Its color is a medium to light red and fades in the sunshine.

9. Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

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Plymouth Rock is a perfect chicken breed for both seasoned and first-time keepers. It is a relaxed, dazzling, and receptive breed that has excellent egg-laying abilities. This chicken breed was introduced in the 1900s in Plymouth Rock, MA. Its popularity has since grown across America and other parts of the world with many people keeping it in their backyards for their daily egg supply.

Many people also love this chicken breed for its laid-back look on life and friendly nature. It is also docile while displaying some broodiness. Plymouth Rock chicken has a long, wide back and a reasonably deep, full breast. Additionally, it has a single comb of modest size. It is available in several varieties including barred, white, buff, partridge, silver penciled, blue, and Columbian. But generally, it’s yellow in color and its eggshells are brown.

· Bantam Chicken Breeds

10. Frizzle

Frizzle

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The Frizzle chicken breed has a warm temperament and an amazing amount of grit. It comes in both standard and bantam sizes. Its unique feathers curl outwards as opposed to lying flat. Also, its plumage is curved outward and forward, creating a feeling of having walked through a wind storm.

The Frizzle breed is said to have originated in Asia in the 1800s. Since its introduction, this chicken has grown in popularity, with some European countries recognizing it as a distinct breed. This breed is available in a variety of colors including black-red, blue, spangle, Pyle, red, white, buff, Columbian, and cuckoo.

11. Leghorn

Leghorn

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Previously known as Italians, Leghorns are probably the most popular chickens in the world today. Although its origin is not absolutely clear, some of its smaller varieties are known to have originated in Tuscany, Italy. Although white is the most dominant color, this chicken breed is available in a variety of colors including black, brown, red-black, buff, silver, black-rose, and gold duck wing.

The Leghorn breed has either a single or rose comb. Its wattles are red while its earlobes are white. The eyes are red/orange while the beak is yellow. Its legs are yellow and the feet have four toes.

· Friendliest Chicken Breeds

12. Easter Egger

Easter Egger

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Although it is not purebred, the Easter Egger breed is a popular breed that you will find in many backyard flocks. It is known for its cute appearance and vibrant personality. The Easter Egger name comes from the fact that its eggs come in a variety of colors. Its plumage is also available in different colors.

While this breed was initially intended to be an egg layer, it has been turned into a dual-purpose breed. Furthermore, it has a mixed bag of traits. For instance, it can either have a single or pea comb. Its earlobes can be either red or white. Its wattles are red and tiny. This chicken breed also has some or no muffs and beards.

13. Cochin

Cochin

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The Cochin breed is said to have originated in China in 1840. It was further developed in the United States, improving its resilience and appearance. Today, this chicken breed is recognized worldwide for its unique appearance.

A Cochin chicken is fluffy, with thick feathers that cover even its thighs and shanks. This breed has a calm personality and does pretty well in confined husbandry. It has a single comb with red wattles and earlobes. Cochin is available in a variety of colors including black, buff, white, partridge, barred, blue, brown, silver, and golden laced.

How to Choose the Perfect Chicken Breeds

The chicken breeds you choose for your flock will depend on your location and the purpose for which you need them. Here are some of the important factors to consider when choosing chicken breeds.

· Climate

While some chicken breeds are completely resilient and can withstand harsh weather conditions, others aren’t so strong. Therefore, before you purchase a certain breed, make sure it will survive in your environment. For instance, Phoenix and Minora breeds do very well in hot areas while Brahma and Chantecler prefer cold temperatures.

· Egg Production

Although every chicken breed can produce eggs, including the ornamental breeds, not all of them produce the preferred size and number of eggs. This is particularly important if you are looking for a breed that can supply enough eggs within the shortest time possible. For example, if you want maximum egg productions, you should consider egg-laying breeds, such as Australorp, Sussex, Rhode Island Red, among others.

· Temperament

The temperament of your chicken is important especially if you have children and pets. Obviously, you do not want a chicken breed that will attack you, your children, and your pets. Therefore, go for the docile, friendly, and less intimidating breeds such as Australorps, Orpingtons, and Brahmas.

· Egg Color

Although egg color shouldn’t be your primary consideration, it’s always fun to have a variety of chicken breeds that lay colored eggs. Most chicken breeds produce brown eggs, but there are some Mediterranean breeds that lay white eggs. You can also mix your flock with Marans that lay dark chocolate brown eggs and Ameraucana breeds that produce blue eggs.

· Purpose

Before you order any chicken breed for your backyard flock, it’s important to consider the purpose for which you want to rear chicken. For instance, if you want to produce eggs for sale, you should go for the egg-laying breeds. And if you want meat for your family, choose breeds that are meant for meat. Fortunately, you can find many dual-purpose breeds to give you both eggs and meat.

In Summary

Now that you understand everything about choosing the best chicken breeds, you should have the right birds in your flock. Whether you want them for eggs, meat, or ornamental purposes, make sure that the choice you make is an informed one.

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