Naturally the perfect chicken means different things to different people.
My perfect chicken would not only lay the egg, but scramble it and serve it in bed to me. While I enjoyed breakfast in bed she would do housework!
So, for me the perfect chicken sadly doesn’t exist, but truthfully I think chickens are nearly perfect anyway.
For those of you who have more realistic expectations of your chickens, we have put together a complete list of the most popular chicken breeds around from A-Z.
We have also written a guide on what to look for when considering a breed, such as: egg laying, friendliness and other attributes that we value in our hens. Scroll down to find our breed profiles with links to each profile article.
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The A-Z List of Breeds
The Ameraucana breed was (surprise!) created in the United States around 1970, relatively late in the game with respect to most other breeds. A derivative of the Chilean Araucana, American scientists bred the Ameraucana to preserve the distinctive light blue colored eggs of the Araucana, yet eliminate a gene that could cause chicks to die inside the egg. Most Ameraucana owners and breeders will say that these chickens are curious, friendly, and easy to control. They are, however, easily spooked so might not do well with young children. Their sought-after light blue colored eggs are medium to large in size, and number approximately 150 per year.
Andalusian chickens are a breed that is native to the Spanish community of Andalusia, and was imported to England around 1850. By 1874, Andalusians had reached the United States and shortly after became a part of the American Standard of perfection, in the American Poultry Association. Andalusian chickens are known to be curious and friendly, but may become flighty if picked up or held. A typical Andalusian hen will lay about 150 large, white eggs per year.
The Araucana is native to South America, as it was first documented in Chile in 1914 by a Chilean aviculturist researching local breeds. The Araucana is the original parent breed to the American Ameraucana, which was designed to have the distinctive blue egg shell color, but also to lose the gene that when defective, makes the Araucana susceptible to chick death inside the egg. As far as temperament goes, this breed is friendly, non-aggressive and does well around animals and even children. Araucana are cold hardy, and are very good foragers, which may naturally reduce feed costs. They lay between 200-250 medium size but lovely blue or green eggs per year.
The Australian Orpington. An excellent egg layer that currently holds the world record for egg output in one year – 364! The Australorp is a dual purpose hen too. They dress out at a respectable 5-6lb and the meat is said to be good. The name “Australorp” derives from the types of chicken breeds used to formulate this excellent egg layer, which was Australian Black Orpingtons (Austral-orp). Developed in Australia in the early 1920’s, and quickly adopted by the rest of the world, Australorps may be seen in other countries as blue and white, but only the Black variety is recognized in the United States. A pleasure to have around, the temperament of the Australorp makes it a great chicken for the beginner. It is sweet, friendly, and docile to humans, and gets along easily with other hens and other animals. The Australorp was bred for egg production, and does not disappoint in that category. Typically a hen can lay well over 300 large and brown eggs per year.
The extremely rare and very unusual Ayam Cemani breed originated in Java, an island in Indonesia. The breed is thought to have been brought to Europe by Dutch seamen in 1998, and is still much more common in Europe than in America. Due to a gene that produces hyperpigmented black cells, the Ayam Cemani is black inside and out. Not only is the entire outside, including eyes, tongue, and nails black, but its organs, bones, and meat are also pigmented black. The Indonesians keep this breed as somewhat sacred and mystical, so rituals that include the Ayam Cemani are still practiced today. Although not common at all in the United States, the breed is said to be gentle and sweet, friendly towards people. They are not prolific layers, the typical hen producing about 100 eggs per year. The eggs are not black, but creamy in color and small in nature.
The Barnevelder chicken was developed in the early 20th century by Dutch breeders in the Netherlands. The most common, and most popular “double laced” variety was produced by crossing Dutch chickens with breeds imported from Asia. Breeders started first with single-laced feathers, and then developed the double lacing that the breed is known for today.
Double-laced Barnevelders are now the only recognized variety by the American Poultry Association. In America, a blue double-laced variety is available, but is not recognized as a standard.
Barnevelders most often are classified as quiet, peaceful, and easy going beautiful chickens. Owners note that Barnevelders tend to like people, and children in particular. They lay approximately every second or third day, averaging about 150 dark brown eggs per year.
The Belgian d’Uccle (pronounced Dew-clay) was bred for the first time in the small area of Uccle in southeast Brussels, Belgium around the year 1900. The ‘d’ in front of d’Uccle means from or of (Uccle). The early varieties of Belgian d’Uccles were the Mille Fleur, Porcelain, and White, but the most popular Mille Fleur was the first variety entered into the American Poultry Association in 1914. Other varieties include Black, Golden Neck, Mottled, and Self Blue.
Occasionally one will find flighty members of this breed, but oftentimes, the docile calm friendly nature of the Belgian d’Uccle make them not only easy to have in your brood, but good pets as well. Although are not particularly good layers, Belgian d’Uccle lay about 100-110 quite beautiful, small cream/tinted eggs per year. As they are very good foragers and small chickens in general however, their feed consumption and cost to feed is less than many other breeds.
Black Copper Marans
The Marans breed is named for the historic southwestern port town of Marans, France where it originated in the 1920’s. A somewhat rare breed in America, it was not adopted into the American Poultry Association as a standard until 2011. The Black Copper Marans is by far the most popular of the breed, but other Marans could be white or wheaten.
Marans are very active birds that make great free-range foragers. They are also quite intelligent, friendly and calm chickens, and would make a good starter chicken as they are quite a friendly docile breed that is rather low maintenance.
This breed is a good egg layer, and tops out at 180-210 per year. Known for its distinctive rich, chocolate brown eggs, they are a favorite among chefs and farmers alike.
Black Star chickens are one of a number of hybrid breeds of poultry. Taking two chickens from ‘heritage breeds’ which are chickens bred prior to the mid 20th century and recognized by the American Poultry Association, and crossing results in a hybrid. Black Stars are a cross between a Rhode Island or New Hampshire rooster and Barred Rock hen. Stars are “sex link” chickens, meaning they’re bred specifically so that males and females are different colors when they hatch.
Being a product of distinctive hybrid breeding, you would expect these offspring to indeed be ‘stars’. The Black Star is an amazing egg producer, laying over 300 extra large brown eggs per hen per year!
On top of production pluses, the Black Star is also a perfect chicken to have in your backyard chicken flock. They have a friendly, quiet nature and usually only make noise after they lay their eggs. These characteristics make raising Black Star chickens easy, convenient and tolerable to apprehensive neighbors.
Blue Laced Red Wyandotte
Developed in the 1880s in upstate NY, Wyandottes are named after the Native American Wyandotte Nation prevalent in NY at the time. They are thought to be developed from the Dark Brahma and Spangled Hamburgs. Although The Wyandotte chicken breed itself originally came from New York State, the Blue Laced Red variety was developed later and said to have come from Saxony, UK. Some back and forth breed selection between countries may be the cause of this seeming discrepancy.
Blue Laced Red Wyandottes are exceedingly friendly, especially if they are reared around people. They are easy-going birds that are excellent for farms where children are running around, they are mild tempered in general. Some of them become friendly enough that they will jump up on their owner’s laps if they are offered a treat.
Egg production for this breed usually runs a respectable 200-240 per year. These eggs are medium-sized and and light brown or cream in color.
They are large cuddly hens. They can be shy, but are usually friendly and enjoy human company.
The ancestry of the Brahma traces back to development in America from very large fowl imported between 1850 and 1890 from China after older breeding from Chittigong fowl in India. “Brahma” derives from the name of the Brahmaputra River, which flows through both China and India. They were developed into three color varieties – the Light, the Dark, and the Buff.
With respect to temperament, Brahmas are very friendly, as long as you’ve raised them to enjoy the company of people. They are quiet, docile, and calm birds who get along great with other chickens, and enjoy taking treats from your hand.
Considered a superior winter-layer, they produce the bulk of their eggs from October to May, and number around 150 per year. The eggs of the Brahma are large and uniformly medium brown in color.
About 500 years ago, Bresse emerged as a distinct chicken breed. Technically, the birds of this breed must be raised within the legally defined area of the historic region of Bresse, between the Rhone River and the French Alps. Bresse Chickens are considered the best tasting, most expensive chickens in the world. To maintain the strictest quality standards, the raising and selling of Bresse chickens is rigidly controlled by the French government. There are rules about how much land they must have access to, what they must be fed, and how they must be processed. The French argue that for a Bresse to be called a Bresse it must have been raised in France.
The original Bresse line of chickens is still alive and well, living in France. The French Bresse hen is a breed apart. They are cared for and fed a special diet, all of which is monitored by the French Agriculture Department. All this attention makes for a costly chicken dinner.
For this reason, American breeders of this chicken call them “American Bresse”. First brought into the US from France in 2011, American breeders have since tried to approximate the traditional methods of raising Bresse by providing them access to rich pasture and finishing them on organic grains and dairy products.
If one were to inclined to try and raise Bresse chickens, you could expect Bresse chickens to have peaceful temperaments and be pleasant barnyard companions. They lay about 250 large, golden brown eggs per year.
There are now American Bresse chickens. They are essentially much the same bird but raised differently.
The meat is said to be superb tasting. They are culled at 16-20 weeks and will dress out at 5-7 lb. They are slower growers so feed conversion is average.
The Brown Leghorn is a useful dual purpose bird. It will lay an average of 280 eggs per year.
They can be butchered at 16 weeks and weigh a good 5-6lb. They are also good foragers, so the feed ratio is good.
Although Leghorns are not usually known for their meat qualities, the meat is said to be decent on the brown variety.
If you’re interested in reading more about egg laying breeds, make sure to read 10 Breeds of Chicken That Will Lay Lots of Eggs for You.
The Brown Leghorn Chicken is one variety of the Leghorns that originated in Tuscany, Italy in the early 1800’s. They were initially called “Italians”, then “Livorno”, which is the name of the port city in Italy where they were exported from, but by 1865 were knows as Leghorn, which is simply Anglican for the Italian word Livorno. Leghorns were exported to America in the mid 1800’s, and although the Leghorn breed itself originated in Italy, most of the color varieties (developed possibly for better camouflage) including the Brown Leghorn were developed in Great Britain, America and Denmark.
Leghorns tend to be skittish and flighty birds, nervous birds. They’re not very interested in mingling with people and mostly like to be left alone. Combined with the fact that Leghorns are incredibly fast runners, very difficult to catch, they might not be the best breed to be recommended as pets.
Leghorns, brown as well as white, are prolific egg layers. A good hen will lay in the vicinity of 300 large, white eggs a year.
A dual purpose hen that thrives in the cold! The Buckeye chicken has the distinction of being the only breed to have been created by a woman.
Buckeyes will give you around 200 eggs each year. They can be butchered as young as 16 weeks and can dress out to a respectable 7-9lb bird.
The Buckeye is a breed originating in the late 19th century, in the U.S. state of Ohio. Around 1896, Nettie Metcalf, a resident of Warren, Ohio crossbred Barred Plymouth Rocks, Buff Cochins, and some black-breasted red games to produce the Buckeye.
They are very active, curious birds that love to be around people and other animals. They are also excellent hunters that will hunt for and catch mice. Their friendly curious nature makes them excellent pets as they have been known to jump into their humans’ arms and poke their beaks in to find out what is going on.
Buckeyes lay about 200 medium sized brown eggs per year, and are very cold hardy; egg laying continues through the winter months.
Cochin first originated in ancient China, and have also been known as “Shanghai” birds or “Cochin-Chinas”. Introduced to the West in the mid-1800’s, they were partly responsible for the upsurge in popularity of keeping chickens that was called “hen fever” in Britain and the US. Known as one of the ornamental breeds, cochins are bred in several color patterns: Buff, Partridge, White, Black, Silver Laced, Golden Laced, Blue, Brown, and Barred.
Cochins are known to be quite peaceful and calm, easy to handle, and friendly, but are prone to broodiness, so are not known for egg production. They average about 160 large brown eggs per year.
The fluffy hen that loves to be cuddled and can easily become a lap chicken. This bird would be suitable as a therapy bird.
Cornish chickens originated from Cornwall County in England, and a heritage breed, a best guess for development was around 1820. They were introduced to America and became part of the APA Standard chicken in 1893. Intended initially as an all purpose breed, their heavy body and muscular nature quickly gave rise to overwhelmingly meat-only chicken. Most domestic chicken used in the meat industry today are at least part Cornish chicken.
Cornish temperament tends to be aggressive, loud, and active, and are not usually recommended for the backyard chicken keeper.
They are the quintessential meat chicken. They grow fast, too fast for their bodies to keep up; hence they must be butchered to save them from suffering.
They are ready to cull at 4-6 weeks and by this age will weigh around 8lb. The downside to this bird is their feed consumption which is high, making them not so great in the feed ratio.
Given the fact that these hens are most used as a meat breed, you would not expect them to be the best egg layers. Cornish typically lay about 100-120 medium light brown eggs per year.
The Crevecoeur is one of the oldest and rarest French breeds and is named after the commune of Crevecoeur-en-Auge. Not much more is known about their origins aside from hailing from Normandy, and being a very old crested breed. Historically, they were very much sought after and sometimes given as payment when purchasing or renting land in France, and now they are so rare as to be on the endangered list there.
Crevecoeur were admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1874, and are also considered endangered in the United States.
Although they are a low maintenance chicken with an active nature that would usually make them a good starter chicken, they are not usually found as a beginner or backyard chicken due to their rare nature.
A typical Crevecoeur hen will lay about 120 medium white eggs per year.
The Cubalaya chicken breed was brought to Havana from Spain in the mid-19th century, where they were cross-bred with breeds from Asia, and then re-crossed with European breeds, then bred selectively to maintain their appearance and have the characteristics of a ‘triple purpose chicken’ as they were meant for cockfighting as well as egg and meat production in Cuba. Cubalaya were Admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1939, and in North America are rare and enjoyed only as an ornamental breed, though the hens are reliable layers with a good disposition.
Hens of this breed are friendly and calm, though males should be kept apart as they are aggressive to other males. Towards humans, they tend to be loyal and calm. They are good around supervised children, and some roosters have even been known to be quite protective over their human kids.
Cubalaya hens lay approximately 200 medium, cream tinted eggs per year.
Cream Legbar Chickens were developed in the 1930’s in Great Britain but are still relatively rare in the United States. The American Poultry Association (APA) does not yet formally recognize the Cream Legbar breed, but as of 2012 it has gained enough popularity in the USA that its recognition should not be far off.
The Cream Legbar is a cross between Barred Plymouth Rocks and Brown Leghorns, with some Araucana and Gold Campine genes. Together, these genes give the much-sought after breed extraordinary beautiful eggs ranging from sky-blue to light green turquoise, a pretty plume, and excellent egg production. Another valuable genetic trait of this breed allows for ‘autosexing’, which is determination of sex as very young chicks. The female chicks have a dark brown stripe, whereas the male chicks have a much paler and less distinct brown stripe.
Sure to become a favorite backyard chicken in the United States, Cream Legbars are sociable, friendly, and active birds. They are not extremely flighty, but do like to wander as they are extreme foragers. The Cream Legbar hen is a good layer, with egg production numbering 160 to over 200 per year.
This breed was developed in France in the mid-1800’s in the town of Maran. In the early 1900’s They made their way to the UK and have gradually made themselves popular in various countries around the world. However, Cuckoo Marans are still fairly rare in the United States.
Cuckoo Marans are active birds who enjoy foraging but that also get along fairly well with other chickens. As with all varieties, the Cuckoo Marans rooster can be slightly aggressive at times.
A typical hen lays about 180-200 dark brown eggs, per year. Not only are the Marans’ eggs very dark, they also tend to be more spherical in shape than other breeds.
These birds were all set to become the broiler bird of the US, and then the Cornish cross was introduced. The Delaware fell into near obscurity but has been making a comeback with the ‘backyard crowd’ of chicken keepers.
The Delaware is a respectable layer of 4 brown eggs per week. The hen is also a good dual purpose bird dressing out at 5lb.
The Delaware, once named Indian Rivers, was developed in the United States in the 1940’s by a man named George Ellis. The fowl is a cross between a Plymouth Rock and a New Hampshire. Delaware as a breed was accepted into the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1952.
Owners report that the Delaware chicken is hardy, friendly, calm, and also funny to watch. Delawares are also good foragers. Hens mature rapidly and lay large brown or brown-tinted eggs that number 100 to 150 per year, depending on certain conditions such as food supply and weather.
The Dominique chicken breed was developed in New England from the fowl in the area. This breed is so old, that no one can really say where it came from or how it was developed. Many believe that Dominiques came to this continent with the pilgrims, and they are even sometimes called Pilgrim Fowl, but they were not recognized as a specific breed until the early 1800’s.
Dominique hens are known to be calm and reliable, but roosters can be quite protective. Some owners even report that roosters have killed small rodents, cats, or snakes!
These hens lay a medium sized light brown egg and can lay between 230-270 per year.
The Dorking is one of our oldest breeds of chickens. Named for the town of Dorking, in Surrey in southern England, the Dorking chicken breed is said to have been brought to Great Britain by the Romans beginning in A.D. 43. Much of its development took place in England where it gained much acclaim for its meat. No one is sure when Dorkings first came to the United States, but by the time the American Poultry Association was formed, they were well-distributed across the country, and were first admitted into the Standard of Perfection in 1874.
Although desired mainly for their extraordinarily tasty meat, Dorkings are also good layers with around 150 to 200 white eggs per year.
The sweet, calm personality of these chickens would, on their own make a terrific backyard chicken, yet they are so docile that when combined with other breeds would not fare well.
The Easter Egger is not a recognized breed but rather any chicken that does not meet any poultry breed standard that has been defined by the American Poultry Association but has the “blue-egg” gene. The most popular crosses are various Ameraucanas, Araucanas and Marans breeds.
Due to a pigment deposit called called oocyanin on the surface of the eggshell the eggs have a green-blue tint. This color will vary depending on the breeds each is crossed with. For example, an Easter Egger crossed with a Maran that lays dark brown eggs will result in the eggs being an olive green. They have even been known to lay pink, blue and green eggs, as well as different shade variations of those colors.
Easter Eggers have a peaceful and friendly temperament. They love getting treats, and are easily trained to sit in your lap and will even come running to see you. Not only is this breed docile and friendly, but Easter Eggers are also quite hardy.
In addition to these wonderful and unique qualities, Easter Eggers usually produce over 200 large to extra-large eggs per year. They are a wonderful beginner chicken for the backyard flock.
Frizzle chicken is not so much a breed of chicken but a characteristic of feather. Frizzle feathered fowl can be traced as far back as the 1600, from Africa to the Philippines. The frizzle gene itself is thought to have originated in Asia, and although recognized as a separate breed in many European countries, it is not recognized as a distinct breed in the United States. The notable characteristic in this breed is its quaint feather formation, as each feather is curling towards the head of the bird.
The Frizzle are usually quiet, gentle and beautiful birds that are easily handled and add a splash of uniqueness to any flock.
Frizzle hens are also decent layers of white or tinted eggs (around 160 eggs per year), but are valued more as exhibition or show chickens than for either eggs or meat.
The Comet chicken was developed in the United States as a dual purpose hybrid breed by crossing White Leghorn with Rhode Island Red. Because it is a hybrid, it will never be admitted to the American Poultry Association. Its use soon narrowed to egg production, as the Golden Comets became known as fantastic egg producers in a commercial setting.
The Golden Comet chicken has since become a top breed choice for backyard farmers, as well as beginners because of its calm, friendly and docile temperament. A curious chicken, it often delights owners with the comedic activities that curiosity will undoubtedly lead to. As a great egg layer, a Golden Comet hen typically lays 250-300 brown eggs a year.
Golden Laced Wyandotte
The Wyandotte chicken is an American breed named after a North American Indian tribe. It was developed in New York State in the 1870’s, with the original breed type being the Silver Laced Wyandotte. Since 1888 the Golden Laced Wyandotte chicken breed is recognized by the American Standard of Perfection. This breed lays 180-260 good sized brown eggs a year, and lay year-round including wintertime.
Golden Laced Wyandotte chickens are quiet. They are generally friendly, but you may find one or two individual hens in your flock to be aggressive to other, more docile breeds.
Hamburg chickens carry a German name, but actually were first documented back in fourteenth-century Holland. The Silver Penciled Hamburg and the Golden Penciled Hamburg were the first 2 varieties, and were brought to England in the early 1780’s. They arrived in America in 1850, and are considered excellent layers of medium sized white eggs.
A hand-raised Hamburg can make an excellent, tame pet. Left to their own devices, though, this breed is a bit shy of humans, very active, and does not like confinement. They do not like being handled, but they are friendly and gentle to other members of the flock.
You can expect between 200-255 medium, white eggs per year from one Hamburg hen.
The Houdan reminds you a bit of the Polish chicken with its’ elaborate head feathers. It is described as a sweet bird, a fair to moderate layer and doesn’t like the cold.
Hybrid chicken breeds were created by crossing with pure breeds like Light Sussex, Rhode Island Red and Leghorn. The cross-breeding in order to create Hybrid chickens began to pick up worldwide in the 1950’s, and now specific strains have been created by crossing many generations, selecting for certain characteristics within the offspring such as egg numbers, feed conversion or a broad breast, fast maturity and body weight in the case of table hybrids.
Hybrids are ideal beginner’s birds, they are usually vaccinated against disease and are generally quite tame and easy to handle. As stated previously, depending on what each hybrid is bred for will determine color and number of egg produced.
The ISA Brown, formally known as Institut de Sélection Animale Brown, was crossbred and developed in France in 1978, primarily for egg production. 1997, ISA merged with Merck & Co., forming Hubbard ISA, so that is why this hybrid is sometimes referred to as Hubbard Isa Browns. As a hybrid breed, the ISA is not recognized by the American Poultry Association.
ISA hens lay very large number of eggs, up to 285-300 per year. With these hens, there is also not a very dramatic drop in production in the fall due to waning daylight hours. They produce very large brown eggs, so as a commercial egg layer, they are quite popular.
ISA Brown Chickens were also bred for their very mellow temperament. They are friendly and calm with humans and do well in almost all farm environments, making them a great beginner breed of chicken.
The Jersey Giant chicken is the largest purebred breed of chicken. The result of a breeding program that began around 1870 by John and Thomas Black of New Jersey, the original objective of the breed was as a replacement for the turkey. The resulting adult birds are massive in size with mature roosters weighing in at 13 lbs, and hens up to 10 lbs.
They are slow growers and can start to be culled around 16 weeks.
Originally bred to be both a commercial meat and egg chicken, the Jersey Giant breed is not used for commercial farming because it takes 6 months for them to grow to full size, as opposed to 2 months for other breeds.
The Black Jersey Giant was added to the Standard of Perfection of the American Poultry Association in 1922. The White variety was added in 1947, and Blue in 2002.
The Jersey Giant is known as a calm and docile breed with an even temperament. Aside from the fact that they will consume more food in a lifetime than a smaller breed, and need more space, they would make good backyard chickens.
A Jersey Giant hen lays 150-200 very large, light to medium brown eggs per year.
The breed was developed by William Cook in the mid to late 1800’s. He named them after his hometown, Orpington, England. The breed was a wild success, and within 10 years, Orpington Chickens were a mainstay of British poultry enthusiasts.
Orpington Chickens were brought over to America at the turn of the century. The first Orpingtons shown in America in 1890 were black, followed soon after by buff. The buff color was the first Orpington variety recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1902. The Lavender Orpington is a variety that is not recognized as of yet, but bred actively for their beautiful color.
Like the much more common Buff Orpington, Lavender Orpingtons are large, peaceful, and quite friendly birds. They have been described as ‘lap chickens’ by many. They are great with children, and they also make good pet chickens.
Lavender Orpington are also productive at egg layers, producing 175-200 very large brown eggs per year.
It is believed that Brahmas may have originated in India, from native Chittigong fowls , or from very large fowl imported from China via the port of Shanghai. As with most very old breeds, it’s early history is mostly unknown. We do know that while the ancestors of the modern Light Brahmas may have come from India and China, the breed as we know it today was developed in the United States.
Brahma come in three color varieties – the Light, the Dark, and the Buff. Both the Light and the Dark Brahma were accepted to the American Standard of Perfection in its first printing in 1874, and the Buff over 30 years later.
Light Brahmas are calm and gentle, getting along well with other chickens and with people.
Brahmas are one of the heaviest breeds, weighing an average of 10 pounds. They are good layers, as well, and you can expect about 180-240 brown eggs each year from one hen. They are also excellent winter layers, laying most of their eggs between October and May.
The Minorca chicken takes its name for the Island of Minorca, off the coast of Spain, where it once could be found in large numbers. The breeding began during the British occupation of the island from 1708 to 1783, but it is likely that the breed began in Menorca and continued in Britain. Minorca were imported into the US in 1884, and admitted into the APA starting in 1888.
Minorca chicken has a peaceful and friendly temperament and actually thrives on human contact. Minorca will also do well in confined condition. For the backyard chicken owner, however, care needs to be taken with fencing boundaries because they can be flighty.
Minorca lay very large, white shelled eggs all year round. They are good layers in general, about 200-240 eggs per year, but lay a bit better in warmer climates.
The Naked Neck breed originated from Transylvania but it was in Germany that the breed was perfected. The trademark lack of feathering on the neck is due to a dominant gene which allows for half the feathers of other chickens, therefore making it resistant to hot weather and easier to pluck.
Naked Neck were accepted into the Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association in 1965.
They are very good egg layers, and lay medium sized light brown eggs that usually number 120-180 per year.
The Naked Neck are very placid, calm birds and are easy to tame, also resistant to disease and very strong. So this breed can be a perfect choice for the small farmers, especially those in warm climates.
The New Hampshire chicken, named after its place of origin, the state of New Hampshire in the United States, is a relatively new breed; admitted to the Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association in 1935. They represent a specialized selection out of the Rhode Island Red breed. Deliberately selected for early feathering, fast growth, and maturity as well as large egg size and good meat conformation, certain strains were also noted for their vigor and hardiness.
Although general temperament is friendly, docile and easy to handle for humans, the New Hampshire is also competitive and aggressive in obtaining food, so not ideal in a mixed breed flock.
They lay large brown eggs, approximately 200-280 eggs per year, and will lay throughout the year; actually being more prolific during the colder months.
The original long tailed chicken. Tails have been recorded with lengths up to 27ft! This is possible because the male Onagadori has a non-molting gene and can take up to 3 years to completely shed some of its feathers.
The Orpington chicken is a very calm and friendly bird. Never in a hurry to go anywhere, curious and will be your friend for life if you give her treats.
A German breed created from the Japanese Onagadori. It has a long tail that can reach up to several feet in length.
The Plymouth Rock breed got its start in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA in the 1860s. The first Plymouth Rock was Barred and other varieties developed later. All varieties of Plymouth Rock aside from the Barred and White varieties are relatively rare. The Plymouth Rock breed was recognized by the APA in 1874.
Some strains of this breed are good layers while others are bred principally for meat. Plymouth Rocks in general lay large size, medium brown color eggs, that number around 200-280 per year. A hardy bird even in cold weather, they tend to lay consistently all year long.
Generally, Plymouth Rocks are active, friendly with people, tame easily, and are not extremely aggressive with other chickens. Some males and hens are big and active enough, however to be quite a problem if they become aggressive.
The Polish hen is unmistakable with the pom-pom on the head. The pom-pom can get in the way of their vision at times, so may need light trimming.
When you see a Polish chicken a smile is pretty much guaranteed.
The Polish origins are not known, yet there have been paintings of them dating back to the 1600’s. Some historians believe they originated from Spain and were then transported to Holland. It’s thought the Polish breed made its way to the US in the early 1800’s. The name of the breed relates not to Poland, but to the Polish military hats with a feather crest. Bearded and non-bearded types of White, Silver, Golden, Buff Laced, and Black are some color varieties of Polish chicken breed recognized by the American Poultry Association as early as 1874.
The Polish is mainly an ornamental bird, but was once used for egg production before the Leghorn became popular. These birds are very prolific, laying around 200 or more medium white eggs per year.
Polish chicken is very easy to handle and tame. They are similar to Leghorn chicken in both size and type. They are also good as pets, however not the best for the beginner chicken farmer. Their beautiful top crest must be frequently checked for dirt and wetness, as this can cause ongoing eye infections if left untreated.
Red Jungle Fowl
The Red Jungle Fowl is thought to be the ancestor of the domestic chicken. The jungle fowl was domesticated over 5,000 years ago in Asia, and since that time around the rest of the world. The Red Jungle Fowl has five recognized variations: the Indian, Burmese, Tonkinese , Cochin-Chinese, and the Javan Red Jungle Fowl. Red Jungle Fowl are not currently recognized by the American Poultry Association.
Chickens in this breed do not like to be handled. Not a big fan of humans, their wild disposition and roosting instinct make them instead one of your best choices for free ranging fowl and avoidance of attack by predators. Red Jungle Fowl are not aggressive towards other chickens or humans, just would prefer not to be bothered.
Red Jungle Fowl are not always the best egg producers, they typically lay small to medium white eggs, numbering about 250 eggs per year, but that estimate varies widely depending on where they are kept and how far they are allowed to free range.
They were derived from an American and European heritage breed that was developed in the early 1960’s. Red Ranger is not actually a breed, but instead a hybrid chicken created for good meat and egg production. Since it is a hybrid breed, it is not standardized in the APA.
Compared to White Rangers and Cornish Cross, Red Ranger chickens are very energetic. They do well foraging and out on pasture, and are docile with humans.
Red Ranger hens will lay about 175 dark brown eggs a year, and although egg numbers are not standout, many Red Ranger hens will lay double yoked eggs on a fairly regular basis.
The Sebright, developed by Sir John Sebright in about 1800, is one of the oldest British bantams. Sebright wanted to develop a breed that was small with characteristically laced plumage. The result of his breeding produced both hens and roosters that are very small in stature with beautiful colored and lacy feathers. Sebright chickens come in three color varieties: Silver, which is a beautiful white base with black lacing, Gold, which is a burnt orange coloring with black lacing, and buff which is a beige base with white lacing. The Sebright was admitted to the APA in 1874.
As a largely ornamental chicken, Sebrights are neither outstanding meat birds nor prolific egg layers – hens lay about 60–80 creamy-white eggs per year.
Sebrights are active, sweet, and easily tamed. The can be challenging to a beginner backyard chicken keeper due to poor laying, small and limited numbers of eggs, and cold susceptibility.
The Serama chicken, also known as the Malaysian Serama, is the smallest breed of chicken in the world. These popular ornamental chickens are the result of crossing Japanese bantams with Malaysian bantams. The modern version of this breed was created in the early 1970s by WeeYean Een from Malaysia but the origins of the breed are reputed to date back to the 1600s.
In 2011 the White Serama variety was accepted into the Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association.
Serama are not typically used as a meat bird or egg producer, although egg production is not inconsequential. Most Serama, however, are raised to exhibit at shows and keep as pets. Serama are very calm and docile. People love them for the fact that they’re very attentive to their owners, and say they act more like puppies than chickens. Some Serama owners keep them inside, but obviously this comes with its own negative consequences.
A Serama hen will lay small/tiny Bantam sized cream or tinted eggs, numbering about 180 per year.
The Silkie chicken that looks like a cuddly toy! Silkies have feathers that do not latch together, so they look like they are wearing fur not feathers. They are friendly and cuddly too.
The Silkie breed was documented in ancient China and known in those times as Chinese Silk Chicken. The first western recording of a Silkie sighting was by Marco Polo, in 1298. He marvelled about seeing a bird with black skin and “hair like a cat” on his travels to China. Through maritime trade and the Silk route, the Silkies were taken west. Eventually, Silkies were bought to America, and admitted to the Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association in 1874.
Their characteristic downy feathers come in a multitude of colors including white, black, blue, grey, gold and porcelain.
Silkies are one of the most friendly, docile and calm chickens breeds. They are very unusual looking, described as “chickens with fur”, and amusing to watch. Silkies make excellent little pets and are tough for their size. They are easy to handle and love to be cuddled. Not the best for all conditions, however, Silkies are not cold or wet hardy, and also may stop laying in hot temperatures. Many Silkie owners use them for pets, and so are kept indoors most of the time.
They are mediocre egg layers, and typically lay very small crème colored eggs, not more than 120 per year.
Silver Laced Wyandotte
The Wyandotte breed was created in the United States in the 1870’s. The very first variety of the Wyandotte to be created was the Silver Laced Wyandotte. Silver Laced was also the first variety of this breed to be accepted to the Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association in 1883.
Wyandottes have good dispositions and are a healthy breed, so generally a good choice for families with backyard flocks. The temperament of the Silver Laced Wyandotte Chicken varies as it grows. Although young birds of this breed are mild mannered and friendly, males can tend toward dominance if put in situations with other animals, chickens, or humans threatening the flock. Both males and females may be considered confident.
Silver Laced Wyandotte hens lay a nicely shaped, large eggs varying from light-to-rich brown, up to 260 per year.
These chickens are thought to be brought over to England by ancient Romans 2000 years ago. In the historic county of Sussex, in the south-east of England, Sussex were standardized and perfected as a good dual-purpose chicken, hence naming the breed for that location. Speckled Sussex chickens reached America about 1912 and were recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1914.
Speckled Sussex are beautiful birds, and appear more ‘speckled’ as they mature. As young chicks they are marked much like a chipmunk. When the bird matures and feathers come in they’re a beautiful mahogany color, with some tipped in white and others separating out in black. With age and with each molt, the white tips tend to multiply and the birds become more and more speckled – giving the breed its name.
They’re curious, the first to check out new situations, love environmental enrichment, and are intelligent pets. Many owners use words such as cute, sweet, friendly, chatty, and entertaining to describe the Speckled Sussex temperament.
They are good egg layers and tend to lay large light brown eggs, 200–350 per year.
The hen is a very poor layer and was really created centuries ago as a bird of leisure and pleasure. They make good house hens and would likely make a good therapy bird choice.
The Sussex chicken has been well thought of in its’ homeland of the UK for centuries now.
A good dependable layer in the region of 250-300 eggs per year. The speckled Sussex was the table fare of England until the newer, faster maturing breeds came along.
The Sussex breed of chicken has exactly the same history and temperament as the Speckled Sussex (above), but as one would expect, come in other colors aside from speckled.
Sussex chickens as a breed reached America about 1912 and was recognized by the American Poultry Association in three varieties: Speckled (1914), Red (1914), and Light (1929). In England another variety is recognized, the Brown. Not as popular, but still bred in the United States and Britain are additional colors, such as Coronation, Buff, White, and Silver.
Most Sussex are steady egg layers, again tend to lay large light brown eggs, 200–350 per year.
Swedish Flower Hens
Swedish Flower, also known in Sweden as Blommehons (“Bloom Hens”), are a very hardy and rare breed of chicken. It is a traditional farmyard breed of chicken from southern Sweden; and came close to extinction in the 1970s. The Swedish Flower chicken is a landrace, meaning the birds were not selected by breeders for a specific color or feature but were allowed to naturally select. This breed was first introduced into the United States in 2010.
The breed’s name was derived from the mottling of the feather tips, and almost no two Swedish Flower chickens are alike, which makes them all unique. Because of this, a standard has not yet been reached, and so they have not yet been admitted to the American Poultry Association.
Blommehons are friendly, docile, and cold hardy, making them an exceptional backyard choice.
They lay around 150 pale brown to tinted eggs per year. Egg size can range from medium to extra large.
The Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken (aka Turken) has an unusual appearance.
The neck area is completely devoid of feathers, giving it a turkey like appearance. It is a very hardy bird usually kept for meat; egg laying is moderate.
Due to the genetic issue with the feathers it really doesn’t do well in extreme heat or cold.
The Welsummer Chicken is a Dutch breed developed in the early 1900’s and was named after the village of Welsum in Holland.
This breed became widely known when their large and dark brown eggs were exported to other European countries for the commercial egg trade. Welsummer hens are justly famous for their very dark terracotta brown eggs, which are often speckled or spotted.
Welsummers are still considered fairly new to North America, imported in the mid-1900s. The breed was admitted to the American Standard of Perfection in 1991.
The personality of the Welsummer is confident but pleasant. They are not particularly docile, but are quite intelligent and friendly. Hens lay about 160 dark brown or speckled eggs per year, and are still popular for their beauty.
The White Leghorn Chicken is one variety of the Leghorns that originated in Tuscany, Italy and exported to America in 1928. They were initially called “Italians”, then “Livorno”, which is the name of the port city in Italy where they were exported from, but by 1865 were knows as Leghorn, which is simply English for the Italian word Livorno.
Leghorn chickens are known to be amazingly active, sometimes nervous or flighty, hard working foragers that often have little time for humans. That said, they can also be quite friendly backyard chickens if handled early from chicks. Because of their tendency to work at scratching and foraging for their meals, the feed bill for Leghorns will usually be lower than other breeds.
To boot, White Leghorns can be known to lay upwards of 300 large white eggs per year, all year long, also making them a favorite with commercial egg producers.
White Rocks, or White Plymouth Rocks, are one of two popular varieties of the Barred Rock breed that was first seen in Massachusetts in the mid-19th century . A product of deliberate breeding, the White Rock tend to be extremely cold hardy, growing an extra downy undercoat as the winter months approach.
White Rock tend to continue laying well through the winter, even with very short days, and most are able to produce an egg a day throughout colder months. One should expect upwards of 250-275 large brown eggs per year, depending on the age of the hen.
White Rocks are also very well suited as a backyard chicken, as they are known to be fond of people, gentle, and in general do not mind being held. They will grow attached to the person that handles them, and are even trainable to come when called.
The Wyandotte breed has over ten varieties including Buff, Black and Silver Laced, Red, Blue, Blue Laced Red, Buff, White, Black, Silver Pencilled, and Buff Columbian. The original variety was the Silver Laced Wyandotte, an American breed that was developed in NYS around 1870 and named for the Wyandotte Nation. Admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1883 Subsequently named varieties were developed by crossing the Silver Laced with other breeds in other areas of America.
As a breed, Wyandottes are generally very docile, friendly and easily handled. There are few within some varieties that may appear aloof or even aggressive, but this is relatively infrequent. Wyandottes are decent egg layers, do well in the cold, and lay about 200 large brown eggs per year.
Egg Laying Breeds
We already know from our breed profiles that Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds are superstars when it comes to laying ability, but what other birds can pop out 4-5 eggs per week?
The list of top performers goes something like this:
- New Hampshire
- Plymouth Rock
- Brown Leghorn
If your looking for a great meat breed here are our top 3 picks:
- Cornish cross
- Jersey Giants
Breeds Known for Friendliness
For many people it is important that their flock interacts with them. A flock than runs away when they see you or just plain ignores you is not a pleasurable thing.
Some breeds just love people and enjoy being divas when their humans are around, others could not care less and worse yet, some wish you would just go away.
We drew up a short list of some of the friendliest and most interactive birds we know, including those that we think would make great therapy/service pets.
Breeds Known for their Appearance
Those folks who want chickens as ‘eye candy’ certainly have several varieties to choose from!
Here’s a list of eye catching, elegant chickens:
Breed Characteristics to Consider
Cost of Keeping Chickens
We should talk a bit about the feed ratio – what exactly is it? It is the measurement of efficiency with which the bird/animal converts feed to product e.g. eggs.
This ratio is very important if you are running a poultry or animal business.
The usual formula for feed cost calculation is that each layer hen will eat roughly 1.5lb feed per week.
However, for those of us who raise our birds in small backyard flocks it is generally not overly concerning.
We are not in it for the monetary profit but the benefits that our birds give us, material and emotional. Also many folks prefer to raise their birds as humanely as possible and prefer not to buy into the industrial system currently in place.
Even so, it is possible to minimize your expenditure by buying specific breeds of birds.
Those hens that are first class foragers will eat less feed at the coop because they get much of their nutritional needs from grasses, forbs and bugs.
Adaptability and Climate Tolerance
The vast majority of the hens listed below can withstand both hot and cold climates.
Chickens are in general, surprisingly adaptable to climate variables, especially if their keeper practices good husbandry techniques.
What is good husbandry?
Things like providing appropriate food and shelter, keeping the birds in sanitary conditions are all examples of responsible ownership.
If you live in a hot climate ensuring your birds have plenty of shade and cool water available is a good example too.
You will notice in the breed list we have drawn up, that under the climate heading there is a designation of cold hardy. This is simply a designation of whether that particular breed of chicken is suitable to live in cold climates.
Bantams (Space Savers)
If you have a small backyard or a tiny apartment, space is premium. The perfect chicken for you will come in bantam size!
Many of the standard breeds have bantam size too or you can go with a true bantam such as the Barbu D’Uccles, Dutch and Japanese bantams – all have good tempered dispositions.
They are fun, pint-sized chickens that lay moderately well. Since they are so small, they will prefer a moderate climate as they do not tolerate extremes of temperature well.
If you are interested in bantams, make sure to read Bantam Chickens: Breeds, Egg Laying, Size and Care Guide.
Find Your Perfect Chicken Breed
Best Feed For Egg Laying Chickens
Mile Four – Non GMO Certified Organic Layer Feed
- Complete ration for laying hens
- Corn and Soy Meal Free – By removing corn and soy meal we can guarantee the finest quality of feed free from genetically modified organisms that your hens simply don’t need
- USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC
As we said earlier, the perfect chicken will be different for each and every person. However, we think we have set you up with some good candidates for your needs.
If you are a smallholder or homesteader, you will want a bird that can help to supplement your diet (eggs and meat) but not cost you an exorbitant amount to keep. Those of you who want a companion bird with eggs as a bonus; we have given you a few to choose from also.
Although many of the usual breeds cannot be said to make great house pets, some do – it will depend upon the chicken and how you raise it.
Once you’ve picked your perfect breed make sure to read our complete guide to raising backyard chickens.
What is your perfect chicken? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…