The A-Z of Chicken Breeds and Choosing the Perfect One

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.

Egg Laying Breeds

Rhode Island RedWe 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:

Australorp

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.

Delaware

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.

New Hampshire

This is a good dual purpose hen. The New Hampshire will lay around 200 eggs per year and as a dual purpose hen will dress out to an average of 5-6lb.

Buckeye

A dual purpose hen that thrives in the cold!  The Buckeye 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.

Plymouth Rock

One of our favorites, the Plymouth Rock is a great all-rounder. She will give you about 280 eggs per year. As a dual purpose bird, they will dress out to 5lb or more.

Sussex

The Sussex 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.

Brown Leghorn

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.

Meat Breeds

Bresse ChickenCornish cross

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.

Bresse

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.

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.

Jersey Giants

Jerseys are one of the largest chickens you will ever see; the Jersey Giant is huge!

Although the size of the current bird is smaller than its ancestors, this chicken will dress out at 10-13lb.

They are slow growers and can start to be culled around 16 weeks.

Breeds Known for Friendliness

Brahma Chicken FlockFor 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.

Brahmas

They are large cuddly hens. They can be shy, but are usually friendly and enjoy human company.

Cochin

The fluffy hen that loves to be cuddled and can easily become a lap chicken. This bird would be suitable as a therapy bird.

Faverolles

These hens will make you smile. They are talkative, curious, friendly and a bit scatter brained!

Orpingtons

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.

Polish

This bird will light up your day with their antics and crazy hairdo. They are a very friendly bird, making great house pets and therapy birds.

Sultan

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.

Breeds Known for their Appearance

Polish Close UpThose folks who want chickens as ‘eye candy’ certainly have several varieties to choose from!

Here’s a list of eye catching, elegant chickens:

Polish

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 hen a smile is pretty much guaranteed.

Silkie

The 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.

Phoenix

A German breed created from the Japanese Onagadori. It has a long tail that can reach up to several feet in length.

Onagadori

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.

Houdan

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.

Turken

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.

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)

Bantam ChickenIf 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

I Want to Find Breeds That Have:

Egg Production

Beginner Friendly

Cold Hardy

Ameraucana

Ameraucana
Light Blue Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Docile

Learn More

Andalusian

Andalusian
White Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Flighty

Coming Soon

Araucana

Araucana
Light Blue Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Flighty

Coming Soon

Australorp

Australorp
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Docile

Learn More

Ayam Cemani

Ayam Cemani
Cream Eggs ~ 100 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Flighty

Learn More

Barnevelder

Barnevelder
Chocolate Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Belgian d’Uccle

Belgian d’Uccle
Cream Eggs ~ 100 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Flighty

Coming Soon

Black Copper Marans

Black Copper Marans
Chocolate Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Learn More

Black Star

Black Star
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Blue Laced Red Wyandotte

Blue Laced Red Wyandotte
Light Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Confident

Learn More

Brahma

Brahma
Brown Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Friendly

Learn More

Bresse

Bresse
Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Flighty

Coming Soon

Brown Leghorn

Brown Leghorn
White Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Confident

Coming Soon

Buckeye

Buckeye
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Buff Orpington

Buff Orpington
Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Friendly

Learn More

Cochin

Cochin
Brown Eggs ~ 100 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Friendly

Learn More

Cornish

Cornish
Light Brown Eggs ~ 100 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Confident

Coming Soon

Cream Legbar

Cream Legbar
Light Blue Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Friendly

Coming Soon

Cuckoo Marans

Cuckoo Marans
Chocolate Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Delaware

Delaware
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Dominique

Dominique
Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Dorking

Dorking
Cream Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Docile

Coming Soon

Easter Egger

Easter Egger
Multiple Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Frizzle

Frizzle
Cream Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Friendly

Learn More

Golden Comet

Golden Comet
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Golden Laced Wyandotte

Golden Laced Wyandotte
Light Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Confident

Coming Soon

Hamburg

Hamburg
White Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Docile

Coming Soon

Hybrid

Hybrid
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

ISA Brown

ISA Brown
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Learn More

Jersey Giant

Jersey Giant
Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Learn More

Lavender Orpington

Lavender Orpington
Light Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament peaceful

Learn More

Light Brahma

Light Brahma
Brown Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Friendly

Coming Soon

Minorca

Minorca
White Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Flighty

Coming Soon

Naked Neck

Naked Neck
Light Brown Eggs ~ 100 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Confident

Coming Soon

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Polish

Polish
White Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Friendly

Learn More

Red Jungle Fowl

Red Jungle Fowl
White Eggs ~ 100 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Flighty

Coming Soon

Red Ranger

Red Ranger
Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Red Star

Red Star
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Confident

Learn More

Salmon Faverolle

Salmon Faverolle
Light Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Friendly

Coming Soon

Sebright

Sebright
Cream Eggs ~ 100 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Flighty

Coming Soon

Serama

Serama
Cream Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy No
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Friendly

Coming Soon

Silkie

Silkie
Cream Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Learn More

Silver Laced Wyandotte

Silver Laced Wyandotte
Light Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Confident

Learn More

Speckled Sussex

Speckled Sussex
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Learn More

Sussex

Sussex
Brown Eggs ~ 200+ /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Learn More

Swedish Flower Hens

Swedish Flower Hens
Cream Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Welsummer

Welsummer
Chocolate Eggs ~ 150 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

White Leghorn

White Leghorn
White Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose No
Temperament Confident

Coming Soon

White Rock

White Rock
Light Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly No
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Peaceful

Coming Soon

Wyandotte

Wyandotte
Brown Eggs ~ 200 /year
Beginner Friendly Yes
Cold Hardy Yes
Dual Purpose Yes
Temperament Confident

Coming Soon

Summary

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…

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Comments

  1. Linda Williamson says

    What criteria is used to designate that certain breeds are not suitable for beginners?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Linda,

      There are a few things we used to designate as not suitable for beginners. The top three were:
      1. Difficult behaviour
      2. Complex care needs
      3. Expensive to buy

      Hope this helps,

      Claire

  2. Pamela Langevin says

    I am looking for 2-3 chicks for my granddaughter who is very responsible she will be 14 next weekend and is working with her mother as a dog groomer. She also works at a pet store a very ambitious young lady.
    I would like at least one that looks like the hen pictured under the heading Bantams (space savers)

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