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14 Rarest Chicken Breeds on Homesteads

Are you interested in adding some rare finds to your flock? Every single bird on this list is a stunner with outstanding qualities; it would be a shame if they were to go away.

If any of these breeds speak to you, seriously consider adding them to your breeding program so you can boost their numbers and be part of a meaningful movement to preserve these fantastic chickens. 

14 Rarest Chicken Breeds

Dong Tao Chicken

The Dong Tao is a unique and delicious bird that has an unfortunate, clumsy demeanor that has made it difficult for the species to thrive.

These docile birds do not lay many eggs, only two or three a week, and only a third to half of the year. To make matters worst, the hens rarely go broody. The hens that try to hatch a clutch of eggs usually end up breaking the eggs by accident, anyway. 

Their legs can grow to be four to six inches around; a man’s watch would easily fit their legs. This makes them cumbersome and awkward, and it’s obviously easy for these giant twelve-pound birds to step on and crack eggs this way. 

Dong Tao is favored in Vietnam, especially in the luxe restaurant scene, but their numbers are limited, and they are incredibly difficult to source in the United States.

Ayam Cemani Chicken

Have you heard of the “Lamborgini of Chicken Breeds”? That is the Ayam Cemani Chicken. These solid pure black birds are magnificent to watch. Their beaks, faces, waddles, combs, feathers, and legs are pure black. Their organs, bones, and skin are black too. They even lay rich black eggs. Their blood is not black, but it’s a deep and dark color. 

These birds are sacred to the Javanese people of Java and are used in rituals there.

Svart Hona Chicken (Swedish Black Hen)

Svart Hona Chickens are often mistaken for Ayam Cemani Chickens, and vice versa. The only distinguishable difference between the two is that the Ayam is better suited for heat and tropics than the Svart. 

Svart Honas are also black all over, with black organs and bones and dark blood, and they also lay black eggs. 

These birds are originally from Mozambique, and they were imported to Sweden in the 1800s. It’s estimated that these birds were first shipped to the US recently, in 2012. We estimate that there are only five hundred of these birds in Sweden and fewer of them in the US. 

Hens will weigh around five pounds, while roosters weigh seven pounds. They lay around 250 eggs a year, which is pretty fantastic considering their ornamental-driven breeding. The hens are broody, doting, and excellent at teaching their chicks how to survive, hide from predators, and effectively forage.

Even though they originated in a warm and tropical climate, they have now acclimated to cold Sweden, meaning they tolerate cold regions well.

Golden Campine Chicken

This cutie originates from the border of Belgium and the Netherlands and has likely dropped in population size due to its slow growth, slow maturity (eighteen months), and lower egg production. They lay around 200 eggs a year, which isn’t terrible, but it isn’t exactly helping the breed bounce back, either. 

They do not tolerate cold temperatures well, and cold exposure will significantly drop their egg production. 

Some historians believe that Julius Caesar loved these chickens for their beautiful plumage and dainty faces. I have to say I’m smitten with them too. 

Golden Campine Chickens are marked as critical. Silver Campine Chickens exist too, but they somehow mature faster and are not a rare find. 

Modern Game Chicken

Modern Game Chickens are on the watch list, listed as threatened by the Livestock Conservancy. 

These are distinct critters who look the part of a game bird. They have long slender necks, a single comb, low body fat, an upright position, and dainty little faces that look alert and a bit wild. 

Roosters weigh up to nine pounds, while hens weigh five to seven pounds. 

It’s easy to understand why their numbers are being watched; these birds only lay fifty to eighty medium white eggs a year, and the hens usually don’t go broody, but a few individuals are the exception to this. 

Modern Game chickens thrive in jungle-like habitats, so some serious accommodations will need to be made for them in colder areas. 

Vorwerk Chicken

These stunning multicolored chickens were created by Oskar Vorwerk in Germany. He crosses Lakenvelders, Buff Orpingtons, Buff Sussex, and Andalusians to curate the Vorwerk Chicken. His intention was a bird with tender meat, that laid a lot of eggs, and was sweet and docile to keep in the backyard. 

They are well-rounded with good attributes of each category. Vorwerk hens don’t lay record numbers of eggs, but 180 a year is good enough when you consider how creamy and robust the flavor of both the egg and the meat is. He was very successful at creating a sweet bird, though; they are kind to people and are experts at finding their own food by foraging. 

It does not appear on the US Conservation list because it never officially made it to the United States. It is only known in Germany, making it very difficult to find. 

Breda

Breda, like others on this list, also comes from the Netherlands. We can find traces of them back to the 1660s, where we have spotted them in paintings like this one featured on page 8

The Breda made its way to the US relatively early, and played a key part in American homesteading until the Civil War, at which point it began to drop in numbers and then seemed to disappear entirely. These gorgeous birds were called Crow Heads, Kraaikops, and Guelderlands. 

They are excellent for cold areas, largely due to their small covered earlobes, tiny waddles, and nonexistent combs. They also have feathered feet to keep them warn, however you should pay attention to these feathers in the winter, as snow and ice tend to accumulate on them and pull, which is uncomfortable for the birds. 

Bredas also do not appear on the US Conversation List because they disappeared from the US too soon. If you want one of these fellows, you’ll need to look to the Netherlands. 

La Fleche Chicken rarest chicken breeds

La Fleche Chicken

La Fleche are labeled as critical, and that’s quite a shame because they are beautiful elegant birds. The Bantams are even rarer. 

These French stunners have a distinct v-shaped comp that resembles an arrow; in French, “the arrow” is called “La Fleche.” We believe that they were developed in France in the 5th century, roughly between 401 BC to 500 AD. 

La Fleche is a dual-purpose bird that weighs 6.5 to 8 pounds at maturity; the hens lay somewhere between 140 to 220 eggs a year. Notice it’s dual-purpose and not multi-purpose. Despite centuries of domestication, these birds are ridiculously flighty, and do not appreciate human interaction. If given a chance to escape, they will, and they will perch high in a tree somewhere rather than your coop. They do not make good pets at all, though they are clever foragers.  

When you hear about Capons this was most commonly practiced on La Fleche because of their ability to gain so much weight after the procedure. 

As expected with most rare chickens, they are not broody, and will require incubation to make the generation. 

Ixworth Chicken

Ixworth chickens lightly resemble a Leghorn. They’re tall, heavy, and white with clean legs, and a prominent red single comb. 

They produce well-flavored meats, and the hens lay around 180 eggs a year. Still, they are primarily found in England and are not common here in the States. They were first developed in Ixworth in Suffolk, England in the early 1930s.  They do not appear on the US Conservation Priority List because they are not a recognized breed; they do show up on the UK’s Watchlist, where they are listed as endangered.

Burmese Bantam Chicken

Burmese chickens are incredibly difficult to find, let alone purchase, and this is a true tragedy due to their beauty and interesting small features.

They are all white, with extra-fluffy feathered legs and feet.

Their legs are considerably shorter than other Bantam breeds; this is due to a gene, the creeper gene, that doubly causes high mortality rates in embryos. 

Hatch rates are low, and that does not pair well with their habit of laying only 120 eggs a year. 

We find the first traces of this bantam in Charles Darwin’s “The Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication.” 

We initially thought that the birds had gone extinct sometime during the Civil War; yes, the Civil War proved to be a difficult time for many chicken species.

Luckily though, some birds were located in an obscure backyard flock in the 1970s, and they were promptly given to Andrew Sheppy, the founder of the Rare Poultry Society.

He was able to breed them to the similarly appeared Booted Bantams and successfully re-established the breed. 

Onagadori Chicken

This all-white Japanese chicken is a one-of-a-kind with stunning trailing feathers that resemble a horse’s flowing tail. Seriously, the tail feathers grow to be five feet long or more.

The longest recorded rooster had forty-foot-long tail feathers.

You can see this rooster, which has been preserved and mounted for display, at the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in Malaysia. 

These magnificent creatures were kept as pets in Japan during the Edo Period, mostly by landowners in the Nagoya province, and also kept by some Samurai.

Their numbers are apparently on the rise again after nearly going extinct, but this is a difficult task, largely due to the fact that they only lay about one hundred eggs a year and do not go broody.

They also take a while to mature. 

Their stunning tail feathers don’t come without a price. It takes a tremendous amount of protein to grow feathers in the first place, let alone feathers of this magnitude. You’ll need to provide a lot of protein, at least 20%. 

They also have persistent issues with lice and mites due to their massive amount of feathers.

Many people choose to keep these birds indoors as housepets to protect the birds, and because they are so friendly and interested in befriending people. 

Crevecoeur Chicken

The Crevecoeur chicken is listed as a threatened species on the Livestock Conservancy Priority List. 

This standard black breed has lived in France for quite some time and was commonly kept as delectable Capon meat birds for the upper-class French. They were introduced to the United States but did not gain much traction as the meat was described as “too tender” in the 1870s. 

Today they are regarded as well-favored meat birds again and are sometimes considered dual-purpose since they lay about 150 medium to large white eggs a year, and will lay eggs for many years. 

The birds are pretty delicate creatures, and do not do well in extremely cold areas, despite having small waddles, small combs, and covered earlobes. They have begun to adapt to colder areas in recent years, but are not yet ready to be treated like a cold-hardy breed just yet. 

Polverara Chicken

This Italian breed dates back to the 1470s and are almost exclusively raised in Italy. 

Their drop in population was not due to dislike, rather it was the accidental symptom of cross-breeding them so often with other chicken species.

Thankfully in the 19th Century, Italian breeders paid attention to the decline, and prioritized bringing the species back up to a larger population. 

They have not made their way to the United States yet, so if you want to be part of the legacy, you’ll need to look in Italy for your first breeding pair.

Most breeders are using them to bring their numbers back and show them, but they also make great backyard chickens that know how to forage and enjoy human company. 

Most Polverara hens lay about 150 eggs a year. Hens and roosters produce deliciously deep, darkly colored meat that has an excellent yet distinct flavor. 

Sultan Chicken

The Sultan Chicken is another interesting chicken with stand-out characteristics. This Old World Asian breed sports black or white feathers, and a distinct crest that closely resembles the beautiful turbans the 14th Century Ottoman Sultans wore. 

They first appeared in England in 1854 and then in America in 1867. As of right now, they are listed as Critical

Several chicken keepers have described them as some of the tamest chickens they have ever witnessed. They were happy to be in the company of people, loved sitting on laps and enjoy treats and pets from their owners.

They are remarkably clean too. If they are the only breed on a piece of land, they will leave the grass intact and the yard perfectly clean. 

The Sultan is one of only five breeds that has five toes on each foot rather than four. 

Rare Chicken Breeds: Final Thoughts

I have noticed a distinct pattern in these rare, nearly extinct chicken breeds.

Many of them lay few eggs, they are not naturally broody hens, and grow slowly; many of them were eaten as Capons (castrated males), and many of them nearly went extinct during the Civil War era.

I suppose this goes to show that high-maintenance birds do not fare well during wars, and it’s easy to almost wipe out a breed that, even though it’s well-liked, is consistently sterilized to produce large quantities of meats.

All of these birds mentioned today are beautiful and have served interesting purposes throughout history, and I hope all of them can bounce back, develop better traits to survive, and can thrive over the next few decades.

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