Part of the fun of raising chickens is the different breeds available with their unique personalities and feathers. When pressed to recommend a “starter chicken” for those who are new to raising poultry and want a friendly, docile breed that are more like pets, I usually suggest buff orpingtons, they are a beautiful golden colored chicken with an easy-going disposition. A great way to get to know all of these breeds is to visit a poultry show or contact someone from the district where you live in the American Poultry Association at www.amerpoultryassn.com.
I’ve raised all these breeds and encourage you to read through this list to find the type of chicken that has the qualities that best match characteristics that you are looking for.
- Australorp – excellent production of medium sized brown eggs, adaptable to confinement or free range, quiet, docile, easily handled. Good brooder, good mother, early maturing and very cold hardy. Developed in Australia from black orpingtons for egg laying .
- Buckeye – medium producer of medium sized brown eggs, very cold hardy, can be broody, adaptable to confinement and a very good forager, calm and friendly.
- Chantecler – good producer of large brown eggs and is a dual purpose bird that is extremely cold hardy. Bears confinement well but can be skittish around people.
- Cochin – very popular as a show bird, medium producer of brown tinted eggs, excellent brooder, good mother and excellent foster mother, robust and cold hardy, adaptable to confinement or free range, peaceful, friendly and easily handled.
- Houdan – both large and bantam varieties, show, dual purpose, medium producer of small to medium white eggs and can be broody but known more for fancy feathering, being crested, bearded and/or five-toed. Bears confinement well and is active, docile and easily handled. Wild and wacky looking.
- Jersey Giant – dual purpose (formerly meat),good producers of medium to large brown eggs, good brooder, protective mother, robust and cold hardy. Large birds that eat a lot, adaptable to confinement or free range, calm, gentle and easily handled.
- Leghorn – layer, extremely heavy producer of medium to large white eggs, a non-setter that is hardy, heat tolerant (especially the white variety) that is early maturing. Enjoys free range although will adapt to confinement and is flighty, spritely and noisy.
- Modern Game – a game bird that is a low producer of white to lightly tinted small eggs, can be broody and a protective mother, hardy in heat, less tolerant of close confinement and needs to be active. Originally developed for exhibition, this bird has style.
- Orpington – originally developed as an excellent meat bird, this dual purpose chicken is also a good producer of medium to large brown eggs, good brooder and excellent mother, hardy and early maturing, adaptable to free range, very adaptable to confinement, docile, affectionate, easily handled.
- Plymouth Rock – dual purpose, good producer of large brown eggs, a good mother but broods infrequently, robust and cold hardy, well adaptable to confinement or free range, docile, friendly, easily handled. Once common on the homestead, still popular in the backyard. Developed in America and popularity spread very rapidly due to its qualities as an outstanding farm chicken.
- Rhode Island Red – dual purpose, excellent, heavy producer of rich, large brown eggs, broods infrequently but can be a dutiful mother, robust, hardy in the heat and cold, adaptable to free range or confinement, active, calm and fairly docile but cocks can be aggressive. One of the best breeds for producing brown eggs.
- Sebright – a true bantam, beautifully laced show bird, low producer of tiny white eggs, not broody, requires care, tolerates confinement, jaunty and spritely.
- Silkie – a true bantam, probably the most popular bantam coming in black, white, blue, buff, partridge, or gray with black skin, face, combs and wattles. The name silkie comes from the hair-like appearance of their feathers. A low producer of lightly tinted small eggs, one of the most broody, hardy in the heat and cold but because of fancy feathering not suited for foul weather, adapts well to confinement, docile, friendly.
- White-Faced Black Spanish – Very rare and becoming rarer, good producer of large white eggs, non-setter, heat tolerant, adaptable to confinement but prefers free range, haughty, noisy, flighty.
- Silver Spangled Hamburgs – a very old race of domesticated poultry, the origin of this breed in Dutch. They are active, flighty birds that forage well and are capable of flying long distances. Excellent egg producers of relatively small, white eggs, they are trim and stylish with delicate features and considered to be an ornamental fowl. These non-setters are cold hardy and like a wide range being less tolerant of close confinement. Besides Silver Spangled, they are also found in golden spangled, golden and silver penciled, solid black and white. You can see Silver Spangled Hamburgs at colonial Williamsburg.
- Wyandottes – Coming in a variety of colors and patterns, these are a good bird for a small family flock in rugged conditions. Cold hardy and good mothers, they have a good disposition and their color patterns make them a good choice for fanciers as well as farmers. A dual purpose bird with brown eggs, robust and very cold hardy. Well adaptable to confinement or foraging they are calm, industrious and usually docile birds.
- Blue Andalusians – an ornamental bird with fairly good egg production of large, creamy white eggs, these small, active birds tend to be noisy and flighty and rarely go broody. They are both cold hardy and heat tolerant, economical eaters preferring free range. Andalusians are an example of the unstable blue color seen with poultry where it is a result of a cross between a black and a white. The blue color does not breed true. A black and a white (splash) are necessary for breeding but are not permitted to be shown. When the black and the whites are mated together, they will produce mostly blues.
- Polish – coming in a variety of colors, having a crest, bearded or not, these are a strictly ornamental fowl. An unusual and beautiful breed, their crest can often restrict their vision and cause them to be frightened easily. White eggs.