Which chicken breed is right for you?
With more than 400 chicken breeds to choose from deciding on the right breed for your needs can be a challenge. When it comes to picking the right chicken breed you must first consider how their characteristics match your needs and situation.
Are you after a family pet? Did you want to keep chickens for their egg production value or to farm them for their meat? Have you considered the cost of feeding them? Will they thrive in your local climate? You also need to think about how much space they’ll need.
If you can decide which of these are most important to you, it will simplify the process of choosing the right chicken breed for you.
Each breed has a category list noting their key characteristics. Where the plumage colour is listed this generally represents only a very small sample of the possible colours for that breed. Many of the large breeds have bantam versions as well if size is important.
Best choice for meat
The following breeds are noted for the quality of their meat: Dorking, Croad Langshan, Faverolles, Barnevelder, Australian Langshan, Plymouth Rock, Delaware, Brahma, Catalana.
Family and child friendly
Popular chicken breeds for keeping as pets include: Ameraucana, Silkie, ISA Brown, Pekin, Frizzle and the Australorp, Brahma, Booted Bantam, Houdan.
Cheap to feed
The following breeds are very economical to feed: Jungle Fowl, Silkie, Rosecomb, Frizzle, Modern Game, Japanese, Belgian Bantams, Sultan, Sebright.
Top egg layers
Popular chicken breeds most suited for laying eggs include: ISA Brown, Leghorn, Australian Langshan, Rhode Island Red, Australorp, Barter Black, Barter Brown and Barter white, Wyandotte, Orpington, Belgian bearded d’Uccle, Cinnamon Queen, Catalana, Sussex, Minorca.
Australorps, Barter Black, Barter Brown and Barter white, Australian Langshan, Australian Game, Australian Pit Game.
Ameraucana, Houdan, Booted bantam, Buff laced Polish, Dorking, Japanese bantam, Norfolk grey.
Ameraucana Image from backyardpoultry.com
The ameraucana is a relatively rare breed that performs the special feat of producing blue eggs. They tolerate cold quite well but are not so happy in extremely hot climates. They are noted for their friendly and quiet nature.
Category: large, rare, black or white plumage, good egg producer (150 or more blue eggs), family pets
Australian Game Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Australian Game (Colonial Game) is a large (up to 4.5 kg for the hen) show and meat breed. It does exist as a bantam version too. Long legs and muscular appearance hint at their fighting pit origins.
Category: large, meat, Australian
Australorps Image from backyardpoultry.com
Australorps (Australian Orpingtons) are renowned as excellent egg producers averaging around 250 to 300 large light brown eggs a year. In fact, the Australorp breed gained real world-wide popularity in 1922 when six hens laid 1,857 eggs over a 365 day trial for a new world record.
Australorps are quiet natured and good with children. They also cope well with cold weather.
The hen weighs around 3 to 3.5Kg. Bantam versions are available.
Category: large, meat, black or white plumage, top egg producers (brown eggs), family pet, Australian
Australian Langshan Image from backyardpoultry.com
A popular cross-breed which was developed in Australia and are well suited to our harsh climate. The Australian Langshan comes in both bantam and standard size.
They are often kept for exhibiting or egg laying and they are considered a good “all rounder”. They are known to be quite friendly and docile.
Category: large, good egg producers, family pet
Australian Pit Game
Australian Pit Game Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Australian Pit Game is a large very athletic looking bird. The meat is said to be reasonably good but they are bred mostly for show purposes.
They are alert and very agile birds and not at all amenable as family pets. A bantam version is available.
Category: large, meat, black plumage, Australian
Barnevelder Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Barnevelder is a large chicken that produces good meat and lots of eggs. Barnevelders tend to be shy and quiet and are especially good with children.
The female sports a striking feather coloration. Barnevelders are reasonably hardy and will tolerate colder conditions.
Category: large, meat, black or white plumage, good egg producer (230 chocolate brown eggs), family pet
Barter Black Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Barter Black originates from an Australorp and Rhode Island Red cross.
A Barter Black is a good layer (1 light brown egg per day) with a friendly, calm temperament and makes a great pet.
Category: large, black plumage, excellent egg producer, family pet, Australian
Barter Brown Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Barter Brown originates from a Rhode Island Red and a White Leghorn cross.
A Barter Brown chicken is economical, as they do not need much feed and provide plenty of eggs.
They are a very friendly, quiet and calm bird that makes for a great pet.
Category: large, brown plumage, excellent egg producer, family pet, Australian
Barter White Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Barter White originates from a Pure White Leghorn rooster and Rhode Island Red cross. This economical chicken eats less than other breeds and still lays plenty of eggs.
With its calm, friendly nature it makes a great family pet.
Category: large, white plumage, excellent egg producer, family pet, Australian
Belgian Bearded d’Uccle
Belgian Bearded d’Uccle Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Belgian Bearded d’Uccle are true bantams but what they lack in size they make up for with prolific egg production, and larger than life personality.
Long leg feathers and a beard give this chicken a very exotic appearance. They are hardy in hot climates but don’t like excessive cold. They are sweet natured and calm.
Category: small, black or white plumage, excellent egg producer (200—250 tinted eggs)
Booted Bantam Image from backyardpoultry.com
Booted Bantams (true bantam, also known as Sabelpoot in the Netherlands) are small birds distinguished by the large feathers on their feet. Booted Bantams lay around 160 small tinted eggs each year. Their friendly nature makes them a good pet for children. The hen weighs around 750g.
Category: Small, rare, black or white plumage, small tinted eggs, family pets
Brahma Image from backyardpoultry.com
Brahma are one of the largest chicken breeds in the world. The hen weighs around 4kgs but a bantam version is available. Despite this they are sweet, friendly, easy to handle, and make great family pets.
They also lay well especially during the winter and produce good meat. The feathered legs may need to be kept clean to avoid fungal problems in the wet months. They don’t cope with heat very well.
Category: large, meat, good egg producers, great family pet
Buff Laced Polish
Buff Laced Polish Image from backyardpoultry.com
Buff Laced Polish are an unusual looking chicken with a crazy bouffant hairstyle. Egg production can be unreliable but their richly coloured appearance, crazy antics, and gentle personality make them a great choice for pets.
Category: small, relatively rare, reasonable egg production (120 small white eggs each year), good family pets
Catalana Image from backyardpoultry.com
Catalanas produce lots of eggs, are good for meat production, and love the heat. They do best with lots of free ranging space and tend to be lively and flighty but they don’t cope with cold conditions. They are not very friendly so do not make great pets.
Category: meat, brown plumage, good egg producers
Cinnamon Queen Image from backyardpoultry.com
Cinnamon Queen are egg laying machines—up to 300 eggs per year. They will also start laying earlier than most other breeds and are very hardy birds.
They are noted for their docile and sweet nature. You can tell the sex of young chicks by their colour; young males are white, females are reddish brown.
Category: top egg producers (large brown eggs), white plumage, good family pets
Croad Langshan Image from backyardpoultry.com
Croad Langshans (also known as Langshan) are large-bodied birds. They lay up to 240 pinkish-brown eggs a year. They are easily tamed and need to be kept in dry, sheltered conditions.
A bantam version is available. Their graceful U-shaped appearance makes them popular as show birds.
Category: large, black or white plumage, egg production
Delaware Image from pinterest.com
Delaware (formerly known as Indian Rivers) gained fame as meat birds with clean tasting white meat. The hens, weighing around 3kg, lay 150 or more dark brown eggs each year. They cope well with both heat and cold and their calm, quiet, friendly personalities make them ideal as a backyard pet. Delaware plumage tends to be mostly white.
Category: large, white meat, white plumage, dark brown eggs, good family pets
Dorking Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Dorking, with its fine tender white meat is widely regarded as one of the finest tasting chickens available. However, it has become quite rare thanks to its slow growth rate.
Dorking hens are also reasonable layers producing around 140 large white eggs. Dorkings are reasonably calm and tolerant but they do have a tendency to brood.
Dorking hens will weigh between 3.6 and 5kg but bantam versions are available.
Category: rare, large, meat, white plumage, white eggs
Easter Egger Image from backyardpoultry.com
Easter Eggers are renowned for their ability to lay eggs in a rainbow of colours including blue, green brown and pink. Each hen will lay eggs of only one colour during its life.
Friendly, calm, easily-handled, and docile are their typical personality traits. They tolerate all climates well.
Category: large, meat, good egg layer (medium sized, various colours), good family pets
Faverolles Image from backyardpoultry.com
Faverolles are sweet, gentle, calm yet curious birds. They are the perfect chicken for a family pet. They also happen to produce excellent flavoured meat and average 170 medium sized eggs each year. They cope well with cold weather. A bantam version exists.
Category: large, meat, egg production (cream or salmon coloured), family pet
Frizzle Image from backyardpoultry.com
The Frizzle is a friendly bird and an average layer which doesn’t consume much feed. They were selectively bred for exhibition; however their curled, fragile feathers aren’t suited for rainy or cold weather. A bantam version exists.
Category: large or small, black or white plumage
Houdan Image from backyardpoultry.com
Houdan are moderately large chickens with an excellent tender white flesh. Houdan are moderately prolific egg layers; 180—240 white eggs each year. The v shaped comb and head feathers make for a very distinctive appearance.
Houdan cope well with warm climates and like to forage for their food. Houdan make great family pets, as they are friendly, docile, and are happy being handled if trained to it from a young age.
Category: rare, meat, mottled black or white plumage, top egg layers (white eggs), good family pets
Hy-Line Brown Image from Talking Hens
Hy-Line Brown Chickens are popular egg layers, and are often used for commercial egg-laying.
They also make great pets as they are placid and friendly, and economical, having been cited as having the “Best feed to egg efficiency of all layer hens” on the website talkinghens.com.
Category: large, brown plumage, excellent egg producer (320 brown eggs per year), family pet
ISA Brown from backyardpoultry.com
ISA Browns’ are one of the most popular chicken breeds found in backyards Australia-wide. They are a hybrid chicken, and are said to produce up to 300 eggs per hen in its first year of laying (they typically lay for 2 years). ISA Browns’ produce eggs daily, have a good temperament, are sociable and make great pets.
Category: large (up to 5kg), exceptional egg producers (brown), family pets
Japanese Bantam Image from backyardpoultry.com
Japanese Bantams, with their exquisitely elegant appearance, are mostly ornamental. They lay around 160 white or brown eggs annually. At 450g, the hens are small and true bantams.
They are not hardy; they don’t cope with cold weather and may need to live indoors. However, they are very friendly.
Category: small, rare, black or white plumage, eggs
Jungle Fowl Image from Public Domain
Originally a wild bird, the Jungle Fowl produces eggs seasonally. Jungle fowl were probably the first chickens to be domesticated more than 7000 years ago. It is a very wary and alert bird who eats very little. Jungle fowl do best with lots of space.
Leghorn Image from backyardpoultry.com
Thought to have originated from Italy, Leghorns are popular world-wide for laying white eggs. They lay an average of 280 per year and have been known on occasion to even reach 320 in a year.
They are nervous, flighty and highly active. The chickens will be quite happy in all weathers coping well with both heat and cold but they are not a great choice for a family pet, as they tend to be unfriendly.
Category: small, white plumage, top egg layer (large white)
Minorca Image from pinterest.com
Minorca (old names include; Red faced Spanish, Moorish fowl) produce 200 or more very large white eggs each year. They need lots of space and don’t make good pets. The red wattles against the black plumage give them a very distinctive appearance.
Category: large, black plumage, egg production
New Hampshire Red
New Hampshire Red Image from backyardpoultry.com
New Hampshire Red are great all-round meat, egg producer, and family pet type of chickens. They are very tame, calm, and tolerant. They don’t fly well and his is an added bonus when keeping them in your average backyard. The average hen weighs around 3kgs but a bantam version exists.
Category: large, meat, white plumage, eggs (up to 240 light brown eggs per year), family pet
Norfolk Grey Image from wikipedia.org
The Norfolk Grey (Back Marias) are distinguished by the silver neck feathers. They like to forage and are cheap to raise if you allow them to free-range.
They are friendly and docile and their poor flying skills make them a good choice for the backyard.
Category: large, meat, rare, black plumage, good egg layer (up to 220 tinted eggs), good family pets
Orpington Image from wikipedia.org
Orpingtons are handy egg producers (up to 200 each year), produce fine textured meat, and they make great family pets. They are very relaxed, happy chickens, and are good around children.
They don’t need a lot of attention and they don’t fly but they do like to roam. A bantam version is available.
Category: large, meat, black, brown or white plumage, egg production, family pet
Pekin Image from wikipedia.org
Pekins are true bantams (also known as Cochin bantams). They don’t produce a lot of eggs but they are very cute fluffy bundles of feathers and make great family pets. They are docile and friendly although the roosters can be become aggressive.
Category: small, family pet
Phoenix Image from wikipedia.org
The Phoenix is a small chicken that is best suited for show purposes only. They tolerate heat very well but don’t like the cold.
The spectacular tail is its most outstanding feature and this will require care to keep it in good shape. They are not good egg producers and are not friendly.
Plymouth Rock Image from backyardpoultry.com
Plymouth Rock chickens (also known as Amrocks) are good all-rounders; producing fine tasting meat, good numbers of eggs (240 per year), and they make great family friendly pets.
They are friendly and calm, easy to keep, and their inability to fly makes than a good choice for most backyards. Hens weigh around 3kg but bantam versions exist.
Category: large, meat, black or white plumage, top layers, good for family pets
Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Red Image from backyardpoultry.com
This breed originated from America and makes an excellent meat chicken; it also is a good egg layer, laying an egg nearly every day.
They are a hardy breed that make great pets, as the hens are quite relaxed in nature (however Roosters in this breed can be aggressive).
Rhode Island Reds are a great choice if you live in an area that gets both temperature extremes. They are a friendly, hardy breed that will average more than 250 light brown eggs each year.
Category: large, meat, white plumage (rare), excellent egg producer, family pet
Rosecomb Image from backyardpoultry.com
Rosecombs are true bantams (no larger version exists) that are really only ideally suited for show purposes. At 450g for the average hen there isn’t much meat on them.
Their name comes from the red comb on their heads. They are not friendly birds and can be aggressive.
Category: small, black or white plumage
Silkie Image from backyardpoultry.com
Silkies are small, soft and fluffy. Their placid, friendly, docile nature makes them a great choice as a pet chicken for your children.
They lay small eggs, and you can expect roughly 3 per week from them. They don’t tolerate extremes of heat, cold or wet.
Category: small, black or white plumage, family pet
Sussex Image from backyardpoultry.com
Sussex are great egg producers and their calm, even temperament, and poor flying skills makes them very easy to look after. They also produce a tasty meat. Hens average around 3kg but a bantam version is available.
Category: large, meat, white or brown plumage, high yield egg layers (200 light brown eggs per year)
Wyandotte Image from backyardpoultry.com
Wyandottes are another great egg laying chicken producing around 200 brown eggs each year. Wyandottes are very calm and gentle chickens and they thrive in cold conditions. Wyandottes are large chickens but they are available as bantams too.
Their characteristic silver lace colour pattern marks the Wyandotte as a special chicken. Wyandottes originated in the U.S. where the breed was officially recognised in 1883. The hen weighs around 3.17 kg, the bantam weighs around 1.36kg.
Category: large, meat, black, brown or white plumage, top egg producers (brown eggs), family pets
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