Once you decide to raise chickens, choosing the best chicken breed for your flock is the next important step. We will review 20 of the most popular and common breeds, as well as our favorites. We will discuss their personalities, egg colors, and egg production.
Our family has had our flock for over 15 years now. Every season we learn more about these fascinating creatures, what works, and mostly what we’ve learned that doesn’t work. So, let’s take a look at what breeds you may want to add to your farm.
Choosing the right chicken breed is an important part of raising chickens. Many backyard farmers have a mixed flock with several different breeds that get along great together in the coop. Here are some things to consider when trying to find the right chicken breed for you.
What Type of Chickens Should You Get
When it comes to choosing your chicken breeds, there are many different breeds to choose from. Some things that you’ll want to consider include the number and color of eggs produced, the breed’s temperament, the bird’s noise level, and its adaptability to confinement.
Space and Noise
There are a couple of things you want to keep in mind when choosing the right breed for your farm. If you can’t let your chickens free-range the confinement factor is important for a happy, healthy flock. Noise level really matters if you do not reside in the country. Some sources advise against mixing ages, but I’ve never had trouble with older birds picking on younger ones.
Climate and Egg Production
Climate and Egg production should also be considered when determining which birds will fit into your farm the best. Most varieties thrive in all climates, although some have special needs: Phoenix and Minorcas chickens need heat, for example, and Brahmas prefer cool conditions. Every breed produces eggs, even the so-called ornamental breeds, but egg size and production vary. Medium-production layers are plenty for a family. Bantam chicken eggs are small, so remember this when baking recipes with eggs. You may need to add an additional egg.
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Breeds to consider
These birds are known for their beautiful blue eggs but seem to be late bloomers when it comes to egg-laying. They usually start at around 7 or 8 months old instead of the standard 5. They are often confused with the easter eggers but are officially considered a pure breed.
Araucana’s are a bit sassy with high energy, but they thrive in almost any climate, take confinement well, and are quiet. Plus, the green-blue shelled eggs are a novelty. This is a rare breed to find due to limited reproduction.
These birds are known for their gentle demeanor and do well in confined spaces. They are a wonderful option for smaller chicken coops without free-range options. They are also praised for their high egg production sometimes over 300 a year.
Barred Plymouth Rocks
Barred Plymouth Rocks are well tempered, can handle confinement, and are usually available from a local hatchery. They are also known as Barred Rocks with reliable production of light brown eggs.
Our Brahma birds were extra-large but very well-mannered. They have feathered feet and are good layers, even in the winter months. They can survive in the heat, but their preference is colder climates.
Our absolute favorite bird is the buff cochin. They are not the best egg layers, and they can grow fairly large, but their personalities make up for those downfalls. They are fun to watch and are known for their feathered legs and feet… which we call their britches. They are NOT the most practical bird, but we sure adore ours.
They are known for their feather crests behind their combs. They lay light blue or light green eggs. The interesting thing about them is that they are an auto-sexing breed, so you will actually get females if you order females because their markings are different at hatch. They have a good temperament, yet do not do well in cold climates and are prone to frostbite on their combs.
Although they are not a truly recognized breed of chicken they are one of my favorites because they are sweet and diverse in their feather and egg color. They are often called the Mutt of the Chicken World. They have a BEAUTIFUL rainbow of egg colors ranging from pink to tan, green, and even a shade of purple. Ours have thrived in the cold temperatures as well.
Another fun breed is the Jersey Giant. It is usually black and large. The hens are medium rather than high-laying chickens, but the eggs are larger than those of the Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island Red. This breed is calm and docile but needs more room because of its size.
The Leghorn breed originally came from Tuscany in Italy. They are the standard white birds you see in advertisements and cartoons alike. They are great egg layers and provide most of the white eggs on your supermarket shelves.
I will admit that the only reason I first purchased black copper marans is for their deep brown egg color, but I quickly fell in love with the bird’s personality. They are cold hardy and can be a bit sassy with the other birds. These birds are highly sought after because of their egg color and often sell out at the hatchery and feed store chick days.
These birds are sweet, decent layers and often confused with the cochin breeds because of their extra fluffy feathers. They lay large brown eggs. They do well in the winter months.
Our little polish chicken is the sassiest of the bunch with her little pompom Rockstar hair-do. They are good with kids, high energy, fast and NOT the best layers, but they are so stinking cute.
Rhode Island Red
This bird is docile, not particularly noisy, high-laying, and a dual-purpose chicken breed that takes confinement well. These birds are common and can be found at most all hatcheries. They are also raised for meat chickens as well.
While silkie chickens are NOT the best egg producers, they make wonderful mothers and brood easily. They are considered bantams (meaning they are smaller than other birds). Their calm and gentle personality, and inability to fly over fencing, make them one of the most beloved ornamental backyard breeds.
This dual purposed bird is good with confinement and seems to do better in colder climates as opposed to extreme heat. They are considered regular layers of light brown eggs. The speckled Sussex is a beautiful larger bird.
This is a common bird that is known for its large brown eggs that can sometimes be speckled. They do well in the cold and heat and are good with kids.
The Wyandotte is an American breed of chicken developed in the 1870s. The Wyandotte is a dual-purpose breed, kept for its brown eggs and its yellow-skinned meat. It is a popular show bird and has many color variants such as this brown/red or others dark grey/blue and white. They are known to be friendly.
A Diverse Flock
Every backyard farm eventually finds its favorite breeds. It’s a good idea to pick some birds in your flock that are great layers, like Rhode Island Reds, as well as other even cuter breeds, like the Polish and Buff Cochins, which are sassy and just fun to look at. The combinations are nearly endless. There are an endless number of other breeds that we haven’t covered here, but these are some of the more common birds. You may decide you only want to raise uncommon, rare, and unique birds. The beauty of your homestead journey, whether you are in a neighborhood backyard or on a 100-acre ranch, you get to decide what types of birds you want to raise.
If you are wanting to increase your egg production, here is a list of what to expect
- Ameraucana – 200 + a year
- Araucana – 200+ a year
- Australorp – 250+ a year
- Barred Plymouth Rock – 200+ a year
- Brahma – 150+ a year
- Cochin – 150+ a year
- Cream Legbar – 200+ a year
- Easter Egger – 250+ a year
- Jersey Giants – 150+ a year
- Leghorn – 250+ a year
- Marans – 200 + a year
- Orpingtons – 150 + a year
- Polish – 100+ a year
- Rhode Island Red – 250 + a year
- Silkies – 75+ a year
- Sussex – 250+ a year
- Welsummer – 200+ a year
- Wyandotte – 200+ a year
Egg color probably shouldn’t matter, but it does. We’ve had eggs from every end of the color spectrum and they all taste the same to me. So we often ask ourselves, why do we care what color of eggs the chickens produce? It’s fun to have different colored eggs and choose the best chicken breed for those colors.
Just as I pick out the flower seeds from the catalogs each winter, I do the same with our chickens, what works for our backyard farm and what brings the family joy. Of course, the most important thing when raising chickens is the egg production, the temperament of the birds with each other, and our climate. Next up is the egg color. It’s a fun and enjoyable piece of this adventure. Occasionally we will seek out a breed for their personality, silly feathers, or egg color because we want to. With all the love, care, and work involved with raising chickens, you get the joy of choosing what birds you want. Here is a good guide for egg colors.
- White – Leghorn, Polish, Silkie
- Light Tan – some Easter Egger, Orpington, Wyandotte
- Pinkish – some Barred Plymouth Rock, some Easter Egger, some Australorp, some Sussex
- Brown – Australorp, Barred Plymouth Rock, Brahma, Cochin, Jersey Giant, Rhode Island Red,
- Dark Brown – Maran, Welsummer
- Green – some Easter Egger, Olive Egger, Cream Legbar
- Blue – some Easter Egger, Ameraucana, Araucana, Cream Legbar
- Speckled – Welsummer and Cuckoo Maran
A Brief Run Down on Meat Bird Breeds
Although we aren’t going into depth on meat birds here, I wanted to give you a quick overview of the breeds I recommend, if this is the direction you are going on your farm.
Cornish Cross Rock
The Cornish Cross Rock chicken grows extremely quickly and is ready to process for meat in as little as six weeks. They are a hybrid and therefore not good for mating and reproducing, but only for meat. You would then need to get new chicks to start over. They are interesting looking with the larger breasts and body and smaller legs. They are not as mobile as the other breeds and eat a lot of feed.
Although the Red Broilers take a month longer to mature, they can reproduce and forage or free-range a bit better. They are a hybrid cross between Cornish Rock and Rhode Island Red chickens. Although pure Rhode Island Red chickens are often purchased as egg layers, some farmers process them for their meat.
Do you want Roosters?
If you’re new to chickens, you may not know that hens will lay eggs without a rooster, they just won’t be fertilized. So, you don’t necessarily need a rooster. I learned this fact after we already had chickens. Most breeds of chicks can be sexed at the hatchery by an expert, and some breeds are able to be sexed by the untrained eye simply by their colors.
If you don’t live in the country, your neighbors may not appreciate hearing a rooster crow at 5 am. Talk with your neighbors to see how they feel about it and check your city ordinance or neighborhood homeowner’s association rules to see if they have anything against keeping a rooster.
Remember that you can always add to your flock later and change up the breed dynamic. What the best chicken breed is for one family may be different for another. Chickens are beneficial to your backyard farm and can be so much fun for your family.
I hope that we have given you a little insight into choosing the best breeds for your flock of chickens. Of course, we’ve discussed a few of our favorites, but there are many others as well. Each hatchery and local feed store chick day will have different options for you to choose from. This is the fun part of your journey, and each farm will have different needs and wants in its flock. Enjoy every minute with your feisty flock of chickens.