Naturally, the perfect chicken breeds mean 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.
Developed in America in the middle of the 19th century, this breed of chicken is historically the most popular in the United States. Up until WWII, no other breed was kept as extensively as the Plymouth Rock. The original birds were all of the Barred variety – with black and white stripped plumage – and other color varieties were developed later. The popularity of this duel-purpose breed came from its qualities as an outstanding farm chicken: hardiness, docility, broodiness, and excellent production of brown eggs. This chicken is usually what comes to mind when you think of the chickens Grandma used to keep!
RHODE ISLAND RED
Rhode Island Reds are a great choice for beginner chicken-keepers, or expert small flock keepers alike! Developed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the late 1800s, these birds are a hardy, dual purpose breed. They are very low maintenance, and can tolerate less than favorable conditions. Hens lay about 5 – 7 eggs per week.
SPECKLEDY AKA SPECKLED RANGER
Are you ready for your new favorite breed? The Speckledy is a modern hybrid, resulting from a cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Marans hen.
They are elegant in build, with feathering that resembles a Cuckoo Marans. The feathers are silky, soft to the touch, and quite abundant and fluffy. They have pale bay eyes, pale legs, a medium-sized single comb, and small earlobes and wattles.
They are a docile, easy to tame, and easy to handle bird. They are good foragers and well suited to a free-range environment.
Speckledys are very good layers. Hens will lay 250-270 chestnut brown eggs per year, which are often speckled. Their eggshells are particularly strong and the yolks are a deep yellow. They may produce less than some other hybrids, but they will keep your egg cartons full!
This breed has ancient connections going all the way back to 43 A.D., when the Romans invaded Britain. They grew a reputation of being the finest poultry in Britain, and reached America in 1912. They are a dual-purpose breed and will put on fat very easily, so be careful in feeding them too many treats! If they become too overweight, you will see a decline in egg production.
Sussex chickens are a wonderful breed for a small farm or homestead, being active and all-around an excellent breed for meat and eggs. Hens lay an average of 250 light brown eggs each year, and come in three recognized color varieties: Speckled, Red, and Light.
Welsummers are a Dutch breed of domestic chicken, developed in the 1920s. It is a light, friendly, and intelligent breed, with rustic-red and orange color.
Hens lay large eggs, that are a dark, terracotta brown, and often speckled. Roosters are considered to have the “classic rooster” look, and often used in media.
Developed in the 1880s, Wyandottes are named after a Native American tribe prevalent in parts of upstate New York and Ontario, Canada. They are thought to be developed from the Dark Brahma and Spangled Hamburgs.
The Silver Laced Wyandotte was the original color recognized, but since then black, blue, buff, buff Columbian, Columbian, golden laced, partridge, and silver pencilled have been added as recognized color varieties.
Wyandottes are friendly, calm, and cold hardy. Hens lay on average 200 light brown eggs per year. They make excellent setters and mothers.
Araucanas originated in Chile. It is speculated that this breed was developed prior to Old World contact, which would make them the only breed of chicken native to the Americas.
Araucanas are very rare in the United States. They are rumpless, meaning they have no tail feathers, and have ear tufts. They do not have beards or muffs (like an Ameraucana). Their rarity is likely due to the fact that the gene for ear tufts is a lethal gene. Offspring with 2 copies of the gene will not survive to hatch. When breeding Araucanas, 50% of chicks will have one copy of the gene (and ear tufts), 25% will have zero copies (and no tufts), and 25% will have two copies of the gene (and not survive).
So, if you have an Araucana in your flock, consider yourself a very lucky chicken keeper!
Ameraucanas were developed in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. They are descended from Araucanas brought from Chile. Ameracaunas lay pale blue eggs. So, if you’re looking to brighten up your egg basket, they make a great choice! They have a pea comb, white skin, slate or black legs, muffs and beards. Color varieties include black, blue, buff, silver, wheaten, or white.
Hens can be fairly broody, and will lay about 250 blue eggs per year.
Please be advised!!! Ameraucanas are only available through reputable breeders!!! You won’t be finding this breed at your local feed store. You may find Americanas, which is actually a hybrid, not this true breed.
The Cream Legbar was developed in Britain in the 1930s. Geneticists at Cambridge University had the goal of creating a chicken with high egg production and autosexing traits. Autosexing traits are distinct differences between males and females that are visible on the day chicks hatch. That means you know hens from roosters on day one and don’t have to wait 12 weeks to find out, which is pretty handy!
Female chicks have a dark brown stripe. Male chicks have a less distinct, lighter brown stripe.
Legbar plumage is cream and silver grey. Both hens and roosters have a small crest that slopes back and well away from their eyes. Birds are medium sized, active foragers, and do best in free-range conditions. Hens lay 160-200 eggs per year that are sky-blue or pale green in color, and they rarely go broody.
While this breed has existed for almost a century and is a favorite world-wide, it is only recently that Legbars have been brought to the U.S.
A relative of Ameraucanas and Araucanas, an Easter Egger is any chicken that possesses the blue egg gene, but doesn’t fully meet any breed standard defined by the American Poultry Association. This means that they are a hybrid, not a true breed of chicken. They can be any mix of breeds, with one parent carrying the blue egg gene.
What makes EE’s great is that they can lay a rainbow of egg colors! Hens can lay any hue of blue or brown, or combination of the two (check out Olive Eggers!). Please note that each hen will only lay one egg color in her lifetime. They are also bred to lay lots of eggs! You’ll get somewhere in the range of 280 eggs per year.
Easter eggers are a very popular type of chicken, and can be found in just about any feed store that sells chicks. They may be labeled as Americana, but remember we already talked about how they are not true Ameraucanas. EE’s are a great addition to any backyard flock!
The Isbar (pronounced “ice-bar”) is a rare breed that was developed in the 1950s in Sweden. Catholic monk Martin Silverudd had the goal to create autosexing breeds that lay a high volume of unusually colored eggs. Those 3 qualities all in one bird? That’s a tall order!
His greatest achievement was the Isbar. It is beautiful, practical, and unique. Isbars are the only single-combed breed to lay green eggs. They are cold-hardy and good foragers, and are alert to predators but friendly to people, making them great free-range birds. Hens lay about 200 eggs per year that are varying shades of green, and sometimes speckled brown. Isbar eggs are quite the conversation piece, even a work of art!
Roosters have deep blue body feathers and shimmering metallic hackles. Hens are equally beautiful with their blue feathers. Splash patterns are also common in the breed, adding variety to their appearance.
Olive Eggers are a hybrid chicken that are the result of crossing a bird hatched from a Dark Brown Egg and a bird hatched from a Blue Egg.
Olive Eggers can be a really fun breed to raise! The exact shade of green in their eggs and also their appearance is highly variable and changes based on the breed of parents. Try experimenting with a combination of different breeds! These birds are hardy, curious, and active and are a great addition to any backyard flock!
WHITING TRUE BLUE
The Whiting True Blue is not a heritage breed, but a modern breed developed by poultry geneticist Dr. Tom Whiting. His goal in creating this breed was a production bird that lays a consistent blue egg. Their plumage will vary across a myriad of colors, but is most commonly “chipmunk” or grey. If you’re a fan of a blue egg basket, this breed may be for you!