Last Updated: April 16, 2021
Due to recent global events, people are starting to think about sustainability more than ever. Self-sufficiency is on the rise, and many are considering ways to start supplying their own food. One excellent way to provide your family with food is by raising chickens. A healthy hen can supply several eggs every week for many years. Additionally, you can harvest the chickens for meat, keeping your family well-fed, regardless of what events transpire in the future.
If you’re new to chickens, you might be surprised to realize that there are dozens of different breeds to choose from. Each of these birds has its own unique traits that make them more or less suitable for any given situation. Some are great egg layers. Others grow quickly to produce lots of meat. Whatever you’re looking for in a flock, you’re sure to find it in one of these chicken breeds.
1. Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock chickens are easy to care for, making them perfect for first-time chicken keepers. These birds are relaxed and adaptable, so they’ll fit in just about anywhere.
First seen in Massachusetts in the late 1800s, by the end of World War II, this bird was spread across the United States and was the main source of both eggs and chicken meat for the country. Hens produce about 200 eggs per year and weigh about 7.5 pounds, while roosters weigh in a bit heavier at just under 10 pounds.
You’ll sometimes hear Brahmas called the king of chickens due to their massive size. Hens often reach weights of up to 9 pounds while roosters are rarely less than 10 pounds and commonly as heavy as 12 pounds! This extra weight prevents them from flying, so a 2-foot fence is all that’s needed to house these chickens.
All Brahma chickens have red eyes and a single pea comb, though they come in a variety of colors. The roosters are rather gentle, making them easy to handle, which is why these chickens can even make good pets. Because of their massive size, Brahma chickens are usually raised for their meat, though Brahma hens are still proficient egg layers.
Cochins are a heritage breed that’s been around for hundreds of years. They first became popular when several specimens were gifted to Queen Victoria of England. They’re rather heavy birds, with roosters weighing an average of 11 pounds and hens weighing in at 8-9 pounds.
These birds are favorites for use in poultry shows because of their beautiful feathers and designs. They come in several colors, including partridge, buff, white, and black. Cochins live well in confinement, but the hens are poor egg producers, only laying for a short while. However, their sweet temperaments make them easy to keep, so they still remain a popular breed today.
There are several different varieties of Marans chickens, but they all share the same docile personalities. They’re easy to handle and intelligent, which makes them a pleasure to keep and aids their popularity among backyard chicken keepers.
If you live in a cold climate, Marans are a great choice since they’re very resilient to the cold. However, they’re not so good with heat, so if you have hot summers where you live, you might want to consider a different breed. But the real draw for Marans chickens is their eggs. They range from medium brown to dark brown, depending on the variety of Marans chicken that produced it. On average, they lay about three large eggs each week.
5. Easter Eggers
There’s often a lot of confusion surrounding Easter Eggers. Because this breed is often referred to as Americanas, they are regularly confused with Ameraucanas, which is an entirely different breed. Easter Eggers usually have green legs, which makes it easy to tell them apart from Ameraucanas.
Easter Eggers are essentially mutt chickens. They’re a mix of different breeds, so Easter Egger is kind of a generic catch-all category. What’s most interesting about these birds is where they get their name. They can lay eggs of just about any color, including some rare hues such as green, blue, pink, tan, and even purple.
6. Jersey Giant
The Jersey Giant definitely earned its name through its massive size. Even larger than the Brahma breed, which is called the king of chickens, Jersey Giants can reach weights of up to 15 pounds! In fact, they might be the largest breed of chickens in the world.
First created in the US, Jersey Giants can offer more than just a gargantuan size. They’re also very gentle and easy to keep, which is a major reason for their popularity, which has grown to match their large stature. They also lay quite a few eggs yearly, averaging about two to four each week. Unfortunately, if hens go broody, they tend to break many of their eggs due to their large size.
Orpingtons are some of the most popular chickens for backyard keepers. They’re easy-going and docile and are known to be great with kids. Orpingtons are very resilient to the cold, making them a great breed for anywhere with colder winters.
Considered endangered until 2016, the Orpington is making a strong comeback. Hens lay between 200-280 eggs annually. But these are dual-purpose chickens that are also great to raise for their meat. They’re ready for harvest at about 22 weeks of age and will generally weigh about 8-11 pounds at that point.
These chickens come in a variety of different colors, including red, brown, black, white, Columbian, partridge, silver partridge, and even black-tailed red. They’re prolific egg layers, offering up 280-320 eggs each year, which equates to more than four eggs each week.
Leghorns are rather stout chickens, though not nearly as large as some other breeds. Roosters are typically about 7.5 pounds and hens are 2 pounds lighter on average. They’re known for being rather noisy and excitable, which means they’re usually not the best choice for those in urban areas.
If you prefer eggs of a darker hue, you’ll love the deep chocolate brown eggs that a Barnevelder hen lays. You’ll get about 200 per year from a single hen, so with several hens producing, you should have a nearly endless supply of delicious dark brown eggs.
Barnevelders are one of the most popular chicken breeds because of their subdued personalities. They’re rather lazy, so they’re not generally very noisy or active. They also don’t require much maintenance, which makes them very easy to keep and ideal for anyone raising chickens for the first time.
As you might guess from the name, Australorps were originally bred in Australia, and they’re still one of the most popular breeds in the land down under. These birds have beautiful plumage of black, white, or blue. They’re also considered to be excellent egg layers. You can see the proof in the current world record of 364 eggs laid in 365 days, which is held by an Australorp.
More than just prolific egg layers, Australorps are very large chickens that can offer a lot of meat. Males weigh between 8.5-10 pounds while hens are generally 6-8 pounds.
11. Rhode Island Red
No matter where you live, the Rhode Island Red is a great choice of chicken for backyard keepers. They’re known for their robustness, able to handle any weather with ease. Rhode Island Reds are hardy chickens that can adapt to just about any situation. These are laid-back birds that aren’t fussy.
Whether you’re looking for a flock to lay eggs or to harvest for their meat, Rhode Island Reds are a great choice. These birds are prized for their delicious white meat, but they’re also great layers, putting down about 250-300 eggs annually on average. At 7-9 pounds, they’re not the largest chickens, but they’re certainly not runts either.
Ameraucana chickens are often confused with Easter Eggers. They do look rather similar, but Ameraucanas are a pure breed with some unique characteristics. For one, they lay blue eggs! Their eggs are medium-sized, but you’ll get 3-4 each week. However, they’re slow to mature, so don’t expect your Ameraucana hens to start laying right away.
These birds are considered to be predator savvy, so if you let your chickens free-range, Ameraucanas are probably a good choice. They’re rather tolerant of the cold but don’t do very well in the heat. You can get Ameraucanas in eight different colors, including wheaten, white, blue, and silver. Don’t expect them to get very large, though. Males average about 6.5 pounds and females just 5.5 pounds.
Beautifully-colored birds with a long projected lifespan of 6-12 years, Wyandottes are some of the most popular chickens across the world. They’re an all-American breed that was first created in New York. Today, they’re a popular breed for poultry shows all over. They come in many colors with new color patterns appearing all the time, such as the recent Chocolate Partridge Wyandotte.
Wyandottes are a dual-purpose breed, equally suited for meat or egg production. On average, hens lay 200 eggs per year. At 6-8.5 pounds, they’re medium-sized birds that take about 16 weeks to reach market weight. They excel in cold weather and are rather self-sufficient birds that don’t require too much maintenance.
14. Turken (Naked Neck)
If you’re looking for chickens that are as beautiful as they are productive, you might want to skip over the Turken. Also known as the naked neck chicken, these are some of the most unique looking chickens around. Generally speaking, missing feathers is a sign of illness. But Turkens have about half as many feathers as other chickens, which makes it look like they’re ill.
It’s not just that they’re missing feathers. They also have naked necks, with bare, wrinkled skin exposed. It’s an odd look. But nothing is wrong with this bird; that’s the way they’re bred! Interestingly, they’re suitable in both cold and hot weather conditions and can reach a harvest weight of 7 pounds in just 12-14 weeks.
For those in search of the most unique and instantly recognizable chickens, the Silkie is a contender worth checking out. These birds have plumage that’s far different from most chickens. They’re fluffy and silky soft; hence, the name Silkie.
These are small birds, reaching weights of just 3.5-4.5 pounds on average. But this breed is so stunning that when Marco Polo first encountered them on his travels to China, he brought several specimens back with him.
16. Speckled Sussex
Speckled Sussex chickens are some of the most regal-looking birds on this list, and they only get more beautiful with each molt as their speckling increases. They’re known for being solid egg producers, laying about four eggs of a light brown color weekly. Even in the coldest winter months, these birds will continue to lay, making them an ideal choice for anywhere with harsh winters.
Sussex chickens are rather hefty, with hens weighing an average of 7 pounds and roosters coming in a bit heavier at 9 pounds. They produce white/pink meat with a delectable taste that helps the breed remain popular as a dual-purpose breed for both their eggs and meat.
If you’ve never seen or heard of a Frizzle chicken before, you’ll probably be surprised to find out that they’ve been around since the 1600s! These birds are so-named for their frizzled appearance, with soft feathers that jut out in every direction. They’re somewhat similar to Silkies in appearance. But what’s really funny is that if you cross the two breeds, the resulting offspring is called a Sizzle!
Because of their interesting feathering, Frizzles can’t fly. If you allow yours to free-range, you’ll need to provide ample protection from predators. They’re also not the most weather-averse chickens for the same reason, so they’re best suited for moderate climates.
18. New Hampshire Red
New Hampshire Red chickens were first created as an off-shoot of the very popular Rhode Island Red breed. Today, they’re considered to be an entirely separate breed with several desirable characteristics. For instance, the New Hampshire Red offers considerably more meat than a Rhode Island Red, though the latter is a more prolific layer.
At market weight, a New Hampshire Red will be about 7-9 pounds. This weight will take approximately 12-14 weeks to reach. Hens can still produce about three eggs each week. Though they’re considered a dual-purpose breed, New Hampshire Reds are generally raised primarily for their meat.
Polish chickens are instantly recognizable by their interesting hairdo. It sort of makes the breed resemble a Frizzle, though the insanity is confined to the top of their head. The feathers on their head fan out, creating a massive 80s-style hairdo, though this breed has been around at least since the 1400s.
You can get Polish chickens in a variety of colors and mixes, making for a truly unique-appearing bird. Depending on the birds you get, you might get decent laying hens or poor ones. On average, they lay just 150 eggs each year, and hens rarely brood.
Welsummers have many qualities that make them an ideal breed for homesteaders and backyard keepers. They’re a rather new breed that’s been around for less than 100 years, which is part of why their popularity isn’t as high as it ought to be. Hens lay about 200 dark terra cotta brown eggs that are often speckled. Egg production does decrease and even cease during the winter.
These birds are incredibly friendly, calm, and easy-going. Even the roosters are docile and are rarely territorial. However, they can be a bit loud! They do great with cold weather but can handle heat as well, provided they have a cooler spot to head to when it gets too warm.
There are many breeds of chickens for you to choose from. The 20 we’ve just covered are some of the most common and popular breeds. Each of them offers some traits that make them desirable for certain keepers or situations. Whether you’re raising chickens for eggs, meat, or just to keep as pets, you’ll find a breed to suit your needs somewhere on this list.
Featured Image: LMIMAGES, Shutterstock
An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan. He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.