Some chickens, as you know them, might not be native to your country. Exotic chicken breeds are the type of chicken imported from other countries, maybe by colonialists, over the course of many years. Stakeholders might then have crossed these species with the indigenous breeds or within the same varieties.
The indigenous chicken’s limited performance, such as little egg and poultry meat production, was the most common reason for introducing exotic chickens. However, over time, people have kept some of these sassier and cuter breeds as backyard friends and pets.
The 17 Exotic Chicken Breeds
1. Polish Chickens
Polish chickens are one of the most beloved exotic chicken species. You can immediately distinguish this bird by the crest of feathers covering almost its whole head.
This chicken species is small and have soft feathers, white earlobes, red wattles, and a red V-shaped comb that sometimes gets lost in its feathery head. Some of these chickens also have beards.
Although its origin remains unclear, some historical paintings place them in the 1600s. Historians believe they came from Spain before being transported and standardized in Holland and arriving in North America in 1830.
The original idea for breeding this bird was for producing white eggs. However, this unusually shy, neat, and beautiful chicken with a “pom-pom” hairdo is a major ornamental bird today.
They possess a gentle and calm nature that makes them vulnerable to bullies and aerial predators because of their crest. This head crest rests on a bony prominence that arises from its skull.
2. Cochin Chickens
No doubt, the Cochin chicken breed inspired the modern craze of keeping pet chickens, thanks to their friendly nature and their giant bubbles of fluff and feathers. The Cochin chicken species graced the shores of Britain from Shanghai, China, in the mid-1800s.
The Chinese developed Cochin for meat and eggs; however, its big and beautiful impression and the cloudy fancy feathers won over poultry enthusiasts that kept them for pets. The Cochin is covered in feathers, all the way to its toes. It exhibits a small head, tiny low tails, big eyes, and a hefty weight of up to 5 kilograms.
It is also a hardy for cold temperatures, thanks to its robust feathers that keep it warm. But this breed is not a great producer, laying small brown eggs.
The Marans originated near the town of Marans in Poitou Charente in the late 1800s. It is among the rarest exotic breeds in America but incredibly famous for laying dark brown eggs that sell for exorbitant prices.
These friendly chickens can thrive both in confinement and as free-range, and blend well in mixed-breed flocks. There are two types of Marans: French Marans and English Marans. The French have their legs and feet covered in feathers, while the English strains do not have feathers on their legs.
Their sizes are medium to large, less fluffy, and have short, narrow, and rigid feathers. They also have red earlobes and straight single combs.
4. Sumatra Chickens
The Sumatra chicken breed came to the U.S. and Europe in 1847 from its native home, Sumatra Islands in Indonesia. Before this species became today’s ornamental bird, it arrived in the west as a fighting cock, for entertainment purposes.
It was ideal for this activity because it adapted to living in the wild, which shaped it for cockfights. It is one of the oldest breeds to be recognized in the American Standard of Perfection in 1883.
Sumatra chicken is beautiful, with an exquisite plumage, a tiny bright red pea comb, small gypsy-colored earlobes, and almost non-existent wattles. They also have a graceful back carriage of lustrous green-black feathers, black legs, and yellow skin.
5. Houdan Chickens
The Houdan Chickens are old French species named after a French town, Houdan. The Houdan arrived in North America in 1865 before being admitted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1874. It combines several distinctive features that give it poofy nature, just like its cousin Crevecoeur and Polish breed’s crest and V-shaped comb on the head.
What makes Mottled Houdans distinct are the beards and the five toes. They also have small earlobes and wattles that hiding amongst the feathered crest on the head. It’s a light breed with a mottled pattern (black with white spots), very docile but an excellent white egg layer.
6. Crevecoeur Chickens
The Crevecoeur fowl is one of the oldest and endangered exotic breed chicken of France. There’s little information on the breed, just that its roots are in a small town of Normandy in France.
They excel today as quiet pets and gentle-tempered companions that can be confined. The Crevecoeur is a pretty decent layer and can adapt to various climates.
It is solid black with a V-shaped comb, a crest and beards on its head, short legs, and a well-proportioned body. Although they are pet chickens, they were meat birds with fine meat, small bones, a decent proportion of flesh, and an excellent taste.
7. Sultan Chickens
Sultan chicken breed is an ornamental fowl with roots in Turkey. They fit the exhibition category because of their poofy feathers on their heads, V-shaped comb, long tails, beards, tiny bright-red wattles, and earlobes that hide in the fluffy feathering.
Interestingly, this small beautiful bird has five toes instead of the usual four, with profuse feathering on each foot. The sultan’s face is red and appears in three colors white, black and blue. They are always ready for shows because of their elaborate attire and calm, “tameable” nature.
8. White-Faced Black Spanish Chickens
The endangered White-Faced Black Spanish Chickens were one of the earliest chicken breeds to come to America from Spain through the Caribbean islands. This regal bird looks like a clown with a kooky face.
White-Faced Black Spanish is a green-black breed, with a distinct snow-white face and white overdeveloped earlobes that appear to overwhelm the face. The red V-shaped comb and wattles contrast the greenish-black feathers. They are a noisy and active species and lay white eggs.
Silkies are an ancient breed with Chinese roots that might date back to 206 BC, as in the Chinese calendar, and recognized in the American Poultry Association in 1874. It is a peculiar-looking bird that is so different from a “regular” chicken in various ways.
During their first days in Europe, the public thought of Silkies as aliens or chicken and rabbit offsprings. Just like a Polish Chicken, it has a crested head and a weird hairdo. Their feathers lack hooks to hold them together (barbicels), making them fluffy and loose.
They have black skin and bones and grow oval-like bright turquoise earlobes. They have a short back and beaks, broad breasts, dark eyes, and a wide and stout body
Seramas are known to be the smallest chicken in the world and one of the most expensive breeds. Although it’s relatively a newcomer in the Western world, coming to America in 2000, it has been in Malaysia since the 1600s.
Seramas are small chickens but brave and fearless, probably why it was given the name “Serama,” the title of one of the Thai kings. They come in various colors, have an upright V-shaped posture with straight tail feathers.
The Seramas seem to be always alert and, on the lookout, with a toy soldier’s personality. Although they are tiny, they are muscular, with high-held shoulders, a full breast that extends past its head, and perpendicular wings touching the ground.
11. Plymouth Rock Chicken
You can distinguish the Plymouth Rock chicken breed by their striking black and white stripes. They America’s most beloved chicken breed, found in most small farms and homesteads.
They are large, work well in moderate and cold climates, and are kept for meat and eggs. This species originated from Massachusetts and first appeared in a poultry exhibition in Boston in 1849.
Plymouth Rocks are winter-hardy birds, laid-back, active, and can be caged, although they work best when free. They are good egg producers, laying large brown eggs all year round.
12. Sebright Chickens
The Sebright chicken is an ornamental bird with British roots. It is a real bantam species and the only fowl breed named after an individual. Sir John Saunders Sebright developed this breed in the early 1800s, intending to make an exhibition bird-something it still does to date.
Poultry fanciers love it for its more “hen-like” features. It has a small body, a sweet personality, a short back, and a proud breast. The tail is widely spread and at an almost upward angle, with large and sloppy wings.
They come in golden and silver colors, with the purple-red or turquoise earlobe and blue legs. They can also fly, are social, active, and friendly but are better off confined because of their flying capabilities.
The Onagadori—meaning “honorable fowl”—is a rare long-tailed breed with Japanese origins. They are highly-esteemed in the Japanese culture, the reason why they are rare.
The breed’s trademark feature is its tail that can measure up to 10 meters – the most extended tail among the birds. They have black feathers with silver and white stripes covering their heads, breasts, back, and legs, with white earlobes, medium-sized wattles, and a comb. They are low egg layers, have a docile temperament, and mainly for exhibitions.
The Shamo chicken species is a hard-feathered breed developed in Japan, but with Thailand’s roots. The Japanese developed this breed mainly for cockfights and smuggled them overseas for the same purpose.
It is so endangered in Japan that the Japanese government placed it under legal protection since 1941. This breed came to the U.S. during World War II after the soldiers smuggled the eggs. It ended up being popular in Southern America and used as an ornamental bird.
It is the second-tallest chicken species, after the Malay chicken breed, with a large, tall, and almost vertical body carriage. They are intelligent and calm chickens, although the roosters can be territorial and a bully towards others.
15. Phoenix Chickens
The Phoenix Chicken is an ancient ornamental breed with German origins, created by the National German Poultry Association in the late 19th century. This chicken breed was accepted in the American Standard of Perfection in 1965.
This fowl is notable for its exceptional long tail that can measure beyond 90 cm. These birds are a cross-breed of several long-tailed Japanese chicken species and other bird breeds. They have slate-colored legs, a golden and yellow “sun-like” skin, with a horizontal and slightly high tail, giving them ornamental properties.
The Phoenix is an active breed, shy, and gentler and thrives in a free-range system. It is also a good layer of cream-colored eggs and excellent fighting skills.
Yokohama chicken species is a German-tailored chicken from the Japanese long-tailed breeds, just like the Phoenix. It was exported into the west via the Yokohama port in Japan and bred to become today’s ornamental bird.
It’s slim, small in size, with incredibly long tails that sweep the ground. Unlike the Phoenix, this bird has red earlobes and yellow skin and beak and white and red color patterns on its feathers. Interestingly, its tail can extend by one meter every year under the right conditions.
17. Malay Chickens
The Malay chicken is not your average backyard fowl. This world’s tallest chicken breed can stand up to 36 inches tall.
At first glance, this chicken’s terrifying demeanor, protruding brows, slanted eyes, and muscular body can be intimidating. These birds are monogamous and originated from India, Indonesia, and Malaysia before coming to the west from 1830 to 1846. It has a hoarse and monotonous crow, short and hooked beaks, and large yellow scaly legs.
You now don’t have to keep just one breed of chicken in your homestead. The good thing is, most of these breeds get along with each other, and you’ll be able to harvest much more colorful eggs from the flock.
However, it would be best to consider factors like climate, egg production, temperament, egg color, or if it is a fancy breed before deciding to keep a breed. The good thing is the eggs and the chicken come in various colors!
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Featured Image Credit: KRiemer, Pixabay