I remember the first time I saw a Polish chicken. It was a White Crested Black, or a Top Hat as they’re more commonly called. The rounded display of feathers on it’s head was both hilarious and beautiful! It opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me when it comes to chicken breeds. I became obsessed! If there were chickens as unusual as these Polish kind, what other mysteries did the chicken world hold?
Little did I know that there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. And it’s not just a selection of what feather color or pattern, there are breeds with tall combs, short combs, fluffy feathers, backwards feathers, some with no feathers on their necks and some with feathers on their feet! There are mini chickens, large chickens, chickens with black skin, and chickens with 5 toes. Then there’s egg color! Oh my! Blue eggs, green eggs, pink eggs, olive eggs even chocolate colored eggs!
Once I started learning about these different breeds I realized that they aren’t all just about looks and egg color. Some breeds are better suited to winter climates while others tolerate heat. Some breeds make great mothers, some are very docile, some tolerate confinement and while others like to roam. Some breeds are better egg producers while others are bred for meat and some are raised for both!
I also learned that many of these amazing breeds are being lost due to a combination of factory farms using only one or two breeds for large production and the fact that less people raise backyard chickens then they used to.
With all this information to organize, it can be difficult for the beginner chicken keeper to choose which breeds to start with.
The following collections of posts will help you learn about different types of chicken breeds. They will help you select which breeds are right for your set up, climate and interests.
This collection of posts helps break down important things to consider when choosing breeds for your flock. If your space or township only allow you to keep a few birds, you want to make sure you’re happy with your selection.
ALBC and Heritage Breeds
Heritage breeds are breeds that have been preserved through the generations of chicken keepers holding to the standard of the breed. The ALBC or American Livestock Breed Conservancy defines what each of those breeds require in the Standard of Perfection. (More on the ALBC definition of Heritage Breeds here). The ALBC helps to locate those breeds that are in danger of becoming extinct due to loss of interest in the breed, difficulty in finding them, or concentrated breeding of one type of chicken; as in the case of factory farming.
Factory farms have a hand in the decline of many older breeds because they primary raise one breed for production. The Cornish Cross for meat, and Leghorns or Red Cross breeds for eggs. Many of the other breeds have fallen by the wayside as less and less people raise their own chickens and depend on factory farms for their source of eggs and meat.
Learn about different heritage breeds, how to find them, how to care for them, which breeds are in the most danger of being lost forever and what you can do to help give them a chance at a comeback.
One of the best ways to really take in a variety of breeds at once is to attend a poultry show. You will be able to see the breeds in person. You get to see how large the chicken is, or how small. You’ll also get to see the best of the best; what potential this breed has and what it’s truly supposed to look like. You can also find a lot of rare breeds at poultry shows, and get to know the breeder.
Breeds for Climate
Climate is a real important factor when choosing breeds. Some breeds are better suited to colder climates. They have denser plumage, smaller combs which are less prone to frostbite and have heartier dispositions. Other breeds do well in warmer climates.
Chickens for Egg Color
The number 1 reason most people raise backyard chickens is for eggs. Collecting eggs is even more fun when you find a variety of colors in your nest boxes. Take a look at the different breeds and what interesting egg colors each breed lays.
Here is a list of posts that concentrate on exploring one breed at a time. Take a tour of the birds that our contributors keep and why we like them.
Bantams are the miniatures of the chicken world. Bantam breeds can be an entire breed all to their own, or can be miniature versions of your favorite full size breed. They are great for small spaces, lay adorable tiny eggs and have big personalities. Learn all about bantams, why people raise them, and some different breeds to choose from in this tiny group.
These amazing Cochins have feathers that curve in reverse, giving them a poofy, fluffed-out look that some say resembles a Chrysanthemum. The genetic make up of frizzles is also very interesting. Learn all about it in the following posts.
Chicken Breed History
Learn about the history of the domestic chicken. How it was developed from the Jungle fowl and other interesting facts about how the chickens in your own backyard came to be.
Every once in a while you get a chick that doesn’t quite fit the description of the breed it’s supposed to be. It might be that a naughty rooster jumped the fence or the occasional hatchery shipping mistake. It can be a fun experiment to discover the breed of a mystery chicken.
Tools to Help You Choose
Did you know there is a chicken App? Here are a few posts that introduce modern tools available to decide which chicken breeds to choose. With so many varieties, a little technology could be just the thing to help you narrow the possibilities. Select traits like egg color, comb type, climate, etc. and this app sorts through the breeds and offers the best breeds for you.
Let us know what your favorite breed is, by leaving a comment below or visiting the Community Chickens Facebook Page.