Welcome to our round-up of the best chicken breeds. Internationally, there are thought to be around 500 different chicken breeds.
Common chicken breeds include:
- Rhode Island Red
- ISA Brown
- Barred Rock
Different chickens have different qualities, from docile temperaments to unusual colored eggs or prolific laying powers, meaning there is a breed for every backyard!
From the best egg-laying chicken breeds to friendly chicken breeds, and even chickens that are quieter than normal, we’ll cover all this and more.
How Many Breeds of Chicken Are There?
It’s thought that there are around 500 different breeds of chicken worldwide. The American Poultry Association recognizes 57 large fowl breeds and 70 bantam breeds.
That’s a lot of chicken breeds! Bear in mind though, that not all of these will be widely available to keep in your backyard.
If you’re looking for a definitive list of chicken breeds, it’s best to find the poultry association for the country you live in.
This is because not all chicken breeds are recognized in each country.
What Chickens We Will Cover Today
So in this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the more popular breeds. We’ve also included a few hybrid varieties.
These aren’t purebred but are increasingly popular as backyard chickens.
For each breed, we’ll take a look at their appearance, health, temperament, and laying ability. We also considered their suitability as a family pet.
Unless otherwise noted, we’ve assumed all breeds are healthy, can be fed a standard diet, and are hardy enough to tolerate being outside year-round.
As long as they have access to dry shelter.
First, let’s talk about some of the most common chicken breeds.
Common Chicken Breeds
Rhode Island Red
This American breed is one of the most popular first chickens. Their red color is made up of a blend of brown and black feathers.
And their bodies have a sturdy, rectangular shape, and they weigh 6–8 lbs.
These are healthy birds, with a hardy disposition.
This breed has a placid temperament normally, but cockerels can have a tendency to aggression.
Plus, you can expect 250 eggs per year.
Rhode Island Reds are friendly and relatively docile, making them excellent chickens for families.
These hybrid chickens were developed for use in commercial egg production.
Appearance-wise, they are a light chestnut color with a bright red wattle and comb. And they weigh around 5 lbs.
ISA Browns can suffer from kidney problems but are otherwise pretty healthy.
A favorite of commercial egg producers, the ISA Brown has been known to lay up to 500 eggs a year!
In a backyard setting, expect more like 200 eggs per year.
These hardy birds also love affection from humans and being held, which makes them great for families.
This breed is popular due to their attractive, fully feathered bodies. They can be a range of colors, including buff and lavender.
They weigh 8–10 lbs and have a red comb and wattles.
Their calm and quiet nature means they can be picked on by more assertive breeds.
It’s important to check for parasites because of their full feathers. They don’t cope well in extremes of temperature and can get very cold if wet.
Expect 200 eggs per year.
They love to be around humans and make great pets.
This breed has a triangular body, and distinctive striped, or barred feathers of black and white. They weigh 7–8 lbs.
Barred Rock chickens are docile and curious, easily adapting to either being kept in a pen or free-range.
And you can expect around 200 light brown eggs per year.
This is an excellent family breed, and as they’re not noisy that can be an advantage for an urban setting.
These are very popular in the UK, and becoming better known in the USA. Their feathers are golden to dark brown, and they have a red comb and wattles.
Roosters look like a classic, handsome cockerel, weighing around 6 lbs.
Their large combs can suffer in the cold, so good shelter is important.
As a calm breed, they enjoy being kept free-range but can be noisy.
Welsummers produce 170 eggs per year.
While they are suited to family life, they’re more of a ‘hands-off’ breed rather than a cuddler.
This breed can be seen in a range of different colors. They have a long back and rectangular body and weigh 7–9 lbs.
Their tail points out behind their back, giving them an unusual appearance.
As a calm and confident breed, they enjoy spending time free-range.
They can lay up to 250 eggs per year, which can be a range of shades from brown to cream.
Sussex chickens are an excellent choice for a family pet and enjoy human interactions.
Chickens With Unusual Colored Eggs
There’s quite a range of colors seen in this breed, from white, and brown, to a pale biscuit color. They have a red pea comb and wattles and weigh around 5–6 lbs.
They don’t have any particular health issues, and will usually live around 8 years.
The temperament of this breed can vary more than other breeds. You may end up with a docile chicken, or a nervous one as a result.
The eggs from the Ameraucana are a beautiful light blue. And you can expect around 150 eggs per year.
The Ameraucana does enjoy human company but doesn’t like being picked up. So, they may not be the best chickens for families.
These distinctive chickens gave their name to the popular TV character Foghorn Leghorn. They have a large, upright body with white feathers. Their large comb is bright red.
This breed is healthy, and are an excellent choice if you’re looking for an independent chicken for a free-range system.
The eggs from the Leghorn are a lovely white color, and medium-sized. They lay around 250 per year.
Leghorns aren’t so interested in human interaction and can be difficult to tame.
Black Copper Marans
This stunning breed has a long body, with deep black feathers touched with copper and green. They have a red comb and wattles.
Marans are generally docile, but roosters can be prone to fighting.
They lay dark brown eggs, sometimes with speckles. Expect 150 eggs per year.
These rare birds can be hard to find. They don’t enjoy being handled that much but make excellent birds for a free-range, mixed flock.
These are another hybrid, so while not strictly a breed in itself, they are certainly popular and well-liked.
Because of their hybrid origins, they are found in a wide range of colors. This breed will usually weigh 4–5 lbs.
As a healthy hybrid, you won’t have many health issues with this breed.
These are cheerful chickens but are not dominant. So take care not to keep them with more assertive breeds.
Easter eggers lay around 200 eggs a year in a wide variety of colors.
This is a great starter bird for families as they are friendly and curious. In addition, they enjoy spending time being cuddled.
This rare breed weighs 6 – 7 lbs and has a single red comb and feathered crest.
Their feathers have some “barring” and come in a range of shades to grey to cream.
While they are usually healthy, they can occasionally suffer from wryneck.
It’s hard to predict the temperament of this breed, with a wide range of possibilities, from docile to nervous.
Their eggs are a beautiful pale blue, and you can expect 200 per year.
They’re not the best choice for families owing to their unpredictable temperament.
Best egg-laying chicken breeds
The beautiful Black Star is a medium-sized hybrid, weighing 5–7 lbs. Their black feathers have a tint of gold, with red combs and wattles.
Black Stars can suffer from more health issues than normal as they age. This is due to the fact that they were bred as a high egg producer, not to live for a long time.
They are quiet birds, and affectionate if handled from early on.
Expect 250 eggs per year — an impressive 5 per week!
This breed is a great choice as a family chicken due to their friendly nature, and are not expensive to buy.
The striking Plymouth Rock is one of America’s oldest breeds. Their distinctive feathers have a black and white barred pattern, and they have a red comb and wattle. They weigh 7–9 lbs.
This breed is robust, rarely suffering from health issues.
They have a relaxed and curious temperament and love being kept free-range.
Plus, these chickens will lay more than 200 eggs per year.
Moreover, these big friendly birds make excellent family pets. And as poor flyers won’t need a high fence.
This breed has a deep, triangular body, with pale chestnut feathers. They have a red comb and wattle and weigh 6–8 lbs.
New Hampshire chickens can be food-oriented and therefore, aggressive towards other chickens while feeding. And while usually friendly, temperaments can vary.
These reliable layers produce 200 eggs per year.
Although they are usually suitable as family pets, may not be as friendly as other breeds.
This breed is also known as the Australian Orpington. They were originally black, but can also be found with white or blue feathers.
A heavy breed, they weigh 6–8 lbs and have an upright body, with a high set tail.
As a robust breed, they don’t get sick often. However, they can be shy initially — but will soon become friendlier.
These chickens were bred for high egg production, so you can expect 300 eggs per year.
Australorps are a great choice for families, thanks to their sweet nature.
Friendly chicken breeds
This breed weighs 6–9 lbs with a deep chestnut-colored coat. They have broad bodies and powerful wings.
Temperament-wise, they are calm but active. But they can be noisy, too!
They are a reliable layer, so expect 150–200 eggs per year.
The Buckeye is a great starter chicken, as they are very friendly and easy to handle.
The fluffy Cochin will be 8–11 lbs when fully grown. In the USA, they can be found in shades of brown, gold, and silver.
Their full feathers cover almost their entire bodies, and they have a red comb and wattle.
In addition, they are a calm and friendly breed. Although females can be broody.
It’s important to be aware that this breed can suffer from obesity. So take care when feeding them. And due to their fluffiness, be extra vigilant when checking for parasites.
The Cochin is not known for its egg-laying abilities, so the norm is 150 eggs per year.
These chickens love attention and will happily sit on your lap. So, they make wonderful family pets.
These beautiful chickens have a white body, with some black around the wings, tail, and hackle. They weigh 6–8 lbs and have a red comb and wattle.
Delawares have a calm temperament and are interested in their surroundings.
Their large comb can be prone to frostbite in cold weather.
Expect 200 eggs per year.
They are low maintenance, which coupled with their friendly nature makes them great pets.
Quiet chicken breeds
These cute little chickens are best known for their fluffy white feathers and ‘pom-pom’ crest on top of their heads.
Unusually, they have five toes whereas most chickens only have four. They weigh 3–4 lbs.
Silkies are generally healthy but can be susceptible to Marek’s disease. Fortunately, there is a vaccination. Their fluffiness can mean they easily pick up lice.
These little birds are calm, docile, and quiet. However, they’re also extremely broody!
And they lay relatively small eggs, and far fewer than other breeds — expect 120 per year.
A silkie’s feathers are not waterproof, so you will need to take extra care of them in wet weather.
They make excellent family pets, as they enjoy human company and will often talk to you.
Large Chicken Breeds
Black Jersey Giant
This breed can weigh a whopping 11–15 lbs with a long and deep body. Their black feathers have an iridescent green shine.
Although big, this breed has a gentle and friendly temperament.
You can expect 200 large eggs per year.
These friendly chickens may be large, but their kind attitude makes them excellent family pets.
If you have any favorite chicken breeds, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
References and Further Reading
- ISA website
- American Poultry Association
- Rhode Island Red Club of America
- MSD Veterinary Manual
- Allonby JHI and Wilson PB. 2018. British Poultry Standards. 7th Edition. Wiley Blackwell.
- Nicol CJ. 2015. The Behavioural Biology of Chickens. CAB International.
- Uddin MZ et al. 2011. Mortality and disease status in Hy-line and ISA-Brown strains of layer chickens reared in cage systems in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Journal of Veterinary Medicine.