Backyard Poultry

Choosing Chicken Breeds: A Guide to Different Types of Chickens

Starting a Flock : Considering Chickens

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Are you searching for new chicken breeds for your backyard flock? Use our chicken breeds guide to begin your search for your next feathered friends.
 
With hundreds of chicken breeds to choose from, it can be overwhelming to narrow down the different types of chickens and find the best breed for your backyard flock. Here are some helpful questions to help you focus your research:
 
  • Are you raising chickens for egg production, meat birds or both (known as dual-purpose breeds)?
  • Do you have lots of space for larger birds? Or would small chicken breeds be better for your backyard?
  • Do you want different colored eggs? Check out our list below for chickens that lay eggs in a rainbow of colors.
  • Are you interested in helping to save endangered chicken breeds? There are many unique heritage breeds to raise.
  • Searching for new colors to add to your flock? Chickens come in a wide variety of feather colors.
  • Looking for unusual and unique breeds? There are chickens with amazing crests, funky head feathers and even fluffy feet!
  • Will young children be helping with your chickens? Consider one of the friendliest chicken breeds to get started.
 

Egg-laying chicken breeds

Fluffy, full-bodied Orpington chicken with red text stating all hens need 4 grams of calcium per day to make an eggshell.If you’re looking for hens that will consistently lay delicious, nutritious eggs, you have many options! At the Purina Farm, we chose a classic chicken breed, the Plymouth Rock, or Barred Rock, for our backyard coops.
 
These pretty, black-and-white speckled hens are great layers – producing up to 280 eggs a year. Plus, it’s a hardy breed that does well in both hot and cold climates. Other high-producing chicken breeds are Australorp, Leghorn, ISA Brown and Rhode Island Red.
 
You can also choose an egg-laying chicken breed based on the color of their eggs:
 
  • White eggs: Ancona, Blue Andalusian, Campine, White Leghorn and Polish
  • Light brown eggs: Plymouth Barred Rock, ISA Brown, Australorp, Orpington, Black Star, Delaware, Sussex and Rhode Island Reds
  • Darker brown eggs: Marans, Penedesenca, Barnevelder, Welsummer
  • Blue eggs: Ameracauna, Araucana, Cream Legbar, Easter Eggers
  • Light green/olive eggs: Olive Eggers, Easter Eggers, Favaucana
 
No matter what breed you choose, it’s important to start them strong and keep them strong throughout their lives by choosing a complete feed. Purina® Start & Grow® (available in medicated and non-medicated formulas) and Purina® Organic Starter-Grower feeds are complete feeds with everything your chicks need to grow healthy and strong.
 
Fluffy, full-bodied Orpington chicken with three eggs and red text of Oyster Strong(R) System for strong shells
When your egg-laying chickens reach 18 weeks old, switch them to a complete layer feed with the exclusive Purina® Oyster Strong® System to ensure they get all the nutrients needed to lay strong and stay strong.
 

Meat chicken breeds

Meat birds, also called broiler chickens, are raised for their meat. Few chicken breeds can compare to the growth rate and carcass yield of the modern Cornish Cross. This breed grows rapidly and reaches market weight in just six weeks. Other popular meat chicken breeds are Red Ranger, Bresse, Freedom Ranger and New Hampshire.
 
Meat birds need a high-protein, complete feed, like Purina® Meat Bird feed with 22 percent protein and amino acids to help your chickens reach market weigh efficiently.
 
Want chicken breeds that produce both eggs and meat? Look for a dual-purpose breed, like Plymouth Barred Rock, Brown Leghorn, Delaware, Buckeye, Jersey Giant, Orpington, Sussex, Turken and Wyandotte.
 

Big chicken breeds 

If you want big hens running around your backyard, consider Jersey Giants. This American breed can grow up to 13 pounds. Despite being one of the biggest hens in the coop, Jersey Giants are typically very gentle birds that lay big eggs.
 
Other big chicken breeds include Brahma, Cochin, Cornish Game Chicken, Buff Orpington, Australorp, New Hampshire Red, Dong Tao, Malines, Malay, Langshan, Rhode Island Red, Delaware, Barred Rock and Belgian.
 

Small chicken breeds

Small chicken breeds are known as “bantams” – some are just smaller-sized birds, but others are a mini version of larger chicken breeds. Bantams are a great choice for small backyards. Popular small chicken breeds include Silkie, Booted Bantam, Sebright, Belgian d’Anvers, Cochin Bantams, Belgian Bearded d’Uccle, Sultan Bantam, Japanese Bantam, Dutch Bantam, Buff Brahma Bantam, Rosecomb Bantam and Serama Bantam.
 

Common chicken breeds

Depending on how you define “common,” one of America’s most standard chicken breeds is the White Leghorn. Picture the classic, white-feathered chicken with red wattles and rose comb. Other popular breeds in the U.S. include Barred Rock, Wyandotte, Welsummer, Australorp, Rhode Island Red, Orpington, Easter Egger, Golden Buff, Sussex and Maran. 
 

Heritage chicken breeds

Heritage chicken breeds – defined by four standards set by The Livestock Conservancy – are rising in popularity as more people help recover endangered breeds and reintroduce them to the marketplace.
 
The Livestock Conservancy has three lists of priority poultry breeds – North American breeds (including Holland, Buckeye, Java, Plymouth Rock), breeds imported before 1900 (including Campine, La Fleche, Redcap, Dorking, Hamburg) and breeds imported after 1900 (including Nankin, Aseel, Phoenix, Buttercup, Icelandic). Visit The Livestock Conservancy conservation priority list for a complete listing of heritage breeds.
 

Heat-tolerant chicken breeds 

Live in a hot climate? While most chicken breeds can tolerate both high and low temperatures, some really thrive in warmer climates. Try a heat-tolerant chicken breed like Ameraucana, Welsummer, Easter Egger, Leghorn, Minorca, Rhode Island Red, Barred Plymouth Rock or Turken. If you’re worried about keeping your flock cool when the temperature rises, follow our summer care tips.
 

Cold-tolerant chicken breeds 

Do your winters get very cold? Consider a cold-tolerant breed like Araucana, Australorp, Silkie Bantam, Minorca, Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, New Hampshire Red, Delaware or Wyandotte. Your chicken’s thick feathers are a natural protective coat, so most breeds are well-equipped for winter weather. But you can help keep them healthy and warm with our fall and winter flock tips.
 

Friendliest chicken breeds 

For a good starter breed that’s kid-friendly, try Silkies. These gentle birds are often called the lap dogs of chickens and are a top choice for an affectionate, patient hen. Plus, they have soft, fuzzy feathers!
 
Orpington and Plymouth Rock are quiet, gentle breeds and can lay up to 300 brown eggs per year. Other friendly chicken breeds include Cochin, ISA Brown, Brahma, Australorp, Polish and the colored egg-laying Easter Egger.
 

Black chicken breeds 

Looking to add some variety to your backyard flock? One of the most searched for bird types is “black chicken breeds.” These gorgeous, glossy girls are beautiful, and many are good egg layers. Here are some of our favorite black chicken breeds: Black Wyandotte Bantam, Ayam Cemani, Black Silkie Bantam, French Black Maran, Black Minorca, Cochin (Pekin), Black Australorp, Black Jersey Giants and Black Java Chicken.
 

White chicken breeds 

Solid white chicken breeds that are good egg layers include White Leghorn, California White Chicken, Rhode Island White, White Plymouth Rock, White Ameraucana, White Orpington, White Jersey Giant, White Wyandotte and White Faverolle.
 

Black and white chicken breeds 

We’re a bit biased when it comes to black-and-white chicken breeds. We chose Barred Plymouth Rock hens for the backyard flock at Purina Farms. “Barred” is a reference to feathers that appear striped. Other barred breeds include Cuckoo Maran and Dominique.
 
There are many other gorgeous black and white breeds, including Black Laced Silver Wyandotte and Silver Laced Polish (each white feather looks like it was outlined with a black marker), Columbian Wyandotte and Light Sussex (white body with black and white feathers on their neck, wing tips and tail), and the Mottle Ancona (mostly black feathers with white spots on the tips).
 

Red chicken breeds 

If you’re a fan of “The Little Red Hen” book, these are the chickens for you! Red chicken breeds (their feathers are more tawny or reddish brown than classic red) that are good egg-layers include Rhode Island Red, Red Leghorn, New Hampshire Red, Red Frizzle, Easter Egger, ISA Brown (also known as Hubbard Brown), Nankin Bantam, Red Cochin Bantam, Welsummer, Red Star (also known as Red Sex-Link) and Derbyshire Redcap. 
 

Blue chicken breeds

Blue chicken breeds (which appear more gray than sky blue) are a very common and old color variation that comes from breeding a black gene with a blue gene. Popular blue breeds include Blue Plymouth Rock, Blue Easter Egger, Blue Silkie, Blue Australorp, Blue Cochin, Blue Andalusian and Blue Bresse Gauloise.
 

Brown chicken breeds 

Brown chicken breeds come in all shades, from light tan and tawny orange to golden buff and deep chocolate. Some of the most popular brown breeds are: Lohmann Brown, Buff Brahma, Sebright, Barnevelder, Welsummer, Cinnamon Queen, ISA Brown, Rhode Island Red, Buckeye and Golden Comet.
 

Gray chicken breeds 

Chickens that look gray are actually lavender or blue breeds. They carry the lavender gene and the dominant black gene, giving them grey feathers. Some popular lavender breeds are: English Lavender Wyandotte, Lavender Silkie, Lavender Orpington, Lavender Brahma and Lavender Ameracauna.
 

Yellow chicken breeds 

Yellow chickens are more commonly called “buff” and have feathers ranging from light yellow to beige and even golden orange. Some of the top yellow breeds that are good egg layers are: Wyandotte, Leghorns, Easter Egger, Plymouth Rock, Buff Cochin, Buff Silkie, Polish, and Buff Orpington.
 

Fancy chicken breeds 

So, you’re looking for a little razzle dazzle in your backyard flock. “Fancy” chickens are often bred for their gorgeous and unusual plumage, meaning they’re not always the best layers. But if you’re looking for head-turning chickens, these breeds won’t disappoint: Silkie (picture a fluffy chicken), Polish (stunning crest of feathers on their head, like a Vegas showgirl), Frizzle (known for their feathers that curl tightly backward) and Naked Neck (like the name implies, they have no feathers on their neck and are definitely a conversation starter).
 

Fluffy head chickens 

Are you a “crazy hair and don’t care” kind of chicken raiser? These breeds, known for their amazing and somewhat crazy-looking fluffy crests and head feathers, are for you! Fluffy head chickens include Silkies, Houdan, Frizzle, Appenzeller Spitzhauben, Crevecoeur, Pavlovskaya and Sultan.
 

Feather foot chicken breeds 

If you’re looking for chicken breeds that look like they’re wearing fancy slippers, search for Belgian d’Uccle, Langshan, Brahma, Booted Bantam, Faverolle, Cochin, Silkie and Sultan.
 
 
No matter what type of chicken you choose, a backyard flock offers amazing benefits like delicious, fresh eggs and fun companionship. Level up your backyard flock by choosing a premium Purina® complete layer feed with the Oyster Strong® System through our Feed Greatness® Challenge