Chicken Breeds

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Chicken breeds, the ultimate guide

Chicken Breeds Classification:

A breed is a specific group of animals, in this case chickens, having homogeneous appearance or phenotype. Having characteristics or behaviours that distinguish it from other organisms of the same species. 

Breeds are formed through genetic isolation and either natural adaptation to the environment or selective breeding, or a combination of the three.

There are only two sizes of fowl. Large Fowl (L.F) and Bantam. 

Not all types of full size chickens have a small fowl or bantam counterpart. Bantams are bred afterward by selecting the smaller chickens and selecting for generations till the desired size is reached. On occasion an outcrossing is used to transfer the miniture genes from one type to another breed to reduce their size.


Large chicken breeds sometimes have a bantam or small fowl counterpart. These small chickens are around one-quarter the size of the standard size but it can and does vary. They are expected to exhibit all of the standard breed's characteristics. 

In cases where there is a bantam size only, these are the True Bantams. This includes the Seabright, Japanese bantam and Serama. They also tend to be much smaller in size, the Serama for example only weights in at 600g to 800g.

Hard and Soft feather:

Another distinction made with chickens is whether they are Hard or Soft Feathered varieties As a rule hard feather breeds are Game birds like the Old english Game and the Malaysian Saipan which were historically fighting birds. These have a tighter feathering than the soft feather chicken breeds.

Soft Feathered breeds are those who are fluffy. Barnevelders, Orpingtons and Wyandottes for example.

Rare Breeds:

Rare breeds as those without their own breed club or society. The Rare Poultry Society looks after these breeds. The term is probably alot more widely used than it should be. 

Native breeds:

Native breeds are those that are specific to a given area. The Le Bresse Gauloise for example is native to the Bresse region of France and outside that are should only be called La Gauloise, the French chicken. Below is full grown la Gauloise chickens. Notice the bright blue legs. They are native to the Bresse region of  France.

This is true of most chicken types as they tend to be named after the area they came from.


Are not breeds even though some have names. They need to have a Poultry standard or standard of perfection to be a recognised breed of chicken. Even thought the ISA brown is a pretty standardised creature it still is not a breed.


Many common strains of cross-bred chickens exist, but none breed true or are recognized by poultry breed standards.

They are common in flocks focusing on high productivity. I produce my own, a Rhode island red crossed with a Barnevelder. It is a wonderful layer of large pinkish eggs and is extremely hardy.

Cross breeds do not  meet the definition of a breed.and are mostly produced because they are sex linked, allowing for easy chick sexing.

Breed names

Chickens, and most other poultry are often names after the area they were first bred. The Welsummer from Welsum in the Netherlands and the Rhode Island Red first produced in Rhode Island USA. You can try this out by searching for a town or region that has the same name as your chickens, try googling the village of Ancona in Italy.

Breed standards:

Physical traits and sometimes behavoiours are used to distinguish one breed from another. There are hundreds of breeds in private hands in every country of the world and some are not known outside their area of origin whilst some are known the world over.

Size. Each breed has a size range it must conform to.

Plumage. Plain or patterned. Standards always call for clearly marked birds.

Colour. Or colours. Generally need to be even.

Pattern. Lacing, speckled, spangled or barred.

Comb. There are nine common comb patterns

Skin colour.  White or yellow . The La Bresse has bright blue Legs.

Toes. Some birds have a vestigial or extra toe which is written up in the standards.

Feathering. The naked neck should have a naked neck and silkie feathers have no stiff quill.

Egg colour and size. Welsummer lay a dark brown egg and Vorwerks a white egg

Primary use. Meat, eggs or both

Fighting ability. Although largely illegal in the west and not now routinely practised. In the past and still in some parts of the world it is common.

Poultry standards define how a breed or race of chickens should look and this can vary from one country to another.

Breed characteristics

Specific characteristics or breed traits are inherited. Purebred animals pass these traits from generation to the next so all specimens of the same breed carry several genetic characteristics of the original foundation animals.

In order to maintain the breed selection of those animals with desirable traits, to achieve further maintenance and developing of such traits. Avoiding animals carrying faulty, unwanted, non typical and undesirable traitsfor the breed is as important as the selection for desired genes. 

In the United Kingdom the Poultry Club of Great Britain has to approve. The British Poultry Standards book has all of these standards together with photos of most breeds. 

Joining a breed club is and excellent way of getting a copy of the breed standard for your chosen breed.

Exhibition chicken

Poultry fancy is, the breeding and competitive exhibition of poultry as a hobby and has grown to be a huge influence on chicken breeds since the 19th century. Queen Victoria was a poultry fancier.

Many breeds have always been kept for ornamental purposes and others have been shifted from their original use to become first and foremost exhibition fowl, even if they may retain some inherent utility.

Since the sport of cockfighting has been outlawed in the developed world hard feather breeds developed for this purpose, called game fowl, are now seen in the show ring rather than the pit as fighters.

Dual purpose breeds:

Dual purpose chicken breeds are classified as breeds that are egg-cellent layers, but also have heavy-set builds, which means they has a substantial amount of meat-  so they can be used as a table birds. 

These days it could also mean that a chicken is suitable for showing as well as other purposes.

Alphabetical list of chicken breeds:

Ameraucana - Have a pea comb and half hardy. Good layers and good-natured. The Ameraucana breed is one of only a few breeds that lay blue eggs. The Ameraucana breed was derived from blue egg laying chickens. Rather than ear tufts, they have muffs and a beard. They lay eggs in shades of blue, and even have blue or slate legs. 
Still quite rare and available through breeders. They should not be confused with Easter Eggers, which can lay blue and green eggs, and do not conform to any breed standard. 


Ancona were bred in italy but have since become more popular in the United kingdom. They are similar in shape to a leghorn being an upright bird. They are good layers of 5 eggs a week and have a tendency to be good flyers. The speckled plumage is difficult to breed accurately.


These are some of my favourite chickens to keep. They are active and excellent foragers. They lay large white eggs of above average quality. Andalusians are a quick and active breed and do not like confinement. Mine tolerate the cold in Yorkshire very well. They also make for good show birds. Mine are friendly and easy going. They come in splash and black as well as more sought after blue plumage.


The Appenzeller was bred in Switzerland and is at home in cold climates. There is two varieties, the Spitzhauben and the Barthuhner. Spitzhauben means lacy bonnet and refers to the bufont hairdo the birds sport and the Barthuhner literally means bearded hen. Both types are reknowned characters and come with either black gold or silver spangled plumage. Mostly for show they lay 5 or so smallish eggs a week.

They are happy to roost in trees and like most rare breeds prefer to range on open ground.


The Araucana, Gallina Mapuche in Spanish, is a breed of domestic chicken from Chile. It lays blue-shelled eggs because of the oocyan gene, one of very few breeds that do so. the blue colour is dominant over white abut when mixed with various brown egg genes the result is green to olive shells. The bird has both large fowl and bantam sizes with a pea comb and prominent ear muffs.


The Asil or Aseel is a strong and aggressive breed of chicken originating from South Punjab area of Pakistan especially an area called Hazro. Aseel is a known fighting breed and are generally very aggressive towards each other. They will fight from a few weeks old adults will males will fight to the death. Even the hens are fighters. The breed is a poor layer.


The Australorp is a hardy dual-purpose breed developed as utility breed with a focus on egg laying. They are an easy breed to handle at any skill level, making them great for beginners. Australorps are notable layers with an average of 310 eggs per year.


A triple treat, the Barnevelder is great for egg laying, producing a excellent carcass, and has a following as a show bird. A large bird, they are known to be calm and easy to handle. The double laced is most popular. Soft feather and suitable for cold climates. This is a favourite of mine and I have several types in both bantam and large fowl. "00 Chesnut brown eggs per year of top notch quality. Prefers to free range.

Booted Bantam

The Dutch Booted Bantam or Sablepoot is an ornamental true bantam. They are easy to tame, calm and friendly. They are angular birds with profuse feathers that come in many varieties of colours.


The Brahma is a large stately bird that is a relatively good layer of eggs, even thought the eggs are quite small compared to the size of the bird. They are regular show birds and a good meat bird.  Brahma have apea comb and are easy going and docile. They make good pets.