There are many different chicken breeds and they are useful for different things. Some, like the Cornish Cross, are better for their meat. In fact, the Cornish Cross is the most commonly used breed in commercial meat production. Other breeds, like the Cinnamon Queen, lay lots of eggs.
There are also dual-purpose breeds like the Jersey Giant that is good for both eggs and meat. Finally, there are simply show birds or display birds. These breeds are primarily for their looks, such as the Shamo, which grows up to three feet tall.
Chicken Breed Popularity and Rarity
Some breeds are less common than other breeds. The Plymouth Rock is a very common breed, the Barred variety is a common starter breed for new chicken owners.
Others, like the Ayam Cemani, are extremely rare, and therefore very expensive (but come on, who wouldn’t want bragging rights for a chicken that is almost completely black inside and out?).
Chicken Breed Sizes
Different chicken breeds also come in different sizes. The Sebright, for example, is very small and light and is very capable of flying a short distance. The Wyandotte, on the other hand, is much bigger and heavier, yet somehow one of ours flew ten feet in the air…
As I mentioned earlier, the Sebright is very small. This breed is called a “bantam” breed. Bantams are usually just miniature versions of full-sized chickens, kind of like how a toy poodle is much smaller than a full-sized poodle. Some bantam breeds don’t have bigger versions; these are called “true bantams”. The Sebright and the Silkie are two good examples of true bantams (in the United States, at least. I know in Europe there are full-sized Silkies).
Different Breeds, Different Needs
Some chicken breeds have different needs than others. For example, the Egyptian Fayoumi is not very tolerant of cold temperatures, but it does very well in hot summers.
There is also the Brahma, which could easily get heatstroke in the summer, but does fairly well in the winter.
Cochins prefer to lay in the winter, which is a very good thing if you eat lots of eggs during the winter and don’t want to buy them from the store.
I’m not sure how to describe it, but I guess you could say that there are multiple varieties or “sub-breeds” of chicken. Take the Plymouth Rock as an example. There are multiple varieties, such as Barred, White, or Partridge. Another example would be the Rhode Island. There are the Rhode Island Red and the Rhode Island White. There shouldn’t be too much difference between the different varieties other than their feathers. They should have the same needs.
Different chicken breeds have all sorts of different colors, sizes, postures, egg colors, comb shapes, tail shapes, and voices. Barred Rocks have the classic single comb, Wyandottes have rose combs, Sicilian Buttercups are the one and only breed to have a buttercup comb. A comb is one way to assess the health of your bird. If it is bright pink/red they are healthy and laying. Hens that have stopped laying will often have combs that look “faded”. Larger combs are at higher risk for frost bite in cold climates.
Ameraucanas lay green eggs, Rhode Island Reds lay brown eggs, Leghorns lay white eggs.
Ayam Cemanis have black feathers, Faverolles have faint pink feathers, Spangled Orloffs are brown with black and white speckles.
So many choices, so much fun to choose!
There are so many breed choices! You’ll need to pick what breed of chicken you want then head to your local feed store in early spring or late winter. If you’re looking to buy a larger quantity of birds, you can purchase directly from a Hatchery. Welp Hatchery and Murray McMurray Hatchery are 2 popular ones, though I have not bought directly from either.
Remember that different breeds have different needs, and they are used for different purposes. In any case, if you treat them well, they will serve their purpose wonderfully.
If you’re planning on getting any, what breed will you choose this year?
Be sure to check out part 4 of the series: Chicken Housing