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Chicken Breeds

Chicken Breeds

The British Poultry Standards recognise 93 pure chicken breeds, classified by size, feathering, origin, and rarity. You will find all of these below in our A-Z of chicken breeds.

The ancestor of our domesticated breeds is the Red Junglefowl. Thanks to poultry fanciers and small scale farmers, it appears in many stunning disguises today.

Cockfighting got outlawed in 1849, and the breeders of game birds turned to exhibit their birds in competitions held in pubs up and down the country. Relatively large prize money added to the competitiveness of the breeders.

The first poultry standard appeared in 1865, which only contained a few breeds but maintained uniformity. It was later that year that the first significant poultry show was held at London Zoo. As exhibiting became more popular, many breeds were imported from abroad and standardised at the turn of the century.

Meanwhile, farmers used Rhode Island Reds, Light Sussex, White Wyandottes, and White Leghorn breeds for egg production and Indian Game crossed with Light Sussex for meat.

The A-Z of Chicken Breeds

Our chicken breeds of today have a rich history, and I have tried to capture this in the breed profile pages, where you will also find several photos.

I included Hybrid chickens, mostly sold for egg-laying and aren’t pure-bred chickens but are popular with newcomers who come here to look at chicken breed photos.

Click on the breed below to go to the breed page.

Ancona Chicken
Ancona
Light: Soft Feather
Andalusian Chicken
Andalusian
Light: Soft Feather
Appenzeller Barthuhner Chicken
Appenzeller Barthuhner
Light: Soft Feather
Appenzeller Spitzhauben Chicken
Appenzeller Spitzhauben
Light: Soft Feather
Araucana Chicken
Araucana
Light: Soft Feather
Rumpless Araucana Chicken
Rumpless Araucana
Light: Soft Feather
Australorp Chicken
Australorp
Heavy: Soft Feather
Barbu D-Anvers Chicken
Barbu d'Anvers
Belgian Bantam
Barbu D-Uccle Chicken
Barbu d'Uccle
Belgian Bantam
Barbu de Watermael Chicken
Barbu de Watermael
Belgian Bantam
Barbu D-Everberg Chicken
Barbu d’Everberg
Belgian Bantam
Barbu de Grubbe Chicken
Barbu du Grubbe
Belgian Bantam
Barnevelder Chicken
Barnevelder
Heavy: Soft Feather
Booted Bantam
Booted Bantam
True Bantam (Rare)

The British Poultry Standards classify pure breed chickens as:

  • Hard Feather
  • Soft Feather: Heavy
  • Soft Feather: Light
  • Asian Hard Feather
  • True Bantam
  • Rare True Bantam
  • Rare Soft Feather: Heavy
  • Rare Soft Feather: Light


As well as Large Fowl and Bantam sizes, there is also a distinction made with Hard Feather and Soft Feather breeds. Generally, hard feather breeds are Game varieties, who historically were cockfighting birds. These have a tighter feathering than the soft feather chicken breeds, which are more fluffy.

The Poultry Club of Great Britain classifies Rare Breeds as those without their own breed club or society. The Rare Poultry Society takes care of these breeds.

There are two sizes of fowl that exist: Large and Bantam. A bantam is a miniature version of the large fowl. Not all breeds have a bantam version and vice-versa (check individual breed pages to see if a bantam size is available). A few bantam chicken breeds also exist that aren’t yet standardised.

A True Bantam is a breed of chicken that is only available in bantam size. It has no large counterpart. The following breeds are classified as True Bantams:

  • Belgian
  • Dutch
  • Japanese
  • Pekin
  • Rosecomb
  • Sebright
  • Booted
  • Nankin
  • Ohiki
Brahma Chicken
Brahma
Heavy: Soft Feather
Brakel Chicken
Brakel
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Campine Chicken
Campine
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Cochin Chicken
Cochin
Heavy: Soft Feather
Croad Langshan
Croad Langshan
Heavy: Soft Feather
Dominique Chicken
Dominique
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Dorking Chicken
Dorking
Heavy: Soft Feather
Dutch Bantam
Dutch Bantam
True Bantam
Faverolles Chicken
Faverolles
Heavy: Soft Feather
Fayoumi Chickens
Fayoumi
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Frizian Chicken
Friesian
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Frizzle Chicken
Frizzle
Heavy: Soft Feather
German Langshan Chicken
German Langshan
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Hamburgh Chicken
Hamburgh
Light: Soft Feather
Houdan Chicken
Houdan
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)

Utility or Dual Purpose chicken breeds are capable of providing both eggs and meat for the table. They were economically viable for self-sufficiency and small scale poultry producers who would maintain one flock for breeding replacements. Typically hens would be kept for egg production and surplus males were fattened for the table.

During the 1950’s, hybrid chickens were created. These were more productive and better suited to intensive management. Utilility breeds are now mostly kept by smallholders and few strains within the traditional dual purpose breeds still have their original utility qualities.

These days, almost all commercial hens are hybrids. A hybrid is a result of crossing two or more breeds or strains within a breed. Hybrids tend to be more vigorous and productive for egg-laying than their parents. They are a good choice for beginners.

  • Hybrid layers are usually based on the Rhode Island Red for brown eggs (preferred in Europe) and the White Leghorn for white eggs (preferred in the U.S).
  • Hybrids for meat are usually based on the White Rock and the Indian Game (called the Cornish in the U.S.)

Also, see:

Purebred chickens (also called straightbreds in the U.S.) will breed true. Their offspring will grow up to look like their parents. Hybrid hens are the result of different matings between different breeds (or specialised strains within a breed) so cannot be reproduced without going back to the crossing of the original parent stock.

Hybrid Chicken
Hybrids
Not Pure Bred!
Indian Game Chicken
Indian Game
Hard Feather
Ixworth Chicken
Ixworth
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Japanese Bantam
Japanese Bantam
True Bantam
Jersey Giant Chicken
Jersey Giant
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Kraiencoppe Chicken
Kraienkoppe
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
La Fleche Chicken
La Flèche
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Lakenvelder Chicken
Lakenvelder
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Legbar Chicken
Legbar
Light: Soft Feather (Rare) Autosexing
Leghorn Chicken
Leghorn
Light: Soft Feather
Lincolnshire Buff
Lincolnshire Buff
Heavy: Soft Feather
Marans Chicken
Marans
Heavy: Soft Feather
Marsh Daisy Chicken
Marsh Daisy
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Minorca Chicken
Minorca
Light: Soft Feather
Modern Game Chicken
Modern Game
Hard Feather
Modern Langshan Chicken
Modern Langshan
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Nankin Bantam
Nankin Bantam
True Bantam (Rare)
New Hampshire Red Chicken
New Hampshire Red
Heavy: Soft Feather
Norfolk Grey Chicken
Norfolk Grey
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Nankin Shamo Chicken
Nankin Shamo
Asian Hard Feather
Extinct in the UK
Ohiki Chicken
Ohiki
True Bantam (Rare)
Oxford Old English Game
Oxford Old English Game
Hard Feather
Old English Pheasant Fowl
Old English Pheasant Fowl
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Russian Orloff Chicken
Orloff
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Orpington Chicken
Orpington
Heavy: Light Feather

If you have neighbours in close proximity, as well as not keeping a male bird it is a good idea to avoid a chicken breed that is known to be noisy such as:

  • Ancona
  • Andalusian
  • Indian Game (called Cornish in the U.S)
  • Leghorn
  • Modern Game
  • Old English Game
  • Spanish

If you are trying to keep chickens in or out of an area such as a garden or neighbouring property then it is wise to avoid breeds that are able to fly well such as:

  • Ancona
  • Andalusian
  • Campine
  • Fayoumi
  • Hamburg
  • Lakenvelder
  • Leghorn
  • Old English Bantam

If you want to hatch chicks under a hen, you will need a hen to go broody. Some hens go broody more easily than others. When a hen goes broody, she stops laying, so prolific egg-producing breeds such as hybrid hens rarely go broody. In general, heavy hens tend to make good broodies that can cover a large number of eggs, but it can vary; some are certainly more successful than others, with some breaking eggs or knocking eggs out of the nest.

Silkies and Asil (Aseel) are well known to go broody easily. Generally speaking, hens that are good for egg-laying do not go broody as easily.

Also, see:

Pekin Bantam
Pekin Bantam
True Bantam
Plymouth Rock Chicken
Plymouth Rock
Heavy: Soft Feather
Poland Chicken
Poland
Light: Soft Feather
Derbyshire Redcap Chicken
Redcap
Light: Soft Feather
Rhodebar Chicken
Rhodebar
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Rhode Island Red Chicken
Rhode Island Red
Heavy: Soft Feather
Rosecomb Bantam
Rosecomb Bantam
True Bantam
Rumpless Game
Rumpless Game
Hard Feather (Rare)
Satsumadori Chicken
Satsumadori
Asian Hard Feather
Scotts Dumpy
Scots Dumpy
Light: Soft Feather
Scotts Grey
Scots Grey
Light: Soft Feather
Sebright Bantam
Sebright Bantam
True Bantam
Serama Bantam
Serama
True Bantam
Sicilian Buttercup Chicken
Sicilian Buttercup
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Silkie Chicken
Silkie
Light: Soft Feather
Spanish Chicken
Spanish
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Sulmtaler Chicken
Sulmtaler
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Sultan Chicken
Sultan
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Sumatra Chicken
Sumatra
Light: Soft Feather (Rare)
Sussex Chicken
Sussex
Heavy: Soft Feather
Thuringian Chickens
Thuringian
Light: Soft Feather
Transylvanian Naked Neck Chicken
Transylvanian Naked Neck
Heavy: Soft Feather (Rare)
Vorwerk Chicken
Vorwerk
Light: Soft Feather
(Rare)
Welbar Chicken
Welbar
Light: Soft Feather
(Rare) Autosexing
Welsummer Chicken
Welsummer
Light: Soft Feather
(Rare)
Wyandotte Chicken
Wyandotte
Heavy: Soft Feather

A pure breed should breed true, the parent birds producing offspring that look the same. Standardised pure breeds are breeds that have been accepted into the poultry standards after many years of breeding true.

Within a breed there are often different colour varieties. Different bloodlines kept by different breeders are called strains and can have slightly different characteristics from the selection a breeder has made in the breeding pen.

Autosexing is when purebred day-old chicks can be sexed by their different appearances (such as down colour) when they have hatched. This is a characteristic that is highly desirable so that we can raise only female chicks. There are several breeds that will autosex; the Cream Legbar is an example. The offspring will breed true and remain autosexing.

Read More: Autosexing Poultry

There are currently 4 Standards for Poultry which are the official reference standards used by judges at poultry shows and by fanciers to understand how a breed should look.
  • The British Poultry Standards for the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
  • The European Poultry Standard
  • The American Standard of Perfection
  • The Australian Poultry Standard

It was after cock fighting was outlawed in England in 1849 that fanciers turned to showing their birds. The British Poultry Standard was the first standard, written in 1865 for just a handful of breeds so that uniformity could be maintained.
Wybar Chicken
Wybar
Heavy: Soft Feather
(Rare) Autosexing
Yakido Chicken
Yakido
Asian Hard Feather
(Rare)
Yamato Gunkei Chicken
Yamato Gunkei
Asian Hard Feather
Yokohama Chicken
Yokohama
Light: Soft Feather
(Rare)

Acknowledgements

This page has been a huge project and I am very grateful to the Poultry Club of Great Britain for allowing me to photograph so many breeds at their shows and to members of the Rare Poultry Society who have also been so helpful to help capture some of the more elusive breeds.

Rupert Stephenson deserves a special mention. He has spent many years visiting shows to capture many chicken breeds photographs with and without me. This has helped me enormously to create these pages.