Chicken Breeds

Chicken Breeds

There are 93 pure chicken breeds recognised by the British Poultry Standards, 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 breeders turned to exhibit their birds. The first poultry standard appeared in 1865 and contained only a few breeds but aimed to maintain uniformity. 

As exhibiting became more popular, many breeds were imported from abroad and standardised at the turn of the century. Meanwhile, farmers used Rhode Island RedsLight Sussex, White Wyandottes, and White Leghorn breeds for egg production and Indian Game crossed with Light Sussex produced meat for the table.

Our chicken breeds of today have a rich history, and I have tried to capture this in the breed profile pages. 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.

The A-Z of Chicken Breeds

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 / Twentse
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)

Nankin Shamo Chicken

Nankin Shamo
Asian Hard Feather

Extinct in the UK

New Hampshire Red Chicken

New Hampshire Red
Heavy: Soft Feather

Norfolk Grey Chicken

Norfolk Grey
Heavy: Soft Feather
(Rare)

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
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.