Chicken Breeds

Chicken breeds are defined by poultry standards that tell us how a breed should look. In the United Kingdom, breed create the standard and the Poultry Club of Great Britain approves it. The British Poultry Standards book has all of these standards together with photos of most breeds. By joining a breed club you should receive a copy of the breed standard for your chosen breed.

This page provides some information about the more popular UK chicken breeds for the beginner. There are of course many more available and if you want to see them all, I would recommend you visit the poultrykeeper chicken breeds pages where you can see all of the UK Standardised breeds and get more in-depth information.

AnconaAncona

The Ancona is named after the Italian City of Ancona in the East of Italy. It is thought they first reached our shores in 1851. It is a good layer and an active forager and are usually very friendly birds. Anconas are hard to find, there aren’t that many breeders around. Many people believe the Ancona to be related to the Leghorn.

The large comb of the male birds can suffer from frostbite.

 

AraucanaAraucana

The Araucana originates in South America. Named after the Araucano tribe of Native South Americans. A good looking bird that has an attractive beard and crest.

The Araucana is a hardy breed that lays a good number of medium sized blue to green coloured egg which makes an attractive addition to any egg box.  They should ideally be kept alone as they can be bullied due to impaired eye sight from their ‘head-gear’.

AustralorpAustralorp

The Australorp was developed in Australia from imports of Orpingtons. The British continued to develop the Orpington for show making them profusely feathered and it is said that the Australorp was left alone, much more like the original Orpingtons that William Cook had created with better utility qualities.

A good layer that is a docile breed suitable for beginners. Australorps are active foragers and are reasonably hardy. Being a heavy breed, they cannot fly well so can be contained within low fencing.

Belgian Bantam

Belgian Bantam

The Belgian bantam comes in 5 varieties. They are a true bantam, which means they have no large counterpart. They are not difficult to keep but some varieties have feathered feet so must be kept out of mud.

They are active birds and can become very tame if handled regularly from young although some cocks can be aggressive during the breeding season.

Croad LangshanCroad Langshan

The Croad Langshan chicken arrived in England in 1872 when they were imported by a British Army major called ‘Croad’. They are strong, heavy birds and are docile in nature. They do not fly so can be kept behind low fences although their feathered feet mean they should not be kept in muddy conditions.

This breed of chicken is a ‘dual purpose utility breed’, useful for both the table and as an egg layer.

The black Croad Langshan is the most popular but white is also available.

Cream LegbarLegbar

The Crested Cream Legbar is the most popular variety of Legbar and many consider them a separate breed. They have a small crest and thanks to their Araucana origins, lay blue to green coloured eggs. A big benefit of the Cream Legbar is that it is an autosexing breed – that is – day old chicks can be sexed by the colour of their down. This means if you plan on hatching chicks, you don’t have to feed or dispatch unwanted male birds for 10-12 weeks as with other breeds.

LeghornLeghorn

Together with the Rhode Island Red, the Leghorn has been one of the most instrumental in commercial egg producing breeds.  They are small and produce large numbers of white eggs so have a good ‘feed efficiency’. The comb is upright on the male and flops over on the female. The leghorn can be quite flighty and can fly well so make sure they can be kept securely in a run with a roof, or clip the primary flight feathers of one wing once their feathers have stopped growing to keep them on the ground.

MaransMarans

This breed comes from South West France where they take their name from the town of Marans.

Marans are good layers of dark chocolate brown coloured eggs, the Copper Black Marans variety lays the darkest coloured eggs. The French Marans have feathered feet but the English standard calls for unfeathered feet. Originally a dual purpose breed but now used more for eggs than meat for the table.

OrpingtonOrpington

The Orpington is named after the town in Kent where it was developed by William Cook in 1886. They come in a variety of colours and are profusely feathered. Orpingtons were kept by the late Queen Mother.

Orpingtons require more space than other breeds and prefer to perch on low perches. They cannot tolerate getting wet very well so should always be provided with plenty of  shelter.

Rhode Island RedRhode Island Red

The Rhode Island Red is a good layer of large brown eggs and together with the Leghorn, has been one of the most used birds for creating commercial hybrids.

The Rhode Island Red is well suited to smallholdings since it is a hardy bird that is good at foraging in a free range environment. It doesn’t fly too well so can be kept within a low fence.

A Rhode Island White exists but is seldom seen, especially in the UK.

Light SussexSussex

Of all the chicken breeds, the Sussex is one of my personal favourites.  The Light Sussex (shown left) is by far the most popular. They are a hardy breed that will be happy to forage for some of their food around the garden. The Sussex is called a ‘dual purpose utility breed’ that is, it is useful for both the table and as an egg layer. A good choice for beginners that are also available as bantams if a small garden is all you have.

WyandotteWyandotte

The silver laced Wyandotte was the first colour variety to be developed in America, being standardised in 1883. The Wyandotte is a popular breed and since then, a multitude of colour varieties have been created.

Wyandottes are docile and friendly birds that can become very tame if handled regularly. They are good layers but are prone to broodiness which isn’t always desirable as hens will stop laying whilst sitting and their condition deteriorates.

33 Responses to Chicken Breeds

  1. Pingback: Ocala Poultry Workshop

  2. FirstCottage says:

    Hello,

    We have three Leghorn (White Star) chickens. We were given them as a wedding present along with a coop and attached run. We want to build a larger run so they have more space. I realise from reading above (and observing!) that they are a flighty breed. If I clipped their wings would it be ok to let them out of the run to free range in the garden and presume they will come back at nest at dusk or should I wait until we have built a larger run?

    Any advice appreciated.

    Kind Regards.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Firstly – if you clip the wing, only clip one to unbalance them or they will still be able to fly. Leghorns are fairly capable in this area, so you may have to keep taking some off until it is clipped fairly hard.

      Personally, if it’s safe, I would let them out first and see how you get on. Once chickens are settled, they don’t tend to wander off out of their area. The advantage of not clipping is that they can fly if a fox tries to get them and often they will head for a fence or tree or roof if they get startled by a dog or fox which can save their lives of course.

      Oh and congratulations… what a great wedding gift 🙂

  3. Len Mison says:

    Thanks for the info I have gleaned from the website. I now live in Tanzania and have crossed Australorps (Known here as Malawi Chickens, story for another day) with the chickens known here as wildkukus (chickens) they are a mishmash of all sorts of breeds, you name it, it will be here. The plus factor is that they are very hardy creatures, quite aggressive by nature so do not take prisoners when it comes to protecting their offspring and show a lot of resistance to disease etc. Minus factor is that they lay very few eggs then go brooding on me.

    By crossing them the offspring usually have the black feathers of the Australorp, (easily mistaken as pure breed Australorps!) Odd thing is that some of the chicks develop into the same size as the Australorp and lay many many eggs and obviously good for the table. Then some of the chicks take on the smaller size like the Wildkukus, However still lay lots of eggs. To give you an example in one Banda I have a beautiful Cockerel and he sees to 8 hens and with out fail they produce for me no less than 6 eggs a day. Sometimes up to 8 eggs a day. Even the smaller versions also produce the same production figures!

    Something I discovered that on the LAST QUARTER OF THE MOON CYCLE their production drops, sometimes the day before and / or after, really weird or what? I have carried out this experiment for the last 3 years! Maybe you could try the same thing in the UK?

    Unfortunately for me here that I tried to get some of the local chicken farms to give me their egg production figures so that I could extend my research but without much success!

    Anyway hope you find my comments interesting, Would like to wish you and your family a very happy new year ,

    Len Mison

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Thank you Len, very interesting. I haven’t noticed this drop in egg production but I will try to pay more attention to the moon cycle and see if there is any noticable change.

  4. LP says:

    We have had light Sussex and Rhode Island Reds sharing a coop for a while. The RIR’s were prolific layers but gradually died off, apart from one. When we let the two breeds share their coop, the light Sussex stopped laying, almost instantly.
    Last Wednesday (5 days ago) our last Rhode Island died, and since that day, we have had an egg a day from each of the Sussex …
    Could the Rhode Islands somehow have inhibited/intimidated the others?? It seems more than coincidental.
    I have read around and not found any literature on it.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      I think it’s coincidence – although the introduction of a new chicken will have certainly caused stress in the flock which can stop them laying.

  5. Clare Rylatt says:

    Hi! I am a beginner with chickens and wondered if I could get some advice on choosing a breed please? Here’s some info on our setup……We have purchased an Eglu with run where the chickens will stay when we are out and have built a larger run (no roof, approx 1.2m fence) for them to roam more freely when we are home. We would like chickens that are friendly as we have children. We want the chooks for eggs. Was thinking 3. Thank you in advance!

  6. ick says:

    Hi
    I had one of my chicks die the other day and found her with her head out of the coop and her intestines hanging out of her backside. She showed no signs of illness but laid a jelly egg a couple of days before and a couple of normal eggs randomly in the chick run. have you any idea what could have caused her death.
    Thanks

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      It sounds as if it would have been caused by a prolapse. Sometimes, when passing an egg, the uterus can come out. It hangs out of the back end of the chicken and unless it’s caught early, the other hens will peck at it, usually killing the chicken.

  7. Chloe says:

    I brought 2 polish bantams and 1 silkie bantam yesterday and they are Very quite, is this because of stress or something else, there look in good condition, if maybe stress how can I make hem less stressfull?

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