Checkout our latest Chicken Keeping Online Courses

Start Learning Now

Chicken Breeds; The good, the bad and the ugly of choosing your chickens!😱

chicken breeds

Cockapoos and Labradoodles aren't breeds of dogs. Be patient with me…I do have a point, and it has a lot to do with chicken breeds.

You've got your research hat on for one of these reasons: you're considering your first chickens, you're introducing new chickens to your feathery flock, or you're wondering if your chickens are really who they say they are. Whatever your reason for perusing poultry, I can help.

Just like we do with dogs - people are crossbreeding chickens constantly in the search of the perfect mix of desirable characteristics. Chicken folk will recognize popular hybrids like Golden Comets and ISA Browns, just as dog people recognize a cockapoo or a labradoodle. Technically, they're not breeds, they're hybrids, they're the poultry version of mongrels (I do hate that word) and aren't formally a breed…yet! 

What I'm getting at is that there are hundreds of 'not-breeds' of chicken that you can research, purchase and breed, so when you research chicken breeds, don't get caught up on titles and charts that exclude these lovelies. Hybrids chickens rock, as do Cavapoos.

Researching Brahmas and bantams until midnight is like chicken soup for the soul, just remember when shopping for your perfect poultry breed, that chickens are animals: they don't always do what they say on the tin! 

Time to snuggle in and breed up on all things chicken: 

  • How Many Chicken Breeds Are There?
  • How Many Breeds of Chicken are There in the US?
  • How Are Chicken Breeds Categorised?
  • Which Chicken Breeds Lay the Most Eggs?
  • Which Chicken Breeds are Best for Meat?
  • What is a Dual-Purpose Chicken?
  • What is a Giant Chicken Breed?
  • What are Bantam Chicken Breeds?
  • What are True Bantam Chicken Breeds?
  • What Are the Most Popular Chicken Breeds?
  • How Do the Most Popular Chicken Breeds Compare?
  • What are the Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners?
  • Which Chicken Breeds are the Friendliest?
  • Which Chicken Breeds Make the Best Pets?
  • The Top 10 Best-Looking Chickens are:
  • The Top 5 Ugliest Chicken Breeds Are:
  • What Are the Rarest Chicken Breeds?
  • Which Is the Best Breed of Chicken?
  • Which Chicken Breed Is Best for Me?
  • A-Z of Chicken Breeds

How Many Chicken Breeds Are There?

Keep an open mind when you're researching chicken breeds, as even this very reasonable question is tricky to answer.

Every country recognizes different chicken breeds and different varieties of each breed. For example, ten varieties of Silkie are recognized in their homeland of France, but only six of these are recognized in the US. Is there nothing we can all agree on?!

People are constantly honing the poultry gene pool to suit their own needs, and the APA (American Poultry Association)are always considering popular hybrids for their suitability as official chicken breeds. There are well-known hybrids and bantams that we all know and love, but they haven't quite become recognized yet. 

With this constant flux, nobody really knows the exact number of chicken breeds in the world, so let's be more specific…

How Many Breeds of Chicken are There in the US?

There are 463 recognized chicken breeds in the USA in 2022. These consist of 33 large fowl chicken breeds that can be broken down into 189 varieties, and 60 bantam chicken breeds that can be broken down into 274 varieties. You can see the full list here

How Are Chicken Breeds Categorised?

You can simplify your search for your perfect-poultry pal if you know which breed categories to focus your energy on. Chicken breeds are formally categorized by use, abundance, and size. For example, a Dong Tao is a large, rare, meat bird.

The categories of use include ornamental chicken breeds which are bred to look gorgeous, production chicken breeds including meat birds which are bred to develop fast and butchered for meat and layers which - you guessed it – are egg popping machines. There are also dual-purpose birds who lay well but can also be butchered successfully when needed.

Chicken breeds are also categorized by their size into bantams, standard-sized chickens, or giant chicken breeds.

Chicken lovers like you and I are usually more interested in categorizing chicken breeds more practically; by their temperament, the color or number of eggs they lay, whether they'll be happy in the home we can offer them, or how easy they'll be for us to care for.

Which Chicken Breeds Lay the Most Eggs?

The Golden Comet is the most eggs-ellent layer in Clucksville. She'll cough up, or pop out, an admirable 330 eggs🥚 a year. There are some egg-septional runners up though, and if you're looking to locate your very own egg-laying machine then knowing which breeds have the best egg yieldwill up your odds of a full tummy. Yum.

The Top 11 Chicken Breeds for Laying Eggs:

  1. The Golden Comet Chicken @ 300 – 350 eggs a year
  2. The Rhode Island Red Chicken @ 300 eggs a year
  3. The Leghorn Chicken @ 250 - 300 eggs a year
  4. The Plymouth Rock Chicken @ 280 eggs a year
  5. The Jersey Giant Chicken @ 200 eggs a year
  6. The Australorp Chicken @ 200 eggs a year
  7. The Marans Chicken @ 200 eggs a year
  8. The Delaware Chicken @ 200 eggs a year
  9. The Orpington Chicken @ 200 eggs a year
  10. The Ameraucana Chicken @ 200 eggs a year
  11. The Easter Egger Chicken @ 200 eggs a year

Which Chicken Breeds are Best for Meat?

Selecting the 'best' meat bird depends on if you're looking for the fastest growers, the most productive, the tastiest, or the best-looking dish! 

The Top 10 Chicken Breeds for Meat are:

  1. Cornish Cross Chickens
  2. Australorp Chicken
  3. Bresse Chicken
  4. Brown Leghorn Chickens
  5. Orpington
  6. Buckeye Chicken
  7. Jersey Giant
  8. Plymouth Rock
  9. New Hampshire Red
  10. Rhode Island Red

What is a Dual-Purpose Chicken?

Dual-purpose chicken breeds lay at least 200 eggs a year and will also provide enough meat to justify butchering surplus roosters or retired layers. Technically, dual-purpose simply means that they have two uses, but as chickens aren't the best cooks and can't drive the kids around, these two uses tend to be laying eggs and becoming Sunday roasts.

The Top 10 Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds are:

  1. The Wyandotte 
  2. The Orpington
  3. The Rhode Island Red
  4. The Black Australorp
  5. The Sussex
  6. The Plymouth Rock
  7. The Brahma
  8. The Delaware
  9. The Dominique
  10. The Cochin

What is a Giant Chicken Breed?

Giant chicken breeds weigh over 9lbs on average - they've got booty! Again, as with dogs, the thought of a giant breed may sound terrifying, but the larger breeds are often gentle giants. They tend to be more docile, and less aggressive as they have nothing to prove, and don't have to defend themselves as nobody wants to start on them in the first place. Giant chicken breeds make for great pets and productive layers. 

The Top 10 Giant Chicken Breeds are:

  1. The Jersey Giant Chicken
  2. The Brahma Chicken
  3. The Cochin Chicken
  4. The Cornish Game Chicken
  5. The Orpington Chicken 
  6. The Dong Tao Chicken
  7. The Malay Chicken
  8. The Australorp Chicken
  9. The New Hampshire Red Chicken
  10. The Rhode Island Red Chicken

These breeds have had their regal size recognized and are categorized as giant chickens. When you're looking for the larger chicken breeds in town, don't rule out the sizeable souls who don't quite make the giant grade. A well-built Delaware or Barred Rock chicken can tip the scales into giant territory and put a shorty Orpington to shame!

What are Bantam Chicken Breeds?

Bantam chicken breeds are pocket-sized poultry that weigh less than half that of their standard-sized sisters. They're mini-me chickens. They're super cute😍, they don't take up much space or cost a lot to feed. They're just generally delightful! 

The Top 10 Most Popular Bantam Chickens are:

  1. Silkie Bantam 
  2. Pekin Bantam
  3. Seabright Bantam
  4. Japanese Bantam / Chabo
  5. Barbu D’Uccle Bantam
  6. Rose combe Bantam
  7. Buff Orpington Bantam
  8. Brahma Bantam
  9. Australorp Bantam
  10. Leghorn Bantam

What are True Bantam Chicken Breeds?

A true bantam is a naturally small breed that has no standard-sized sister. They're just ickle: they weren't bred to be smaller versions of any other bird. There are 28 true bantam breeds.

The 10 Most Popular True Bantam Chickens are:

  1. Booted Bantam
  2. Silkie Bantam
  3. Ohiki Bantam
  4. Nankin Bantam
  5. Pekin Bantam
  6. Seabright Bantam
  7. Japanese Bantam / Chabo
  8. Serama Bantam
  9. Barbu D’Uccle Bantam
  10. Rose comb Bantam

What Are the Most Popular Chicken Breeds?

Without entering a debate of chicken top trumps, I vote that we trust the nation and assume that these most kept chicken breeds are popular choices for a reason. 

The 10 Most Popular Chicken Breeds are:

  1. The Brahma
  2. The Silkie
  3. The Cochin
  4. The Jersey Giant
  5. The Leghorn
  6. The Orpington 
  7. The Plymouth Rock
  8. The Rhode Island Red
  9. The Wyandotte
  10. The ISA Brown

How Do the Most Popular Chicken Breeds Compare?

We can't resist a little comparison chart. They need no explanation, and they explain a lot!

(chart of 10 most popular chicken breeds above)

What are the Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners?

If you're just at the beginning of your chicken leg of life then it makes sense to begin with a less demanding breed of chicken. The Divas out there may look delightful but be a handful. Maybe next year?

There's no need to fear being boring. Beginners tend to favor the same chicken. Breeds for very good reasons. There are some stunning birds to choose from who are easy to live with, give as much as they take in the relationship, and enjoy a little affection.

The Top 10 Chicken Breeds for Beginners are:

  1. The Orpington Chicken
  2. The Brahma Chicken
  3. The Silkie Chicken
  4. The Cochin Chicken
  5. The Leghorn Chicken
  6. The Plymouth Rock Chicken
  7. The Rhode Island Red Chicken
  8. The Wyandotte Chicken
  9. The Cemani Chicken
  10. The Australorp Chicken

Which Chicken Breeds are the Friendliest?

If you're craving a coop-mate who's up for copious cuddles, then selecting a chicken breed with an affectionate temperament is a no-brainer. If you have kids and you want them to get hands on with the hens, then finding a friendly chicken is really important. 

Chickens are individuals, and you're never guaranteed a certain character trait, but some breeds are more likely snuggle buddies than others.

The Top 10 Friendliest Chicken Breeds are:

  1. Silkie Chicken
  2. Rhode Island Red Chicken
  3. Buff Orpington Chicken
  4. Sussex Chicken
  5. Cochin Chicken
  6. Wyandotte Chicken
  7. Jersey Giant Chicken
  8. Easter Egger Chicken
  9. Faverolles Chicken
  10. Austrolorp Chicken

Which Chicken Breeds Make the Best Pets?

This kind of goes wing-in-wing with the friendliest breeds covered above, although being friendly isn't the only trait of a great pet. You'll need a chicken breed that suits your lifestyle, climate, and the amount of space you have to offer. Smaller bantam breeds are amazing if space is limited, but cold-hardy breeds are best if you live in a chilly climate. 

There's no one answer to this question, it's like asking which men make the best husbands (answers on a postcard!) You need to be honest with yourself, and your breeder, about what you want from your relationship and what you have to offer in return. Happy hatch matching.

Which Are the Best-Looking Chicken Breeds?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's true, so this matter is totally subjective. Some of us crave a squidgy dose of fluffy and cute, some of us appreciate the detail and definition of a heritage bird, and some of us admire a muscly macho rooster. Here's the breeds that float my boat:

The Top 10 Best-Looking Chickens are:

  1. The Frizzle Chicken
  2. The Golden Polish Chicken
  3. The Plymouth Rock Chicken
  4. The Sebright Chicken
  5. The Phoenix Chicken
  6. The Silkie Chicken
  7. Barbu/Belgian d'Uccle Chicken
  8. The Onagadori Chicken
  9. Gold & Silver lacedWyandotte
  10. Hamburg Chicken

Which Are the Ugliest Chicken Breeds?

I know this is harsh, but some chickens didn't get dealt the foxiest of feathers. They might have beautiful personalities, and I'm sure their mama hens adore them, but they're not the best-looking breeds on the books:

The Top 5 Ugliest Chicken Breeds are:

  1. The Featherless Chicken
  2. The Dong Tao Chicken
  3. The Churken
  4. The Rumpless Game Chicken
  5. The La Fleche Chicken

What is The Rarest Chicken Breed?

A chicken breed is classed as rare if it's over 200 years old there are less than 1000 birds globally; that's according to The Livestock Conservancy. 

The 10 rarest breeds of chicken in the world are:

  1. The Dong Tao Chicken
  2. The Sultan Chicken
  3. The Brabanter Chicken
  4. The La Fleche Chicken
  5. The Breda Chicken
  6. The Old English Pheasant Fowl
  7. The Burmese Bantam Chicken
  8. The Scots Dumpy Chicken
  9. The Ongadori Chicken
  10. The Golden Campine Chicken

Which Is the Best Breed of Chicken?

The Pink Unicorn Chicken is the best breed of chicken. It will tackle school admin, load the dishwasher, and has strong shanks which they use to massage their owner's shoulders. 

I am of course fibbing. The perfect breed of chicken doesn't egg-sist, but you can increase your chances of finding the best candidates for your coop troop by being honest about which chicken characteristics are the best match for you…

Which Chicken Breed Is Best for Me?

Breeds matter😊. Breeding matters more! Talk to a reputable breeder about what you're looking for in your chickens rather than slamming a photo in their face as if you're asking for a haircut.

What do you want from your chicken? Are you looking for a cheep date who will be minimal hassle but supply your egg basket religiously? Are you hoping that the kids will bond with your bird so you don't have to say no to a pony for the billionth time?

Chickenpedia offers a fab online course which starts from scratch and walks you through the process of finding the best chicken breed for you. Check it out before making any crazy decisions!

Great breeders can predict hatchling's temperaments, life expectancies, sizes, colorations, and egg yield better than any black and white breed standard can. They might surprise you with the chicken you never knew you wanted!

A-Z of Chicken Breeds

Who doesn't love a good list! Check out this A-Z of chicken breeds to compare clucky characteristics at a glance. 

<insert breed comparison chart>

What's Your Favorite Chicken Breed? Go On. If You HAD To Pick One…

Whatever breeds of chicken you set up shack with, you'll need to know how to care for them and how to make the most of their rather marvellous company. 

Chickenpedia is the perfect place to find all the answers you need to make your chicken-keeping journey fun. Don't be trawling the net for hours when you could be enjoying a drink in the garden watching your new flock peck around happily.

“I was new to keeping chickens and wanted helpful advice. Chickenpedia courses have been incredibly helpful and your online consulting invaluable. Thank you!” (Claire S, Columbus, OH)

Jo Smith


I’m Jo. Busy Mom to two little girls, one soppy, Labrador Retriever and too many chickens to ever confess to (I’m hoping the hubby has lost count). I love to chat and I’m chicken crazy, so I really love my job: chatting chickens with you! 💕

Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.