Let’s talk about some of the best and most popular chicken breeds that you might want to consider including in your backyard flock! From temperament to eggs, this article will explore key information about the top 18 backyard chicken breeds. However, not every type of bird will be best suited for your climate, family, or yard.
To help you examine and narrow down the chicken choices, here is the low-down on their reputation for demeanor, heat tolerance or cold hardiness, egg color, size, and laying frequency, along with any other notable characteristics.
We have personal experience with many of the breeds on this list. Others are on our future “wish list” because of all the great things we have heard about them. I also included popular breeds that many of my insta-family of crazy chicken ladies love and have in their flocks. All of the descriptions provided below are in reference to the standard large fowl size (with exception of the Millie Fleur), though many of these breeds are also available in bantam (small) size.
What breeds of chicken do you want?
The Top 18 Backyard Chicken Breeds
1) Barred Rock
Barred Plymouth Rocks, or just “barred rocks”, are some of the sweetest, most inquisitive, quirky birds we’ve ever had. They are very friendly, intelligent, and great with kids. I hate to play favorites, but of the nine different chickens we have had now, Dottie and Zoey take the cake. They’re the ones who always come running first, follow closest, and are most inclined to jump up for a cuddle.
Barred Rocks also have a reputation for being talkative, but with a distinct sweet, softer coo and chatter, much different than the others in the flock. These black and white spotted cuties are steady layers of large, light brown eggs. You can expect an average of four to five eggs per week while they’re actively laying. Barred rocks have a large single comb, and are both heat and cold tolerant. This breed can take well to “confinement” but are happiest when they can range freely.
This group includes Black Copper Marans, Blue Copper Marans, or Cuckoo Marans. All of them are known to have the same great temperament. Sweet. Intelligent. Docile. Easily handled. Personally, I have a sizable soft spot for Black Copper Marans. Their bluish black iridescent feathers, copper gold neck feathers, feathered legs, and large red comb and wattles make them extremely striking, gorgeous birds. We had a Black Copper Marans named Luna. We lost her early due to a heart defect, but for the 6 months she blessed our lives with her presence, she was one of the best chickens we’d ever had.
Marans are highly sought after for their dark chocolate brown eggs, which range from medium brown (blue copper), dark (cuckoo), to very very dark chocolate brown (black copper marans). They are good layers, averaging at least 3 large eggs per week. Though they’re quite cold hardy, Marans aren’t said to be especially tolerant to extreme heat.
3) Easter Eggers or Olive Eggers
Easter Eggers are usually very friendly, docile, and in our experience, maybe a tad ditzy. But what chicken isn’t a little ditzy? Really. Not to be confused with a true-bred Ameraucanas or Araucanas, Easter Eggers are also commonly labeled as “Americanas”. Note the difference in spelling. Certain chicken enthusiasts get very irritated by the misleading nomenclature, because the Ameraucana breed (number 5 below) is quite different.
Easter Eggers are the mutts of the chicken world; they are not a true recognized breed of chicken. But mutts can make for the best of pets! Instead, they’re usually a cross breed, dubbed and lumped into a generic category of “easter eggers” for the colorful eggs they’re bred to lay. The same is true for Olive Eggers. Most Easter Eggers have green legs, which helps make them easily distinguishable from true-bred Ameraucanas, who have slate gray to blue legs.
True to their name, Easter Eggers can lay a rainbow of egg colors! It is most common to get green or blue eggs from Easter Egger hens, though their palette can range from pink to tan to purplish! You can eggspect at least 4 eggs per week from these gals. Outfitted with fluffy cheeks called muffs, or feathery little neck beards, I think these birds are absolutely adorable. They come in a wide variety of colors, including brown, orange, black, blonde, white or blue! We have had three Easter Eggers, Hennifer being our oldest gal in the current flock.
Easter Eggers have small peacombs, making them a good cold-hardy bird. Peacombs do not have as high of a risk of frostbite as large single-comb types. They’re also known to be heat tolerant, and do not commonly become broody.
The Buff orpington is the quintessential backyard chicken. Imagine a big ginger-blonde fluff ball lazily meandering around your yard. With a reputation of being very sweet, docile, and patient, these birds are especially good with kids. The buff color Orpington is the most common, though they come in a variety of other color plumage! Blue, Black, White… A Lavender or Jubilee Orpington is on our wish list, most definitely! Orpingtons lay medium to large light brown eggs, averaging one every other day.
Due to their fluffy plumage, this breed is especially cold-hardy. Also because of their heavy stature, they’re known to be less flighty once they’ve reached maturity. Orpingtons may go broody fairly often, and are very good mother hens.
Often confused with Easter Eggers, this recognized purebreed does have a lot of similar characteristics! With fluffy cheek muffs and a beard, their faces couldn’t get any cuter. Ameraucanas lay beautiful medium-size blue eggs in a wide range of shades, with an average of about 3 to 4 per week. But don’t expect eggs right away from this breed. On average, this breed will “come into lay” a couple months later than other hens.
When talking about their Ameraucanas, most folks say they’re docile but very alert and predator savvy. Personality can vary with each unique bird – it seems they enjoy being around humans, but may be a little more on the skittish side, not necessarily enjoying cuddles as much as some chicken breeds. Plumage color ranges from blue to buff and wheaten to lavender. A lavender or blue splash Ameraucana is on my dream flock list! Like many chickens, this breed is quite cold hardy but not particularly heat hardy.
6) Crested Cream Legbar
Crested Cream Legbars, or just “cream legbars”, are a rare breed and highly sought after for their bright blue-green eggs. They will lay about 4 to 5 medium-size blue eggs per week. And their amazing little tufted head poufs, and big floppy combs? Yeah. Pretty stinking cute. This breed is known to be very sweet and inquisitive. Some of my friends have super friendly, cuddly CCL’s who love to be up-in-the-business, getting pet and being held. Our girl Phoebe is a little more skittish, but she’s still a quirky, beautiful, welcome addition to our flock.
Cream Legbars are good foragers, and keen to spotting and avoiding predators when free ranging. Being on the smaller side for “large fowl”, they can move quick! They are tolerant to heat, cold, and confinement. One additional awesome trait these birds have going for them is that they’re auto-sexing. That means that as day-old chicks, you can easily tell the two sexes apart. So whether you’re ordering from a hatchery, picking some up from a local breeder, or hatching your own eggs at home, you know what you’re getting into right away! The baby males will have a light spot on the top of their head, which the females lack.
Welsummers are all-around awesome friends to have in the backyard! They are calm, sweet, beautiful, and steady, reliable layers. If you are looking for reddish brown eggs, most often with awesome dark brown speckles, look no further! Four large eggs per week is an expected average for Welsummers.
Backyard chicken keepers have nothing but good things to say about this breed. We love our Welsummer girl, Ginger. She is more gentle in her digging than the others, though Welsummers are good foragers. Ginger is also our least assertive bird, when it comes time to competing for food or in the general pecking order with the rest of the flock, despite the stereotype that they can be more assertive with others. This breed is both cold and heat-hardy.
Wyandottes have some of the most gorgeous feather patterns out there. Gold Laced and Silver Laced are the most common plumage colors, though they also come in blue, black, partridge, and more. With humans, Wyandottes are mostly calm and friendly birds, though a little aloof. They are not necessarily “lap chickens”. When it comes to demeanor around other chickens, they often rank high in the pecking order and can be bossy or even a little aggressive.
In regards to eggs, Wyandottes will lay about 4 medium-to-large light brown eggs per week. They’re a heavy breed and therefore not usually as quick or flighty. With a rose comb and full plumage, they’re exceptionally suited for cold climates. Like many other chicken breeds, they’ll will need extra measures taken to keep them cool and comfortable in high-heat climates. They are good foragers and prefer free range.
The adorable factor is so real with these birds. Fluffy feathered pantaloons, anyone? These birds are so fully feathered that you usually cannot see their feet. Cochins are not known to be the best of layers, averaging about 2 medium brown eggs per week. However, for what they lack in egg production, they more than make up for in personality! This leads them to be continually popular with backyard chicken keepers.
Cochins have a reputation for being very friendly, docile, easily-handled, and overall peaceful, good-vibes only birds. Even their roosters are known to be pretty chill. Are you surprised to hear Cochins are on our dream flock list? Probably not. And to be honest, we get way more eggs than we can keep up with from our four “strong” laying hens. I wouldn’t mind some girls that lay less frequently.
Given their heavy statue and immense fluff, Cochins are very cold hardy and easy to contain with minimal fencing. They aren’t aggressive foragers, and prefer the fat and lazy approach. They’re not super heat tolerant, but that can be overcome with extra precautions like plenty of shade, cold water, frozen treats. In regards to colors, Cochins come in just about all of them! Buff, blue, gold laced, white, black, mottled, brown, red, and more.
This is the Australian-origin version of the Orpington, and have many of the same qualities! Australorp plumage can be blue, black, or white. I personally think the black is the most stunning, with an iridescent green, blue, and purple sheen in the right lighting. This breed is well-known for their high-volume egg laying abilities. Several world records for most number of eggs per year were set by Australorp hens. They will lay an average of 5 large light brown eggs per week.
On the whole, Australorps are very docile, sweet, and friendly. Some may be a tad shy. Fluffy and large, these birds have great cold hardiness. As you can imagine, being that they originated in Australia and are very popular birds there, they are also quite heat tolerant.
11) Speckled Sussex
Speckled Sussex chickens are curious, mild-mannered, and will probably follow you all over. As heavy dual-purpose birds, these chickens aren’t as prone to flying once they mature to full size, so they’re a little less likely to hop the fence into your garden! After each molt, they can become increasingly speckled and pretty. Add one of these to our future “I want you” list.
Speckled Sussex lay about four light brown eggs four per week. They’re likely to lay through the coldest of winter weather. Speaking of winter, this breed is a good cold-hearty breed too. They aren’t necessarily heat sensitive, but also are not know to be exceptionally heat tolerant either.
Silkies are like the teddy bears of the chicken world. Mostly kept as beloved pets over egg production, these birds are exceedingly friendly, easy to handle, and with their unique fluffy feathers, very adorable. They’re commonly raised as show birds. With Silkies, about 2 to 3 eggs per week is common. The eggs are small to medium size, usually cream in color. Speaking of color, their plumage variations include blue, black, white, grey, buff, partridge, and splash. Despite their fragile appearance, they take well to free ranging, and are quite heat tolerant! They go broody easily and make for excellent mothers.
Due to their unique silky feathers, there are a few things you need to know to properly care for them. First, because their feathers do not stick together, they cannot fly. This makes them easy to confine, but also easy targets for predators. Also because of their feathers, they are not waterproof like other chickens and cannot tolerate overly wet climates without some supplemental heat or blow drying. As a very docile and unique breed, they are an easy target for bullying and feather-plucking by other members of a mixed flock. Therefore, silkies may do best in flocks of their same kind or with similar breeds like Polish.
Have you seen those adorable birds with pom-poms of feather afros on the their head? That’s a Polish. They are ridiculously adorable. The head pouf can be so full that it might need to be routinely trimmed or pulled back into a “hen bun” to help the birds otherwise impaired eyesight. Like Cochins and Silkies, this is a breed that is more sought after for appearance and cute-factor than egg production. They will lay medium to large white eggs, up to several per week. However, they are known to have more variation in laying frequency and therefore less dependable, if eggs are what you’re looking for. They are not known to go broody much.
Also like cochins and silkies, this breed is very tame, sweet, and will tolerate being held, making them a very good choice for a family with children. They fly well, and also may startle easily, which is thought to be attributed to their sometimes blocked eyesight. They are also very inquisitive and can get themselves into tricky situations because of it. Good thing they tolerate being confined well, because that may be the best option for these birds.
Polish can be many different color combinations, including blue, black, buff, silver and gold laced, often with a different color poofy crest than the rest of their feathers. They are included on the My Pet Chicken heat-hardy chicken breeds list, and also do well with cold. Like Silkies, overly wet conditions are not ideal. Their crest should be dried if it becomes sopping wet.
When they’re in a flock with other more aggressive breeds like Rhode Island Reds, Polish chickens often fall to the bottom of the pecking order and can be easily bullied. Though adorable, their poofy head feathers can also get them into trouble – they can be irresistible, and other chickens may pick and pluck them. That said, I know of many mixed flocks that include polish and they do just fine!
14) Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Reds are production birds. They’re valued both for high egg laying frequency, providing about 5 eggs per week, and also for their heavy bodies for meat. Eggs are extra-large in size, brown in color. They do well in most climates, and are especially cold hardy. The breed is recognized to be good foragers, but also take well to confinement. The Rhode Island Red is the official state bird of… you guessed it… Rhode Island.
There is a persistent rumor around the chicken keeping community that claims RIRs are a bit more rowdy and sometimes even aggressive. Honestly, this prevented us from getting Rhode Island Reds in the past, though I hate to stereotype! Every chicken is different. Rumors aside, upon reading through reviews on various backyard chicken online forums, it seems most folks have very positive things to say about their RIRs! I venture to guess they may have dominant personalities and often emerge as the “top hen” in the flock, but can be very friendly and even downright cuddly with their human companions. People claim they’re a particularly loud breed.
15) Mille Fleur d’Uccle
In French, Mille Fleur means “thousand flowers.” This is probably in reference to the hundreds of little black and white flower petal-looking dots that cover these gorgeous, unique birds otherwise-orange feathers. In addition to the speckles, they have full beards and fluffy feathered feet. Millie Fleurs are very attractive-looking, sweet, calm, and enjoy being handled. Combined with their huge personalities, they are perfect pets as well as popular show birds. They’re only available as bantams.
Egg production isn’t their strong suit, laying just a few very small white eggs per week. Because they are small and light, they do well in heat. This also means they’re excellent fliers, so take that into consideration when you are planning their run or ranging space. Keeping them in a flock with larger, more assertive birds may be problematic, similarly to Polish or Silkies. A Millie Fleur has been on my “I want you” list for a long time.
Dominiques are another all-around great addition to any backyard flock. They’re docile, sweet, gentle, and are likely to follow their favorite humans closely everywhere they go. They’re also good layers, averaging 3 to 4 medium-large light brown eggs per week. Like Cream Legbars, this breed is auto-sexing, making it easy to more accurately determine their sex as baby chicks just by looking at them. Head spots on male chicks are more scattered, while the female’s head spot will be smaller and uniform.
Though they look similar at first glance, don’t confuse this breed with a barred rock! Dominique chickens have the same black and white pattern, but a bit more mottled and less crisp than a barred rock. The most obvious tell-tale difference between the two breeds is the Dominque’s flattened rose comb. Instead, barred rocks have a single tall large comb. This rose comb gives them little risk of frostbite and excellent cold tolerance, though they aren’t particularly heat tolerant.
As a gentle, less aggressive breed, they make great companions for the similarly-sweet Cochins, Polish, or Silkies, and could be picked on by other more dominant types. They also make excellent, caring mothers.
With unique double-laced plumage reminiscent of a Wyandotte, and chocolate-colored eggs, Barnevelders are gorgeous all the way around. They’ll lay about three large medium to dark brown eggs per week. This breed is rumored to be active, good at foraging, and friendly, but also very easy-going, quiet, and will tolerate confinement well. They’re a cold hardy breed.
Since they’re fairly rare, you probably won’t see this breed during chick days at your local Farm Supply store, but are becoming increasingly available through large and small breeders alike. Much like other mellow chicken breeds, these gals can often fall to the bottom of the pecking order.
Last but not least, the Brahma. These are big, “dual-purpose” birds! So much so, they’ve been dubbed “The King of Chickens”. But they’re a gentle giant, known just as much for their calm disposition as they are for their size and productivity. As a fluffy, friendly, quiet, easily-handled breed, this is another great choice for families with children. They average three to four medium-large light brown eggs per week. A quirky trait is that they seem to prefer to lay October through May – the time when many other chicken breeds take a winter break – so they may help bring balance to your egg basket year round!
Brahmas have three recognized feather colors: buff, light, and dark. They are densely feathered, including feathery legs and feet. Due to their heavy body stature, they don’t fly well. Therefore, Brahams are generally easy to contain. Their great size also often keeps them near the top of the pecking order. Other birds don’t wanna check that! Cold temperatures aren’t an issue for these birds. However, being in overly wet conditions often could lead to issues with their feathery feet. As long as they have shade and cold water in the summer, they’re okay in heat too.
Best egg production:
If a high egg count is your primary motivator for keeping chickens, look no further than Rhode Island Reds, Barred rocks, and Australorps. These are probably the three most “productive” chicken breeds on the list.
To create a beautiful egg basket full of unique colors, you may want to consider Marans, Easter or Olive Eggers, Ameraucanas, Crested Cream Legbars, Welsummers, and Barnevelders, all of which lay quite regularly as well.
Most Calm and Loving:
If you are after absolute sweethearts, mellow birds for a family with children, then the Barred Rocks, Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, Cochins, Silkies, Millie Fleur, or Polish chicken breeds might be among your ideal choices.
Note that every bird will have its own unique demeanor, so some birds within these breeds (or other breeds on the list) may be more or less friendly than “the norm”. A lot of how affectionate a chicken is with its human family greatly depends on the bonding time spent with it from a young age.
Great All-Around Birds:
Speckled Sussex, Barnevelders, Brahmas, and Dominiques are great all-around birds, with a little of all of the above too!
The most heat-tolerant chicken breeds include the Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Easter Eggers, Australorp, Silkies, Millie Fleurs, and Welsummers. However, with extra measures taken by a diligent chicken parent, most breeds can live happily in hot climates. When temperatures reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, preventative measures to keep birds cool must be taken. This is particularly true in humid climates. Read “10 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool in Hot Summer Weather” to learn more!
Given that they’re living, walking, breathing down blankets, cold is not usually as threatening to chickens as heat is! That is, unless they’re molting. Then they may need a sweater. All of the breeds on this list will do similarly well in cold climates, as long as typical winterizing precautions are taken. Chickens with large single-combs and wattles may need extra attention in winter, to ensure their combs don’t get frostbite. Check out “10 Tips on Caring for Chickens in Cold Winter Weather” here.
Most Unique Appearance:
Even though I think ALL chickens are quite beautiful, if you are looking for unique, show-stopping beauties, Wyandottes, Millie Fleur, Polish, and Silkies take the cake.
So what do you think?
Did this help you narrow down your choices, or just make you want alllll of them? The great news about having so many awesome chicken breeds to choose from is it may help you feel less “stuck” on just a few breed types! It is great to be flexible and open up your options, especially if you are sourcing your chicks from a local breeder that might not have all of the exact breeds you were originally hoping for.
If you are a new or soon-to-be chicken parent, you may want to check out this post: What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Backyard Chickens. It covers everything from where to get chickens, coop and run design, predators and safety, and poop! Yep. Poop.
Did I miss any great chicken breeds that deserve a shout out? Feel free to leave a comment, and include a little description to share your experience with others. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with anyone who might find it useful. Thanks for reading!