Get to know these 23 heritage breeds of chicken – one or more could add diversity and fun to your flock!
Everyone needs a big list of heritage chicken breeds. Now you can more easily decide which is best for your homestead.
ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Click on the "Image Gallery to see a chart with images of all the chickens listed below.
ANCONA. Active, energetic, hardy birds best known as excellent winter layers, Anconas produce fair-sized white eggs. Their dark, inconspicuous coloring has made them popular in areas where predators are a problem.
ARAUCANA. The only chicken to lay colored (shades of blue, green, or red) eggs. Some Araucanas have tufts, others sport bearas or crests, or lack a tail. Plumage varies in combinations of black, silver, brown white, and gold.
BLUE ANDALUSIAN. Delicately blue-laced feathers and a stately air make this layer of large white eggs something of an aristocrat. Offspring may be "blue", black, white, or blackwhite.
BLACK MINORCA. A longtime favorite (and known to be a very resourceful outdoor forager), the beautiful Black Minorca is a hardy, relatively heavy non-setter. Eggs are large and chalkywhite.
NEW HAMPSHIRE. One of the newer varieties of "dual-purpose" breeds ... with a reputation for fast weight gains, rapid feathering, and early egg production second only to its fame as a tasty broiler.
DARK BRAHMA. This layer of light-to darkbrown eggs is admired for its delicately, penciled plumage and gentle disposition. Developed from Asiatic fowl brought to New England by China clipper ships in the 1800's.
WHITE LANGSHAN. Never in danger of being called "Shorty", this statuesque fowl is big and heavily feathered (even down the outer side of its shanks and toes). The birds are good layers of dark-brown eggs.
SILVER CAMPINE. Considered an exhibition variety in this country, but also on record as a steady producer of white eggs. This lightweight's tightly feathered, barred plumage is set off by a flowing silver hackle.
DOMINIQUE. Known as "the pioneer's chicken". Settlers brought these medium-sized birds west with them, and-in the old days nearly all black-and-white barred fowl were called "Dominikers". Lays brown eggs.
WHITE JERSEY GIANT. Raised primarily for meat. Jersey Giants mature slower than Rocks or Reds but eventually surpass those breeds in finished weight. The variety is often noted for its disease resistance.
PARTRIDGE COCHIN. A large and handsome show bird. Males boast orange-red hackle and saddle feathers with black centers, while females—once popular as setting hens—have reddish-brown, black-penciled plumage.
MOTTLED HOUDAN. Although this breed makes for tasty eating and a good supply of white eggs, its unusual appearance—a "beard", a crest, a V-shaped comb, and five toes—have confined it to the "oddity" class.
WHITE CRESTED BLACK POLISH. Don't let fancy appearances fool you: These lavishly plumed birds—admired for their lustrous sheen and rich color-are also practical, productive white egg layers.
SINGLE COMB BROWN LEGHORN. Definitely the most colorful of the Leghorn family, this variety shares all the practical qualities of its plain-Jane cousins: large size, reliable white egg production, and lively disposition.
LAKENVELDER. Developed in the early 1800's, but not recognized in this country until 1930. The Lakenvelder is a small but very meaty non-setting fowl that lays white eggs and forages widely if allowed to run.
GOLDEN SPANGLED HAMBURG. Like the rest of the Hamburg breed, this bird is small and active and a reliable layer of chalk-white eggs. Its ancestry has been traced as far back as the early 17th century.
BLACK AUSTRALORP. Poultrymen generally agree that this is one of the best of the heavy breeds. Developed to produce prodigious quantities of lightbrown eggs, the fowl also dresses out nicely for the dinner table.
WHITE-LACED RED CORNISH. Raising these slow maturing birds for show takes patience and an unfaltering sense of perfection ... but even if you don't get the blue ribbon you'll have a fine one- or two-person meal.
BUFF ORPINGTON. One of the most popular American farm chickens during the late 1800's and early 1900's. Bright gold plumage, excellent winter egg production, and exceptionally tasty meat have made this bird famous.
RHODE ISLAND RED. Undoubtedly the most popular and well-known of the "dual purpose" strains. Rhode Island Reds make fine broilers and are unsurpassed among the heavy breeds for brown egg production.
BARRED PLYMOUTH ROCK. Another of this country's reliable "standbys". Slightly heavier than Rhode Island Reds, the breed is especially favored as a roasting bird and produces a steady supply of large brown eggs.
SPECKLED SUSSEX. Raised for bath show and food, the colorful Speckled Sussex was developed in England as a meat bird over 100 years ago. Today, the breed is also recognized as a good layer of lightbrown or tinted eggs.
COLUMBIAN WYANDOTTE. An unusual (but very practical) fowl. Originally a cross between White Wyandottes and Barred Plymouth Rocks, the bird is easy to dress and lays brown eggs. Hens make excellent setters and mothers.
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