Brahma chicken. Photo by Achim Bongard
Keeping chickens can be a fun and rewarding experience. An important part of beginning your chicken-keeping hobby is choosing which breed of bird to house in your backyard coop.
Important factors to consider when choosing a chicken breed include the bird’s size, temperament, noise level, and egg-laying capabilities. While you may be inclined to begin your chicken-keeping hobby with a more common bird, such as an Australorp or Rhode Island Red, there are many more rare and unique breeds that make equally wonderful or even better birds for your backyard chicken coop.
Here are five of the most uncommon and distinctive chicken breeds you need in your backyard.
#1: The Brahma Chicken
The Brahma chicken (photo above) is a rare breed that originated in China and is named after the Brahmaputra River that flows through China, Bangladesh, and India.
These birds are often referred to as the “gentle giants of the poultry world,” according to Chickens and More because of their large size and friendly disposition. Aside from their size, this breed is best recognized by its feathered legs and toes, and can come in a variety of colorations such as light, dark, or buff.
Part of what makes the Brahma chicken unique is its friendly temperament. These chickens are easy to handle and extremely gentle, making them a great backyard breed for families with young children—although their size may intimidate children at first. The Brahma chicken typically lays three to four eggs a week and oftentimes lays eggs throughout the winter, while most chickens do not do.
#2: The Dominique Chicken
The Dominique chicken is a bird with a long and rich history. This breed originated in the South of England, specifically the county of Sussex, and arrived in America along with the pilgrims in the 18th century. Until recently, this breed of chicken was in danger of going extinct, but breeders have managed to bring the Dominique chicken back from the brink; however, this breed is still quite rare today.
This bird is medium in size and is best known for the unique black and white barring pattern of its feathers. The Dominique chicken can tolerate a variety of climates, deals well with confinement, and is known for being extremely friendly. This particular breed is also quite tolerant of being held and cuddled.
This chicken lays around three eggs per week and is a great breed of chicken for the backyard because it is very quiet.
#3: The Faverolles Chicken
The Faverolles chicken is a rare breed that originated in France during the 19th century. It is named after the French town of Faverolles located near Paris. Interestingly, the exact origins of this breed of chicken are highly speculated, as it was developed from crossing a variety of different breeds of chickens.
These birds are medium in size, have fluffy feathers including a beard, muff, and feathered legs, and have five toes instead of the standard four. They can come in two color varieties—white and brown, or the more uncommon salmon and brown.
Faverolles chickens are very curious, friendly, and enjoy being held. They also are known for being talkative but are quiet enough that they will not disturb neighbors if they are kept in the backyard. This breed is accustomed to a variety of temperatures and climates and is used to confinement, laying around four eggs per week and oftentimes laying eggs throughout the winter as well.
#4: The Silkie Chicken
The Silkie chicken is a unique breed that originated in Asia. While it’s exact country of origin is contested, Oklahoma State University notes that the famous Italian explorer Marco Polo had cited encountering a furry chicken while he was in China during the 13th century.
The Silkie chicken is medium in size and is best recognized by its unusual fur-like feathers, which can come in several different color varieties, as well as its black skin and organs—the result of a melanotic gene called Fibromelanosis. Additionally, this breed has five toes instead of the typical four.
These birds are especially friendly and cuddly, serving as a popular bird for families. They do well with confinement, but do not fare well with cold climates. In fact, many Silkie chicken owners will bring their birds indoors during the winter, as they make wonderful indoor pets as well as outdoor ones.
Although the Silkie chicken can lay up to three eggs a week, they are more so used for decorative purposes or as pets.
#5: The Barnevelders Chicken
The Barnevelders chicken originated in Holland between the 12th and the 13th centuries, making it one of the most ancient chicken breeds. These birds are quite rare and therefore not as widely available as more common breeds, meaning locating a breeder may require a bit more effort.
The Barnevelders chicken is medium in size and comes in two color varieties—dark brown or black. Females, however, have feathers that are light brown and often exhibit a red laced pattern on their feathers.
This bird is extremely mellow, has a friendly disposition, and is quite talkative; however, like the Faverolles breed, they are quiet enough that they will not bother neighbors. Barnevelders chickens tolerate confinement well but enjoy free ranging when possible and will lay around four brown eggs per week.
Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels
Keeping a rare breed of chicken in your backyard can enrich your chicken-keeping experience. While at first it may seem more appealing to purchase a more common breed of chicken for your backyard coop, these rare breeds undoubtedly have richer and more unique histories, more eye-catching appearances, and distinctive personalities and temperaments.
If you choose to purchase a rare breed of chicken such as those listed above, you may have to dedicate more time to locating a breeder and you may even need to make special arrangements for your backyard coop in order to accommodate for these birds’ needs.
However, despite requiring perhaps a bit more effort, these rare and remarkable chickens will transform your standard and typical backyard coop into a personal collection of both history and eye-candy.
David Woods is a carpenter, outdoorsman, and author with more than 30 years of professional woodworking experience. He is the author of best-seller How to Build a Log Home and has educated more than half a million people on how to build a log cabin via his blog, Log Cabin Hub. Connect with him on Facebook.
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