Backyard Heritage Chicken Breeds

We’ve compiled the key characteristics and anecdotal information on 20 compelling heritage chicken breeds, including the Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, Australorp, Jersey Giant and more.

February/March 2014

By Oscar H. Will III

Not long ago, most farms and households in the United States played host to at least a small flock of chickens. Chores such as collecting eggs and butchering birds were a part of daily life for all but the most urban residents. In many cases, the household’s flock consisted of a multipurpose breed suitable for egg production and of sufficient size to fill a frying pan when young, or to roast when mature.

For those interested in reviving the tradition of a hardy, homestead flock, we’ve compiled key characteristics and anecdotal information on 20 compelling heritage chicken breeds, including the Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, Australorp, Jersey Giant and more. In addition to a short description of the breed’s dominant features, the following chart includes the bird’s size, comb type, plumage, egg color, primary use and origin.