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Chicken Breeds

Updated on November 20, 2017
Isa Brown. Image by Snakesmum
Isa Brown. Image by Snakesmum

Chickens Are Fun

Are you thinking of keeping some hens in your backyard? Here are a very few of the breeds that are available. Some breeds are better egg layers than others. Chickens will help keep down the pests in your garden, but they will also eat some of your plants!

Bantams are also great to keep in the garden, but they are a little harder to find, at least here in Melbourne, Australia. So far, there have been none available when I've wanted them.

The Phoenix Rooster and Hen

Phoenix rooster and hen
Phoenix rooster and hen | Source

The Phoenix, An Exotic Breed.

Phoenix chickens are a long-tailed breed originating in Japan, They have been cross-bred from the original onagadori breed, known in Japan for hundreds of years.

Unusually, these birds can have feathers, called saddle feathers, growing from their sides, which can grow up to 18 inches (45 cm) in length. The tails can be even longer, growing up to 5 feet (1.5 M). This breed only moults every second year.

These chickens are more often used for show than for egg or meat production. They are not particularly hardy, can be unfriendly, and need a lot of care. Phoenix are usually fairly docile, however. They may only lay one egg a week.

Although they are beautiful, this is not a breed that is suited for a backyard, unless you just want to have a few ornamental chickens.

Rhode Island Red Hen
Rhode Island Red Hen | Source

Rhode Island Red Chickens

These hens are reputed to be quite smart! They are actually the official state bird for Rhode Island! Rhode Island Reds are an American breed which originated in Adamsville, Rhode Island. They are a popular bird with those who have small flocks, as they are great layers. They are also good to eat, and can handle the cold.

These hens usually lay brown eggs. Their colour is due to the influence of Malay blood, as one of the original sires was a red Malay with a black breast imported from the UK. They were developed in the 1880's, and are sometimes used as a showbird.

Sometimes the roosters can be a little aggressive, but the hens are more gentle and make good pets. I've had these hens, and they became very friendly.

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Silkie Bantam
Silkie Bantam | Source

Silkie Bantams

Although I really like these hens, I haven't had much luck with them. A few years ago, I bought two young hens at a Sunday market, but unfortunately, they both turned out to be roosters. The neighbours were not happy! The boys were transferred to my sister's farm out in the bush.

Silkies are one of the most popular of the ornamental breeds, and have a great temperament. Unusually, they have 5 toes instead of four, and black skin, with white feathers, although other colours are available. They are reputed to have been brought to the West from China, by Marco Polo.

This breed lays cream tinted eggs, and can lay up to 3 a week. They are good at raising young, and will even adopt ducklings on occasion. Often these hens are used to hatch eggs from other breeds.

Australorps | Source

Australorp Hens

The Australorp is a very pretty bird, with black feathers which may have a green gloss. Their eyes are large and black. The beak and legs are black. They are good layers and meat birds, and are hardy and docile.

This breed was developed at the end of the 19th century, in Australia. Mostly, they were developed with English Black Orpington stock, but there are also genes from Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, and others. They were intended as a utility breed and there are three colours recognised for them, black, white, and blue.

Australorps are very good nesters and make good mothers. They usually lay about 250 eggs per year.

Isa Brown Hens.    Image by Snakesmum
Isa Brown Hens. Image by Snakesmum

Isa Brown Hens

These chickens are excellent layers, and are also very friendly. Sometimes too friendly, as I've had them leap on my knee or the table when having lunch in the backyard! Perhaps they were after the food.....

On one occasion, I was going along the plant bed, putting in seedlings, and looked around to find I was being followed by my two Isa Browns, who were happily pulling them up and eating them.

Isa Browns are not a true breed, but a hybrid between White Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds. They were originally developed in 1978 by Institut de Selection Animale, or ISA. They can lay up to 300 eggs per year in their first year of laying, which is quite a feat. Unfortunately, because they are such good layers, they are often used as battery hens.

They are very friendly birds, and those I had were quite intelligent, in their way. Isa Browns can make great pets, and just a few birds will keep a family well supplied with eggs.

Araucana Chickens

Aracuana egg, and chicken
Aracuana egg, and chicken

Araucana Hens

Photo Credit for the egg image.
Photo Credit for the Chicken image.

The Araucana hen is one I always wanted to keep, but never actually found, probably because they are a comparatively rare breed. I wanted them because they laid blue eggs, which is not a paricularly good reason for keeping a hen! The photo above shows an Araucana egg compared with normal brown and white eggs.

The Araucana usually has a great personality, and is good at foraging for food. They are reputed to be friendly and curious. They have a crest which is carried well back from their eyes, and the face has ear muffs and a beard. They have medium legs, which are very strong, and free of feathers, ending in four toes. The hens are known to be great mothers. This breed is a dual purpose breed, and they lay about 3 eggs a week.

The Araucana originally came from the Arauca area of Southern America, between Peru and Chile, where the Incas lived. These birds come in a variety of colours - lavender and black are shown in the picture above.

California Gray Chicken
California Gray Chicken | Source

California Gray Chickens

These hens are an American breed, developed in the 1930s in California. They are reputed to be friendly and curious birds.

California Grays lay large white eggs, and are suitable for both meat and egg production. The original birds were a cross between White Leghorns and Barred Plymouth Rocks, and were developed by Professor James Dryden, a poultry expert.

Starting With Chickens

Chicken Talk: Comments Please

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    • Androids4Seniors profile image

      Androids4Seniors 4 years ago

      We have an Araucana hen who lays plain old light brown eggs which disappointed us a little. She has a great temperament and is very intelligent (well for a bantam!) though and is very easy to handle.

    • Meganhere profile image

      Meganhere 4 years ago

      Drat, I want bantams and I'm in Melbourne!

    • Nightcat profile image

      Nightcat 4 years ago

      I adore all the breeds of chickens especially the show kind so this was a real treat. :)

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      We had both white and brown chickens when I was young but looking at the Phoenix rooster I would definitely have loved to have seen him strutting around our yard. He is gorgeous.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 4 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I've been wanting to get some Bantams. I'd love to have Phoenix rooster, but since I live in the suburbs, it's just hens for me. I have Auracanas and an Australorp, who is very shy and tends to get broody.

    • iwrite100 profile image

      Maribel Forayo 5 years ago from Philippines

      Some looks familiar. When I was a child, we raised poultry but I don't know what breed were those.

    • Splodgered profile image

      Splodgered 5 years ago

      I guess I am lucky as several of my neighbours keep chickens so we often get them (and their eggs) in our garden!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @audrey07: Haven't played Farmville at all! There are heaps of breeds of hens - too many for one lens. Thanks for visiting.

    • audrey07 profile image

      audrey07 5 years ago

      I don't know much about hens but the few breeds that I came to know, I found them when I played Farmville 2 on Facebook!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @worldflashpacker: So do I - they're great pets. Thanks for visiting

    • worldflashpacker profile image

      worldflashpacker 5 years ago

      Very informative lens. I love chickens.

    • DvdMovieGirl profile image

      DvdMovieGirl 5 years ago

      Nice Lens! I like those Silkie Bantams they are gorgeous.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Countryluthier: Would love to have some myself, but it's not possible at present. Thanks for your visit.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @rawwwwwws lm: Thankyou for your visit. It's a new lens, and more will be added!

    • rawwwwwws lm profile image

      rawwwwwws lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing! Enjoyed my time passing through your lens.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      I can imagine having a flock of those silkies some day. Thanks for sharing so much.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @poldepc lm: Never ate one of mine, but they were as much pets as anything! Thanks for visiting

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 5 years ago

      during my childhood my mother used to have chickens; for the eggs, and the meat; as a widow she had to survive...