Chicken Breeds Ideal for Backyard Pets and Eggs
Popular picks for backyard flocks, these breeds rate high for their friendly personalities, beauty or unusual looks, hardiness in hot and cold climates, and reputations as good egg layers.
By: Anna Millman
Rhode Island Red
This hen named Fronk is a fine-looking specimen of its breed, one that dates back to the late 1800s. Exceptionally hardy, the Rhode Island Red lays large brown eggs. Some chicken owners say RIRs have easygoing personalities; others say they are bossy. As with many breeds, it comes down to whether they are handled frequently when they are chicks and whether human interaction is encouraged with treats. The RIR is the state bird of Rhode Island.
Resembling a puffball with a beak, Silkies are one of the most popular ornamental chicken breeds. They are bantams, which are miniaturized poultry. Due to their unusual looks and docile nature, some chicken owners keep them as indoor household pets. Silkies get their name from their soft feathers that look more like fur. While this picture shows a rooster, both sexes look virtually identical. Silkies are one of many breeds that have feathered feet. Earliest mentions of Silkies date back to the time of Marco Polo.
Campines are originally from Belgium and are fairly good layers of medium-sized white eggs. The solid gold plumage on her head, her white ears, the barred plumage on her body and her upright tail make this golden variety hen named Jenny a strikingly beautiful bird. Her good looks combined with the breed's penchant for foraging and flying have led Jenny's owners to nickname her the "traffic-calming chicken," as she's frequently found strutting up and down the sidewalk where she lives, causing drivers to slow down and check her out. Campines come in two varieties golden and white. This rare breed is said to date back to the time of Julius Caesar.
If you want a hen that lays pastel blue, green or pink eggs, then the Easter Egger is the one for you. Easter Eggers are technically not a breed, though they resemble Ameraucanas and Araucanas. EEs come in a variety of colored plumage and frequently have pea combs, muffs and ear tufts. EEs are regarded as hardy, friendly and good layers. This EE is named Quilla and lays pale blue eggs.
Polish are the involuntary comedians of the chicken world. Also called Top Hats, their striking bouffant-like crests on their heads bounce when they walk and somewhat obscure their vision, causing them to bump into things and startle easily. While the pictured hen does not, some varieties of Polish have beards. Polish are good layers of medium-sized white eggs, and they have sweet but somewhat skittish personalities. Due to their smaller stature and crests, Polish will typically end up on the bottom of the pecking order if kept in a flock with larger, more aggressive breeds.
White Bantam Brahma
While Brahmas are one of the largest chicken breeds, this white hen is a Bantam or miniaturized variety. Bantam Brahmas are sweet, docile and look very chic with their pea combs and feathered feet. The breed originates from India and is named for the Brahmaputra River.
Wyandottes come in a variety of colors and are popular for the lacing pattern on their feathers and for being good egg layers of large light brown eggs. The comb on the head of this hen named Myrtle looks a bit like a beret. It's called a Rose comb. The breed originated in the U.S.
This hen is named Peep. She's an Australorp, the "national breed" of Australia. These popular additions to backyard flocks are known as egg-laying machines. There are reports of Australorps laying eggs nearly year round. The Australorp's black feathers have a greenish-blue iridescence.
The curious nature of the Sussex is captured in the picture of this speckled hen named Dover. The Sussex originates from England, where the breed first became popular in the mid-1800s. The speckled feathers offer some camouflage from predators. This rare breed is a good layer of light brown eggs.
This hen named Oli is a Delaware, a U.S. heritage breed that was developed in the 1940s in the state they are named for by crossing New Hampshire Reds with Barred Plymouth Rocks. These easygoing chickens were originally raised as broilers but make good layers of large brown eggs.
Buff Orpingtons are known as the lap dogs of the chicken world and this hen named Lulu fits the bill. Orpingtons are docile with quiet demeanors and are good layers of light brown eggs. They originate from England and come in buff (golden), black, white and blue varieties.
Barred Plymouth Rock
Barred Rocks are friendly, hardy chickens that are great layers of large brown eggs, making them quite popular for backyard flocks. The alternating bars, or lines, of white and black on the feathers of this hen named Doodle make her quite attractive. This breed began in New England.
This Red Star named Sunset is a prolific layer of extra-large dark brown eggs. Owners of Red Stars are passionate about the breed, raving about the birds' extremely friendly personalities and amazing level of egg production. If you want an egg-laying machine that will hang out with you in the backyard, get a Red Star.
Serama roosters pack a ton of personality in their tiny bodies. And what they lack in stature they make up for in a boisterous crow. This ornamental bantam breed hails from Malaysia. In the few urban settings in the U.S. where roosters are allowed, Seramas are popular pets.