The 10 Best Types of Chickens for Backyard Coops
Keeping chickens at home can be beneficial, fun, and fulfilling. For the best experience possible, choose the right breeds of chickens for your circumstances and goals.
There are as many types of chickens as there are reasons to keep chickens in your backyard. For homeowners interested in a more sustainable lifestyle, backyard chickens are great at pest control and create rich manure for your garden. Plus, they’re just fun animals, possessing engaging personalities and beautiful plumage. They also lay eggs that contain less cholesterol and fat than store-bought eggs. However, be sure to have your soil tested for lead in the areas of your property where chickens eat, drink, sleep, and roam, as a 2013 study detected higher lead levels in some backyard chickens’ eggs compared to eggs laid in more traditional rural settings.
In general, chickens require minimal care: a good chicken coop for shelter, secure fencing to keep them safe from predators, and nutritious chicken feed. And of course, don’t forget nesting boxes for collecting all those delicious, fresh chicken eggs! One other key to success is to choose the types of chickens best suited to your environment and lifestyle.
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1. Rhode Island Red
One of the most popular chicken breeds, the Rhode Island Red is easily identifiable by its bold rusty red color. Rhode Island Red chickens lay lots of large brown eggs. They adapt well to confinement and are not known to be noisy, so they fit right in with backyard flocks. Rarely broody, they lay four to five eggs per week.
These are docile, friendly birds, so first-time chicken owners and families might opt for this type. The cold-hardy chickens will do well in northern regions with snowy winters.
Key Characteristics: Rhode Island Reds are easy to pick out in a crowd thanks to their color, which ranges from light rusty red to dark maroon. Even the breed’s baby chicks have a reddish tint to their yellow fuzz. Adults feature red eyes, brown beaks, and yellow feet.
Another cold-hardy variety of chickens—thanks to its small comb and large body—is the Australorp, often called Black Australorp because the most common type is black with purple and green sheens in its feathers. Because of their size, they don’t do as well in hot, humid weather.
Because of their gentle nature and calm, friendly personalities, Australorps are a popular choice for families. Only occasionally broody, they are prolific egg layers, producing up to six large light-brown eggs a week.
Key Characteristics: Australorps come in bantam and standard sizes. Although available in white and blue, black is the most recognized color. In the sunlight, their feathers flash shimmers of green and purple.
Originally from England, the Orpington is an extremely well-behaved and exceptionally affectionate breed. This type makes a wonderful “pet” chicken. Their calm nature is suitable for confinement. While prone to broodiness, they otherwise lay three to five eggs per week.
Available in black, white, blue, and splash, Orpingtons are most commonly known for their buff color. With copious feathering that practically hides their legs, these large birds appear bigger than they are. They lay lots of large light-brown eggs—up to 340 a year.
Key Characteristics: These beautiful birds have a single comb and soft, round curves that appear all the bigger for a profusion of feathers. Orpingtons are well-suited to cold climates, and their friendly nature makes them suitable for family flock-keeping.
4. Barred Rock
Also known as Plymouth Rocks because of their American origins, these chickens are often called Barred Rocks due to their black-and-white stripes, or bars. Technically, Plymouth Rock is categorized as one of the main American chicken types, while Barred Rock is just one variety of the breed. As a heritage breed, they tend to go broody. When not sitting, they lay about 4 to 5 eggs per week.
These low-maintenance, winter-hardy birds are smart, calm, sweet, and friendly, adding up to an excellent choice for backyard flocks and families. They lay about four large brown eggs a week that range in color from light to medium, with a touch of pink.
Key Characteristics: Attractive black-and-white stripes, contrasted against yellow legs and a single red comb mark the Barred Rock. Ranging from medium to large in size, these birds are friendly and calm.
Wyandottes are as popular for their looks as for their charm. A big chicken with a round, broad body from their deep breast to the back end, the Wyandotte is built for egg laying. Regular producers of brown eggs, these are hardy, easygoing birds. They lay four to five eggs per week but have strong tendencies to go broody.
Wyandotte chickens come in a beautiful variety of colors and patterns, such as gold lace, silver lace, white, black, buff, partridge, silver penciled, blue red, lemon blue, barred, brown red, and birchen. Typically, they have yellow legs and reddish eyes.
Key Characteristics: Stout, hardy brown egg layers, Wyandottes are pretty chickens with lacing on their feathers that distinguishes them from other breeds. Their personalities are as sweet as their unique feather patterns are stunning.
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6. Isa Brown
Low-maintenance copper-colored Isa Brown chickens are well-mannered, friendly, and affectionate. Gentle rather than flighty, they are an excellent choice for first-timers and families. They adapt well to many climates and do well in confinement.
Isa Brown is not a showy chicken, but it is prized for its high egg production: up to six large brown eggs per week. However, that means they will require supplemental protein in their diet to remain healthy. An important thing to note is that their egg production will drop off significantly after their second year.
Key Characteristics: Isa Browns are a medium-size bronze-colored chicken with a single red comb and red eyes. Friendly and gentle, they tend to enjoy human company.
With an attractive pattern around the neck and tail of the mostly white Sussex, it is easily identifiable. A large round chicken, the Sussex does well in cold climates. Because of their foraging ability, these chickens are good candidates for free ranging. They tolerate confinement as well, not being a flighty bird.
One of the oldest breeds, Sussex chickens tend to be curious, docile, affectionate, and good family pets. They can easily go broody and lay about four large light-brown eggs per week.
Key Characteristics: Sussex are big birds with a white body, marked by black lacing around their necks and black tail feathers. Speckled Sussex are brown with white and green spots all over their bodies.
Silkies are a chicken breed from Asia, first introduced to the Western world in the 13th century. They are feather-legged true bantams with abundant feathers that look and feel more like fur, due to the inability of the barbs to lock. Unable to fly, Silkies do well in confinement, but will need shelter from the rain since their feathers are not waterproof.
Raised primarily as pets or show chickens, Silkies are extremely sweet, friendly, and calm. This ornamental breed is quiet and enjoys human companionship, making them great pets. Silkies have never met an egg they didn’t want to hatch, and are often used to hatch eggs from less broody breeds—plus produce three to five of their own per week.
Key Characteristics: Silkies have feathered feet, walnut combs, and such heavily feathered crests that it’s difficult to see their faces. They can be bearded or non-bearded. All have five toes, black skin, dark eyes, and blue ears. Colors include white, black, blue, buff, partridge, splash, gray, red, lavender, porcelain, and cuckoo.
Another feather-footed chicken, the Cochin is a large fluffy bird who does well in colder climates and thrives in harsher weather conditions than other breeds. They lay large brown eggs, but only about 150 per year, and only for their first 2 years. However, Cochin chickens are perhaps the broodiest of the fowls and will hatch more than one clutch a year if permitted.
These chickens are calm and extremely gentle. Even the males are rarely aggressive. Easily tamed, Cochins make great pets—even more so because they don’t scratch or wander as much as other breeds. They do tend to become overweight, so owners must take extra care with their diets.
Key Characteristics: A large round chicken with feathered feet, the Cochin comes in a range of colors, including white, black, blue, brown, buff, partridge, silver laced, gold laced, and barred. There is also a bantam variety of Cochin.
10. Easter Egger
Easter Eggers are hybrids who carry the blue egg gene from their parents—either an Araucana or an Ameraucana. They lay eggs in shades of blue, green, pink, or even pale yellow, about four per week.
Easter Egger plumage can come in a similar variety of colors and patterns, and they can have any style of comb (although single and pea are the most common). Many have ear tufts and muffs or beards, and their legs can be yellow, blue, or green. A few with strong Araucana genes are rumples.
Easter Eggers are friendly and outgoing, curious, and gentle, so they often seek human company. A low-maintenance chicken, the Easter Egger tolerates confinement and is quiet and robust.
Key Characteristics: There’s no true standard for the hybrid called Easter Eggers, who may feature a variety of colors and patterns. Many have telltale ear tufts and muffs or beards.
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