Chickens are peculiar and fun little creatures, and once you own them, you’ll understand why! Every chicken has a unique personality, appearance, and purpose, which can make keeping backyard chickens endlessly interesting and rewarding.
Whether you are thinking of getting hens, like the Swedish flower hen, for daily fresh eggs or you want a few gorgeous chickens to round out your coop, let’s take a closer look at the must-have and best backyard chicken breeds for your flock.
How to Choose The Best Chicken Breed for Your Coop
When I started chicken keeping, I never imagined that I’d be reading tons of books about it and end up with a full flock only 6 years later! The first time I visited a local farm, I didn’t know much about chicken breeds, I simply wanted a pet that would also provide fresh eggs.
I chose 8 week old Buff Orpington and Easter Egger baby chicks, each with very different needs and temperaments. Today, they rule the roost and I couldn’t be happier having become a proud backyard chicken keeper!
Why You Want the Absolute Best
For urban chicken owners, choosing the right breed for your coop can really make caring for them a lot easier.
You can pick a breed based on your experience, whether you want daily eggs, or maybe even a chicken that can tolerate extreme heat because of your location.
Backyard chicken keepers are also restricted by the number of chickens they can own, so choosing your breeds wisely will ensure you create the perfect flock. If you are thinking about keeping a rooster, always check your local city regulations and ask your neighbors if they’d mind!
To help you build your own flock, there are a few things that you should consider to pick the best breed for your needs. Let’s take a quick peek!
How Do I Pick a Backyard Chicken?
Are you a first-time backyard chicken keeper or otherwise looking for a rare breed to add to a beautiful mixed flock? Here are a few important considerations before you pick a backyard chicken.
The best backyard chicken breed will depend on your location. Different types of chickens are suited to different climates, with some proving to be cold hardy while other breeds need protection against freezing temperatures.
Cold tolerant chicken breeds have thick fluffy feathers, some have feathered legs, and pea or rose combs. The thick feathering protects them against the cold while rose and pea combs can prevent these exposed areas from suffering frostbite.
Silkies, Cochins, Ameraucanas, White Jersey Giants, Wyandotte and Brahma chickens are popular cold hardy chicken breeds for frost-prone regions. They should still be provided shelter during extreme conditions.
Other chickens that are more heat tolerant include the Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, Easter Egger, and the Barred Plymouth Rock. The Orpington is a popular choice for urban poultry owners and described as the ‘quintessential breed’ for warmer climates.
While every chicken has their own personality, the breed temperament is an important part of creating a cohesive family flock.
Some chicken breeds are gentler than others ,which make them easier to handle; however, the temperament or traits associated with a specific breed doesn’t mean that every chicken will behave according to their standard breed temperament.
Silkies are a good example of a breed that is considered friendly and gentle, but many backyard chicken keepers have the odd rebel that will squawk and bully chickens that are larger in size!
While the odd troublemaker or bossy hen is to be expected in the coop, there are aggressive breeds that would not make suitable pets for backyard flocks. Malay chickens, Asil chickens, and Old English Game Roosters are not ideal for a confined backyard flock.
If you want a docile chicken that is good with children, you should look for the following friendly chicken breeds: Brahmas, Orpingtons, Sussex, Auatralops, Rhode Island Reds, Cochins, and Wyandottes.
Raising a Friendly Chicken
Most breeds can be wonderful additions when raised with care and regular interaction. The more you handle them, speak to them, and spend time with them from a young age, the less likely they are to become skittish, aggressive, or difficult to manage.
Every chicken has its own temperament and some breeds tend to be more aggressive or flighty than others.
But, when they learn to trust you, they can become exceptional pets. Chickens can also be taught to respond to your voice with a specific call, whistle, or the sound of you shaking a treat bag!
You should also let your backyard flock know that you are the “top hen or rooster,” so to speak! Provide them with food, comfort, and the occasional treat of course, and let them know that you are the one to provide for their needs. If you don’t know what treats to give them, I wrote about mealworms here and why they might be a good source of protein for your flock.
Chickens can recognize up to 100 faces. They can identify their flock mates and the faces of familiar humans too!
One of the most common reasons to raise urban chickens or start a chicken business is for egg production.
While all chickens lay, some produce more eggs than others, and in a variety of colors and sizes.
Egg laying hens typically produce an egg a day or every alternate day. The size and quality of the clutch will also depend on their diet and their age.
When hens are laying eggs, they should also be provided the right nesting box. This should be well-ventilated, comfortable, and private.
Remember—larger laying hens require a spacious box to accommodate their size!
You can also find fancy egg layers such as the Ameraucana or Easter Egger that provide green and blue eggs. So cool! The Blue Copper Marans lays dark brown eggs while the Black Copper Marans produces a red to chocolate egg color.
These different breeds will create a delightful batch of colorful eggs that you definitely won’t find at the local store.
For a more typical egg color, the Leghorn lays white eggs while Orpingtons and Brahmas lay pink to light brown eggs.
If you are interested in keeping both meat and egg laying chickens, you’ll be looking for the best dual purpose breeds.
The dual purpose chicken was originally bred to provide table fare and consistent egg production because they grew quickly, developed impressive feathering, and provided large brown eggs.
Chicken breeds such as Leghorns, Sussex, and New Hamphires are typical dual purpose birds that lay large light brown eggs.
Dual purpose chickens such as the Rhode Island Red and the Australorp are wonderful choices for backyard poultry keepers because they can be excellent producers of large eggs and among the friendliest chickens in the coop.
More Benefits of Hybrid Chickens
Hybrid breeds including the Lohmann Brown and ISA Brown offer a high egg laying capacity and are widely considered hardy compared to many pure-breeds.
The hybrid chicken is a cross breed of two pure breed birds.
The Lohmann Brown is a good example of a hybrid produced by crossing the Rhode Island Red with the White Rock chicken. They’re also a dual purpose bird and known to be good layers and meat birds.
To help you establish the perfect backyard flock, we’ll now discuss the most popular chicken breeds across the world.
What Chickens are Best for Backyards?
Let’s look at the top 10 chicken breeds that are considered the best for backyards:
Rhode Island Reds
The Rhode Island Red is a popular breed for the backyard because they are calm, friendly, and can be handled with ease when raised from a young age. They are also hardy birds and can tolerate confinement pretty well, although they should be given plenty of space to free range.
Rhode Islands tend to get along well with other hens and are excellent egg layers. If you want consistent egg production all year round, then the Rhode Island Red could definitely be the chicken for you.
Provide adequate shelter, a good feed, and a friendly community of chickens to keep your Rhode Island happy and healthy!
Wyandotte chickens are a large chicken breed with the most popular colors including the Silver Laced and the Gold Laced Wyandotte.
These birds are considered docile and because of their exquisite feather color and patterns, they make a striking addition as backyard chickens.
These birds are also cold hardy; however, they do need protection against frost and snow. Because of their incredibly friendly nature, children will love to interact with them! Be sure to introduce them to their new flock mates slowly to ensure a cohesive and happy coop.
The silky is a small breed of chicken with soft, fluffy feathers from the top of its head to its tail and feet.
They usually have “beards,” which create a comical appearance and combined with their sweet nature, they make delightful pets for children.
Silkies are also one of the only chicken breeds with a fifth toe, making them a unique addition to the backyard flock. They love to free range, but it is best to secure them in a chicken run because their small size makes them more susceptible to getting injured or caught by predators.
The beautiful Buff Orpington is considered the Goldilocks of chickens, and is one of my favorite breeds.
My Buff Orpington is the oldest bird in my flock and as the top hen, definitely the most intelligent! While originally considered a dual purpose breed, today Orpingtons are quite popular in poultry shows and as backyard chickens.
Buff Orpingtons are brave, yet friendly, and make excellent mothers; however, you may come across a broody hen during the height of their egg laying season.
The Buff Orpington is a must-have for the coop, owing to their exceptional coloring and their tendency to become attached to their keepers – this makes them easy to handle.
Australorps are popular backyard chickens because they are calm, easy to care for, and prove their weight in gold when it comes to consistent egg production.
While they have friendly personalities, an Australorp hen does not like to be at the bottom of the pecking order!
Always keep an eye out for smaller, gentle-natured birds that might get bullied.
The Australorp will grow into a fair size and is considered a large bird, but not as full-bodied or densely feathered as the Orpington. Add her to your flock and you will appreciate her unique personality along with a daily supply of large brown eggs.
You’ll be dazzled by the distinct black and white stripes from the head to the tail feathers of a barred rock hen.
Also known as the Plymouth Rock, these attractive birds have a generally friendly personality and are known to get along with flock mates that are similar in nature.
Plymouth Rocks can lay up to 200 eggs per year, and are considered a great choice for first-time chicken keepers.
They are a dual purpose breed and owing to their size, they tend to handle the cold quite well. Barred Rocks are calm, independent, and considered a unique choice for urban chicken keepers.
Brahmas are fondly known as gentle giants, and have become a sought-after breed among those keeping chickens. They have thick feathers that cover their legs and feet, making them suitable birds for colder climates.
While they tolerate confinement, they should have space to free range to accommodate their size and needs.
The Brahma chicken does have special coop and diet requirements, owing to their heavy weight. You might have to double check if the chicken coop kits you’re looking at fits their needs.
Roosts should be low to the ground to prevent jumping and injury, and a protein and calcium enriched diet can support strong muscle and bone development. Brahmas are fairly good egg layers, with some hens producing up to 300 eggs per year.
No backyard coop is complete without the Easter Egger! They are praised for their fuzzy bearded appearance, are naturally curious, and will often jump on your lap or even your shoulder! Easter Eggers are also talkative and friendly in nature.
Easter Eggers are known for their blue, green, olive, and pink eggs. They are also fairly easy to care for and do well in a spacious coop with other friendly chickens.
The Lohmann Brown is described as a fantastic all-around breed because they are friendly, okay with confinement, and generally hardy birds.
This dual purpose breed is naturally curious; you may find them following you around the yard, especially when you have their favorite treats!
Lohmann Browns are not purebred chickens, but instead were raised for their meat and egg production. They can start laying as early as 18 to 19 weeks of age, and lay one egg a day. Backyard hens are much friendlier than the roosters and they get along well with different breeds of chickens.
Every backyard chicken keeper needs a Cochin! These large domestic birds have feathered legs and buxom bodies, making for an eye-catching beauty in the coop.
They also have a soft-natured personality which makes up for the fewer eggs they lay every year.
Because Cochins have such significant plumage, it is important to keep an eye on their legs and feet for lice and injuries. The Cochin is also suited to cold climates and is considered a show bird, making them a sought after breed for your coop.
Simply provide them enough space, and they will be happy to make your home their home!
What are the easiest backyard chickens to raise?
The easiest chicken breeds are friendly, respond well to confinement, and are generally healthy provided that their basic needs are met. An easy chicken breed has to be the Silky. They are fun little chickens to own and will do well in a secure run and coop.
Silkies are also quite entertaining and add an exotic look to your flock.
Here are silkies in action…
Rhode Island Reds are also easy chickens to own and they provide a constant supply of eggs as a bonus!
Production hybrids such as the Lohmann Brown and ISA Brown are also easy to care for, they lay a ton of eggs, and they don’t go broody.
When reared from young, they can also become very tame and friendly birds.
What is the friendliest backyard chicken breed?
The Brahma is one of the friendliest breeds and has become a popular addition to the backyard chicken coop.
She is incredibly friendly and can be picked up and held without fuss. Some will sit on your lap while others will follow you around the yard!
The Australorp and some Easter Eggers are also generally friendly in nature.
What is the best backyard chicken for beginners?
Beginner chicken owners will find the Australorp, Barred Rock, Lohmann Brown, and Rhode Island Red suitable for the coop.
These chicken breeds are friendly and docile, yet they can quite easily take care of themselves and will thrive in a small, confined community.
These birds provide fair egg production and do well on a standard poultry diet that meets their basic needs.
What is the best chicken breed for eggs?
If you are looking for the best backyard chicken breeds for egg laying, consider breeds that produce 200 to 300 eggs per year. The Rhode Island Red, Lohmann Brown, and Sussex can lay an average 200 brown eggs per year, while the Leghorn lays up to 280 eggs annually.
These outstanding breeds are commonly used in commercial egg production.
What is the top backyard chicken breed for eggs and meat?
Production hybrids such as the ISA Brown and Lohmann Brown are specifically bred for their meat and eggs.
They are cross-bred chickens and dual purpose breeds. Other breeds that are produced for meat and eggs include the Australorp, Rhode Island Red, and Plymouth Rock.
Plymouth Rocks are tame birds that enjoy a bit of free ranging when outside of the coop. They are great egg layers, but stockier in build compared to regular chickens, which have contributed to their favorability as meat and egg layers.
What is a Rare Chicken Breed for the Backyard?
Polish chickens are stunning additions to the backyard and are easily recognized by their head plumage.
These exotic looking birds are not ideal for first-time backyard chicken keepers because the feathers covering their eyes tend to make them skittish and flighty.
They may also be preyed on by hawks because of their slim size, head feathers, and failure to identify predators of the sky.
Making a predator-proof coop is one way you can keep them safe from predators, and this guide can help you do that.
Sultan chickens are beautiful birds and considered fancy chickens for the backyard. They have fluffy plumage from the top of their heads to their feet, and a very docile temperament.
Sultans are endangered and listed among critical chicken breeds, so you should take great care if you want to purchase one as a pet.
The Ayam Cemani is one of the rarest chicken breeds in the world. Every part of their skin, including their combs and wattles, is pitch black.
Along with their distinct appearance, they are also considered friendly and lay cream colored to pink eggs. They are not common backyard chickens because it is difficult to find a local breeder.
There are many different types of chickens, and finding the right one for your flock depends on your experience and their purpose in your yard. Take the Red Star, the’yre great if you want an egg-laying breed that’s easy to manage.
Learn a little bit about the breeds you’re interested in to make it easier to care for them. You should also make sure each bird has enough space to be happy in their new coop.
If you’re looking for great egg layers, then Rhode Islands, Australorps, and even Leghorns will give you medium to large eggs. Beginner chickens include Silkies, Rhode Islands, and other friendly breeds.
If you want a showstopper in the coop, a Polish or Sultan could be great additions, but need extra care and attention.
A great way to keep friendly chickens is to raise them from young.
You can find chicks around 12 to 15 weeks old at your local farm supply store! At this age, get them used to being handled and speak to them, especially when providing feed and treats.
They will learn to recognize your voice and positively associate you as their leader and provider.
Feel Free To Share!
Remember, your chickens are your pets and need all the love you can give them! With patience and a lot of learning, you can raise beautiful chickens that will give you many years of joy.
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