Chicken Breeds and Colored Eggs
Whether you're a seasoned poultry pro or just dipping your toes into the feathered world of backyard flocks, one thing's for sure – chickens come in a dazzling array of breeds, each with their own unique personality and charm.
In this egg-citing blog post, we'll take a look at some of the popular chicken breeds here in Australia and from around the world, and even delve into the intriguing world of eggs that come in a kaleidoscope of colours.
Classification of Chicken Breeds
Let's start by understanding the classification of chicken breeds. Heritage breeds, hybrid breeds, and bantam breed each brings their own flair to the coop.
Mature slowly and live 6-12 years
Fast maturing and only live 3-4 years
Depending on the breed lay 3-6 eggs a week
Lay an egg a day but only for about 2 years
Will go broody depending on breed and make great mothers
Rarely go broody
Self-sufficient, can thrive with foraging
Not great forages
Retains natural behaviours and instincts
Selectively bred for specific production traits
Long-established history and lineage, greater genetic diversity
Result of crossing different breeds so narrowing the genetic pool
Wide range of appearances, sizes, and colours
More standardized appearance
Valued for historical significance and preservation
Bred for optimized production purposes
Well-suited for a variety of purposes
Specialized for specific production traits
May have longer lifespans and natural reproductive abilities
Primarily bred for commercial production, less likely to be used for natural breeding
Some large chicken breeds have a bantam counterpart, sometimes referred to as a miniature. Miniatures are usually one-fifth to one-quarter the size of the standard breed, but they are expected to exhibit all of the standard breed's characteristics. A true bantam has no large counterpart and is naturally small. There are only a few true bantams, with the Seabright being one.
Popular Chicken Breeds
First up, let's talk about some true-blue Aussie favourites. The Australorp, renowned for its exceptional egg-laying abilities, hails from Australia. These hardworking ladies can lay up to 300 brown eggs per year, making them a staple in many Aussie backyards. Their shiny black feathers shimmer like the night sky, and their friendly nature makes them a delight to have around.
Other beloved and well-known chicken breeds include the Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Leghorn, Sussex, Orpington, and Wyandotte All these breeds are stars of the backyard chicken-keeping scene. In my Webinar I go into a lot more detail exploring their size, temperament, and egg production to help you make an informed choice for your flock.
Specialty Chicken Breeds
Prepare to be dazzled by the unique and lesser-known chicken breeds. Silkies, Polish, Frizzles, Seramas, and Cochins boast distinctive physical features that set them apart. From fluffy feathering to extravagant crests, these breeds are sure to add charm and character to any coop.
Some of these speciality breeds are especially well suited to a backyard environment due to their small size.
Many of our heritage favourites fall into the dual-purpose category, which is great for those seeking versatility, egg-laying and meat production. While some homesteaders are not interested in dispatching their own animals for meat, I have found those who are trying to homestead full-time or for an income, are very keen to become completely self-sufficient. Meat birds are a simple way to do this even with only a small amount of land.
Our favourites in the dual-purpose world are the Australorp, Jersey Giant, and New Hampshire breeds, which excel in both meat and egg production. The benefit of raising dual purpose is you will always have meat and eggs!
I have raised both hybrid meat and heritage meat, each having pros and cons. Hybrid grows out within 8 weeks making them super cheap and efficient, however, they seem prone to dying if you keep them past the 8-week mark. Heritage meat birds take longer to grow out but I find they are hardy healthwise and bigger, and I think better quality meat.
Chicken Breeds that Lay Different Colored Eggs
I have a soft spot for my Easter Eggers, I think it's so cool that nature has given us these amazing coloured eggs.
Breeds that lay unusual eggs are Aracuana, Ameraucana, Cream Legbar, Maran, Barnevelder, Welsummer, Olive Eggers and Easter Eggers. Olive and Easter eggers arent actual breeds but the result of crossing brown egg layers with the blue egg layers, given a genetic difference to the offspring.
The colours you can get vary from very dark browns to blue, green and even pink tone.
Hybrid or sex-link chicken breeds are next on our list, bringing with them impressive egg production and efficiency. The ISA Brown, Golden Comet, and Red Star are renowned for their ability to deliver a consistent supply of delicious eggs. They are essentially laying machines, hence why they are the bird of choice for commercial egg producers.
While I love all our girls I find these don’t have the same personality traits as our heritage breeds. Their egg production will drop off after about 18 months and most commercial producers will remove them at that age as they are no longer feed-to-egg ratio efficient.
Rare and Exotic Breeds
Some breeds are much harder to obtain in either Australia or the USA and these include Ayam Cemani, Crèvecœur, Dragon Chickens, Phoenix, and Appenzeller Spitzhauben. Some of these birds are kept and bred for showing purposes due to their unique appearances.
Groups like the Rare Breeds Trust are making conservation efforts to ensure the breed continues but you would likely find it hard to obtain these breeds.
Breed Selection Considerations
Before choosing a chicken breed, it's crucial to consider various factors and I go into detail in my Webinar on Chicken Breeds. The main considerations are forage abilities, climate suitability, egg production, space requirements, noise levels, and breed availability. Choosing carefully can mean you have a flock that fits into your family and circumstances beautifully, ensuring a harmonious and thriving flock in your backyard.
I have no problem in saying that personal preference plays a part in your choice, and so it should. When you choose to add a dog or cat to your home you would pick a breed that you prefer. Even if choosing a dog or cat from a shelter, personal preference will still be a factor.
So don’t feel bad that you have a preference for chicken breeds! While I would like to have all the chickens, it's not practical, so you need to narrow it down.
No matter which breeds you choose, owning chickens is as varied as a dog or cat ownership.
Each of our girls has their own special personalities and we love them all. Some are chatty, some will follow you around, some have beautiful or funny feathers and some lay coloured eggs.
Don’t forget if you want to learn more about raising backyard chickens then sign up for my newsletter and you can listen to my podcast, Not The Farmers Wife. I also run a Backyard Chicken Keeping course and occasion webinars on different topics.