Top 8 Sustainable Chicken Breeds

Chicken Coop Tips

Published by Dave Malcolm

July 17, 2017
chicken breeds

Before you begin to raise chickens you need to know their key differences to make the right choice. Not all chickens are equal because they all have a different character, size and look. We have prepared this extensive guide on how to pick up the best chicken breed and start your very own chicken-keeping journey. So let’s begin!

Brahma Chicken

Brahma ChickenThe Brahma chicken is known in many countries of the world to be both ornamental and good for egg and meat production. Its disposition also makes it a star, since it is friendly and non-aggressive enough for family barnyards and calm enough to do well at shows and fairs.

When Brahmas were first imported to the United States in 1846, cocks weighed as much as fourteen pounds. Modern chickens are smaller; cocks weigh from eleven to twelve, and hens from eight to nine, depending on the variety. The Light Brahma, a white bird streaked with black, is the most popular variety, but there are also Dark Brahmas and Buff Brahmas.

In earlier days, cocks were even bigger than they are now, with weights of 14 pounds not unusual. Today the average weight of a mature rooster is 11 to 12 pounds, while hens weigh from 8 to 9. The birds have many fluffy feathers and seem larger, and a rooster may stand 26 inches tall. With their striking coloring and feathered feet and legs, the Brahma stands out in any company.

The original chickens were white with black, and this color is still the most popular; today these are called Light Brahmas. The Dark Brahma is black tipped with white in the cock and dark grey and black in the hens. There is also the Buff Brahma, in which the base color is a warm tan and the markings black and brown. All Brahmas have feathered legs and feet and fluffy, compact tails.

Although the chickens are beautiful, they are also good layers and make well-breasted roasting fowl. They are hardy in colder climates, lay more in winter than many other breeds, and do well in either free-range conditions or in confinement. Their eggs are large and brown, with a rich flavor that many prefer to any other, and even in runs, they lay three or more eggs a week. They are not over-anxious to set (which many farmers think is a virtue) but make good mothers when they do.

The Brahma is a hardy bird that does well in areas with cold winters. They have the small ‘pea comb’ which will not freeze like the larger combs of other breeds, and their profuse feathers and feathered feet keep them warm with little help from their owners and less feed as well. The hens continue to lay eggs in the winter months, when hens of other breeds may stop altogether until the weather warms up.

The chicks are available from most hatcheries, many of which ship the day-old chicks all over the country as soon as the spring brings warmer weather. Check online for local sources and for national hatcheries. There are Brahma clubs to be found in the United States, in England, and in Australia.

Brahma chickens are good barnyard fowl, spectacular 4-H projects, and also make good pets. Check online for pictures and reviews of this popular bird and to find hatcheries in your area. National suppliers will ship chicks to your local post office in the spring and early summer.

Asil Chicken

asil chickenShould you consider the Asil chicken as a candidate for a new pet? Unless you have lived on a farm all your life, you may think it is odd to want to have chickens as pets. However; for those that have the room to keep them and are looking for something a little off the mark, a chicken may not be a bad idea.

The Asil chicken breed has been drawn and written about so far back as 1500 BC. It has originated from the countries of India and Pakistan. Although some chefs have ways to make some tasty food combinations of these chickens, they really are not meant to be eaten. Although they are larger than traditional birds, they are also leaner and very well-muscled. They were mainly bred because of their tendencies to fight with little provocation. Today, we now know that this is a cruel use for these affectionate little guys.

Two male chickens, or cocks, should not be penned together. A group of hens can live together and sometimes a cock can be added to the mix. If you need to introduce a new bird to the group, you need to allow time for natural posturing to see whether a group of birds are compatible with each other. The fighting can be vicious and will lead to serious injury or death.

The young chicks should be watched as well. It is actually a good idea to separate them at a young age because of their tendency to fight. As with all animals, it is a good idea to find out their personalities because you cannot always go by one golden rule. Just know that keeping a large group of these chickens together will probably lead to fighting.

What about these chickens makes them a decent pet? It would have to be their overwhelming affection and intelligence that sets them apart from the poultry breeds. Their tendency for affection will make them seek out their owners for attention, much like a cat or dog. When they are happy with their surroundings, the owners will notice that happiness; making them a fun animal to have around. They are filled with unique personalities and are truly interactive.

If you are looking for a good egg layer, then you need to be looking at another breed of chicken. The Asil hen makes a poor egg layer. Ironically, they are excellent sitters. So, the eggs they do lay will usually be healthy. The entire breed is known for the fact that they rarely become ill. The disease is common in most poultry breeds and this breed remains healthy under good to fair conditions.

It is up to you as to whether you choose the Asil chicken as a pet. They may not be as popular as a dog or a cat, but some people are finding them to be quite the family addition. It may be possible to have several around as pets and responsibly breed a few others to those that are looking for a unique little bundle of feathers.

Australorp Chicken

Australorp ChickenHave you heard of Australorps? Probably not. Despite the fact that this breed is an excellent all-around chicken, it’s not as common as you would think. It’s actually considered a fairly rare bird! Read more to find out why they would be a great addition to your home or farm.

The Australorp is considered a large breed chicken, with hens weighing an average of seven pounds and roosters averaging eight to nine pounds. They have black feathers; it is rare to see any white plumage on them anywhere. They are very pretty, and in the sunlight, the black can take on a green shimmer. They are often mistaken for Black Jersey Giants. The Australorp, however, is smaller. The best way to tell the difference between the two breeds is to check the bottoms of the feet on the adults. Jersey Giants will have yellow, while the Australorps will have a pink/white color.

The name comes from its breeding background. It is an Australian breed derived from English Orpington stock which was deliberately bred as a utility chicken with a dual purpose of providing meat and eggs. This breed became recognized officially in the late 1920s.

The Australorp has become legendary for its egg-laying capabilities. One record claims that a single hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days! While there is some dispute about the truth of this claim, it is well documented that hens that are happy and well taken care of will typically lay between 250-300 eggs each year. So if you are wanting eggs in the winter, this is a great breed for you. The eggs will be medium to large in size, and a light brown color.

Being a dual-purpose bird also means it’s good for meat. Because the hens are outstanding brooding hens (brooding hens sit on eggs and take good care of the chicks), the fact that they can be used for meat is good news. You can make use of excess roosters or lay hens to put dinner on the table.

Besides being great meat and egg providers, this breed has a truly wonderful temperament. They are very friendly, a little shy, and so completely docile that they are often kept as pets! If you think they might be too heavy for your kids to pick up, look for the bantam version of the breed.

This really is a great all-around breed! They tolerate confinement extremely well, are winter-hardy, good layers, and good brooding hens. In addition to being calm, they are generally quiet as well. Like their English Orpington cousins, they are also not prone to flying too high, making it easy to keep them in a fenced area.

So where can you get some of these wonderful birds? Check the Internet for reliable hatcheries. Typically a hatchery will send day-old chickens via mail (as a perishable item). Check to be sure that if you order fewer than ten chicks that they are shipped with heat packs. They will not need food and water for the first few days because they will have all their nourishment from their time inside the egg. Make sure that you will be available to pick them up as soon as they arrive! Follow the instructions from the hatchery and you will be able to enjoy this amazing breed of chicken for years to come!

Barnevelder Chicken

Barnevelder ChickenThe Barnevelder chicken originates from Holland and was first bred just prior to the beginning of World War I. With the unique brown color of its eggs, which were also of excellent quality, the breed became popular in other countries. In 1921, the chickens began to be exported. The fact that they were outstanding layers was another attraction.

The ‘double laced’ is a very popular variety, but they also come in black, partridge, and silver. The hen’s plumage is predominantly dark brown with black double lacing. This is frequently named a ‘double laced partridge’. Males have beautiful plumage with bursts of bronze, shimmering green, and violet. Some males have white and blue lacing.

The plumage of the female and the male has been described as ‘rich in texture and very tight’. Barnevelders have single combs, yellow skin, and red earlobes. They look very impressive with nice upright stances and broad breasts. Their flying capabilities are somewhat lacking due to short wings.

Their fame was initially due to the unusual color of the eggs but, today, they are used for show purposes more than for their laying abilities. The color of the eggs is of little importance now because the birds’ appearance is the center of focus. Eggs are lighter and Barnevelder layers don’t produce the vast quantities as they did in their early history.

However, they are very useful winter layers and have a quiet, friendly disposition. They are not only bred to be show birds but also as a handy utility breed. Medium-to-heavy in weight, they make an ideal double-purpose bird that can produce an adequate supply of eggs and yield an acceptable carcass. Barnevelders are excellent foragers and very hardy. Because they are inherently lazy, if allowed to live inactive lives, they are prone to becoming fat.

Females and males are docile in temperament and love being around humans. They make good pets, particularly for children. In a short time, they can be domesticated and won’t mind being handled, picked up, or stroked. Young ones might need to be socialized before becoming a genuine pet. Unlike other breeds, Barnevelders will even try and nurture a new baby in the human family.

They are easygoing and relate well to adults and children. Similar to a dog, a pet chicken will follow his or her owners around. Some people have said that Barnevelders also show guarding characteristics. The hen is a doting mother and will brood her eggs. When the chicks have hatched, she gives them care and attention. Even the rooster plays his role in parenthood.

Chicks grow their feathers slower than most other breeds. A standard hen usually reaches a weight of six pounds, while a rooster is eight pounds. All in all, a Barnevelder Chicken is a versatile utility bird that’s great for eggs, for a pet, and to eat. An average hen can lay around 180 eggs a year and some jumbo-sized eggs weigh up to three ounces. This breed’s droppings make an excellent garden fertilizer.

Booted Bantam Chicken

Booted Bantam ChickenAnyone who admires barnyard fowl will love the Booted Bantam chicken. Also called the Dutch Booted Bantam, this fantastically feathered and colored bird is also friendly, calm, and happy in any safe and suitable environment.

This breed is a true bantam, which means that it is not a miniature version of a larger breed, as many bantams are. Some say that these chickens were in the Netherlands as early as the 1500s, though others credit a later breeder in Belgium. It is a tiny bird, weighing less than two pounds for roosters and just over a pound and a half for hens. The American standard is smaller than these limits, which are rules for British breeders.

The Booted Bantam is tiny, with the British show standards limiting cocks to thirty ounces and hens to no more than twenty-seven ounces. The American Poultry Association standard sets even lighter weight for birds to be accepted in a show. The small size does not make this a fragile or sickly type, however. They are not hardy in cold weather but otherwise can take care of themselves just fine.

Another defining characteristic of this breed is its ‘vulture hocks’, giving an extreme angle to the leg. It is hard to see in pictures since the birds have dramatically feathered legs and feet. From eleven to seventeen color variations are declared standards depending on the national criteria of breed traits. The colors and patterns are truly fantastic and can be seen online or in fancy chicken catalogs.

While these extremely beautiful chickens are bred for show, they make great pets. They are not hardy so need to be protected from the cold, but otherwise are good foragers and easy to keep in the outside garden. The people who have had them say their fluffy feet, the ‘boots’ that give them their name, keep them from scratching up gardens as much as most domestic fowl. The cocks are proud but if hand raised are neither timid or aggressive around children or adults. In fact, many love to be picked up and will stand around close so you can admire them.

If meant for show, the Bantams must be kept in cages with soft, clean bedding that will protect their dramatic feathers. Their legs, which have what is called ‘vulture hocks’, have long, beautiful feathers, and their feet are completely covered with fluff. Their wings sweep back and down at the same angle as the leg feathers for a truly lovely effect. Add the bright colors of feathers in dramatic patterns and the red, upstanding comb and face, and you have incredibly beautiful birds.

Although they do not have much meat on their frames, what they do have is well-proportioned. Their value is more ornamental than utilitarian, though, so check them out for their beauty and their charm. Online sites have great pictures of the more popular varieties, such as the Millefleur. You will not believe your eyes when you see how splendid some of the birds are, although they also come in black and in white, where their shape and gracefulness is the main attraction.

The Booted Bantam chicken must be seen to be believed. Not only are their feathers and colors gorgeous, but their upright shape and perky feathers make them very appealing.

Sicilian Buttercup Chicken

Sicilian Buttercup Chicken

The buttercup chicken, originally developed in Sicily in the 1800′s, is also known as the Sicilian Buttercup. According to records, one pair was imported to the US in the latter part of that century and today’s stock flourishes as descendants of that same coupling. The breed is rare, beautiful, worthy of exhibition, a consistent layer and good to keep as a pet.

Their eggs are few and small but the Buttercup hen is a dependable layer. All experts do not agree, however, about this breed as a pet. Some experts recommend it as a pet because of its curiosity and friendliness.

Some experts state that although the Buttercup can be friendly, it prefers to be independent, is very active, and flies well. Others declare that this breed prefers to avoid human contact. All experts recommend that chicks are the best choice to start out with because they can be trained to enjoy human contact.

Chicks seem to be limited in numbers but can be ordered online from several hatcheries. The males are reportedly the friendlier version of the breed. Experts agree that this breed does not enjoy confinement and will enjoy human company best when given lots of free range room and a warm habitat.

A warm coop will protect this bird’s unique comb from frostbite and the comb is very sensitive to cold. It is specifically because of its unique crown-like shaped comb and its golden-toned feathers that the breed has acquired its name.

With its stunning crown and golden plumage, the buttercup chicken is a very attractive bird, often shown in exhibitions. In 1918, the breed was admitted to the “American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection”. Usually, the hen has rich golden or amber colored feathers with rows of brown spots or “spangles”. The males are normally a reddish-orange color with black “spangles” and a very dark green tail.

It is stated that the hens will mature early and start laying when they are 5 months old. The hens are not very productive but will lay an average of 2 eggs per week for their entire life. Again, there seems to be some controversy amongst experts regarding the appearance of the eggs as well. Some claim that they are white and lean toward the small size. Others claim that the eggs have a tint or hue to them.

It may seem odd to think of chickens as pets. Even the name, chicken, will often elicit giggles. Given warm living quarters with adequate room and an outdoor space large enough in which to fly, peck, scratch, walk and sunbathe, any chicken will be happy to be kept as a pet. Bear in mind that buttercup chickens are certainly not the type to be kept in small, cold quarters.

Buttercup chickens are entertaining and engaging and may even learn to sit in a person’s lap. Baby chicks which are hand-raised will respond to the call of their name, will allow someone to stroke them and may even eat out of someone’s hand. Pet chickens will respond well when rewarded with food and positive reinforcement.

A buttercup chicken can become a fun and intriguing pet when raised in a warm, clean environment. Since they lay only two eggs weekly, depending on this breed as a source of food wouldn’t be the wisest choice. As a pet, however, a buttercup chicken is gorgeous and intriguing to look at, entertaining, great company and certainly makes for a unique conversation piece.

Campine Chicken

Campine Chicken

The Campine chicken is a regal show and farm bird. It’s origins stem from an area in Belgium of the same name. Today, this chicken is mostly used for show, though it is also a suitable candidate for white egg laying or as a pet. The Campine comes in silver and gold varieties, both a striking and beautiful display.

This bird is an active animal, often seen foraging and mulling about if it is left unattended. These birds are extremely well adapted to an outdoor habitat and enjoy a free-range lifestyle. They are docile enough to be caged and confined, however. This should be utilized in the winter months, where frostbite or general cold can be an issue to an outdoor chicken.

The breed is rather small, usually four to six pounds. Two colorations are recognized; a silver and gold. A zig-zag pattern can also be present on the bird’s feathers. Their tendency to carry themselves highly makes them ideal show birds, as well as their distinctly exquisite coloration. By keeping the feathers clean, the bird’s colors can be preserved. Wood shavings are useful in helping with this issue. The birds themselves keep rather tidy.

The Campine is docile, yet not entirely suitable as a pet, as they are independent birds, and other breeds would be better at serving this purpose. They enjoy attempts at flying, as well as socialization with other animals. They are tolerant of humans, including children, but are still not advised as pets, as they prefer their independence.

As a show chicken, this bird offers much in the way of looks. The gorgeous gold or silver coloration creates an ample pattern among the feathers, sometimes zig-zagged across. The independence of the chicken is relevant in the way it carries itself in shows; highly motivated and regal. However, as this bird is rare, it may not be seen as often as other birds.

In America, the Campine is rather rare, though in parts of northern Europe it is a common sight. Despite this, its large, white eggs are a factor into its inclusion as part of a family. Around three eggs are laid a week. These are often large and exquisite in appearance. Their ability to produce a healthy amount of eggs each week makes the Campine an ideal producer.

These chickens are hardy, though not extraordinarily so, and thus require adequate housing in colder months. During times of heat, the bird should be let loose and allowed to roam free of any confinement. Without this need being met, the bird may experience symptoms of paranoia or become unhealthy. By allowing to roam free of its cage, the bird can live up to its full potential in all respects.

Overall, the Campine is a breed of chicken that, while relatively rare, will suit the needs of most bird owners. Families looking for a breed that does well with children should look elsewhere, however. Their distinct, vibrant coloration is a factor in their appreciation, as is their ability to produce eggs reliably each week. Their shortcomings are few, and should not be considered as a complete deterrent to their other capabilities.

Ancona Chicken

Ancona ChickenThe Ancona chicken is a Mediterranean class of chicken that originated from the city of Ancona which is situated along the coast of Italy. The Ancona breed of chicken was first introduced to Britain in the late 1800s and soon after to the United States. Anconas are a close relation to the Leghorn Breed and when they were first introduced to North America people did refer to them as “Mottled Leghorns” or “Black Leghorns”.

Similarly to Leghorns, they are known as excellent egg layers and can lay between 160-180 large white eggs per year.
It is a truly beautiful breed with its striking greenish black plumage that is speckled with white at the tips of the feathers (known as mottling). The hens by nature are not broody and don’t usually sit on a clutch of eggs.

For areas that pose a predation threat, the Ancona breed would be a great choice as they are considered to be very hardy, quick and alert.

Published by Dave Malcolm

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