There are many chicken breeds throughout the world, including several dozen domestic chicken breeds from hybrids to heritage lines. Different types of chickens are raised for different purposes, from show animals to meat birds to egg laying chicken breeds.

Ameraucana chicken

The chicken breed varieties you choose for your own backyard chicken flock will be determined by your intended use for the birds. If you want to keep them as pets or show animals, fancy chicken breeds are a good fit. Heritage chicken breeds are a great way to keep chickens for almost any purpose while helping to bring back a rare breed or keep an ancient breed alive. Easter Egg Chickens, like the one pictured to the left, are the best way to get fun, colorful eggs in blue, green and pink hues. They are bred from Araucana or Ameracauna chickens.

One of the most popular meat birds is the Cornish breed, which comes from England and is known for its ability to efficiently and quickly put on the pounds. In America, they are called Cornish Cross as they have been mixed with another breed to pull out specific traits. The one pictured here is a young Cornish pullet, a female that is not yet a hen as she is still maturing. Cornish are considered one of the best chicken breeds for meat birds, as they easily dress out at five to 7 pounds after only a few months. Their rapid weight gain comes at a price however; they are not very hearty and die easily in the heat, unlike their more robust barnyard breed counterparts.

A great laying chicken breed is the white-egg-laying Leghorn variety, illustrated by the rooster-hen pair to the left. Most modern layers have some Leghorn in their breeding because of how prolific these layers are. Leghorns originated from Italy.

Sex-linked chicks, which are easily sexed at hatching depending on their color, are good to raise if you want to get a straight run (male and female) batch from a hatchery, as you’ll know right away which are pullets and which are cockerals. The most popular of these hybrid breeds are Red Star and Black Star, and they lay brown eggs.

Small chicken breeds, otherwise known as Black silkie bantam Bantam chicken breeds, are excellent for pets as well as smaller-scale production of meat and eggs. The eggs are about half the size as regular hens, making them a great option for people living alone or who enjoy keeping the birds for pleasure more than production. the chicken here is a Black Silkie Bantam. Specialty breeds, such as silkies from China and Polish hens from eastern Europe, are typically more expensive than other chickens as they are more rare. they are not always as productive as your heavy egg layers and certianly not ideal for meat birds, but they are very fun to raise and keep — the variety and their uniquness bring interest to a flock.

One of the favorite chicken breeds for backyard egg production is the Rhode Island Red hen. These birds are adapt easily to a variety of climates and environments, are good-natured in general, and produce a very good quantity of brown eggs month after month.

Depending on the types of chickens you want, whether for meat, eggs, show, or some combination, you may find that your backyard chicken flock evolves into an eclectic yet cohesive group with several different breeds. Their care will be virtually the same – after all, no matter the pedigree, they are “just” chickens. But you will derive pleasure from seeing their varied feathers and habits.