5 Best Chicken Breeds and Picking The Perfect Flock Mate

Struggling to choose the right breed for your flock? Read on to learn about five of the best!

In this article, you’ll learn about what things to consider when choosing a chicken breed. We also break down the history and characteristics of five of our favourite beginner breeds for you to consider.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how many chicken breeds there are out there. It’s certainly safe to say that the number is well into the hundreds, though, which can make it difficult for keepers to narrow down their choices to choose the perfect breed for them.

For one thing, breeds have been developed for so many different purposes over millennia, some of them incredibly niche. One breed in Indonesia is prized primarily for their unusual (and some would say disturbing) laugh-like call. Meanwhile, the market also abounds with old-school or even ancient breeds who have endured centuries mainly because of their versatility and adaptability.

Luckily, most keepers can narrow this exhaustive list down by focusing on only a few key characteristics, especially for their first flock: purpose, personality, and hardiness. For every breed you consider, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is this breed a reliable layer and/or a good broiler?

  2. Will this breed get along well with each other, my family, and my neighbours?

  3. Is this breed suited for the climate and environment (rural, urban, etc.) I’m bringing it into?

If you can answer these three questions, all while keeping in mind what you want out of your flock, you’re in a good place to start picking the perfect breed. In this article, you’ll also learn a little bit more about five of our favourites.



Image by Robert Pittman (flickr) under CC BY-ND 2.0

By at least one measure, the Leghorn is the absolute best chicken breed that money can buy. For people who are interested in the Guinness Book of World Records, the Leghorn chicken, which has held the world record for most eggs produced in a single year since 1979, should almost be a celebrity. At the very least, it’s hard to argue that they’re not a good investment.

Most Leghorns won’t be as gifted as the extraordinary hen who laid 371 eggs in 364 days in a laboratory at the University of Missouri, but the breed’s virtues are still nothing to sneeze at. An average Leghorn will lay 250 large white eggs or more per year, though the white variety is the most prolific. If you’re looking for a dual-purpose bird, though, the Leghorn probably isn’t your best choice.

With 17 different colour varieties (though this varies with different standards), the Leghorn is a beautiful, sleek little bird; there’s also an even smaller bantam variety. Because of their Mediterranean origins (Leghorn is just an anglicisation of the Italian city where they are believed to have originated, Livorno), Leghorns thrive best in warmer climates, though they can do well in colder regions with proper care. For keepers looking to maintain a strict boundary between livestock and pets, the Leghorn is a great choice; their flighty, skittish nature makes them inadvisable as lap chickens or family pets.


New Hampshire

The New Hampshire, sometimes called the New Hampshire Red, is a direct descendant of the famous Rhode Island Red, bred at the University of New Hampshire in the early 20th century with one goal in mind: to turn these celebrated layers into better broilers. The program succeeded, resulting in the larger, gentler New Hampshire breed. They are still prolific layers, producing an average of 250 large tinted eggs a year, but they also grow up to seven pounds for hens and an impressive 10 pounds for roosters.

Luckily, this large size is combined with a gentler, less bossy personality than their Rhode Island predecessors. Though New Hampshires can still get aggressive in the yard, particularly around food, and probably shouldn’t be kept with other breeds, they are gentle, docile, and friendly with humans – unlike the Leghorn above, the kid-friendly New Hampshire does make a fabulous pet.

Because of the involvement of local farmers in the original breeding effort, New Hampshires remain a reliable homestead bird, hardy and able to thrive in almost any climate.



The Dominique or Dominiker is generally considered to be the oldest American chicken breed, despite their supremely French name. In a way, the breed deserves the name of their later descendants, the Plymouth Rock, as they are believed to be descended from the chickens first brought to Plymouth Colony by the Pilgrims.

As their long history would suggest, one of this breed’s standout qualities is their hardiness and adaptability. These small, quiet birds will do well in any setting; best of all, they are extremely independent and more than capable of taking care of themselves. Over 400 years, they’ve retained their original dark and light “cuckoo” coloring, which helps them hide from predators in bushes and shrubs. If you’re interested in breeding your hens, the Dominique can also make a trustworthy mother.

The Dominique is a dual-purpose bird, as any breed this old would have had to be, but they are prized more in the modern world for their eggs than their meat – many Dominiques never weigh more than five pounds. They will produce around 200 brown eggs a year.



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The Orpington is in many ways the opposite of the Dominique, but they are equally beloved amongst their many fans. They are actually a descendent of the Dominique, having been bred in England from Plymouth Rocks, Minorcas, and Langshans. However, where the Dominique had to be a hardscrabble pioneer in a harsh climate, the Orpington quicky became a favoured show bird, and these different histories are reflected in the breeds’ characteristics.

Orpingtons are large, lazy dual-purpose hens; they can weigh up to eight pounds for hens, 10 for roosters, and their fluffy feathering often makes them look even bigger. While this large size recommends them as a broiler, their historical popularity as a show bird has bred some of their laying productivity out of them. The breed is the direct antecedent of the one-time world-record-holding Australorp, though, so it should be no surprise that they still produce a respectable 200 medium brown eggs a year. They are generally hardy, though their laziness can make them prone to obesity and related health problems.



As an egg layer, the Ameraucana has two claims to fame. The first is as a reliable producer, laying up to 250 eggs a year. The second is that they lay blue eggs. Exactly what shade of blue will vary from hen to hen, but because of a pigment-producing gene inherited from its Chilean Araucana ancestors, their eggs can be anywhere from a typical eggshell blue to an almost green colour. Because of this, the Ameraucana is one of the most common parents of an Easter Egger hen, a catch-all term for any hybrid of blue egg and brown egg laying breeds that can lay blue, green, pink, or yellow eggs.

The Ameraucana is a relatively modern breed, developed in the 1970s to have the blue eggs of the Araucana with a healthier genetic pool. They are fluffy, friendly, and docile, great with kids and happy to be a family pet. Though they can be eaten, they aren’t usually considered a desirable broiler.


These are obviously only five of the hundreds of chicken breeds available for keepers to choose. Each has their own unique characteristics, looks, and personality, and any well-chosen breed will make a great addition to your family, homestead, or farm.

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