18 Heritage Chicken Breeds
Heritage chicken breeds are most commonly known for being the “natural” chickens of the world. With over one thousand types of heritage chickens in existence, it’s certainly a large feat to get to know them all. We’re tackling 18 types of chickens on our heritage chicken breeds list, as well as dual purpose breeds today.
Ancona chickens are known to be a very practical breed to keep near and around your home. This type of chicken is native to the Mediterranean, which lends to its affinity for warmer weather.
The beautiful speckled bird was accepted into the American Poultry Association in 1889 – just one year after it was imported into America (1). It’s a rather small bird with an adult weight of just around 5.5 and 6.5 pounds for males and even less for hens.
This rather skittish, non-sociable bird may keep its distance, but it tops the charts in terms of egg production. It’s known to produce a whopping 220 white eggs per year, all of which are likely to be large and white.
2. Silver Campine
The Silver Campine chicken originated in Northern Belgium and later spread to the southern areas of the Netherlands (2). They’re not particularly large – the males typically reach almost 6 pounds, with the females less than that.
Over its journey from Belgium to England and finally, to the United States, this animal went through various stages of breeding. A little fun-fact about its breeding is that the bird was known to take home prizes at various competitions. It was eventually even added to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection (3).
The silver variant of the Campine breed features a pure white head and neck hackles, while the remainder of the body is black with a green sheen to it. It is an everyday layer producing large white eggs and is considered one of the rarest chickens today.
3. Red Star Chicken
A reputable go-to for extensive egg production, the Red Star Chicken, is one that you can rely on for a consistent supply of food. This chicken is something of an honorable mention on this list, as the breed is not an actual breed, per se. In fact, it’s considered a hybrid designed exclusively for egg production.
The Red Star is unique in that it’s incredibly easy to tell its gender on the day of its birth – unlike other breeds. The males and females are actually different colors when they’re born, making it super easy to tell the difference.
Any one of us would likely be thrilled to have a chicken that produces over 200 eggs in a year, so hold onto your hats for this number. The Red Star can lay as many as 360 eggs yearly in the right conditions.
This breed is likely to be a bit aggressive with its flockmates, but luckily, it tends to like its human owners – so no need to worry.
4. Speckled Sussex
Pretty and practical: that’s what the Speckled Sussex chicken is often referred to as. This breed has a beautiful brown and white speckled coat of feathers that will catch the eye of any chicken-lover.
On top of its appearance, it also averages about 250 eggs annually – which is pretty good. While some chickens are best left to laying, the Speckled Sussex is also a worthy choice for meat. Speckled Sussex is a dual purpose breed
As its name suggests, this chicken originated in Sussex County of England. There are several variations of this chicken today, with many of them included on heritage chicken breeds lists.
Every year, as your Speckled Sussex molts, you’ll see more and more spots on its feathers. This beauty is one that you’ll want to keep around, so make sure you know how to protect heritage chicken breeds from predators.
5. Rhode Island Red
We’ve already seen several heritage chickens on our list with foreign origins. The Rhode Island Red is the first to have its roots in America (4).
Its namesake automatically lets us know that this chicken hails from Rhode Island. It’s got a very classic look; the roosters boast dark brown and red feathers with vivid red comb, earlobes, and wattles. Add its reddish-brown beaks and yellow feet and legs, and you’ve got yourself a farm chicken.
This dual-purpose breed was intended to be used for both meat and brown eggs. Traditionally, this bird has been known to lay anywhere between 200 and 300 brown eggs per year. It’s also beloved for its richly flavored meat.
While we certainly encourage taking part in its provisions, keep your distance; this chicken can be a bit nasty and may not be best for homestead.
Between the look of the bird and the color of its eggs, the Araucana chicken almost seems like a cartoon character (5). This quirky bird is a bit unknown, with chunks of its history never recorded for our perusal. Still, there’s still a lot we have figured out.
The origin may be unknown, but the first sighting of this chicken was in Chili, and it has made its way into the America Poultry Association Standard of Perfection.
The Araucana chicken is pretty small, with the adult male weighing around 5 pounds and hens coming in at 4 pounds. They are generally calm, quiet birds, with friendly demeanors.
You can count on your Araucana chicken to lay around 250 eggs per year, but don’t be shocked when you check for them. These eggs come out a lovely shade of blue. It seems appropriate to be a bit odd, as they also don’t have tails and boast extra feathers around their face.
7. Blue Andalusian
Another chicken named for its land of origin, the Blue Andalusian, initially came from Andalusia, Spain. This beautiful farm animal is certainly eye-catching, boasting blue-gray feathers complemented by dark outlines and markings.
Blue Andalusian is a meat bird that can also produce 150 white eggs yearly.
These chickens are very active, often foraging and running (6). That’s why you can find Blue Andalusian in many homestead. Though they offer a hefty amount of breast meat, the rest of the carcass doesn’t offer much.
However, they are pretty reliable egg producers, promising a surplus of 150 eggs yearly. They can lay large white eggs. Blue Andalusian is a dual-purpose breed, which means it can produce eggs, or as a broiler chicken.
8. Black Minorca
The Black Minorca chicken is a Spanish breed known for its hefty size. Depending on location and breeding, the males can weigh as much as 8 pounds – which is pretty large for a heritage breed chicken. It is the largest of the large white egg layers in the Mediterranean (7).
Because of its intensive breeding and physical appearance, the Minorca is also used as an exhibition bird along with its egg production. You can recognize it by its bright red comb, face, and wattles, which contrast beautifully with its glossy greenish-black plumage.
Overall, the Black Minorca is excellent for beautifying your yard, serving as a show animal, and producing a respectable number of eggs. They are also very social, quiet, and robust birds with friendly attitudes.
9. Dark Brahma
The Dark Brahma chicken was quite popular back in the 20th century. It was well known for its great-tasting meat and came before many other heritage breeds.
However, today it remains an average breed on the list. Since the 1900s, many other types of chickens have come onto the scene that produce more eggs. That hasn’t made this chicken obsolete, though.
The Dark Brahma , which is considered as heritage meat chickens, can lay around 140 brown eggs per year. While that’s not a record high, it’s still respectable. People often use these chickens for both eggs and meat, making it a dual-purpose bird.
One of the most outstanding features of this chicken is its size. The male standard is a whopping 18 pounds – heavier than any of the chickens we’ve talked about so far (8). That fact alone makes it excellent for harvesting meat.
The Dominique chicken is native to the Northeast United States, most likely in the Boston area. Many attribute this bird as the country’s oldest breed, used for eggs, meat, and even stuffing pillows.
Many find it difficult to separate the Dominique from the Barred Rock chicken, as they are very similar in appearance with their striped black and white look. However, the Dominique, which is also a dual purpose chicken has a different comb along with a more staggered pattern. The beak and the eyes also differ in color and shape.
Dominiques are quite the lovable birds because of their sweet and gentle nature. They’re super friendly and tend to follow people around when they’re nearby. They are perfect heritage breeds on the homestead. They are also known to lay as many as 270 eggs per year – not shabby at all!
Very self-sufficient animals, there’s not too much to consider when raising Dominiques on the homestead. But if you’re still stuck, you can always check out this chicken feed guide.
11. White Jersey Giant
The most interesting fact about the White Jersey Giant is that it is the largest chicken breed in America (9). A male can be as large as 13 pounds, making it a great chicken for harvesting meat.
The Jersey Giant will go broody but is not the best choice for incubating and brooding because of their size.
Of course, it’s also a good choice for eggs, as it typically lays anywhere from 150 to 200 eggs yearly. So long as you keep your Jersey Giant comfortable, healthy, and safe from weather conditions, it will perform for you and your family or business.
The White Jersey Giant embodies what many folks picture when they think about chickens on a farm. It’s large and fluffy with tons of white feathers to go along with the red accents on its face and comb.
The downside to this chicken is that it tends to grow out in its frame first. They don’t actually have a significant amount of meat until at least six months, sometimes even 8 or 9, meaning there’s a bit of a waiting period if you want it for your dinner table (10).
12. White Crested Black Polish
You will never see another bird quite like the White Crested Black Polish. It has a very distinguishable look to it, and that alone makes it a prized possession for many.
This heritage chicken sports all-black feathers all over, save the top portion of its head. Many liken it head feathers to a top hat, as this chicken boasts stark white feathers sprouting in a full fan from the top of its head.
The Polish breed is very tolerant to heat, and likewise, not tolerant of the cold. They lay medium-sized white eggs with decent production rates. However, they’re not a good option for meat. Their mature weight is only about 4 to 6 pounds, so there’s not much to work with.
It’s important to note that these hens are quite flighty and make for poor mothers. They don’t tend to sit on their eggs, so you’ll need an incubator if you want to breed them.
13. White Langshan
The White Langshan is quite the majestic-looking breed, sporting bold chests, full feathers, and a tall height. This bird originates from China and is thought to be very old in ancestry.
Despite their fierce looks, White Langshan is a calm and docile chicken breed.
Although they look pretty fierce, the White Langshan is actually a very calm and docile chicken. They’re rare and confident birds that are difficult to buy. You can recognize them by the feathers located on their legs and feet, along with their bluish-black legs.
At around 26 weeks old, you can expect this chicken to lay 200-220 eggs per year (11). These chicken breeds are very consistent, reliable birds, and they deliver large brown eggs. Likewise, the White Langshan offers excellent meat that’s perfect for roasting.
Watch out though – these chickens are superb flyers and have been known to get over even high fences.
14. Buff Orpington
Buff Orpington chickens are fluffy, attractive birds that serve dual-purpose to their owners. You can raise them for meat, having them table-ready as early as 22 weeks. However, they put out solid egg production, laying anywhere from 200 to 280 brown eggs per year.
Orpingtons are fairly easy to take care of, but they do struggle in hot temperatures. In fact, if their climate is too hot, it can actually kill them. They’re also known for collecting lice and mites due to their thick feathering.
The Buff Orpington is a popular pet and great for your homestead because they are very gentle and love attention. They refrain from aggression and are easy to handle, but they do best when they’re separated from aggressive breeds.
15. Barred Plymouth Rock
The Barred Plymouth Rock chicken is very similar in appearance to the Dominique chicken that we discussed earlier on our list (12). Based on its name alone, you might have guessed that this is one of the oldest breeds in America, having lived far earlier than World War 2.
This chicken is known for its high-quality meat as well as its excellent egg production. In that way, it’s comparable to the Rhode Island Red chicken.
The breed grows to be about 9.5 pounds at its largest, and you can expect the hens to lay around 200 brown eggs on a yearly basis. While their hens can sometimes continue laying eggs as long as ten years, they typically start to decline around year 3.
16. Single Comb Brown Leghorn
The Single Comb Brown Leghorn is perhaps the most colorful of the heritage breeds, boasting bold hues of reds, browns, greens, and more.
This Italian-native bird is hard-working, active, and independent. It doesn’t like attention or being held; in fact, it doesn’t even enjoy confinement.
However, in the right environment, this chicken will reward you with over 300 eggs per year. Not only do they give you a lot of produce, but their eggs are large, white, and beautiful.
Of course, getting these eggs requires some patience and endurance. They don’t start laying until 18 to 20 weeks, and they give you a noisy temperament in return.
17. White Laced Red Cornish
If you’re looking for a chicken that can withstand some cold weather, then the White Laced Red Cornish chicken might be the one for you.
This bird is a pea comb, clean-legged chicken out of England. It’s a small breed, with the females weighing just 2 pounds. They start out as light red and white mixed chicks and quickly mature into full white plumage in a distinctive shape.
Egg production is only fair when it comes to this hen. You may see about 100 eggs per year, but probably not many more than that.
18. Partridge Cochin
Family-friendly chickens can make for some of the best pets, and the Partridge Cochin chicken certainly falls under that category. Although they are very large with a domineering appearance, they are also extremely sweet, friendly, and docile birds.
“They are also one of the sweetest breeds of chicken and make fantastic pets.”
This chicken takes on the Partridge name due to its unique color patterns. They’re super fluffy and have tons of feathers – some of them even extending to their legs and toes.
These Cochin chickens can lay a lot of eggs for a short while, but for the most part, their production tends to land between 150 and 180 per year. Otherwise, they are mostly used for their meat – or simply as pets.
Some heritage chicken breeds make good pets, but it all depends on the specific breed’s temperament. Some breeds, such as the Partridge Cochin, make excellent pets because they are friendly and docile, while others, like the Single Comb Brown Leghorn, are more independent and fierce.
Many breeds of heritage chickens can lay a lot of eggs, while others serve better purposes for their meat, as pets, or even as show chickens. Some chickens lay around 100 eggs yearly, while more productive breeds can lay as many as 300.
Heritage breed chickens are distinctly defined by four main characteristics, as evaluated by The Livestock Conservancy. They have been recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed before the mid-20th century. They must also be naturally mating, live long and productive lives, and have a slow growth rate.
- American Poultry Association. Retrieved from: http://amerpoultryassn.com/
- The Livestock Conservancy, Campine Chicken. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/campine
- American Poultry Association, APA 44th Standard of Perfection. Retrieved from: http://amerpoultryassn.com/sample-page/apa-store/apa-44th-standard-of-perfection/
- Clemson Edu, Breeds of Chicken. Retrieved from: https://www.clemson.edu/extension/4h/programs/ag-animals/livestock/files/breeds-of-chickens.pdf
- Poultry Breeds – Araucana Chickens. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/poultry/chickens/araucana/index.html/
- Andalusian Chicken. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/andalusian
- Poultry Breeds – Minorca Chickens. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/poultry/chickens/minorca/index.html
- Brahma. Retrieved from: https://heritagepoultry.org/blog/brahma
- Poultry Breeds – Jersey Giant Chickens. Retrieved from: Poultry Breeds – Jersey Giant Chickens — Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science (okstate.edu)
- Jersey Giant Chicken: Eggs, Height, Size and Raising Tips. Retrieved from: Jersey Giant Chicken: Eggs, Height, Size and Raising Tips (cs-tf.com)
- Croad White Langshan. Retrieved from: https://croadlangshan.org/html/white.shtml
- Plymouth Rock Chicken. Retrieved from: The Livestock Conservancy