Different Breeds of Roosters & Hens

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According to Mother Jones, in 2011 there were six chickens for every person in the United States. As well, chickens far outrank the number of other farm animals in the world, exceeding 20 billion in population, including pigs, ducks, cattle, goats and turkeys combined. If you'd like to have a few of those chickens, you have more than 400 types of roosters and hens to choose from.

Choosing Your Chicken

If you're in the market for a hen or rooster, you should determine why you want a chicken. There's a great deal of variation among the different breeds of chickens. Some hens are known for their egg production while other birds are better suited for meat. Chickens also vary according to their ability to withstand cold and hot as well as temperament.

Egg Hens

One of the undeniable benefits of having a hen is access to fresh, flavorful eggs. Productive egg-laying chickens include:

  • Golden comet 
  • Hyline brown
  • California white
  • Indian River 
  • Cherry egger 

Tip

  • According to the Livestock Conservancy, a heritage chicken is one of the endangered breeds of chicken who is a result of natural mating and lives a long, productive, outdoor life.

Heritage breed chickens that are good egg producers include:

  • Rhode Island reds 
  • Rhode Island whites 
  • Plymouth Rocks 
  • White-faced black Spanish 
  • Australorps
  • Leghorns 

Meat Chickens

If you're looking for a chicken for your stew pot look for a bird that uses feed efficiently and grows quickly. Hens and roosters meeting this criteria include:

  • Rhode Island white
  • Orpington
  • Buckeye
  • Cornish
  • Plymouth Rock

The buckeye and Cornish are considered particularly tasty birds, as are the La Flèche and dorking.

Hardy Chickens

Some breeds of chickens are better suited for temperature extremes. Good cold weather birds are usually heavy with small combs and wattles and include:

  • Buckeye
  • Java
  • Chentecler
  • Brahma

A large comb and wattle help dissipate heat, making the Java heat tolerant; other chickens who do well in warm climates include:

  • Maya
  • Jungle fowl
  • Sumatra
  • Cubalaya

Living Arrangements

Chickens are natural foragers, scratching and picking their way through the dirt and grass to find a tasty snack. If you want to allow your roosters and hens to roam through the yard at will, you'll likely get especially tasty eggs as free range chickens produce flavorful eggs. Birds suited to this environment include:

  • Old English game
  • Hamburg
  • Malay
  • Minorca
  • Catalana

Some breeds adapt equally well to confinement or free range, including:

  • Cornish
  • Polish
  • Pearl leghorns
  • Houdans
  • Langshans 

Tame Temperament

Chicken owners can tell you that their birds have distinct personalities. Chickens of Mediterranean lineage, such as the Minorca and leghorn, tend to be noisy, active chickens, compared to Asiatic breeds, such as the Cochin and Brahma. American, English and continental breeds of roosters and hens usually fall in the middle of the extremes. If you're new to the world of raising chickens, consider getting one of the breeds that are more laid-back, such as:

  • Silkie 
  • Orpington 
  • Speckled Sussex 
  • Cochin 
  • New Hampshire red 
  • Brahma 
  • Faverolle 

Versatile Birds

A number of breeds are popular because they do a lot of things well. Some dual-purpose hens and roosters who are able to tolerate temperature swings include:

  • Plymouth Rock 
  • Orpington
  • Rhode Island white
  • New Hampshire
  • Australorps 

Tip

  • Chickens that are proficient egg layers and are good for meat purposes are referred to as dual purpose chickens.

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