20 most common and best free range chicken breeds for meat or eggs or dual-purpose

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Let's talk about some of the best and most popular chicken breeds that you might want to consider including in your backyard flock! From temperament to eggs, this tutorial will explore key information about the top 20 backyard chicken breeds. However, not every type of bird will be best suited for your climate, family, or yard.

For many people, the main incentive of raising backyard chickens is a fresh supply of eggs. While no chicken lays an egg every day, a good layer will supply your family with 5 to 6 eggs a week during the spring and summer months. Each year, more and more people are becoming aware of the consequences of what they eat.

With the hormones added to market meats, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to grow their own food. For those of us who were not born on a farm, growing your own food tends to start with fruits and vegetables. Later, they realize they need to raise their own meat for protein.

Chickens that are specifically raised for meat are commonly known as Broilers. Broilers make great meat chickens because they grow faster than chickens that are raised for the purpose of egg-laying and chickens that are considered dual-purpose.

In a period of just five short weeks, the chickens that are commonly known as broilers can weigh around 4-5 pounds that is 1.8kg to 2.25kg) and by the time they are 10 weeks old, they can easily reach 10 pounds (that's about 4.5kg), which is the ideal size for an average size family. This makes raising and breeding broilers in the backyard the best option for those who are looking to develop a self-sustaining lifestyle. The challenge, however, with raising broiler chickens, is that they eat a lot and they are meant to be slaughtered at 5 to 6 weeks, so you will have to start the process of raising day-old-chicks again and probably sell some or most of the broilers that have reached maturity stage.

There is much discussion within the poultry community as to which breed is better, with each one having its own set of attributes. There is no real right answer to the question of which breed of chicken is the best, but there are certain aspects of each breed that make them more or less desirable for the backyard flock. This is determined by what are you looking to get out of your birds and how much experience you have at raising them.

Choosing the right chicken breed is an important part of raising chickens. Do you want lots of eggs, friendly chickens, lots of meat or just something fancy? There are so many chicken breeds out there, it can be overwhelming! Here are some things to consider when choosing a chicken breed for your backyard.

As a result, we have written a comprehensive guide on the 20 best chicken breeds that are perfect for small and big backyards, and easy to keep. In doing so, we used criteria such as their ability to lay eggs, how hardly and resistant they are to diseases, and how much meat you will get from the breeds within the shortest possible time.

1. RHODE ISLAND RED

The Rhode Island Red is an American breed of domestic chicken. It is the state bird of Rhode Island. It was developed there and in Massachusetts in the late nineteenth century, by cross-breeding birds of Oriental origin such as the Malay with brown Leghorn birds from Italy. The Rhode Island Red is probably one of the most successful chicken breeds in the world! The Rhode Island Red is very good at laying eggs – it is hard to surpass them in output and continuity. In general, a Rhode Island hen will lay around 5-6 eggs per week and about 250 to 320 eggs per year. These eggs are medium to large and light brown in color. Eggs will increase in size over the years, as with all hens. Male Standard weight is 3.9kg (8.6lb) and Female Standard weight is 3kg (6.6lb).

2. NEW HAMPSHIRE RED

The New Hampshire was developed in 1915 from a strain of Rhode Island Red brought into the state of New Hampshire in the United States. New Hampshire Reds are derived directly from Rhode Island Reds, and over the years they've changed so much from selective breeding that they've come to be recognized as a new breed. The New Hampshire Red differs from the Rhode Island in that it produces more meat (and therefore fewer eggs), it's faster to grow and feather out, it matures early and it's even more vigorous. A New Hampshire hen will lay up to 280 eggs per year. Male Standard weight is 3.9kg (8.6lb) and Female Standard weight is 3kg (6.6lb).

3. PLYMOUTH ROCK

The Plymouth Rock is an American breed of domestic chicken. It was first seen in Massachusetts in the nineteenth century, and for much of the early twentieth century was the most popular chicken breed in the United States. It is a dual-purpose breed, raised both for its meat and for its brown eggs. They lay between 200 and 250 eggs pinkish-brown eggs in a year. Male Standard weight is 3.4kg (7.5lb) and Female Standard weight is 2.95kg (6.5lb).

4. DELAWARE

The Delaware is a breed of chicken originating in the U.S. state of Delaware. It was once of relative importance to the U.S. chicken industry, but today is critically endangered. It is primarily suited to meat production but also lays reasonably well. In the 1940s it was all set to become the broiler industry 'superstar', but things went awry and the Delaware languished and fell into obscurity. They are only around today thanks to a few dedicated individuals who kept and raised this breed. Delaware chickens aren't an easy-to-find heritage poultry breed, but they make a good homestead livestock choice for anyone wanting to raise free-range chickens for high-quality meat. Male Standard weight is 3.9kg (8.5lb) and Female Standard weight is 3kg (6.5lb).

5. AMERAUCANA

The Ameraucana is an American breed of domestic chicken. It was developed in the United States in the 1970s, and derives from Araucana chickens brought from Chile. They lay eggs in shades of blue, and even have blue (or "slate") legs and eliminate the lethal alleles of the parent breed. There are both standard-sized and bantam versions. While they do not lay as many eggs as some breeds that have been bred solely for egg production, they do produce consistently. The typical Ameraucana chicken lays about 150 eggs per year. These eggs tend to be uniformly large and consistent in size. Male Standard weight is 2.5 to 2.9 kg (5.5 to 6.5lb) and Female Standard weight is 2.0 to 2.5 kg (4.5 to 5.5lb).

6. LEGHORN

The Leghorn is a breed of chicken originating in Tuscany, in central Italy. Birds were first exported to North America in 1828 from the Tuscan port city of Livorno, on the western coast of Italy. Leghorn chickens are adventurous, spirited, friendly and wondrous egg-layers. They are the small breeds with noisy nature and great styles. White Leghorns are good layers of white eggs, laying an average of 280 per year and sometimes reaching 300–320.
Male Standard weight is 2.4 to 2.7 kg (5.3 to 5.9lb) and Female Standard weight is 2.0 to 2.3 kg (4.4 to 5lb).

7. BLACK AUSTRALORP

The Australorp is a chicken breed of Australian origin, developed as a utility breed with a focus on egg laying and is famous for laying more than 300 eggs.
The black Astralorps are beautiful birds. Very gentile and friendly and lay about 5 eggs per week. The Black Australorp chicken is one of eight poultry breeds created in Australia and recognized by the Australian Poultry Standards. The most popular color of this breed is black. But blue and white color varieties of this breed are also available. Australorps are quiet, gentle, and stand confinement well. The black Australorp is a great breed of chickens. They are phenomenal egg layers, great mothers, friendly, calm, and an easygoing breed. In 1924, an Australorp hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days. Male Standard weight is 3.9kg (8.5lb) and Female Standard weight is 2.95kg (6.5lb).

8. BRAHMA

The Brahma is an American breed of chicken. It was developed in the United States from birds imported from the Chinese port of Shanghai, and was the principal American meat breed from the 1850s until about 1930. Brahmas are large chickens with feathers on shanks and toes, pea comb, smooth fitting plumage with dense down in all sections, and broad, wide head with skull projecting over the eyes – termed “beetle brow.” They come in three color varieties – the Light, the Dark, and the Buff. The Brahma chicken is one of the largest chicken breeds, known as the 'king of chickens'. They are both a meat and egg laying chicken. They also make great backyard pets. Brahmas are not a high egg production hen. They do lay a fair amount of eggs and the average Brahma hen lays 3 to 4 medium-to-large eggs per week which amounts to approximately 150 eggs per year. Male Standard weight is 5.5kg (12 lb) and Female Standard weight is 4.5kg (9.9 lb).

9. ORPINGTON

The Orpington is a British breed of chicken. It was bred in the late nineteenth century by William Cook of Orpington, Kent in south-east England. It was intended to be a dual-purpose breed, to be reared both for eggs and for meat, but soon became exclusively a show bird. Created by British poultry breeders at the turn of the 20th century, the orpington chicken was designed to be a hardy breed that can endure England’s most bitter winters, whilst still laying at an unstoppable rate. The ‘Black Orpington’ was originally created through crossing the Minocra, Plymouth Rocks and Langshans breeds to create a hybrid chicken breed that was both an excellent layer and good meat quality. An Orpington hen lays 200 to 280 large brown eggs per year. If raised for meat, the birds are ready for the table after about 22 weeks. Male Standard weight is 3.6 to 4.55 kg (7.9 to 10 lb) and Female Standard weight is 2.7 to 3.6 kg (5.95 to 7.9 lb).

10. SUSSEX

The Sussex is a British breed of dual-purpose chicken, reared both for its meat and for its eggs. Eight colours are recognised for both standard-sized and bantam fowl. The Light Sussex was developed with the addition of crossbreeding with the Mediterranean egg-layers, which created a truly dual-purpose breed. Brahma, Cochin, and Silver Grey Dorking were also used in its perfection. Sussex chickens are believed to have been first bred in Britain (in the area that was to become England) around the time of the Roman invasion of AD 43 making them one of the oldest known breeds. This chicken breed turns a free-range diet into a heavy production of beautiful brown or tinted eggs. Sussex chickens lay brown, white or tinted eggs and you can expect between 180-200 eggs per year from your typical Sussex chicken. However, some strains of this dual-purpose chicken breed are better at egg laying than others, and can give you up to 250 eggs per year!
Male Standard weight is 4.1kg (9 lb) and Female Standard weight is 3.2kg (7 lb).

11. JERSEY GIANT

The Jersey Giant is an American breed of domestic chicken. It was created in Burlington County, New Jersey, in the late 19th century. As the name suggests, it is a large breed, and is among the heaviest of all chicken breeds. Specifically, the Jersey Giant chicken was bred to produce large capons and roasting chickens to compete with turkeys when a large bird was needed to serve on the table. Jersey Giants are friendly, docile birds that get along well with humans and other chickens alike. They do well both on the range and in large backyard runs. And they lay a good deal of eggs and provide a decent amount of meat. They can forage for a lot of their food, but they’re also good for snuggles. Although Jersey Giants may be able to tolerate a small run, they certainly don’t thrive in those conditions. These are large birds who love to explore and forage, and, therefore, are best kept in a large backyard or free-range setup. They will produce, on average, between two and four eggs each week, for a total of between 150 and 200 eggs a year. Male Standard weight is 5.9kg (13 lb) and Female Standard weight is 4.5kg (9.9 lb).

12. BRESSE

The poulet de Bresse or volaille de Bresse is a French chicken product which has appellation d'origine contrôlée status. It may be produced only from white chickens of the Bresse breed raised within a legally-defined area of the historic region and former province of Bresse, in eastern France. Bresses are considered the most delicious chicken in the whole wide world (hence the nickname “Queen of Chickens”). The breed matches the colors of the French flag — blue legs, white body and red comb. Bresse is a 400-year-old chicken breed many chefs believe is the world's most delicious thanks to its juicy, deeply flavoured, buttery meat. By law the birds must be raised in the eastern French region of Bresse to earn their protected name (in the same way champagne can only be made in Champagne), meaning the prized poulet will be sold as "The American Bresse" in United States. If the Bresse hen is healthy and well-nourished she can lay about 250 eggs per year. The eggs produced are a cream colored. Male Standard weight is 2.5 to 3 kg (5.5 to 6.6 lb) and Female Standard weight is 2 to 2.5 kg (4.4 to 5.5 lb).

13. BARNEVELDER

The Barnevelder is a Dutch breed of domestic chicken. It resulted from cross-breeding between local Dutch chickens and various "Shanghai" birds imported from Asia to Europe in the later part of the nineteenth century; these may have been of Brahma, Cochin or Croad Langshan type. The Barnevelders are medium heavy dual-purpose chickens laying a good number of eggs but also yielding a reasonable carcass. They are hardy birds and good foragers. It is sought after for its dark "chocolate" brown eggs. This beautiful bird is quiet and doesn't mind being confined. A Barnevelder hen lays some 175 to 200 brown eggs per year, with a weight of about 60–65g. Male Standard weight is 3 to 3.5 kg (6.6 to 7.7 lb) and Female Standard weight is 2.5 to 2.75 kg (5.5 to 6 lb).

14. NAKED NECK

The Naked Neck is a breed of chicken that is naturally devoid of feathers on its neck and vent. The breed is also called the Transylvanian Naked Neck, as well as the Turken. Originally from Transylvania – Romania, and was largely developed in Germany. Naked Necks are one of the best breeds out there for hot temperatures. They are incredibly feed efficient. They lay a good amount of eggs, and often lay through hot summers and cold winters. They have incredibly tasty meat, and a carcass that may be the easiest to pluck in all of the chicken world. And best of all, Naked Necks are little darlings. They are sweet, docile, cuddly, and each one has her own character. Naked neck chickens are hardy, calm, and resistant in nature. They grow much faster as compared to other chickens. You can expect your Naked Neck hens to lay about 150-200 medium-large brown eggs a year. Male Standard weight is 3.9 kg (8.6 lb) and Female Standard weight is 3 kg (6.6 lb).

15. POTCHEFSTROOM KOEKOEK

The Potchefstroom Koekoek is a South African breed of chicken developed in the 1960s at the Potchefstroom Agricultural College in the city of Potchefstroom by Chris Marais. Koekoek is a mix between the Black Australorp and the White Leghorn with some Barred Plymouth Rock infusion. The name Koekoek refers to the barred colour pattern of the birds. The Potchefstroom Koekoek chickens are hardy and are excellent layers and good for year-round egg-production: they keep laying in winter as well as when they are moulting. In addition, Koekoeks are self-sexing: the females are distinctly darker than the males. It produces eggs with bright yellow yolks and its yellow skins is popular with consumers. The Potch Koekoek is a dual-purpose bird that is perfectly suited for free range growing conditions. It has a high egg yield and is also sufficiently broody so you can easily use it produce chicks in small backyard farming operations. The hens can lay up to 198 eggs in a year. The eggs will weigh 55.78 grams on average. They hens are broody and make for good sitters. They have a hatchability rate of 78%. Male Standard weight is 4.2 kg (9.25 lb) and Female Standard weight is 3.6 kg (7.9 lb).

16. SASSO

Sasso chickens are native chickens of France and now becoming popular among big and small raisers. Resembling our own native chickens,the Sasso chicken grow faster, with delicious and tender meat and strong disease resistance. Sasso chickens are free-range, affordable, easy to raise which proves to be a profitable livelihood venture. They graze around the field, or backyard running around, and eating grass, corn, leaves and other natural ingredients. Sasso Chicken is preferred by more than 30 countries around the world because of its high adaptability to hot humid conditions, good disease resistance, good meat quality. Sasso can lay an average of 240 eggs per year but they don't sit on their eggs, meaning they will not hatch their eggs on their own. Male maximum weight is 5 kg (11 lb) and Female maximum weight is 4 to 4.5 kg (8.8 to 9.9 lb).

17. KUROILER

The Kuroiler is a hybrid breed of chicken developed by the Keggfarms Group in Gurgaon, Haryana in India in the early 1990s. Kuroilers are derived from crossing either coloured broiler males with Rhode Island Red females, or, White Leghorn males crossed with female Rhode Island Reds. Kuroilers chickens have unique genetic features, the Kuroiler chickens are highly resistant to diseases. start laying eggs when they are five months old. As soon as their laying season starts, it goes on for two years. These chickens grow fast without any special commercial feeding. They can put on weight very quickly in scavenging environment while feeding on leftovers of food, grass, termites and many other kinds of food. Kuroiler mature in about 10 weeks compared to local breeds that take several months or even up to a year to mature. At maturity, Kuroiler chicken weighs about 3.5kg. Kuroilers, a dual-purpose breed producing meat and eggs, can live on a diet of kitchen and agricultural waste, and hens produce around 150 eggs per year. Male maximum weight is 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) and Female maximum weight is 2.5 kg (5.5 lb).

18. BOSCHVELD

The Boschveld is an indigenous chicken reared across Africa. It is a crossbreed between the Ovambo, Matabele and Venda free-range indigenous chicken of southern Africa. Bred to be resistant to diseases, grow quickly, defend themselves against predators and survive on whatever food is available, the Boschhveld chicken can survive in the tough climates. The Boschveld Indigenous Chicken was bred by a farmer born in Gweru, central Zimbabwe named Michael Bosch as a way to deal with the tick problem he was having with his cattle. This led him to crossbreed three of the toughest breeds in Southern Africa. Over the years he continued to strengthen the breed by breeding the toughest in the flock. This led to the Boschveld Chicken, a cross of 50% Venda Chicken breed from South Africa, 25% Chicken Matabele breed from Zimbabwe and 25% Ovambo Chicken breed from Nambia. Egg production starts at 24 weeks and Boschveld hens will give you about 4 eggs per week and roughly 240 eggs per year. Male average weight is 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) and Female average weight is 2.3 kg (5 lb).

19. CORNISH OR INDIAN GAME

The Indian Game is a British breed of game chicken, now reared either for meat or show. The Cornish, first known as the Indian Game chicken, was developed around 1820 by Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert of England in the counties of Cornwall and Devon in south-west England. It is a heavy, muscular bird with an unusually broad breast; the eggs are brown. A white variant, the White Cornish, was developed there at about the same time, and is much used in modern industrial chicken meat production in many parts of the world, either for cross-breeding to produce hybrid broilers, or to produce fast-growing "game hens". Cornish Chicken is an excellent meat producing heritage breed. Known as the Hulk of the chicken pen, this muscular chicken has outstanding table qualities. The Cornish chicken will produce a very small amount of eggs over their lifetime because they weren't bred for breakfast—they are a dinner bird for sure. However, the eggs they do lay are small and light brown. So, if you decide to add this breed to your flock, don't plan on more than 160 eggs or so a year. Male average weight is 3.86 kg (8.6 lb) and Female average weight is 2.5 kg (5.5 lb).

20. CORNISH CROSS

The Cornish Cross, although not a free-range chicken breed, however, it is the most common meat breed in the chicken industry. The Cornish Cross is a hybrid of the Cornish and the Plymouth White chicken, which was bred to produce the meat you see in the grocery store. Since it is a commercial brand rather than a breed, the breeding of the Cornish cross is a tightly kept secret, though experts agree that purebred Cornish and the white rock were used in the Cornish X breeding process. The Cornish cross broiler is sometimes confused with the Cornish chicken breed. The two are not the same. Cornish Crosses combine the weight of the Cornish and the visual appeal and, growth rate, of the Plymouth White to create the lovely large chicken breasts you take to the grill. These broiler chickens are known for their remarkable, rapid growth and feed efficiency. Cornish Cross chickens need to be harvested when they reach full weight, usually around six weeks, or they'll soon become unhealthy. Popular Cornish Cross strains include Cobb 500, Ross 308 and Ross 708. Cornish Cross is an extremely fast growing chicken that is processed between six and eight weeks. Eggs come from hens, the ones raised especially for eggs. But those chickens that are raised for meat are called broilers. They are white and are bred specifically for optimal health and in normal size in order to produce only quality product for the consumer. They are typically raised in large, open structures called houses. They like to roam, eat, and walk around with other chickens. These broilers can be grown to a live weight of over 1.8 kg (over 4 lbs) by 6 weeks of age or, to a roaster weight of 3.6 to 4.5kg (8 to 10 lb).