I’ll be honest, when I first started raising backyard chickens, I was in it for the eggs. I really didn’t care what color or kind or anything of the sort…until I got my hens! I fell in love with the idea of different breeds of chickens as well as the variety of egg colors. It’s become such a fun hobby that now I have quite a large flock! At some point, I may have to thin my flock out a bit. When you realize that your family isn’t eating 30 eggs a day, you may have to adjust! Haha! Either that or become the favorite neighbor!
Before you jump into chickens (or add to your flock), I thought it’d be fun to discuss some rare breeds with our friends over at Hoover’s Hatchery. Did you know there are hundreds of breeds of chickens? In fact, according to lafeber.com, “There are more than 500 chicken breeds throughout the world.” Of course, there aren’t that many in the United States, but we have some fun breeds to talk about!
I reached out to Hoover’s Hatchery and asked their flock manager to give us their top 5 rare breeds.
Jubilee Orpington *only offered in English Orpington Variety Pack
Lavender Mottled Orpington *only offered in English Orpington Variety Pack
Leghorns are an ancient breed that first originated in Italy and have always been famous for their egg production capabilities. The first Leghorns came to the United States starting in the 1820s with frequent importations through the 1850s. From there, the breed was further refined and improved into the breed as we know it today. Even now, they are still recognized as a top egg-producing breed that is highly efficient at converting feed into eggs. They are an active, graceful breed that does well in free-range situations. Isabella Leghorns are a newer variety of Leghorns that feature chickens with pastel shades of cream and blue. Hens are an even pastel blue shade with cream colored hackles and breasts. The hackle and saddle of the males are a cream color with blue striping on each feather while the tail and breast are an even shade of pastel blue. Hoover’s sells Isabella Leghorn’s as a straight run only. They lay approximately 300 large eggs/year | Egg color: white | Mature wt.: 4-5 lbs. | Single comb
Lavender Mottled Orpington
Orpingtons were first imported to the United States in 1900 and have been a favorite farm-flock and exhibition chicken since. In England, their popularity sky-rocketed and breeders developed many new varieties in addition to the Black, Buff, Blue and White which are common in the states. Until very recently, none of these other color patterns had yet made their way here. English-bred Orpingtons tend to have looser fitting feathers, shorter bodies and shorter legs. They are broad across the back and have a more rounded shape compared to American-bred Orpingtons. Despite their differences, the English are still similar to the American-bred birds as they are good dual-purpose birds, laying a good number of brown eggs and have a gentle temperament. Hoover’s offers the following varieties of English Orpingtons: Silver, Blue, Chocolate, Jubilee and Mottled. *No color is guaranteed in the assortment. They lay approximately 150 medium brown eggs/yr. | Egg color: brown | Mature wt.: Male 7 lbs. Female 6 lbs.
The Sussex is an ancient English breed that hails from Sussex, Surrey and Kent countries and for centuries was a favorite market bird. They were first imported to the United States in the early 1900s. They are a white-skinned, dual-purpose breed that lays brown eggs and has an easy-going demeanor. The Coronation Sussex is a relatively new variety and is white with the feathers on the neck having a soft powder blue stripe down the length of each feather. The tail feathers are this same soft blue color. Hoover’s sells Coronation Sussex’s as a straight run only. They lay approximately 240 large eggs/yr. | Egg color: brown | Mature wt.: 7-9 lbs. | Single comb
The Bielefelder is a recent import to the United States that originated in Bielefeld, Germany. A poultry breeder by the name of Gerd Roth developed the breed by crossing New Hampshires, Malines, Amrocks and Wyandottes with the goal of creating an auto-sexing, dual-purpose breed. Auto-sexing means that day-old chicks can be sexed when they hatch based on the color of their down generation after generation. Day-old pullet chicks have brown “chipmunk stripes” on their backs, while cockerel chicks are a much lighter shade and do not have any stripes. Adult Bielefelders are beautiful birds and have a color pattern similar to the crele color pattern found in other breeds. The hens have a brown ground color overlaid with faint bars of white and gray. Males have orange barred hackles, backs and saddles with the tails and breast being black with white barring. Bielefelders are an excellent dual-purpose breed that lays an abundance of brown eggs while still having a well-fleshed carcass. Hoover’s sells Bielefelders as a straight run only. They lay approximately 230 extra-large eggs/yr. | Egg color: brown | Mature wt.: 6-10 lbs. | Single comb
While Hoover’s have other rare breeds, these are just a few! And you know what? I just realized I have none of these breeds! When you’re a collector of chickens, this could become a problem! I get asked all the time which breed or breeds are my favorite. That’s hard to say. However, my Barred Rocks and Buff Brahma Bantams are absolutely at the top. They have incredible personalities, are great egg layers and get along with their flock sisters really well. As far as egg color goes, if you were limited in the number of chickens you can have, I’d go with a Barred Rock, Easter Egger, Polish, Marans, Olive Egger and Cream Legbar. You will get a great variety of beautiful eggs and wonderful pets to boot!
Until next time,
–The Wing Lady