Chicken Breeds for the Small Farm or Backyard Flock

Which Breed Is Right for Your Farm or Homestead?

Once you've decided to keep chickens, you need to choose the chicken breed or breeds you are going to raise on your small farm or homestead. Chickens come in different colors, sizes, and personalities - and with more than 200 breeds, it can be hard to choose.This list of the most popular breeds will help you figure out the best fit for your farm.


  • 01 of 07


    an Easter Egger from Ideal Poultry, originally sold as a Ameraucana
    HedgehogWhisperer/Wikimedia Commons

    True standard Ameracaunas are a rare breed of South American chicken that lays blue eggs. Most of what are called "Ameracaunas" or "Easter Eggers" in the United States are a mix of South American breeds. They're all descendants of Araucana chickens brought from Chile in the 1970s. 

    In any case, these are fun, interesting birds who are primarily good for laying eggs but not for meat. Their personalities can vary and their eggs, in all shades of blue, green and even cream, are...MORE favorites among children and farmers market customers.

  • 02 of 07

    New Hampshire Red

    A New Hampshire Red hen.
    A New Hampshire Red hen. Photo © Lauren Ware

    New Hampshire Reds are a vigorous, early-maturing breed known for their meat more than their eggs, although they are a true dual-purpose bird, good for both.

    They originally derived from Rhode Island Reds. Their personalities can vary by the bird, from focused on the pecking order and a bit aggressive toward other birds, to mellow and docile. 

  • 03 of 07
    A Buff Orpington pullet.
    A Buff Orpington pullet. Photo © Lauren Ware

    The most common Orpington variety are Buffs, known for their big, fluffy-feathered bodies and gentle personas. These are the Big Birds of the dual-purpose chicken world. Sweet, docile, and easy to confine in a fenced area, they are a favorite of families with young children. They'll tolerate a lot of picking up and handling. This means that they may also be more vulnerable to predators, though.

    Orpingtons were originally developed for meat, but also lay eggs well, and will continue to lay...MORE right through the winter months, making them great for cold-climate farms. 

  • 04 of 07
    Barred Rock hen.
    Barred Rock hen. Photo © Lauren Ware

    The most common Plymouth Rock variety is the Barred Rock. With their black and white stripes, Barred Rocks are a good-looking breed and stand out in the flock. As the name suggests, Plymouth Rock chickens were first discovered in Massachusetts. 

    Plymouth Rocks are solid, sturdy dual-purpose birds and very popular for the small farm and homestead. They were at one time the most popular breed in America, due in large part to their gentle, docile personalities. 

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07
    A Rhode Island Red hen.
    A Rhode Island Red hen. Photo © Lauren Ware

    Rhode Island Reds are prolific egg-layers and at one time a standard for small poultry farms. Although they're good for meat, too, they are known for their high egg production.

    Rhode Island Reds are handsome birds, and while they're very active, the chickens are calm and docile. But watch out for Rhode Island Red roosters, as they can tend to be aggressive. 

  • 06 of 07


    A Speckled Sussex hen.
    A Speckled Sussex hen (yes, Miss Friendly!). Photo © Lauren Ware

    An English breed, Sussex chickens were at one time the most common British table bird. Speckled Sussex is the most common variety, and their brown plumage with white speckles definitely lets them stand out from the rest of the flock. Their coloring is also good camouflage from predators.

    Sussex chickens are known for their friendly and curious personalities. They're among the most "pet-like" of any chickens.

  • 07 of 07


    These pretty creatures, originally known as the American Sebright, are dual-purpose birds who lay plentiful numbers of brown eggs. The most common type is the silver-laced Wyandotte, but they come in several color varieties. These birds can tolerate adverse weather conditions and ​terrain and are good-natured and docile.