Chicken Breeds for the Small Farm or Backyard Flock

Plymouth rock, New Hampshire red and Ameracauna chickens walking in foliage

The Spruce / Steven Merkel

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 from New Hampshire Reds to Sussex chickens will help you figure out the best fit for your farm.

  • 01 of 07

    Ameracauna Chickens

    Ameracauna chickens walking through foliage

    The Spruce / Steven Merkel

    True standard Ameracaunas are a rare breed of South American chicken that lay blue eggs. Most of what is called "Ameracaunas" or "Easter Eggers" in the United States ​is 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 favorites among children and farmers market customers.

  • 02 of 07

    New Hampshire Red Chickens

    New Hampshire red chicken with brown feathers near red wooden wall

    The Spruce / Steven Merkel

    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

    Orpington Chickens

    Orpington chicken standing on straw near feed container

    The Spruce / Steven Merkel

    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 right through the winter months, making them great for cold-climate farms. 

  • 04 of 07

    Plymouth Rock Chickens

    Plymouth rock chicken with black and white stripes in front of bare branches

    The Spruce / Steven Merkel

    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

    Rhode Island Red Chickens

    Rhode Island red chicken inside coop with other chickens

    The Spruce / Steven Merkel

    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

    Sussex Chickens

    Speckled Sussex Hen foraging for food
    AmyKerk / Getty Images

    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

    Wyandotte Chickens

    Adult Silver Laced Wyandotte hen chickens
    Nickbeer / Getty Images

    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. 

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  1. Raising Backyard Chickens. University of Florida Extension.