I don’t know about you, but for me, I am already planning what chicken breeds I am going to get this year! Throughout my 5 years of raising and showing chickens through 4-H I have had experience with a variety of breeds. Some breeds I like better then others. I hope these show chicken breed reviews will help you decide which breed you want to raise this year!
I love to show chickens and I especially excel in the showmanship area. Showmanship is based on how well you know your chicken and how you handle and examine your chicken. I am reviewing the following breeds based on how I liked showing them in showmanship. How well a breed does in terms of Best of Show or Best of Breed depends on the quality of stock that you buy. If you would like to learn more about the showmanship process, check out my post on 4-H Showmanship.
Five-star Qualities: Black Australorps are a heavy, dual-purpose breed, with hens weighing around 6.5lbs. They are good layers of light brown, medium eggs. Australorps are cold hardy and also have a docile temperament. The hens may go broody though. Australorps get along well with other chicken breeds and will rarely cause fights. They are also a fairly easy breed to find depending on where you live. Australorps have a single comb and they are a fast maturing breed.
Four-star Qualities: Because of their size, Australorps will need more space and lower perches. They also come in only one recognized variety, black, which may not appeal to someone who wants a little color! Australorps can be a little heavy when it comes to showmanship as well.
My Experience: My experience with Black Australorps was a great one. I found these birds to be very good show birds. Because of their docile nature, they were easy to handle and to train to stand still. They were very friendly birds and would often come up to my back door and they didn’t mind me catching them or holding them. I also liked their small combs and wattles which kept me from having to worry about frostbite. The chicks were sturdy little things and adorably cute (like all chicks are)! Overall, Black Austalorps were one of my favorite breeds to raise and show. By the way, the chicken pictured above was my Black Australorp named Blackie, she had a partial crossbeak.
Five-star Qualities: Opringtons are another heavy, dual purpose breed, the hens weigh around 8lbs. They are decent layers of large, brown eggs and are also a cold hardy breed. Orpingtons are fairly good foragers, which means it could save you some feed expenses if you let them free-range. The hens may go broody. Orpingtons have a very docile and friendly personality. They also come in four different recognized color varieties and a few un-recognized color varieties.
Four-star Qualities: Again, Orpingtons are a large breed which means they will need more space, lower perches, and eat a little more then smaller breeds. Their size could be a hindrance as far as showmanship goes because they could get heavy when you are holding them with one arm!
My Experience: Opringtons are my top favorite breed as far as pet chickens go! They are very friendly and docile and I must admit, you can do just about anything to them (humanely off course!). The best chicken I ever owned was a Buff Orpington named Flint, she was like my therapy chicken. Aside from their friendly personality though, they were also pretty good layers and got along well with my other breeds. I did have one hen go broody, which was kind of annoying considering I didn’t have any eggs I needed hatched. They were also one of the easiest birds to train to show as well. They stayed calm when they were held and stood still on the table. Overall, I would definitely recommend this breed as a good family chicken breed!
Black Sex Links
Five-star Qualities: Black Sex Links (also called Black Stars) are a heavy, egg laying breed. The Black Sex Link weighs between 6-8lbs. They are an auto-sexing breed which means you can tell the males from the females when they are still chicks. This breed is a crossbreed between Rhode Island Reds or New Hampshires and Barred Plymouth Rocks. Black Sex Links are very good layers of large, brown eggs and the hens tend not to go broody. The Black Sex Links are a very curious breed and can be very vocal as well. They are cold hardy and have small combs and wattles. They also forage well too. Black Sex Links are fairly common, so you would have a good chance of buying them locally.
Four-star Qualities: Black Sex Links are not a recognized breed by the APA (American Poultry Association), so the would not win any best of breed awards. Because of their size, you will also need more space and lower roosts for them. The cocks combs could be prone to frostbite as well.
My Experience: I found that Black Sex Links were a very curious breed but not as docile as the Orpingtons or Australorps. The Black Sex Link that I trained for showing took a little longer to relax in my hand and also required a little more training to stand still on a table. I do think that they are a very smart breed though, as I trained one of my hens to do an obstacle course and another hen quickly figured out how break open my treat ball that I have for my chickens. I do like their cold hardy traits as well as their laying ability.
One of my hens was a little aggressive when she was in the nesting box but showed no aggression when she was out of the nesting box. Overall, I think that Black Sex Links would be a good choice if you are looking for a friendly chicken that lays well.
Five-star Qualities: Ameraucanas are a medium size breed that can be used for both meat and eggs. The hens are every other day layers of blue colored eggs that are medium in size. Ameraucanas are a very cold hardy breed because they have a small pea comb and no wattles. They have a docile demeanor and get along well with both people and other chickens. The hens tend not to go broody.
Four-star Qualities: Ameraucanas are a hard breed to find a pure strain of unless you buy from a specialty breeder.
My Experience: I found that Ameraucanas were an easy bird to keep and raise and I loved their colored eggs! As far as showing goes, they were fairly decent showers, but they did require a little more training to get them to stand still. The quality of Ameraucana that I got was poor because the individuals did not a specific variety and all of them did not have muffs and beards (feathers around on the cheeks and under the beak). Overall, Ameruacanas would make a good family chicken, just be careful were you get your chicks from.
Five-star Qualities: Silver Leghorns are more of a heritage variety of Leghorn. There are 15 other varieties though. They are a small breed that are very good layers of medium, white eggs. The hens weigh around 4.5lbs. Surprisingly, the hens have small, single combs and do fairly decent in cold weather and are heat tolerant. Because of their small size, they don’t take up much space in the coop. They also have a pretty good feed to egg conversion. Silver Leghorns are good foragers and love to free-range. The hens do not brood and the breed matures fairly quickly.
Four-star Qualities: Silver Leghorns can be flighty, some individuals are more flighty then others. They like to find high places to roost and they seem like they are constantly moving. This breed can be a little pushy with other chickens, meaning they don’t fight, but they do like to boss around other chickens and each other.
My Experience: I found Silver Leghorns to be a very active breed that lay very well. I did not like them so much for showing because of their activeness. They took more time and training to become good show birds and some individuals were better at it then others. I did like their persistent laying and their small size. They can be a little noisy, but their noises are very small. Both the hens and the rooster had spurs, so you had to be careful when handling the hens. Overall, I would not recommend this breed as a family pet, but more of a good producer that is pretty and could possibly be used for showing.
Five-star Qualities: Plymouth Rocks are a dual-purpose heritage breed that come in 7 varieties. They are good layers of medium to large, brown eggs. The hens weigh around 7.5lbs. They are cold hardy and have small, single comb and small, rounded wattles. Plymouth Rocks are generally a docile breed, but as with most chickens, some individuals enjoy attention more than others. The hens tend not to go broody. They get along well with other chickens and are good foragers.
Four-star Qualities: Plymouth Rocks are a large breed, which means they will need more space and low perches. The cocks do have combs that are prone to frostbite. This breed could be a little heavy for young poultry showers.
My Experience: I have raised two varieties of Plymouth Rock, barred and partridge, and found them to be slightly different in personalities. The Barred variety seemed friendly and easier to handle versus the Partridge variety did not like to be handled as much. The Partridge variety was not very cooperative as a show bird. I did like the fair amount of eggs that both varieties produced, but I was a little disappointed with the size of egg that the Partridge variety laid (they were medium size). Overall, this would be a good breed if you are looking for a decent egg layer that could be a show bird, you might just consider what variety you are going to get.
Five-star Qualities: Svart Honas are a rare, light-bodied breed that have a gene that causes fibromelanosis. . That gene causes them to be black, inside and out. Svart Honas are fairly decent every-other-day layers, with some strains being better layers then others. They are a cold hardy breed and also do fairly well in the heat. The hens are friendly but do need a little handling to become docile. Svart Honas are good foragers and enjoy free-ranging, with the cocks being good protectors. They get along well with other chickens but are a little more assertive, so they are typically at the top of the pecking order.
Four-star Qualities: Svart Honas are a very rare breed that can be hard to find and may cost a pretty penny. The cocks do have large comb that is prone to frostbite and some individuals may be borderline assertive/aggressive. The hens may also go broody. Svart Honas do not have a standard and are not recognized by the APA.
My Experience: I love my Svart Honas! I like that they are so rare and exotic looking. Personally, Svart Honas are one of my favorite breeds to raise and show. They were actually fairly easy to train for showing and learned quite quickly. The cocks are little flighty and don’t care to be handled. I did have one cock who was very protective of his flock and would occasionally go after people he did not recognize. One of my hens did go broody, but she was fairly easy to break. Overall, I think this breed would be good for more experienced chicken keepers who are looking to broaden their horizons.
Five-star Qualities: Faverolles are a dual purpose breed. The hens should weigh around 8lbs. and are good layers of medium size, light brown eggs. This breed is very cold hardy because they have a small, single combs, beard, muffs, and feathered feet. They are an early maturing breed and the hens may go broody. Faverolles are a docile breed that can become friendly if handled a lot. They are alert but don’t mind being handled. This breed coexists with other breeds well and is not very pushy.
Four-star Qualities: Faverolles have feathered feet, which can get soiled easily if they live in damp, muddy conditions. They also have a tendency to get their beard soaked in water, which is detrimental in cold weather. The wet beard feathers freeze (sometimes with food on them) which entices other chickens to peck the feathers out. It can also be difficult to find good quality Faverolles.
My Experience: I have found Faverolles to be very friendly, but require lots of handling to become a good show bird. They tend to be tense at first when you start training them to become a show chicken. I think that Faverolles can be a very funny breed and would make a great backyard pet chicken. I love them because they are good layers and have very distinct personalities. Overall, I would say that Faverolles would make a good family chicken that lays well.
Five-star Qualities: Sussex are another dual, purpose breed that are also cold hardy. They have small, single combs and the hens weigh around 7lbs. The hens are good layers of medium to large, brown eggs and they may go broody. They come in three recognized varieties with the red and light varieties being better layers. They are good foragers and love to free-range, although they do well in confinement too. Sussex are a very docile and friendly breed that are very curious. They love to be around people and don’t mind being handled.
Four-star Qualities: Sussex are large breed that need more space and lower perches. The roosters have combs that can be prone to frostbite. Sussex are also a harder breed to find.
My Experience: I love my Speckled Sussex! I love how curious they are and how they follow me around. As for showing, they were fairly decent show birds, but they are not my favorite to work with. The pullet that I showed took some training to become a good show bird, and even then she did not care to be held the showmanship way. They prefer to be pets, and I think because of their curiosity it makes them a little hard to show. I love how cold hardy they and how well they lay. I also like how well they get along with my other chickens. Overall, I would recommend the Sussex as a good breed for families looking for curious, friendly, good laying chickens!
Five-star Qualities: Buckeyes are an extremely cold hardy, dual purpose breed. They are good layers of medium, brown eggs. The hens weigh around 6-7lbs. This breed has a small pea comb and no wattles. It is the only APA recognized breed that was created by a women and the only American breed that has a pea comb. Buckeyes are very friendly and docile. They can be a little squirmy when held, but, if they are held the correct way they relax very quickly. They get along well with other chickens and are good foragers. The hens don’t tend to go broody.
Four-star Qualities: Buckeyes come in one color, a rich mahogany color with a black streak on the underside of feathers close to the body. They are a threatened breed, meaning they may not be easily accessible and finding quality stock may be difficult.
My Experience: I love my buckeye! She is very friendly and I love her unique appearance. Buckeyes can have a severe appearance due to a slight beetle brow above their eye, but they are really friendly chickens. Showing Buckeyes was fairly easy as they relaxed quickly while being held. As with all show chickens, they require training but are quick learners. My Buckeye is a very quiet bird and has a sweet personality. She gets along very well with the rest of my flock. I love how extremely cold hardy she is and the decent amount of eggs that she lays. Overall, I would say that Buckeyes would be an excellent breed for someone who is looking for a good layer that is friendly and very cold hardy.
I love raising new breeds and seeing their different personalities and traits. To be honest, I don’t think I have ever heard of a breed that I don’t like, but I still have my favorites and least favorites. Hopefully these show chicken breed reviews will give a good start o deciding what breed you want to try this year!
Have fun looking through those hatchery catalogs! I would love to hear which breed you end up trying!