3+ Rare Chicken Breeds You Need To Raise

3-rare-chicken-breeds-you-need-to-raiseKeeping a backyard flock means you can be a vital part of protecting heritage and rare chicken breeds.   (There are so many ways to save the world with chickens.  It’s totally awesome.)  Some of the rare breeds are lots of fun to keep, and useful to have around.  They are excellent layers, hardy birds, good meat producers, and good mothers.  We try to pick rare or heritage breeds whenever we can.  Even if you can’t have a rooster to keep perpetuating the breed you are still helping out by creating a demand for these breeds from those breeders who are raising them, plus your birds add to the total population levels.

Why keep rare chicken breeds?

According to the Livestock Conservancy, before World War there were 60 different breeds of chickens being raised in the U.S.  Now there are only five being raised commercially!  That’s a huge decline!  I believe that the future of genetic diversity for rare breeds is critical and the more people that can raise these breeds the better!

Heritage chickens often are better all around birds for the casual homesteader.  They may not be the top layer in your flock, but they can be the egg you can count on, provide meat for the table, or even be the chicken that becomes your friend.  Rare chicken breeds can be more efficient at foraging their own foods to save on feed costs, or more sturdy in weather extremes such as cold or hot areas.  They can also be more disease resistant, which has become a big issue for some areas.

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Many of these heritage and rare birds are sorted into lists according to their conservation status.  The Livestock Conservancy counts registered breeding stock for the breeds each year and publishes a list.  The most endangered breeds are critical, with less than 500 breeding birds and an estimated population in the world of less than 1,000!  Next is threatened, with fewer than 1,000 breeding birds and an estimated total population of 5,000.  The watch list is for birds with fewer than 5,000 breeding birds and a total population of less than 10,000.  Recovering breeds used to be on the lists, but since then have increased their numbers.  While small homesteaders may not be able to keep breeding flocks, we CAN increase the total number of the breed by keeping them for meat, eggs, and entertainment.

Best Rare Chicken Breeds for Backyard Homesteaders

Hollands are not the fanciest looking chickens out there, but they are on the critical list, so they desperately need more help!  They are a great choice for most backyard homesteaders.  Holland chickens are calm, good foragers, and lay large white eggs.  They are related to Barred Plymouth Rocks, and look similar.  They are fairly cold resistant and can go broody and raise their own chicks.  If you are dedicated to helping endangered birds, but can’t dedicate a ton of space, Hollands are a great choice for you.

If you have more space and want an independent and hardy chicken that needs little help from you, raise Icelandic chickens.  They are also on the critical list, and are difficult to find in the US.  These birds are naturally adapted to survival in a cold climate and can forage extensively while still producing a respectable amount of eggs.  Plus, they will raise their own chicks.  They also come in a wide variety of colors, so if you like having lots of colors, they will be an entertaining flock!

If you like pouf headed chickens, consider the Houdan.  These 5 toed chickens have large crests on their heads, but they aren’t just ornamental.  They have been raised for eggs and meat, and are decent layers.  Their personality is calm, which makes them better suited for urban homesteads than other breeds.  They rarely go broody, but you can easily hatch their eggs in an incubator if you want to raise your own.  They are on the threatened list, so they could use the help! 

Recovering Breeds For Urban Homesteaders

The Dominique is considered to be the first American breed of chicken, but in the 1950s it was thought that it went extinct!  There were four remaining flocks  that still had them though.  Since then they’ve made a comeback and have moved all the way to the watch list.  They are starting to decline again  on the watch list, so go do your part!  Dominiques are good foragers and like to free range, but they will do okay in a pen if necessary.  They do go broody, but are still good layers.  They are also very friendly and calm.  Our Dominique always comes out to say hello when I go to feed them in the morning.  The Dominiques have a small rose comb, which helps them be more resistant to frostbite.  However, they also can adapt to hot and humid climates.

Dominique at Farming My Backyard

Buckeyes are also an American breed, and the only breed developed by a woman.  They are on the threatened list, which means they need your helpBuckeyes are currently on the watch list, which means their breed is recovering! Buckeyes are not the showiest of birds, as they are a reddish brown.  They are good layers, but still have meaty thighs and breasts.  They are very friendly.  Our hen “Bucky” thinks she’s part of the family and often tries to come into the house.   She has absolutely no fear of us and just walks right up looking for treats!  They are good foragers, but can also be kept in smaller areas.  They aren’t likely to feather pick in close quarters, unlike other breeds.  Buckeyes are very cold hardy.

Bucky the Buckeye @ Farming My Backyard (1)

Wyandottes are a recovering breed are no longer a rare chicken breed!  They are still beautiful and a good choice for backyard flocks.  Because of their cold hardiness, adaptability to free ranging or smaller areas, and are decent dual purpose meat and egg birds, they are a good fit for most urban homesteaders.  They also come in some beautiful colors.  We have both a gold laced and a silver laced Wyandotte in our flock currently.  They are beautiful to look at, even if they aren’t our friendliest birds.  Most Wyandottes are docile, but occasionally they will be aggressive.  We happen to have one of those more aggressive birds.  I keep warning Candi our gold laced Wyandotte every time she pecks me that she’s going to end up as dinner one of these days.  But she doesn’t care one bit what I think.

Silver Laced Wyandotte @ Farming My Backyard (1)

Golden Laced Wyandotte at Farming My Backyard

Ultra Rare Chicken Breeds For Special Circumstances

Chickens don’t have to be all work and no fun!  Here are 3 more rare chicken breeds that can be the best choice for some situations or are just plain fun to have around!

The Sumatra is characterized by it’s shining black feathers and long flowing tail.  These birds are not great layers, but they are very intelligent.  They prefer to roost in trees and are not likely to allow themselves to be caught by predators.  Sumatras are considered show birds, although some people do keep their for eggs.  Seramas are also the smallest chicken, so if you ever wanted to delve into indoor chickens, Seramas are for you!

Ayam Cemami chickens are very rare and beautiful. They are native to Indonesia and are not very common in the United States.  Due to a genetic mutation the entire bird is black, even the meat.  They are also very friendly birds, although they are poor layers.  Price tags can be as high as $2,500 per bird and there is also a current ban on importing new breeding stock into the United States from Indonesia.   But if you live in the right place you could probably start a very lucrative business selling these.  The rest of us will live vicariously through you. 

The Seabright is on the threatened list, and is one of the oldest bantam breeds.  Bantams are great choices for urban homesteaders because they need so little space.  I have a flock of 20 bantams currently, and they happily live in 200 square feet (plus some grazing time in the yard!).  Seabrights have attractive laced plumage (check out the Wyandotte pictures for an example of lacing).  Seabrights are not great layers, but they make great pets.  They are a great way to introduce people to the fun and novelty of keeping chickens. 

Another luxurious rare chicken is the Yokohama.  These Japanese birds have incredibly long tails, as long as three feet in the males!  The birds have a pretty red and white mottled coloring to them, and are the last surviving breed with that particular genetic coloring.  If you have space to accommodate their majestic tails, these critically endangered birds can use some help.

These 3 breeds used to be rare, but are now doing much better!

Andalusians are good for warmer climates.  While I love our beautiful slate blue Andalusian, and she’s one of our best layers, our Pacific Northwest winters are too cold for her.  She spends a lot of time in the goat shed keeping warm, instead of running around and hopping fences like she does in the summer.   Andalusians are good layers of white eggs even in winter, but they are very active and need a lot of space.  These are on the threatened list, They’ve made it to the watch list!  so if you are in a warmer place with lots of room to roam this might be the ideal bird for you.  Keep raising those Andalusians!

Cochins are show birds, and they aren’t the best layers or the fastest growing meat producers.  I happen to think that their fabulous fluffy feathers make up for that.  Watching a Cochin run is the best entertainment.  They are on the watch list. Cochins are now considered recovering.  Wohoo! They are cold hardy, calm tempered, and do well free ranging or in a smaller space.  This is not a bird that will hop your fence and destroy your garden.  (Unlike SOME birds.  Candi, I’m looking at you.) If you like to hatch out your own chicks a Cochin can still earn her keep.  They frequently go broody and they are good mothers and are frequently used as foster mothers.  

Brahmas can be a fun addition to a backyard flock because of the multitude of colors they come in, as well as their feathered feet.  They do okay in hot areas, and superbly in cold.  They are the largest chicken breed, and raised for meat.  If you aren’t raising meat birds they aren’t the best all around layers.  They do lay during winter.  They’re on the watch list, so the more the merrier!  Brahmas are also considered a recovering breed now.

Other Chicken Breeds

Want to learn more about all the different chicken breeds out there?  Check out Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds: Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Turkeys, Emus, Guinea Fowl, Ostriches, Partridges, Peafowl, Pheasants, Quails, Swans.  I love to page through it and think about which breeds would be fun to incorporate into our flock in the future, in addition to my favorite breeds.  (Want more chicken related books?  Check out our resource page too!)

What are your favorite rare chickens for backyard chicken keepers?  Share below in the comments!

3 Rare Chicken Breeds You Need To Raise (1)

 

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30 thoughts on “3+ Rare Chicken Breeds You Need To Raise”

  1. I raise Americana and a few other breeds. They seem to do well in the Colorado climate but I don’t really know how to introduce hatchery chicks because these girls just raise their own. I have a beautiful white americana rooster and he is the most loving bird. He protects the new chicks and I never have to separate any of the flock. He is a horny guy though. He’s even tried to mount some of the younger birds. I do have to take roosters out which is sad but it keeps the hens laying. I’ve found with too many roosters, the girls get nervous and will abandon their clutch. i’ll keep my eyes open for Buckeye and Wyandotte chicks in the future!

    • Your flock sounds lovely ๐Ÿ™‚ I have one Americana and she’s always been a good layer too, as well as pretty resilient.

  2. We have 27 chickens and this year I bought 3 Andalusians not knowing they aren’t cold weather birds. I live in Eastern Wa where it gets pretty cold. Will keeping the coop warm help them? I don’t want to lose them ๐Ÿ™

    • If you have a well insulated coop they should be fine. Make sure to coat their combs with Vaseline when it gets below freezing to avoid frostbite. Our Andalusion stays inside the coop during winter to stay warm, but the other birds are fine outdoors.

  3. This was a good read but pictures of the hens you’re talking about would’ve been nice. Instead if you’re not familiar with them you have to search on another site.

    • Thanks for letting me know. They are pictured at the beginning of the article, but I can add in more.

  4. Ameraucanas and easter eggers are my favorites. They are docile, cold hardy and more quiet than my other chickens. Mine lay lots of colorful but small/medium eggs. My Orpingtons are great too. Bossy to other chickens and very talkative, but very calm around people. I like all my other chickens, but these are my top picks. Great pets, great egg layers.

    • We loved the green eggs we got from our Ameraucana. She was pretty sweet too, although she was one of my louder birds.

  5. I’ve never heard of the buckeye before. Currently we have a gold laced Wyandotte and a partridge Wyandotte and want to get more! I have golden comets, barred rock/Brahma crosses, easter eggers, buff orphington, Cali white, cuckoo maran, black australorp, blue splash andalusion, speckled sussex, polish crested (My favorite) and I have been breeding silver seabrites! I love a diverse flock. They all get along. I just hatched out two barred rock/Blue andalusion crosses!

    • What a gorgeous flock! The Buckeye is not the prettiest hen, but they are little workhorses. I love the blue andalusians, although the Pacific Northwest is a bit too cold for them.

  6. One of our hens is a Blue Andalusian and we live in southern central North Carolina. She has a lovely huge “pompadour” of a comb. During our last cold snap, despite my best efforts, she got frostbite on the tips of her comb, poor chicky. But she is a great layer…nearly a daily big, white egg.

  7. I’ve been wanting to get some Dorkings for years. I couldn’t find any birds locally so I found someone who would ship eggs, none of them hatched and I was out $65 for the half dozen. I have found them at some hatcheries now and plan to buys some soon.

  8. This is a awful awful article, you need to re-title or do your research. Non of those birds are rare. No poilsh, silkies, ayam cemani, black swedish hen, Japanese T bird.

    This is a horrible article and I wasted my time reading it.

    • Thanks for sharing some breeds you feel are more rare.

      I haven’t included silkies or polish on this list, as they are mainly ornamental or pet chickens and they really only do best in warmer climates.

      This means they aren’t a good choice for most working backyard flocks across the United States. They also are not considered rare by the Livestock Conservancy.

      Ayam Cemami chickens are indeed very rare and beautiful. However, with some price tags as high as $2,500 per bird I don’t think they are the best option for average USA based chicken enthusiasts who would like to increase genetic diversity of chicken species as a whole. Unfortunately there is also a current ban on importing new breeding stock into the United States from Indonesia.

      Swedish Black Hens are a good multipurpose bird that can do well in variable climates. My understanding is the birds can run $250-300 each so they would make a great choice for an experienced chicken keeper who can absorb potential livestock losses at that price or for those would like to start a breeding flock. Not such a great choice for beginners or those raising birds on a tight budget.

      I’m not precisely sure which bird you mean by Japanese T Bird, but if you are referring to the Japanese Bantam (also called Chabo), they are generally poor egg layers, only laying about one egg per week.

      However, I do note that since I originally wrote this article the Wyandotte has recovered sufficiently on the whole that they are no longer considered rare by the Livestock Conservancy.

      This is fantastic! It also means backyard chicken keeper are making a difference in diversity of chicken breeds in the U.S. and is a great opportunity for me to select a new rare breed to feature in this article.

  9. I have Cochins and Brahmas and never knew they were in a watch list. I have 2 silver tip Cochin, hen and rooster, a blue Cochin rooster, a mix blue Cochin rooster snd 3 dark Brahma hens. The blue Cochin is just beautiful. The feathers on his legs and feet are so full they cover them

  10. I’ve had chickens for 9+ years now and although I generally keep our most common feedstore birds like buff orps, Easter Eggers, wynadotes, Leghorn, cochins and reds my favorite dual purpose bird ive found are the Delaware! Not great closed up but they are extremely hardy self sufficient and ive had birds fight off hawks, ravens etc right before my eyes they are a top notch and good layers although ive rarely gotten a broody out of them(one hen didnt go broody till she hit 5 years old then decided she wanted babies after spotting a Cochin clutch) I’ve had birds still laying perfectly even at 8-9 years of age. And theyre very personable ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Delaware’s sound like a great breed! They’re also on the watch list for the Livestock Conservancy, so by raising them you are helping keep their numbers up.

    • Rare status is determined by the Livestock Conservancy not by which stores the birds are sold at, but rather how many breeding flocks there are.

  11. Ayam Cemani. If you’ve never heard of them before I highly recommend you look them up. Not only are they some of the rarest chickens in the world, their meat is naturally all black!
    I run a local ac company in Stockton California and I can tell you people always inquire about my chickens lol.

  12. I have 3 Ayam cemanis right now and I currently sell the chicks at 100$ per chick! I used to run a towing company but now I’ve got my eyes set on a bigger, (but smaller) prize ๐Ÿ™‚

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