Wednesday, April 17, 2019

How To Properly Identify Your Chickens

Defining Characteristics of the 8 Most Common Chicken Breeds in North America

Whether you are a newcomer or an experienced backyard chicken owner, you may have found yourself unable to tell your chickens apart at some point. Perhaps you bought them when they were chicks and found that they developed into drastically different chickens. But don’t fret – identifying each individual chicken may be easier than you think. If you know exactly what to look for, you can differentiate your hens. From their plumage to their temperament, each breed has its own set of characteristics that sets it aside from the others. Here are eight of the most common chicken breeds found in North America, along with a set of distinct characteristics that makes each one unique.


Although Australian in origin, the Australorp is a common chicken breed in the Western world and is known for its record-breaking ability to lay eggs nearly year-round. Dark black feathers with subtle green notes and a bright red comb distinguish this bold yet docile chicken with a tendency to get attached to its owners. Even as day-old chicks, its plumage displays a beautiful and glossy dark color. They lay brown-colored eggs and are good hens for beginners. Lifespan: six to 10 years.

Rhode Island Red

As chicks, they are almost completely made up of light-brown plumage with subtle hints of yellow, and as they grow, the brown acquires a red tint and fully envelops the hen’s plumage. They are known for their hardy and confident temperament and are best kept separate from more docile breeds as they can develop the tendency to be bossy. Rhode Island Reds are the official bird of Rhode Island and are popular for their ability to adapt to colder weather conditions as well as smaller backyard spaces, which makes them great hens for beginners. Although these hens can live anywhere between 10 to 14 years, they can only lay eggs for up to three years.They lay light-brown colored eggs and can lay over 200 eggs per year!

White Leghorn 

The white leghorn hen is what you’d get if the hen in your favorite children’s storybook came to life. She is the exact hen that is depicted in cartoons, featuring an all-white bright plumage and a vibrant red comb. White leghorn hens lay only white eggs and are exclusively used to lay eggs. Although their temperament is bold, they are simply confident and are good hens for beginners. As chicks, they are completely enveloped in a light yellow color, and they can live anywhere from four to six years.

Speckled Sussex

As the name implies, these hens are native to England and were popularized in the mid 1800s. Their brown-blended coloration reflects when they are chicks, and as they grow, the white specks become more evident in their plumage. Each of their dark mahogany feathers is white at the tip, which gives the hens their speckled appearance. They are capable of laying over 200 eggs throughout the year in several shades of brown. These hens are beginner-friendly and are known to have a calm temperament.

Buff Orpington

A favorite among families with small children, Buff Orpingtons are known for their docile and social nature. As chicks, their plumage is a light, almost golden brown, and as they grow, their feathers develop a stronger hue of gold. This breed is best kept away from aggressive breeds and can be prone to predators due to their light plumage. They thrive in cold climates and are actually known to be broody in the summer, which slows down their egg production. They lay light-brown eggs and can lay anywhere from 180 to 200 eggs per year. Their plumage is thick, which gives them a short and stocky body build, and they can grow to be up to 8 pounds. Their lifespan averages from six to eight years, but they can live much longer if they are well taken care of.

Barred Plymouth Rock 

Calm and independent is this bird’s defining personality. Known for their gray and white horizontal-striped plumage, these birds start off with a gray, almost black plumage as chicks. The dark black plumage concentrates around their eyes, and their stripes develop as they grow into hens. Their coloration is uniquely uniform, and their large size makes them easy to spot among your flock. They are great foragers, which is why they thrive best as free-range chickens. Although they are large and can grow to be up to 5 lbs, they are friendly and easily tamed, which helps them integrate with other chickens and makes them ideal for kids. The barred Plymouth Rock is a popular breed that is beginner-friendly and can lay from 200 to 280 large brown eggs per year. On average, their lifespan ranges from six to eight years, but they can live to be up to 12 years old!

Silver Laced Wyandotte 

Beautiful colorful plumage of silver, gold or blue variety distinguishes this hen from others. As chicks, their plumage is a very dark brown, with light grey stripes on their backs and around their eyes. As they grow, they develop fluffy white feathers with silver, gold or blue at the tip. Wyandottes are also known to have bright-red combs and pale legs, with a darker concentration of color at their tails, which distinguishes them from the Barred Plymouth Rock and the Speckled Sussex. They can lay around 200 large, light-brown eggs and can live to be six to 12 years old. Known for a docile and easygoing yet bold temperament, these hens are beginner-friendly and thrive best in a mixture of a free-range and enclosure environment. Wyandottes adjust to various temperatures due to their abundant fluffy feathers.

Dark Brahma

Feathered feet are the distinguishing factor here and are unique to Brahma hens. Even as chicks, their small feet are feathered, and they are born with a yellow and black plumage that develops into a predominantly black and white spotted pattern. Known as the “King of Chickens” for their uniquely large size, Brahmas can grow up to be 15 lbs. They acclimate easily to cold climates and are prone to overheating in the summer, which makes them ideal birds in the Northern regions. In fact, they lay most of their medium-sized brown eggs between the months of October and May while the rest of your hens rest. They can lay up to 150 eggs per year and are known for their docile, calm and friendly temperament. Although these chickens are easygoing, they are not beginner-friendly. Their life expectancy ranges from five to 12 years, depending on the care they receive.
Your chicks will change a lot as they grow, and they can even grow to be drastically different in appearance from when they were chicks. Using this reference guide, you should be able to tell your chickens apart with ease. Another good way to differentiate who is who and organize your chickens by egg-laying capacity is to place small leg bands on them and create a color coding system according to breed. Although resistant to weather conditions as well as wear and tear, our leg bands are comfortable for your hens and won’t damage their feet.


  1. It may sound stupid but I have never thought that chicken have breeds. I always thought that they are all the same, only color can differentiate them.

  2. It was really interesting to know about such diversity in chickens breeds, last two breeds look very interesting and uncommon.