It is no longer news that new chickens come into the chicken world through cross-breeding and more are yet to come.
However, there are old breeds that are still in existence till now.
They are known as the Heritage chicken breeds.
Basically, these chicken breeds are seen as old-fashioned pioneer chickens.
They are mostly the best kinds of chickens to raise.
Furthermore, whether you are looking for an excellent layer, meat producer, or exhibition bird, the Heritage chickens are a sure bet for you.
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What are Heritage Chickens?
Literally, Heritage Chicken breeds are simply chickens that were raised by our ancestors.
This means that they have been in existence for a long time.
And most definitely you are sure to find them in your great grandparent’s backyard coop.
The American Livestock Conservancy has standards by which a Heritage breed is defined.
Chickens must meet these standards for them to be regarded as Heritage Breed.
American Livestock Conservancy Standards for Determining Heritage Chicken Breeds
#1. An APA Standard Breed
Heritage chickens must come from the parent’s and grandparent’s stock that is recognized by the American Poultry Association before the mid-20th century.
#2. Natural Mating.
Heritage chickens must be reproduced through no other means but natural mating.
Furthermore, all chickens regarded as heritage chickens must come from natural mating pairs of both parent and grandparent stock.
#3. Productive Outdoor Lifespan
Heritage chicken breeds must be able to live long.
The hens should be productive for up to 5-7 years, while the roosters should be productive for about 3-5 years.
Also, they must be out-door hardy and be able to thrive in pasture-based production systems.
#4. Slow Growth Rate
Ideally, Heritage chickens are expected to have a moderate to slow rate of growth since they still maintain their original genes without any form of genetic modification.
List of Heritage Chicken Breeds.
Listed below are 16 Heritage chicken breeds you can raise.
- Speckled Sussex
- Rhode Island Red
- American Gamefowl
- Plymouth Rock
These chicken breeds are origins in Italy, but they found their way to England in the 1850s.
Then finally, in the year 1888, the Ancona chicken was brought into America by immigrants.
Anconas are active and cold-hardy birds that love to forage.
They will do better in a free space than in confinement.
Furthermore, these birds also have beautiful coloring.
The hens can produce medium-sized eggs and they are also excellent winter layers.
The Andalusian chicken breed is one free breed that loves to roam and hates being confined.
They are a special kind of chicken that does not like to be cuddled, unlike most breeds.
Nevertheless, they are not aggressive birds.
Basically one can trace their origin back to Andalusia.
These chickens are known for their high egg productivity.
Therefore you can expect an Andalusian hen to lay up to three white eggs in a week.
These amazing chickens do pretty well as adventurers and are not easily prone to diseases.
#3. Speckled Sussex
Sussex chicken comes in various breeds and color varieties.
However, the Speckled Sussex chickens are more popular in the US.
These chickens can be very inquisitive.
Nevertheless, they are sweet, friendly, and love to be loved.
The Speckled Sussex are also prolific egg layers.
The hens can produce about 250 eggs in a year.
This chicken breed comes in a variety of colors but the most common color is white.
They have bright red comb and rattles and are such a beauty to behold.
Furthermore, their tails are held a little bit higher showing off their feathers.
In addition to its beauty, this chicken is an amazing egg layer.
They lay approximately 280-320 large white eggs in a year.
Furthermore, this chicken breed is very active and smart.
They love to forage a lot.
As good foragers, finding their own food isn’t a difficult task.
Therefore, this makes them an ideal breed for a low-budget poultry farmer.
Nevertheless, they do pretty well in confinement too, when there’s enough room to roam.
Although these chicken breeds are not outrightly unfriendly, they are not very suitable for pets.
The rooster weighs about 7.5lbs while the hen weighs about 5.5lbs.
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#5. Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is an excellent dual-purpose breed.
They are a popular red chicken breed in the United States.
These chickens have a red single comb or rose comb, black tails, and red markings on their toes and shanks.
They mostly weigh about 6-9 pounds.
These breeds are good for beginners because they are quite easy to raise.
Therefore, if you are looking for a red heritage chicken for your backyard farm then the Rhode Island Red is perfect for you.
In addition to good meat, they lay large brown eggs and are considered excellent egg layers.
This breed can lay about 200-300 eggs annually.
This makes them very good dual-purpose breeds for farmers.
Also, they are hardy birds therefore they do well in most weather conditions.
The next Heritage chicken breed on our list is the Australorp chicken.
This chicken breed dates as far back as the 1800s.
They were created from the Orpington chicken by Australians, hence the name Australorp.
These birds are excellent layers, their hens lay up to 250 eggs in a year.
Nevertheless, they are also bred for meat.
These birds are calm, docile, and friendly and come only in the black color.
Their friendly nature makes them get along easily with people.
Therefore, if you are looking for a family pet that will roll with your kids then the Australorp chicken is for you.
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Araucana chicken is an amazing Heritage chicken breed bred for both eggs and meat.
It has a calm, docile and quiet nature and can do well both in confinement and free-range.
One outstanding thing about this breed is the broody nature of the hen.
However, apart from blue eggs, these birds also lay a variety of eggs in different colors and shades such as green and red.
Popularly regarded as the king of poultry, the Brahma chicken is one great Heritage chicken to add to your flock.
Due to their size, these birds make excellent meat birds.
They enjoy confinement but can also be raised in free-range as well. Moreover, they are quite friendly in nature and can also lay up to 300 eggs in a year.
If you live in a code climate then Brahma could be the right choice for you.
Because they are cold hardy birds and can easily survive in cold weather conditions.
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These chicken breeds are medium-sized chickens that mature early.
The Faverolles chicken is a unique bird with five toes instead of the standard four.
It has a fully feathered beard and fluffy cheek feathers.
From its name you can certainly guess that this chicken is a French bird.
They originated from the village of Faverolles in France.
Furthermore, they usually come in many color varieties, however, the Salmon color is more popular.
This chicken is also one of the friendliest chicken breeds in the world that are docile and easy to tame.
Therefore they make great pets for kids.
#10. American Gamefowl
The American Gamefowl is one outstanding chicken that was initially bred for cockfighting.
Nevertheless, today they are produced for other purposes.
These birds are gorgeous and come in different color varieties.
They are also a popular ornamental chicken breed.
Their hens go broody and make great mothers.
Furthermore, they also lay medium-sized white or cream-colored eggs.
Most of these chickens have red-colored wattles, combs, and earlobes.
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These sets of black chicken breeds are quite cuddly and make good lap chickens.
Although they can produce 4-5 medium-sized eggs in a week they are not known for prolific laying.
These black chicken breeds were partly responsible for the hen fever that occurred in the UK and US in the early 1800s.
Nevertheless, in recent times they are mostly kept as pets.
Cochins have many feathers from head to toe and love to be cuddled by their owners.
Therefore if you are in need of a cuddly companion, Cochins are right there for you.
The Delaware chicken is one of the awesome Heritage chicken breeds in the world.
These chicken breeds were developed around 1940 in Delaware, USA.
This breed makes a great dual-purpose breed for backyard farmers. They can produce up to 280 eggs in a year.
These birds are known to be winter hardy but not heat hardy.
Nevertheless, they manage confinement well.
Furthermore, these birds are easygoing, calm, and relatively friendly.
#13. Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock chicken is a heritage breed that comes in different variations such as buff, silver, blue, black, etc.
They are good dual-purpose breeds that produce awesome meat and eggs.
Also, they are calm and will do well as family pets.
One good thing about this chicken breed is that they are not hard to find.
Therefore you can easily get a Plymouth Rock for yourself.
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This is a large black chicken breed that weighs up to 7lb with an amazing black shimmering plumage. Unlike Cochins, they are not cuddly birds but can be quite friendly and docile.
Langshans can lay about 3 large dark brown eggs in a week. In addition, they are good flyers and love to forage. However the tolerant confinement as well.
As a result of breeding practices, this chicken breed was split into four different types namely; Croad, Modern, Australian, and German.
Croad is mostly found in the UK and Modern in the US.
The Java chickens were purposefully bred by Americans from breeds that came from the far East.
Initially, Java chickens were popular chicken breeds on farms and homesteads.
But in recent times their popularity has been replaced by other breeds because of their slow growth. However, one good thing about them is that their hens are quite broody and lay about 3 large eggs a week.
Furthermore, although it loves free range it tolerates confinement well.
They are quite docile and make good backyard chickens.
The last but not the least Heritage chicken breed on our list is the Wyandotte chicken.
Founded in North America in 1883 these birds are excellent birds in and out.
Its plumage is lovely and unique and they are generally docile and friendly in nature.
They come in a variety of colors such as silver penciled, Golden laced, and blue.
As a dual-purpose breed, it is mostly bred for eggs and meat.
In addition, these birds can be adventurous and bold.
Nevertheless, their hens are great mothers and take good care of their chicks.
Most of the Heritage chicken breeds on our list are dual-purpose chickens.
Choosing a chicken breed all depends on your taste and preferences.
It also depends on what you want the chicken to do for you.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned earlier, Heritage chicken breeds are one of the best kinds to raise.
Therefore, choosing them won’t be a mistake.
We have come to the end of this article on 16 Heritage chicken breeds you should know.
If this post was beneficial to you, then kindly let us know in the comment section below.
Frequently Asked Questions About Heritage Chicken Breeds.
What is a Heritage Chicken?
Literally, a Heritage chicken is any chicken that is hatched from a heritage egg.
They are authorized by an American Poultry Association Standard breed.
These birds were established prior to the mid-20th century.
Furthermore, they are slow-growing, naturally mated, and have a long productive outdoor life.
What is the best Heritage Chicken for meat?
There are many benefits of raising heritage breed chickens and meat production is one of them.
Most Heritage chicken breeds produce great meat.
However, some of the best heritage chickens for meat include;
Are Heritage Chickens Better?
Yes, Heritage Chickens are naturally raised without the use of steroids and chemicals.
Therefore this makes their meat more healthy for consumption than commercial hybrid chickens.
Moreover, heritage chickens are mostly hardy and can survive most harsh conditions than other breeds.