Try out the online Genetics Calculator to see what colours might occur amongst your chicken breeds.
Trying to find a breeding chart for poultry? Poultry clubs are a great and reliable source of information.
Clubs really know their breeds with a wealth of experienced breeders to ask. Up to date books are also available through the clubs on their breed interest/s which are available to club members (and often sell direct to the interested public, too). Clubs are here to help keep breeds to correct standards.
There are two types of poultry clubs:
Websites and Facebook pages that are very breed specific also offer great charts especially for colour and their throws.
Often on eBay, breeders handbooks become available, but they do come with an OUT OF DATE warning.
A handbook's definition of each breed will change over time and location. What is a good standard for one state may not be acceptable in another state or country. What was popular in 1960 will not be the same standard as of today.
There are two types of breeding charts:
Locating your nearest Poultry Club
PLEASE NOTE: I do NOT stock any charts
Searching for chart about cross breeding poultry is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The possibilities are endless and the results can be interesting. Throw backs to previous generations often peak through in a new generation.
When looking for cross breeding charts, you are more likely to only find COLOUR CHARTS instead.
Breeds are a whole other level because it is so much trickier to track unofficial breeds.
It is important to ask yourself – WHY DO YOU WANT TO CROSS BREED?
Keep in mind: If for the purpose of selling, be aware that many people do not search for cross-breeds, preferring known breeds instead.
What is a cross breed?
The term hybrid and utility are terms used for indicating that a poultry breed is cross bred.
Cross breeding involves breeding with two parents who are of different breeds to create a different breed. This is taking advantage of Heterosis (Hybrid Vigour) which can produce a superior offspring by the choice of specific genetic traits that both parents possess.
Strains are different to Cross Breeds. A breed can be slightly altered to increase a trait so long as the original heritage breeds are used; this is a strain. This will not result in a cross breed.
Breeding characteristics that get passed down include:
Problems with Cross Breeding
Breeding with poultry that are already crossbred brings up many problems. The most common trait found is the lack or inability to lay eggs, or a very reduced laying life. Do not be tempted to breed with ISA Browns, as an example. Instead, go back to the original heritage parent breeds to breed the new ISA Brown generation.
When cross breeding does not produce the desired results, this may mean that your parent breeding stock may be lacking the right genes. Some hard decisions have to be made if you are approaching breeding with serious intent.
Inbreeding issues are the most likely to come up and this may affect their egg laying ability, as well as other health and physical problems. Chick morality issues.
A good breeder will try with more than one set of parents to get their own unique breed started, so as to minimise inbreeding issue.
The characteristics and colourings are always going to be the lottery. You never know what you will get when you cross breed because there can often be throw-backs to previous generations that you may not have planned for.
Breeding stress is also a consideration – too few hens means hen stress and lack of laying – too many hens means rooster stress and lower fertility. A good breeding ratio for best genetic outcome is to have one rooster to eight hens. (1:8)
One Time Event of Cross Breeding
If you are planning a once off event of crossing a rooster with any of your hens, make sure they are in the best of health and have traits you would love to see carry on.
This may lead to a full on chicken addiction. You may be delighted.
Be prepared that genetics may not be perfect and this may throw in a few interesting situations in the hatch. This may result in physical traits of the chicks that you never expected to see or a need to cull due to defects.
Creating an Official New Breed
Do it properly and do with it with more than one breeding pair; give your rooster at least 8 hens to work with.
Cull and pick and choose the very best from the offspring. It may take a few generations before you have the right breed standard you are looking for. Be prepared to invest many YEARS to create a new breed.
It will take many generations and a fair bit of room in your yard to perfect your program. Please be aware that roosters are not permitted in many council districts, so please check with your local council before starting.
Cross breeds can become a whole new official breed with time. Getting the recognition amongst poultry peers is the struggle for any new lines.
Then you need to convince the public to buy your new breed.
Benefits of Cross Breed Poultry
It’s necessary to cross breed to produce new breeds. It’s all about perfecting the breed to reproduce consistently (naturally) with the traits desired.
Cross breeds can often have exceptional health and longevity if the parents were good stock. If their health is strong, their chicks will have a great start. If inbreeding is avoided and the parents are of exceptional health, this really can work out well.
There are trade-offs in every breed. You may have produced an outstandingly beautiful breed, but their egg laying may be poor. Or a great layer who moults easily.
A current breed can actually be strengthened with cross breeding when a trait starts to diminish. Going back to the initial breeds that helped create that strain will bring some traits back and keep the breed true (this needs to still be monitored within in the following generations).
Names for Cross Breeds?
If you visit many poultry forums you may find that there are other breeders who may have already tried cross breeding the same breeds that you are – and quite possibly have a name for that breed.
Breed names are quite often hybrids of the original names.
The “ORP” in Orpington and Australorp indicate their heritage connection.
Your strain of a cross breed might be slightly different to another breeder’s attempt, so creating your own breed name will be entirely up to your imagination.
This is a throw back to 2013 when a group of chicken enthusiasts attempted for the first time in half a century to bring in new bloodlines and breeds to Australia.
The expense, time and testing they went to was extraordinary
They became a syndicate, pooling their investment resources just to bring in new chickens for the nation.
Torrens Island in Adelaide is the only location in Australia that deals with poultry import quarantine.
But this first time was met with disaster and heartbreak.
The GOOD NEWS is that since then, they tried again and were successful in bringing in healthy fertile eggs that hatched into healthy chicks and passed all quarantine tests.
This story from the ABC's Landline from 20 July 2013 shows just what they went through (for all of us).
Segment title: Shell Shocked
Does a broody chicken scare you? No time to deal with their broody hormones? Just want a hen who gets on with the job of egg laying and strutting about the yard looking lovely? Then this is the list of chicken breeds for you.
There is no guarantee that these breeds will never go broody, be great at laying or even as friendly as you would like because every chicken breed is uniquely different.
All of the breeds in this list are available in Australia.
Rarely Broody Chicken Breeds
Some breeds in this list are considered to be Rare Breeds in Australia.
There are breeders who are currently working on breeding up numbers and improving stock and bloodlines.
From time to time these breeds are made available to the public who are eager to support these breeds.
More information on Rare Chicken Breeds in Australia:
Rare Poultry Breeders Association
Crested Breeds Club of Australia
Research more about chicken breeds through this great Chicken Breeds Chart from Backyard Poultry's website.
The develop of a chicken's comb and wattle is of great interest to poultry owners for two reasons.
This can be a tricky subject because everything will depend on the BREED.
Whenever anyone sees my Ancona chickens they immediately think they are all roosters because their comb and wattle are so large, but that is their breed type.
So how can we tell?
Time Line of Development
Below are French Wheaten Maran Chicks at 3 weeks of age.
The colouring of the males is different to the females in this breed. But also the leg size indicates a male.
This is not indicative of every breed.
Below are Ancona chicks at 3 weeks of age.
The males are very noticeable. There is no colour difference in feathering, but the wattle and comb is bright red.
Below are Lavender Pekins at 3-4 weeks of age.
The combs on the males are slightly more distinct and redder in most cases.
Notice that the wattles under the chin are also quite bright red.
Before chickens come into point of lay (POL) when they will start their egg laying life, it can become a big guessing game with certain breeds.
Below are purebred Australorp pullets at 7 weeks of age.
The combs and wattles are larger, brighter red and distinct.
Below are French Wheaten Maran pullets at 3 months of age.
The boys have developed a different colour and have very distinct cape development around their neck.
Their tails took a very long time to grow. The saddle feathers on the middle chicken are noticeable now.
Below are Light Sussex pullets possibly 2 to 5 months of age.
This is before any of the boys started crowing.
At 2 months is was very difficult to tell the males from the females.
But by 5 months the boys become very noticeable.
Below are Silver Laced Wyandotte pullets around 3 months of age.
Distinguishing male from female is very difficult to do as their combs and wattles often develop very late.
This can vary. The male chicks can sometimes be more noticeable than the pullets.
The boys usually develop a very red rose comb. It takes time for it to fill out, so it can be a little deceiving.
Below are ISA Brown pullets just before they get to Point of Lay.
I would estimate that they would be 2-3 weeks away from laying their first egg. Maybe she is 15 weeks old.
We can tell by the size of the comb. It is not big enough to indicate maturity.
When a hen starts to lay her first eggs, this is called Point of Lay (POL).
Hybrids like the ISA Brown and utility Australorp (x New Hampshire) start around 18 to 21 weeks of age.
Their combs fill out and become red. Their wattles also start to grow now.
If they were boys, they would show very distinctly at this age.
Other breeds tend to start later.
Many only begin at 6 to 9 months. There are some breeds that do not start until 10 months.
Can you wait that long?
If you buy these late layers at POL, their price increases. They are cheaper to purchase at a much younger age.
Signs of a Rooster (Cockerel)
The exception to these rules do apply to breeds such as Silkies. Their development is unique. Best to determine by comb.
This year I bought my very first true bantams which are also called ornamentals, and they are so cute! So I thought I would give you a little insight into what the difference is between a standard bantam and a true bantam as there is quite a difference.
There are benefits to both types of bantam types and they are great alternative for people who would love to own chickens but don't have very much space.
Bantams are great for limited space, they are easier and lighter to handle and often do less damage to the garden.
Bantam chickens are far smaller than a standard sized chicken they also lay much smaller eggs. The eggs sizes can vary a little amongst the bantam breeds so you will need to adjust your recipes accordingly. They taste exactly the same as a regular egg and come come in lots of different egg shell colours according to breed.
True Bantams (Ornamentals)
Breeds include: Pekins, Belgian d'Uccle, Japanese Bantams, Rosecomb Bantams, Serama and Sebrights.
A regular bantam is a small variety of a larger breed. In fact, they can be of almost any breed.
A common breed is the Australorp which can come in three (3) different sizes.
Silkies are in a category all of their own in the bantam world.
Yes, there are standard and bantam versions of the Silkie breed too, but they vary in just a few hundred grams.
How to pronounce chicken breed names. The easy guide to sounding like a pro!
I have heard the most amazing pronunciations in my rounds both on visiting my clients and at workshops. Not to mention consistent misspelling of breed names on poultry selling websites and on social media. Here's a few to get started.
Leghorn = leg-horn (NOT le-garn)
Australorp = os-tra-LORP
Orpington = or-ping-ton (NO 'ph' in this name)
Rhode Island Red = road-eye-land-red
Cochin = co-CHIN (coach-in)
Mille Fleur = meal-flurr
Minorca = min-OR-cah
Andalusian = an-da-loo-see-an
Sumatra = soo-mah-trah
D'uccle = dew-clay (NOT dee-uncle)
Maran = ma-ron (NOT mo-rahn)
Houdan = hoo-dan
Crevecouer = krev-a-core
Aseel = ah-seel
Barnevelder = barn-eh-fel-der
Araucana = a-roo-carn-ah
Pekin = pee-kin
d'Anvers = dee-ann-ver
Fayoumis = fie-you-me
Chantelclers = shan-tah-clair
Ancona = an-cone-ah
Faverolle = fav-er-ol
Brahma = bra-mah
Wyandotte = why-un-doat
Can you add any more to this list? Please leave a comment below.
A floppy comb is not always a sign of a sick chicken but a special feature of a handful of breeds. Chicken combs come in so many different shapes and sizes, some sizes are so large that they have a stronger tendency to flop.
The one trait that many have found the most common amongst this type is their tendency to be a little on the flighty side, but don't let that put you off as their egg laying can be a highlight.
They are the chalky white egg producers, all except for one, the Cream Legbar who is renowned for the blue/green tinted egg shells. The Leghorn breed produces the largest of eggs in the chicken world, so much so that your eyes may water at the thought of how they laid something so big.
Floppy comb chickens are frequently more known for their noisiness, but their foraging is outstanding. Ideal for the larger yard where they are able to free range.
Floppy Comb Chicken Breeds
Available in black and red. Very flighty and great escape artists. Fantastic forages, great egg output, curious and economical.
Fantastic forages, noisy, standoff-ish, tendency to be noisy. Less flighty than the others, but does not like confinement.
Highly sort after. Known as an Easter Egger variety that produce the blue/green shelled eggs. Quiet and non-aggressive.
Auto-sexing breed so roosters can be identified at the time of hatching. Not to be confused with the Gold Legbar who lay white eggs.
Dorking (Silver Grey)
A rare breed in Australia and worth saving. White egg layers who are shy and gentle, dual purpose. Good foragers.
Very popular suburban backyard breed. The white colour is the most common but available in other colour varieties. Friendly, calm, assertive and can be a little noisy at times. Lays huge eggs daily.
Friendly, social and much quieter than the others. Lays exceptionally large eggs. Tolerates some confinement.
Some Campine strains may develop a flopped comb. Small hens, noisy, talkative, lays white eggs, great forager.
3 Problems for Floppy Comb Chickens
Due to the size of their comb, these chickens are more prone to being frostbitten in the extreme cold. Many are cold hardy but the combs still need extra care. An application of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) can help prevent the burn. For more information about frostbite on combs click here.
Head shaking is common amongst these breeds to keep their combs from bothering their eyes. However, head shaking can also be a sign of throat irritation due to worms in the trachea or due to other health problems that need to be seen to by a vet.
Other chickens may strike at their large comb or due to a flighty accident the comb might incur a tear. Dubbing may be necessary in some cases. (Dubbing is the cutting away of the comb and sealing with Betadine).
Feathery legged chicken breeds are renowned for being some of the best personalities of the chicken world.
So before you consider adding this breed to your backyard there are a few things you need to consider, just as you would for a long haired dog or fluffy cat.
Most of the feathered leg breeds are excellent for children or for noise sensitive neighbours. So many pluses!
Feathered Feet Chicken Breeds
Incredibly friendly, calm, peaceful and great reliable layers.Tame and huggable. Reasonable good sitters and mothers.
These are also known as a booted and bearded breed. Beautifully friendly, loving human company.
Sweet personalities, very friendly but are not the best of layers, but they do make fantastic mothers.
Another bearded breed with five toes on each foot. With shy and sweet natures are best not mixed with other breeds.
French Wheaten Maran
These are the super dark egg layers of the chicken world. The British version is featherless on the legs. They are hardy, quiet and calm and cope with confinement.
Prone to broodiness, sweet, elegant, great layers, non-aggressive. Very upright body like a compacted Australorp.
Of Chinese origin, known as a true bantam. Low egg out put. Ideal family pet for regular handling. Docile and gentle.
A backyard family favourite. Black to dark blue skin underneath all their fluff with five toes on each foot. Great mothers, prone to broodiness.
Fancy breed, poor egg layers, too small for eating. Friendly, docile, copes well in confinement. Great with children.
4 Problems for Feathered Leg Chickens
There are four main problems that feathered leg chickens might have. Precautions can help keep these issues at bay.
More difficult to see and treat. Mites are more able to hide due to the feathering. Application of Vaseline can be preened off.
Your type of yard can help assist to keep their feathers clean. Avoid muddy, dusty runs. Opt for free range grass areas, concrete/paver runs or deep litter/clean litter runs. Pretty in pictures but not practical in all types of yards.
When non-feathered leg chickens wonder WHY there are feathers on their legs and start to peck at them. Its not certain to occur but in situations where chickens have a high level of boredom due to confinement, picking is likely to start.
Wet feathers can freeze hard and cause frostbite especially on the bantam varieties which feel the cold even more.
In Australia, we have a slightly more limited variety of chicken breeds although that list is starting to grow slightly again thanks to syndicate breeders in recent years. (I do have an international breed wish list, by the way! I constantly drool over breeds I can never have.) And since I always get asked what my personal favourites are that are more locally available, it is high time I put my list together for you.
I would love to hear what other breeds you would add to this list.
I'm sure my list is not exhaustive but I do recommend these breeds for anyone who is starting out.
Choosing a chicken breed will depend on where you live and your lifestyle. To help you narrow down the breed that is right
for you, ask yourself some simple questions.
What are your council restrictions?
Each council has laws regarding the size of a flock, whether roosters are permitted, as well as sound and odour issues.
Why do you want to keep chickens?
Is it for daily eggs, preserving a rare breed, showing, breeding, for eating or just as pets?
How big is your backyard?
Will the hens be in an enclosed run, permanently in a shed or free-range?
Will it work with your gardening style?
If noise is an issue with your neighbours then rule out the addition of a rooster and opt for quieter breeds such as bantams rather than full sized chickens. Bantams do lay smaller eggs but many owners find that they adapt well to having smaller eggs.
Starting with a more friendly and docile breed is the best way to start. Hybrids and daily egg layers are ideal to begin with.
The more purebred a chicken is, the more flighty and broody they can be, and lay less often throughout the week. So don’t
be shy to try a mixed breed, they might be the best layers you could ever have.
In no particular order here are my Top 10 Best Chicken Breeds in Australia:
1. ISA Brown
2. Rhode Island Red
3. New Hampshire
6. Silkie Bantam
Still can't decide on what chicken breed you would like? Check out this Guide to Chicken Breeds to give you a few more breeds to think about. Its chicken porn to the rest of us. Enjoy!
Learn which breed of chicken is right for you. Egg output, standard colours, personality, feed requirements and any known official clubs associated with each breed. A very handy chart!
Click on the image below to be redirected to Back Yard Poultry's website for this guide.
I would love to credit whoever made this chart as it is a wonderful resource to understand breeding of chickens.
If you are considering breeding your own poultry remember not to use all of your girls, but only your best performers; the ones with the ideal traits that you would like to continue through to the next generation.
Keeping your rooster with the hens will result in frequently fertilised eggs, which can still be eaten at the early stages of development. Isolating the best hens with one rooster can result in a far better outcome, whilst leaving your other hens to keep on producing eggs for your consumption without any fear of eating a developing fertilised egg.
The Oct/Nov 2013 edition of Australasian Poultry magazine is out now in all good newsagents across Australia.
If you are serious about keeping poultry, learning about different breeds, health issues and how to get them show ready, this is a magazine you shouldn't miss! Look in the gardening or animal section of your local newsagent. If they don't stock it, ask for it to be ordered in.
Every publication includes the Poultry Classifieds, Breeders Listings, Club Directory and a huge lot of businesses with hardware stock specifically for poultry keepers nationwide.
You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl. As an ex-Barossa gal now living in suburban Adelaide, South Australia, Janine Zschech is not only a serious chicken lady but a genuine advocate for self-sufficiency and education of children to the knowledge of gardening and animal rearing. Skills for life!