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Most Popular Backyard Chicken Breeds to Consider When Buying Chicks

Most Popular Backyard Chicken Breeds to Consider When Buying Chicks

Ask any chicken owner why they raise chickens and you’ll get various answers. Benefits range from living more sustainably, providing natural pest control, offering organic fertilizer (chicken manure) and, of course, farming fresh meat and eggs. The most popular backyard chicken breeds for the Intermountain West offer ease of care, extreme weather hardiness, high egg production, kid-friendly personalities and temperaments that fit well within the flock.


1. Easter Egger

Easter Eggers are gentle, curious, active and friendly. This mixed-breed chicken lands on our top 10 list of chicken breeds great for kids for their congenial manner. Adding to a gentle personality, this average-sized bird is a favorite due to its low maintenance, making them a great choice for beginner chicken keepers.

In search of a bird to lay multiple-colored eggs? Easter Eggers provide large eggs in earthy hues of blue, green, pink, yellow and brown. Ninety percent of the eggs will be blue, green or light pink, and can also range from cream or light brown. Once this chicken lays an egg, that egg color remains consistent. They lay four eggs per week totaling around 200 to 280 per year.

Due to the hybrid nature of Easter Eggers, these chickens flaunt feathers in a variety of colors. They can be easily recognized by their facial muff (beard), which can be described as Chipmunk-ish.

Easter Eggers tolerate both the heat and the cold, making them ideal for our Intermountain West climate. Unlike birds with larger combs (a chicken comb is the red, fleshy growth on top of a chicken’s head) easily susceptible to frostbite in cold weather, Easter Egger’s smaller pea comb handles temperatures below freezing. Ideally, these birds prefer warmer temperatures between 70- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit, and their small size helps them tolerate heat.

Overall, Easter Eggers are low maintenance but still require a regular clean-out of the coop. Keeping a clean coop and allowing access to areas where the birds can dust their feathers goes a long way towards keeping a healthy flock.


2. Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Reds are calm, submissive and active. They exhibit friendly or aggressive natures, depending on the flock’s personality. These average-sized chickens tend to be more dominant in a group than other breeds. Roosters tend to be the most combative. Farmers describe them as lovable, but a little noisy.

Rhode Island Reds lay five to six eggs per week totaling 250 to 300 eggs annually. They produce brown-colored eggs that are medium to large in size.

Rhode Island Reds showcase dark brownish, rusty-red feathers as their name suggests. Their eye color has a reddish-orange tint to them, and their beaks are more of a reddish-brown color. Their feet and legs are yellow but can often have some reddish hue on their toes.

The Rhode Island Red is one of the most hardy birds out there. These chickens work best in mild temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees. However, this breed tolerates the Intermountain West cold thanks to its thick plumage that doubles in layers in winter, as long as a chicken owner winterizes the chicken coop appropriately.

Discover more care tips for your chickens in winter

Rhode Island Reds require a few specific care considerations on a year-round basis. Monitor the coop and chickens for mites and bugs regularly. Keep areas with sand or soil accessible for your chicken to take dust baths. This aids in bug control. Consider a specific spot or pan with sand and Diatomaceous Earth Mix to aid their dust baths.


3. Barred Rock

Barred Rocks are gentle, calm, sweet and friendly chickens. Chicken farmers describe Barred Rocks as sociable. They get along well with other chickens in the flock and provide gentle companionships for small children.

Barred Rocks lay four to fivelarge light brown eggs weekly, totaling 200 to 250 eggs annually. Additionally, they are very hardy birds and are good winter layers, deeming them a great choice for the Intermountain West climate.

Barred Rock’s feathers don black and white stripes or bars, giving them their name “barred.” Barred is considered the color of the Plymouth Rock breed.


4. Black Australorp

Black Australorps possess a gentle and curious personality. These large breeds get along well in a flock and are kid-friendly.

Chicken farmers consider Black Australorps to be excellent producers. They lay four to five large eggs weekly, totaling 200 to 250 light brown eggs annually.

Black Australops display beautiful black shiny feathers with a greenish iridescence. Due to their dark feather color, they require shade access during our Intermountain West summers. Overall, these birds are quite hardy in the heat and the cold.

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5. Golden Sex Link

Golden Sex Links are friendly, calm and easily tamed. They get along well with other chickens and rank at the top of the pecking order.

Out of the popular breeds, Sex Links lay the maximum number of eggs per year. They start laying at an early age — sometimes as early as 16 or 17 weeks — and lay five to six large to extra-large, brown eggs per week or 250 to 300 eggs per year.

Feather color showcases a mix of gold and white. These average-sized hybrid chickens produce autosex chicks. Autosexing refers to male and female chicks varying in color or marking, making it easy to identify gender at hatch time. You have a much higher chance of getting the gender you want with these chickens.

Golden Sex Links are very hardy in the heat and cold.

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6. Black Sex Link

Black Sex Links are easygoing chickens. These average-sized birds wield a calm, docile, friendly character that helps them get along well with other flock members.

Like the Golden Sex Link, the Black Sex Link is a hybrid chicken that produces autosex chicks. But unlike the golden variety, Black Sex Links flaunt black feathers on the main body with reddish feathers on the head and neck. A greenish iridescence adds a bit of sparkle to the black feathers.

Black Sex Links are excellent layers. As mentioned above, Sex Links lay the maximum number of eggs per year. They start laying at an early age — sometimes as early as 16 or 17 weeks — and lay five to six large to extra-large, brown eggs per week or 250 to 300 eggs per year.

Chicken farmers consider Black Sex Links to be very hardy to heat and cold.

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7. White Leghorn

One bird that isn’t as friendly as others is the White Leghorn. What they lack in friendliness, they make up for intelligence. White Leghorn growers must provide a run for these noisy flyers.

As its name implies, a White Leghorn wears a coat of white feathers. White Leghorns lay 5 to 6 extra-large white eggs per week or 280 to 320 per year. They lay at around 16 weeks so are considered an early layer.

Intermountain West chicken farmers should take precautions — provide easy access to indoor coops with thick bedding or heaters — for their White Leghorns in the wintertime. The White Leghorn’s comb is large and prone to frostbite.

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8. Buff Orpington

The friendliest of the chicken breeds? Many consider the Buff Orpington to be the most congenial. Their calm and tame nature places them in the middle of the flock pecking order. Families enjoy these large chickens because they love attention and are extremely gentle and docile.

The amiable Buff Orpingtons lay three to five large to extra-large brown eggs or 150 to 230 eggs yearly. Their feather color ranges from buff (light brownish yellow) to dark gold.

Buff Orpingtons maintain hardiness in the Intermountain West winter. The same goes in the summer; however, experts recommend shade availability to protect them from extreme heat.

Learn what to feed your chickens for the most nutritious eggs



9. Delaware

Another friendly chicken breed is the Delaware. Chicken farmers raise these curious, large birds for meat and eggs. Baby Delaware chicks love humans and rarely shy away from them, making them extremely kid-friendly. These birds are chatty but not overly noisy.

Delawares lay four large, brown eggs per week, equaling 200 plus annually. Recognized first by their bright white feathers, Delawares also show off bars of black feathering on the head, neck, tail and wing tips.

Delaware chickens are hardy in Intermountain West’s heat and cold. One item of note: Ensure access to indoor coops with thick bedding or heaters to protect the chicken’s larger combs which are prone to frostbite. Delaware chickens are hardy in the heat.

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10. Speckled Sussex

The Speckled Sussex is a large, friendly chicken with a curious, calm, docile charm. They tend to be on the lower end of the pecking order but overall, fit in nicely with the other chickens in a flock. They are great with human kids, as well as with their chickens.

The Speckled Sussex lay four to five medium to large, light brown eggs per week, totaling 200-250 annually.

Chicken farmers consider the Speckled Sussex to be attractive. Dark mahogany feathers cover their bodies. The tips flaunt a mix of dark black and bright white making for a striking color combination. These beautiful birds have a green iridescent sheen to their black feathers in the sunlight.

Speckled Sussex are very weather hardy. They handle the heat well but have dense feathering so provide adequate shade and water during the hot months.

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11. Silver Laced Wyandotte

Families enjoy Silver Laced Wyandottes for their good temperaments. They usually rank near the top of the pecking order in the flock and make good mothers to their chicks. These birds can be talkative and therefore, noisy.

Silver Laced Wyandottes lay approximately 200 medium to large brown eggs per year. Chicken farmers consider them good winter layers, making eggs a treat year-round.

One can spot a Silver Laced Wyandotte by its black-tipped silver feathers. These chickens are very tolerant of the Intermountain West’s heat and cold.

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12. Black Copper Maran

Quiet, gentle and friendly. The Black Copper Maran gets along well in mixed flocks, quiet and gentle. Due to its chocolate-colored eggs, this active breed reigns most popular with backyard chicken growers.

Black Copper Marans are not the best egg layer laying only 150-200 eggs yearly. However, their large dark brown eggs allure backyard chicken owners.

As its name suggests, Black Copper Marans wear a cloak of black and coppery feathers around its neck and head. Their legs can be lightly feathered.

Backyard chicken feathers consider the Black Copper Maran weather-hardy year-round. Although tolerant to heat, they require adequate shade and water during the hot months.

Caring for Your Backyard Chickens

Why are these chicken breeds so well-liked? Simply put, they are relatively easy to care for and many of the breeds are great egg producers. These popular chicken breeds require access to adequate food and water at all times.

They need to be wormed only if parasites are detected. Chickens are susceptible to poultry mites and should be inspected on a regular basis. If mites are detected on your birds a thorough cleaning of the coop is required. It’s also recommended to treat your coop with a permethrin spray before putting fresh bedding back in. The birds themselves should be treated with a permethrin dust to kill any mites on them.

Keep watch for any change in activity in your flock. Pale combs, poor feather coverage and listlessness are signs of sickness. Keeping a clean coop helps keep healthy birds.

Find out what treats are best for your chickens

What to Consider When Buying Chicks

First and foremost, determine what you expect from your flock. Are you looking for egg production, color of eggs or size of eggs? Are you seeking a quiet, docile and kid-friendly flock? Do you need a flock for egg production or as a family pet you will keep for years? Are you limited on space so they will have to be kept confined or will they have lots of room to free range?

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Keep watch for any change in activity in your flock. Pale combs, poor feather coverage and listlessness are signs of sickness. Keeping a clean coop helps keep healthy birds.

1. Egg Production

Using the guide above, consider which best egg-laying chicken breed provides the number of eggs you and your family eat daily or week.

2. Egg Color

As mentioned above, Easter Eggers produce large eggs in hues of blue, green, pink, yellow and brown, and multiple breeds lay varying degrees of brown eggs. Bantam breeds are small — growing to two lbs and laying maybe one to two times per week — and produce eggs in various colors, including white, brown, and even blue or green. The color of the egg doesn’t affect its taste or nutrition, but the variety can be fun when collecting backyard eggs.

3. Meat Production

Fast White Broilers are fast-growers built for meat.

4. Egg and Meat Production

Need a dual-purpose chicken breed? Ask your local IFA poultry expert to assist you in finding that perfect happy medium. 

5. Sexed Chicks vs. Straight Run Chicks

Chicks come from hatcheries as “sexed” or “straight-run.” Sexed chicks have been squeezed by an expert at the hatchery, and the gender is determined to be female. Straight-run chicks have not been sexed and are a mix of male and female in a roughly 50/50 split.

Want to raise chickens in your own backyard? See how to get started. 

Ask an Expert

At IFA, many of our chick breeds are sexed and considered 90%+ accurate to be female. Ask your IFA poultry expert what breeds are sexed or straight-run before purchase.


Information for this article was provided by Maureen Goodrich, Office Manager, Logan IFA Country Store; Sandie Shupe, Poultry, Rabbit & Animal Health Manager, Ogden IFA Country Store; Whittney Young, Poultry Dept. Manager, Riverton IFA Country Store; and Terry Boren, Poultry and Tack Category Manager.