Common Chicken Breeds

The Common Chicken Breeds that we are discussing below are well known all over the world and the major classification is done on the basis of origin.

Breed refers to a group of domestic fowls with common ancestry, and having similarity in shape, conformation, growth, temperament, shell color of the egg, and breed true to type. Variety is a subdivision of breed and within a breed, there may be several varieties. The term variety is used to distinguish fowls having the characteristics of the breed to which they belong but differing in plumage color, comb type, etc. from other groups of the same breed.

A breed/variety may also have several strains or lines identified by a given name and produced by a breeder through at least 5 generations of closed flock breeding for a particular purpose. Several strains within a breed/variety phenotypically may look alike but often differ in their production performance depending upon their breeding history.

The most common method of classifying chicken has been the basis of their origin, viz. American, Asiatic, English, and the Mediterranean. A brief description of each class with breed characteristics for some of the important breeds is given below.

American Class

The most popular American breeds are the dual-purpose Plymouth Rock, New Hampshire, Rhode Island Red, and Wyandotte. These breeds are characterized by yellow skin, clean shanks, free form feathers, and red ear lobes. Eggs are brown-shelled, except in Lamana.

1. Plymouth rock: Plymouth Rock is a much sought after American breed because of its egg size and fleshing properties. Barred and White Plymouth Rocks are very popular. A number of other varieties such as Buff, Silver Pencilled, Partridge, Columbian, and Blue are also recognized. White Plymouth Rock with a long body of good depth and broad and prominent breasts is especially favored for broiler production.

Plymouth rock
Plymouth rock chicken

The breed has a single comb. Barred Plymouth Rock possesses greyish- white plumage. The feathers are crossed by black bars even in width, straight and extending down to the skin. Each feather ends in a narrow dark tip. Alternate dark and light bars give a bluish cast to the surface color. The barring in the hackle and saddle of the male is narrower than in the other sections of the body.

Solid black or partly black feathers are seen in a few birds only. Black spots on the shanks are common, particularly in females. Males are lighter in color than females due to the equal width of black and white bars. In females, the black bars are about one and a half times as wide as the white bars. The gene for barring (B) is located in the sex chromosome and is used for autosexing.
Standard weight (kg) : Cock 4.3; hen 3.4; cockerel 3.6; pulley 2.7

2. Rhode Island Red: This is a dual-purpose breed developed by farmers of Rhode Island in America; it contains varying amounts of Malay game. Red Shanghai, Brown Leghorn, Cornish, and Wyandotte blood. Single and Rose comb are the common varieties. Some single comb Rhode Island Reds are still very popular for commercial production of brown- shelled eggs.

Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Red

The most common color is red buff; white and brown varieties are also found. The birds are characterized by long body, broad and deep breast carried well forward, flat back with red eyes and red ear lobes. Legs and feet are deep yellow but may show brown color. The male is dark red with a black tail, black color can be seen in both primary and secondary feathers of the wing when open. The female is rich even red, with wing and tail markings as in male. Neck hackle shows a little black marking at the base.
Standard weight (kg) : Cock 3.8; hen 2.9; cockerel 3.4; pulley 2.5.

3. New Hampshire: This breed was developed from Rhode Island Red by New Hampshire poultry farmer of America for early maturity, rapid feathering, large egg size, and good quality meat. It is a popular breed. Some strains are used for broiler production and others for commercial production of brown-shelled eggs. The birds are characteristic by chestnut red plumage, single comb, and less rectangular body than the Rhode Island Rod.
Standard weight (kg) : Cock 3.8; hen 2.9; cockerel 3.4; pulley 2.5

New Hampshire chicken

Asiatic Class

Brahma, Cochin and Langshan, the three recognized Asiatic breeds
which are virtually extinct now, are characterized by the large body with heavy bones, feathered shanks, red ear lobes, and yellow skin (except Black Langshan in which the skin is pinkish white). They are classed as broody and poor layers. These Asiatic breeds have contributed significantly to the development of American breeds.

1. Brahma: Brahma originated in the Brahmaputra valley. It is known for its massive, well-feathered and proportioned body. Pea comb is one of the breed characteristics. Light dark and buff are the most common varieties.

Brahma chicken
Brahma chicken

Standardweight(kg): Light Brahma-cock 5.4;hen 4.3;cockerel 4.5; pullet 3.6.
Dark Brahma – cock 4.9; hen 3.6; cockerel 4.0; pullet 3.1.

Buff Brahma which is similar in plumage pattern to that of Columbian Plymouth Rock, except that golden buff or buff is replaced by white, shows buff’ feathers on the shank and on the outer toe of each foot

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2. Cochin: It is also known as Shanghai fowl. It originated in Shanghai (China). Characterized by massive appearance, thickly feathered shanks, single comb, and a cushion-like structure at the base of the tail. The popular varieties are buff, partridge, white and black.
Standard weight (kg) : Cock 4.9; hen 3.8; cockerel 3.6; pullet 3.1

Cochin chicken

3. Langshan: This is a graceful bird with a well-proportioned body. It originated from the Langshan region of China. The principal breed characteristics are shorter but deeper body than Brahma or Cochin, large tail feathers, tail carried high, long legs, and single comb.

Langshan chicken

Black and White are the two main varieties. Black Langshan is known for its dark brown beak, bluish-black shanks and toes, and pinkish-white toe. White Langshan has the plumage color as that of White Plymouth Rock except slaty white to pinkish-blue back, slaty blue shanks and toes with pink between scales.

Mediterranean Class

The Mediterranean breeds of Italian origin include Leghorn, Minorca, Andalusian, Spanish, and Ancona. They are light-bodied and are developed for high egg production.

Leghorn chicken

1. Leghorn: Leghorn is characterized by the compact and light body, uniform blending, pretty carriage, long shanks, small head with well-set rose or single comb, and early maturity. Popular varieties are White, Brown, and Black. White Leghorn is the most popular fur in its excellent laying performance.
Standard weight (kg) : Cock 2.6; hen 2.0; cockerel 2.2; pullet 1.8

2. Minorca: Minorca is also known as Red-faced Spanish because of its resemblance and appearance to Black Spanish.

Minorca chicken
Minorca chicken

They probably originated from the same common ancestors. Single Comb Black, Rose Comb Black, Single Comb White, Rose Comb White, and Single Comb Buff are the 5 varieties. The comb is erect with 6 evenly and deeply serrated points. The beak is black, and shanks and toes are black or dark slaty.
Standard weight (kg) : Cock 3.5; hen 2.9; cockerel 2.9; pullet 2.5.

English Class

The breeds of English origin are mostly utility breeds noted for their
excellent fleshing properties. With the exception of Cornish, all the English breeds have white skin and red ear lobes. Except for Dorking and Red Cap, all other breeds of this class lay brown-shelled eggs. All are classed as broody, but this defect has been gradually eliminated by selective breeding.

1. Cornish: The Cornish, originally known as the Cornish Indian Game, appears to have been developed in England about the middle of the last century from crosses involving the Aseel, the Malay, and English game breeds.

Cornish chicken
Cornish chicken

It is noted for its close and compact feathering and heavy flesh with a distinctive shape. The breast of the Cornish is very deep and broad, giving the shoulders great width. Cornish birds in general have pea comb. Red Cornish developed at the CARl has both single and pea comb.
Standard weight (kg) : Dark and White varieties : cock 4.5; hen 3.4; cockerel 3.6; pullet 2.7.
The standard weights of the white-laced Red variety(kg) are: cock 3.6; hen 2.7; cockerel 3.1; pullet 2.2.

2. Australorp: This breed originated from the Black Orpington and, as the name suggests, was developed in Australia. It is more upstanding and less massive in appearance than the Black Orpington and has been developed as a layer bird. The back is rather long, with a gradual sweep to the tail. The body has good depth, but the feathering fits more closely to the body than it does in the Orpington.

The comb is single, the beak is black, and the shanks and toes are black or lead-black. The bottom of the feet and toes are pinkish white. The plumage is lustrous greenish-black in all sections, the under color is dull black.
Standard weight (kg) ; Cock 3.8; hen 2.9; cockerel 3.4; pullet 2.5.

Indian chicken breeds

The common country hen, the desi, is, as a rule, the best mother for
hatching. She is a good forager. Some of the Indian fowls resemble the Leghorn in size and shape but have poor laying qualities. They are found in various Colours. One variety found in India resembles the Sussex or Plymouth Rock in shape but is smaller. These birds lay fairly well and are more common in the eastern parts of the country.

The Indian birds arc mostly nondescript and are of very little value as layers. They have several local breed names such as Tenis, Naked Neck, Punjab Brown, Ghagus, Lolab, Kashmir Fabcrella, Tilri, Busra, Tellicherry, Danki, Nicobari, and Kalahasti.

There are only 4 pure breeds of fowls indigenous to India. They are the Chittagong, the Aseel, the Kadaknath, and the Busra. The last occurs in western India. A large number of fowls of different sizes, shapes, and colors, and for the most part resembling the jungle fowls, are found all over India. They vary in appearance according to the locality in which they have been bred. These with Chittagong, Aseel, Langshan, or Brahma blood in them are bigger in size and better in meat quality than the common fowls.

1. Aseel: Aseel is noted for its pugnacity, high stamina, majestic gait, and dogged fighting qualities. The best specimens of the breed, although rare, are encountered in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

Aseel chicken
Aseel chicken

The most popular varieties are Peela (golden red), Yakub (black and red), Nuric (white), Kagar (black), China (black and white spotted), Java (black), Sabja (white and golden or black with yellow or silver), Teekar (brown) and Reza (light red). Although poor in productivity, the birds of this breed are well-known for their meal qualities.

Broodiness is most common and the hen is a good sitter and efficient mother. They possess pea combs that are small but firmly set on the head. Wattles and ear lobes are bright red, and the beak is short. The face is long and slender, and not covered with feathers. The eyes are compact, well set, and present bold looks. The neck is long, uniformly thick but not fleshy. The body is round and short with broad breast, straight back and close-set strong tail root The general feathering is close, scanty, and almost absent on the breast. The plumage has practically no fluff and the feathers are tough. The tail is small and drooping. The legs are strong, straight, and set well apart.

Standardweight(kg): Cocks 4 to 5; hen 3 to 4; cockerel 3.5 to 4.5; pullets 2.5 to 3.5.

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2. Busra: This is a small-to-medium-sized bird and found in small numbers in some parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The body conformation is typical of layers. Deep bodied, light feathered, and alert. Wide variation in body color. A poor layer and not much resistant to parasitic and other diseases.

3. Chittagong: It is also known as the Malay. This breed is found mostly in eastern India. These birds are large, the cock measuring sometimes 75 cm from beak to toe. A dual-purpose breed with poor mothering ability. The adult birds are very strong and hardy with a quarrelsome temperament.

The small pea comb resembles a small lump of tiny warts. The head is long; the beak is long and yellow. The wattles are red and very small, and hardly visible in the hen. The ear lobes are small, usually red, and at times admixtured with a little white. The eyebrows are prominent and over-hanging. The breast is broad, deep, and fleshy; the shoulder is broad with slight narrow loins. The wings project at the shoulders and are carried high. The legs are yellow and feather-less. The plumage is close to the body, firm, short, and glossy. Standard plumage color is lacking but the buff, white, black, dark brown, and grey varieties are recognized.

4. Kadaknath: The original name of the breed seems to be Kalamasi, meaning a fowl with black flesh. However, it is popularly known as Karaknath. It is bred by the tribals in Jhabua and Dhar Districts in western Madhya Pradesh. The eggs arc light brown.

The day-old chicks arc bluish to black with irregular dark stripes over the back. The adult plumage varies from silver and gold-spangled to bluish-black without any spangling. The skin, beak, shanks, toes, and soles of feet are slatelike in color. The comb, Seattle, and tongue are purple. Most of the internal organs show intense black coloration which is pronounced in the trachea, thoracic and abdominal air-sacs, gonads, and at the base of the heart and mesentery. Varying degrees of black coloration is also seen in the skeletal muscles, tendons, nerves, meninges, brain, etc.

The blood is darker than normal blood. The black pigment has been due to the deposition of melanin. The flesh, although repulsive to look at, is delicious. A medium layer lays about 80 eggs per year. The bird is resistant to diseases in its natural habitat in free-range but is more susceptible to Marck’s disease under intensive rearing conditions.

Standard weight(kg): Cock 1.5; hen 1.0

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