Best Chicken Breeds for Pets

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For the past couple decades, chickens have been growing in popularity as people become more interested in knowing where their food comes from, and the desire to live a more natural lifestyle.  But they are more than just egg factories!    Watching chickens scratch about the yard is relaxing and de-stressing after a long day at work.  Many pet chickens are extremely tame and will eat out of your hand and sit on your lap.  They even “purr” when happy!  They are very smart and can be trained to come when called or to do tricks (click here to read about training your chickens).   Need more convincing that chickens are awesome?  Check out my post on the benefits of keeping chickens.  Chickens really are an easy pet to incorporate into nearly any family – they don’t bark at your neighbors, they don’t need to be walked, you can leave them over a long weekend without worrying – and of course they give you all the fresh eggs you can eat!

There are hundreds of breeds of chickens, so how do you decide which ones make the best pets?  Well just like different dog breeds have their own sets of traits, different chicken breeds have their own traits too.  I will separate my top picks into excellent egg layers and poor/moderate layers.  When you are keeping chickens as pets and high egg production isn’t the main goal, you can add in a few of the gorgeous, ornamental breeds!  These exotic birds are beautiful, but aren’t usually the most reliable egg layers.  Sometimes having a flock of high production breeds can be overwhelming for backyard chicken pet owners.  Excellent layers can give you 5-6 eggs per week.  Even with a relatively small flock of 6 chickens you are talking about 3 dozen weekly eggs.  Every. Single. Week.  For the first few months it’s amazing to eat so many fresh eggs – but when you go to your refrigerator and find 11 dozen backed up eggs, you might find yourself wishing you had mixed in some lower production breeds!  Every bird is an individual, but in general, these are the breeds I would recommend for starting your own flock of pet chickens!

Moderate/Poor Egg Layers

Silkies – Silkies are bantam, mini chickens that have fluffy, fur like feathers, making them feel more like a cat than a chicken.  They have feathered feet, feathered crests, they often just look like a round puff ball!  Silkies are also very calm and friendly.  Well known for their mothering abilities, they will spend a lot of time being broody which can cut down on their laying, but they will hatch and mother pretty much any kind of egg you give them.  When they are laying, you can expect 3-4 small eggs per week.  Silkies come in a large variety of colors from white, buff, black, blue, brown Partridge & mixes.  A great choice for families with kids, children always love these friendly, tiny, fluffy birds!

Polish – probably one of the most unusual looking chicken breeds, everyone loves the looks of these guys!  Polish chickens have huge poofs of feathers on their head and many have beards as well.  Polish are very friendly and quiet.  They will almost always be at the bottom of the pecking order due to their docile nature, which makes them great pets, but keep an eye on them to make sure your other chickens aren’t picking on them.  Their feather head poofs can get in the way of their vision, making them a little skiddish.  A couple times per year, we trim the feathers in their field of vision and that helps calm them down a bit.  My Polish girls are some of the first to greet me and remind me of my cat because they always seem to be under my feet, weaving between my legs lol.  They are not great egg layers, but will lay 2-3 smallish-medium size white eggs.

Cochin – Cochins are adorable, round, and fluffy.  They have fluffy feet and a round, fluff ball tail.  They have sweet, calm personalities and are very friendly.  Cochins come in both large standard & bantam size.  We have a bantam mottled Cochin, as soon as one of us sits down in the chairs in the backyard, she RUNS (and sometimes flies) straight at us to come sit on our lap.  She likes to perch on the chair arm, or settle into our lap, or sometimes climb up to our shoulder.  Cochins do tend to go broody a lot and make excellent mothers.  When they are not broody, you can expect 3-5 medium light brown eggs per week.

Excellent Layers

Brahma – Brahmas are huge sweethearts!  Truly gentle giants, Brahmas are big birds with calm, loving personalities.  In addition to their large size, they have profuse feathers and feathered feet.  They have small pea combs so are less prone to frostbite and coupled with their large size, make them a great choice for northern chicken keepers.  They come in three color varieties: light (white with black around neck, tail and wing tips), dark (grey/brown feathers with lovely black penciled outlines) and buff (a warm, golden color with black around neck, tail & wings).  In addition to their beautiful appearance and sweet personality, they are great layers!  You can expect 5-6 large brown eggs per week.

Barred Plymouth Rock – One of the most popular chicken breeds in America for small scale farmers, for good reason.  Gorgeous black & white striping on their feathers and a large, round body make them a stunning bird.  Their personality is equally stunning – very sweet, friendly, gentle and curious.  They are excellent natural foragers and will happily spend the day ridding your yard of insects.  They are very hardy New England birds and excellent layers, 5-6 large brown eggs per week.  Our Plymouth Rock is over 5 years old and still laying almost daily!

Buff Opringtons – Buff Orpingtons are often referred to as the “Golden Retriever” of chickens.  Large, friendly, quiet, loyal, and docile, Buffs make excellent pet chickens.  They have a lovely golden buff color and lots of soft under-feathers giving them a puffy shape.  They are very hardy birds, well suited to colder climates.  Buff is the most popular color choice, but the original Orpington color varieties include black, white, buff, blue.  In addition to the traditional colors, breeders are developing many more varieties and even bantam Orpingtons.  Buffs make excellent mothers but are not overly broody like Silkies and Cochins.  You can expect 5-6 large, light brown eggs per week.  We let our Buff hatch out several clutches of chicks and she was an amazing mother – she was also really patient with the human children who were fascinated with the whole hatching/chick raising process.  Many mother hens are fiercely protective of their nest and will peck at you when you go near them, but our Buff was always very sweet and gentle.

Easter Eggers – These are not technically a breed, but are a type of chicken that has the blue egg laying gene.  They don’t conform to any prescribed breed standards, so they can come in a huge variety of colors and feather patterns.  Most Easter Eggers have muffs (a bushy beard) and ear tuffs (the only time ear hair is cute!).   Most Easter Eggers are docile, friendly and quiet so they are a pleasure to have around, and as a bonus they will lay 4-6 beautiful, large, eggs per week in shades of brown, pink, blue, or green (each chicken will lay her own color egg every time depending on how dominant her blue egg gene is, she won’t lay a different color egg every day).  We have two Easter Eggers, one lays lovely pale blue eggs and the other lays a greenish-blue egg.


44 comments

  1. Mary Hall says:

    My Easter Egger, Lovey, is the most chatty of my five hens. I always laugh when I read how quiet they’re supposed to be. Lovely is always making some type of coo, squeal, click, or murmur. The two barred rocks, Heckle and Jeckle, rarely make noises, and are somewhat friendly, while my Buff Orphington, Rue, is the sweetest and friendly. Roxie, my oldest, is a Red Sex Link (and the last from the original flock of three) is my dominant hen and is 100% motivated by food. I’m sure Roxie influences the dynamics of the rest, as well as the personality traits they exhibit.

    • Liz says:

      It is funny how different they all are! My two Easter Eggers hardly make a sound, but we had a Light Brahma who was constantly honking like a goose and they are suppose to be very quiet lol. I think you are right, they are definitely influenced by the others in the flock

  2. Tawnya Sullivan says:

    We just purchased 2 silkies to help raise a duckling that was abandoned. The silkies are precious with the duck! We’re getting our coop and run together and we want more chicks but hear we should stick to bantams as a larger bird may pick on the silkies. Does anyone have advice on this for us?

    • Liz says:

      We have always kept bantams and standard size chickens together and they all get along fine. We have two bantam Silkies as well as a super small bantam Mille Fleur D’Uccle (who isn’t much larger than a robin!) and they live right along with our huge Orpingtons, Wyandottes & Brahma.

  3. Lindsey Aho says:

    My family wants to get more chickens, but we don’t know what to breeds to get. We already have a Buff Orpington, a Rhode Island red, two Brahmas, three Plymouth Rocks, three Australorps, an Easter Egger, an Easter Egger rooster, and a few more. We want friendly breeds. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Liz says:

      You already have a great selection of friendly birds, for large breed birds I would also suggest Salmon Faverolles. Silkies & Polish are smaller, but also make wonderful additions to any pet chicken flock -they are adorable & friendly! 🙂

  4. Christel says:

    We lost one of our beloved chickens to a raccoon, and our last girl of the flock, silky is lonely. What chicken do you suggest as a docile companion for opening r eight year old chicken?

    • Liz says:

      aww I am so sorry. Silkies & Buff Orpingtons are among the most docile. If you contact you local animal shelter, they may even be able to point you in the direction of a local farm rescue who might have another senior hen looking to be rehomed

  5. Amelia says:

    I noticed you said that Cochin are a good choose but I have not had good luck with them at all. Do you know what I could be doing wrong?

    • Liz says:

      It is hard to say. I’ve had several Cochins and while most were very friendly (one would hop on our shoulders anytime we sat down!), I did have one frizzled Cochin that was very skittish. She wasn’t mean she just didn’t like to be touched. That one was hatched out with a broody hen. I have found the chicks I raise inside in a brooder are much friendlier because you can spend more time with them. The ones I get as adults or that are raised by mother hens tend to be more stand-off ish

    • Liz says:

      Sussex and Brahmas have super similar coloring but are different breeds. The easiest way to tell them apart is Brahmas have a pea comb and feathered feet and Sussex have a single comb and clean feet.

  6. anonymous says:

    i want to get a chicken for a pet i am 11 and have two little brothers i am turning towards a orpington as they look like my beloved “Red” that we lost a few years ago

  7. Mitchell says:

    Lavender orpington and blue that’s the only breed we have now I have Farm are hens are very sweet they’ll sit on your shoulder and even purr?

  8. Mina says:

    I’m sorry to sound so ignorant but I have lots of questions and few answers. We live on top of a mountain in Pennsylvania, where it is windy and can get to zero and rarely below during the winter. We have a massive tick infestation and I would love to get some birds who are excellent at controlling them. I would love different colors of eggs but the quantity and size is irrelevant. I love the looks of the Polish but wouldn’t want to keep a bird I would get very attached to and then keep cutting the feathers off around her eyes! Mostly, I want chickens who are super-sweet and would be comfortable being more like pets. We can build them any kind of coop they would want or need so that is not a factor either. Help!

    • Liz says:

      Almost any breed of chicken will be great at eating ticks, they love to forage through the woods all day gobbling them all up. Heritage breed chickens are generally thought to be better at foraging, but honestly I have not noticed any difference with my girls. (you can read more about heritage breeds here https://thecapecoop.com/heritage-breed-chickens/) They are all great at bug hunting! I would suggest you stick with large breed birds, first because the bigger the bird the bigger her bug appetite, and second because bigger birds will have more fat to weather a chilly, windy winter. Polish are really cute and hilarious to watch but they are smaller birds (that said if you want one definitely get one, if you have a decent size flock, not everyone needs to be a hard worker!). You can’t go wrong with Plymouth Rocks, Brahmas (they come in three colors), Wyandottes (also three colors), add in some Easter Eggs for blue/green eggs, and a Maran or Welsummer for dark brown eggs and you’ve got some great flock options!

      • Mina Yindra says:

        Holy Smokes, the Brahmas are HUGE! I think they would dwarf anything else I had, which might not be the best for the “little guys”… the Wyandottes are beautiful and get high reviews but, again, are they predator wary? I wanted a Maran but was told they might be too slow on the run and too timid to keep themselves safe- I’m not sure if that applies to the Welsummer or not. I would love a Polish but was told they would never survive the winter up here, plus the other birds would pick on them. You can see the new list I came up with in my comments to Kristi but I have now added your suggestions as possibilities. Yes, the Easter Eggers were a given- I simply couldn’t help myself! lol

        • Liz says:

          Don’t let some of those crazy Giant Brahmas fool you – I have seen videos circulating of certain lines of Brahmas and they are like knee high lol. I’ve had a couple Brahmas and they were never that large. They are big, fat birds but not a whole lot bigger than my Orpingtons. Wyandottes are a good choice, they are very pretty but have a reputation for being stand offish (and my two definitely are). But they are good free rangers. I have had a couple Polish, the biggest downside is with all the feathers around their face they can’t see well so with lots of predators it’s probably not the best choice

  9. Kristi Wheeler says:

    Great list! The Cochin sure is pretty, though I haven’t had the pleasure of owning one yet. They sound like a great breed! I do have Barred Rock, East Egger, Orpington and a few others and they are really good pets. They are all so sweet and have such good temperaments.

  10. Mina Yindra says:

    As we have continued to flesh this out, the list has changed somewhat. I learned I’m colder than most, I have volumes of predators, and I need some really tick-hungry chickens. Plus, too much egg production might not be the best for us since we only eat/use a dozen a week. We are currently on Barred Plymouth Rock’s (another plus, I understand any errant rooster addition might be friendlier than average), Cream Legbars, Sex-link Easter Eggers, sex linked Golden Buff, Black Copper Marans (although they might be too docile and slow for this environment- opinions have varied), Favaucana or Ameraucana, and some type of unknown game bird (iffy). I have seen an Orpington that looks adaptable to this environment but the same concerns arise and I don’t know how savvy they would be about avoiding predators. Any and all opinions you have on this would be most appreciated!

    • Liz says:

      Those are all great options. Barred Plymouth Rocks are pretty indestructible, and a bonus they are calm and friendly. As far as Marans go, I only have one and she is really skittish, she just sticks real close to the rooster, but her eggs are gorgeous if that matters to you. Orpingtons are a great choice, I think they would be fine in that environment, they are a real big, heavy breed. And if you are looking to ever hatch babies, they are amazing mothers

      • Mina Yindra says:

        Great- I seem to be on the right track now. Do you think Welsummers or Marans would be best? I just saw something else about their combs being prone to frostbite-

        • Liz says:

          I wouldn’t choose one over the other, they are both good choices. The bigger the chicken’s combs, they more prone to frostbite they are. They both have a “single comb”, Maran hen’s combs are slightly larger than Welsummer hen combs, but really not by that much. Birds with pea or rose combs (like Brahma or Wyandottes) have the smallest combs and are least likely to get frostbite

  11. Mina says:

    Okay, drum roll… after all this poultry intelligence being shared so generously, I have no forced myself to just order them and hope everything works out well. For those who might be interested, I ended up with Black Copper Marans, Jubilee Orpington, Gold Lace Wyandotte, Cream Legbar, Barred Plymouth Rock, Pheasant Olive Egger, and Super Blue Egg Layer. Best of all, I got Naked Necks- what else for someone who has a bald dog? lol I’m sure a rooster or two will sneak in but I’ve got until June 10 to get everything ready. Thank you, thank you- you guys have been very helpful. ?

  12. Erica says:

    First timer! My son has been raising 8 wonderful Orpington chickens. He was very attached. They would eat out of his hand. Seven were killed we are assuming by a fox. We bought 10 baby chicks. Our solo lucky chicken seems so sad and traumatized. I want to try to introduce her to the baby chicks but everything I read says to wait 8 weeks. We are keeping Lucky in a kennel at night next to the baby chicks in another kennel. We let Lucky out in her coop during the day. We are still in the process of adding more protection to the coop to prevent this from happening again. Do you think I should try or can the chicken kill a baby chick quickly?

    • Liz says:

      Awww that is so sad Erica! Some adult chickens are totally fine with babies, but some can and will peck a chick to death. You are doing it right letting them live side by side to get used to each other. Lucky might be sad and lonely enough though that she will gladly adopt the new babies as her new flock. Orpingtons in particular are very motherly and docile, so she might surprise you. After a week or so of living separate but side by side I would try introducing them and see how it goes. Keep a close eye on her though and make sure she is behaving and not bullying any of the babies

    • Liz says:

      I would certainly suggest you do some research on the demand for chicks in your area first. It could be exotic breeds are high in demand or it could be meat birds or high production layers. You don’t need to use incubators at first, you could just hatch them with the broody mother hen. But for hatching large amounts of chicks with higher hatch rates you will probably want to invest in an incubator at some point. I would recommend you check out the book “Making Money with Chickens” by Lisa Murano. She has lots of great ideas!

  13. Elicea says:

    Hi Liz! I’ve been thinking about getting some backyard chickens, and I think I’m ready to dive in. I was wondering… I am interested in a friendly chicken that is also a good egg layer. I have a few options I’ve added to my list based on several blogs I’ve read, and I would be pleased as pie to have some of each breed. How well do you think Plymouth Rock (any color), Orpingtons (any color), and Wyandottes (also any color) would do together? Maybe 1-2 of each.

    There are sooooo many others I would have to have just clucking around my yard, and maybe I dont need to worry about how many eggs they lay a week, if I am going to have at least 3 chickens. So maybe there is a different combination of chickens you might suggest?

    • Liz says:

      Congratulations!! They are definitely addictive, there are so many cool breeds out there, it is so hard to narrow it down! Plymouth Rock, Orpingtons & Wyandottes are three of my favorite breeds so I think that is an amazing combination. Chickens don’t really discriminate against chickens of other breeds so really all breeds will get along. But the three that you selected are perfect for beginners because they are all generally friendly, hardy breeds and all excellent egg layers. But I have a hunch in a couple years you will have more than just 3 birds lol

      • Elicea says:

        Oh it was incredibly hard to narrow it down to only 3 breeds. I ended up changing it just a bit after posting my question, replacing the Plymouth Rock with 2 Easter-Eggers (and keeping the Wyandotte and Orpington. So I am getting 4 chickens total.

        I WANT a million. I have always loved chickens, I’ve just always lived in apartments and didnt have the space available. But now that I have a yard, I thought, why the heck not? Im nervous, because I don’t want to do anything to make them miserable. The eggs are a bonus for my family, but I just want them as pets, personally. But since I’m so new, figured I better start with just a few for now. I have no doubt my chicken population will increase quite a bit over the next few years.

        Thanks for providing such a detailed blog. While I’m totally nervous about this, I’m also really excited to have a place to go for easy access (and thorough) help!

  14. Angel Virgilio says:

    Hi! I enjoyed your post and suggestions, we are in north. NM at high elevation, so I’ve narrowed my wishlist to 4-5 hardy and friendly pets who happen to provide breakfast :). Buff Oprington, Brahma, and maybe an Easter Egger for fun! I’d love to get a silkie, do you think they’re hardy enough? I heard good things about Chantacleres also. Can’t wait to introduce chicken raising to our 10 y.o. twins! Chicken was my first word, first pets, and first set of chores.

    • Liz says:

      That is awesome! Those are some great breeds. Silkies should do fine, I’ve had Silkies here in MA where the winters can get pretty bad and they’ve done fine. It’s important to give them somewhere to get out of the wind/rain though. Their feathers don’t provide the same level of protection as normal chickens. We set up an area underneath our coop with wood boards as a wind block. This way when it was yucky out but they still want to be outdoors they had somewhere to go

  15. Doug Koppy says:

    In the group eating photo on this websites home page, what breed is the chicken with all black “iridescdent” feathers. It is beautiful.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Doug, I am not entirely sure which photo you are looking at, but I think the one you are looking at is a barnyard mix we hatched out – mostly Black Cochin but ended up with clean legs (Cochin usually have feathered legs), but all Black Cochins have beautiful iridescent feathers

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