There are literally hundreds of types of chickens in existence. However, fewer than half of these breeds are uncommon today. The types of chickens are generally grouped into a few categories, which makes choosing breeds a little easier.
While egg-laying breeds of chickens produce good eggs, they don’t make good meat birds. These chickens won’t sit on their own eggs. You can choose chickens that lay specific colors of eggs. For instance, if you want a lot of white eggs, consider Anconas, Leghorns, or Hamburgs. If you want an abundance of brown eggs, choose an Amber Link breed, Isa Brown, Maran, or Golden Comet chicken. For novelty colored eggs, consider Ameraucana or Easter Egger breeds.
If you want chickens that produce a lot of eggs and are also meaty, dual-purpose chicken breeds fit the bill. They don’t lay the same amount of eggs as laying breeds, but the eggs taste the same. However, these types of chickens can have smaller breasts and take a long time to grow. Good dual-purpose breeds include Orpingtons, Brahmas, Plymouth Rocks, and Barnevelders.
While many meat breeds are actually hybrids, there are some purebreds such as the Cornish hen. Meat breeds generally have larger breasts and a bigger frame, and they grow fairly quickly. In the 50s and 60s, breeders began to create hybrid strains of chickens that were specifically made for meat. Pretty much all chickens sold in grocery stores are hybrids. Some of these meat breeds include Freedom Rangers and Jersey Giants.
Some people like to keep chickens for ornamental purposes, and show breeds generally have unusual feathers or bright colors. They don’t lay a lot of eggs and they aren’t good for their meat, but they can make wonderful pets. Some of these breeds are Cochins, Polish chickens, and Old English Games. They may not make great meals or eggs, but they are great to raise and show them to keep the breeds alive.
These little chickens are miniature versions of big chickens, or just small chickens that never had a larger version (true Bantams). Mostly show chickens or simply pets, Bantams generally weigh from 2 to 5 pounds. They do lay eggs that can be eaten and taste just like other chicken eggs; the eggs are simply small. Bantams don’t make good meat birds, but they make great pets. Some Bantam breeds are Sebrights, Silkies, Antwerp Belgians, and Mille Fleurs.