Many backyard chicken owners love adding in something a little more unusual to their flock than the standard breeds. So below are descriptions of several rare chicken breeds that would make a great unique addition to any backyard chicken flock. This list is not meant to be all inclusive. There are many other rare chicken breeds out there as well. This list is just a sampling of some of them.
Chantecler: The Chanteclers were originally developed in Canada for the cold northern climate and the ability to lay eggs throughout the long winter’s short days. They are a dual-purpose plump, hardy breed. They have a very small comb and almost no wattle. They produce a decent amount of medium sized light brown to pink eggs. They will usually go broody and are great mothers. Because of their rarity, they can be somewhat hard to find, even in Canada.
La Fleche: A very rare breed developed in France, the La Fleche is a dual-purpose bird known for having an exceptionally flavorful meat, as well as being a decent producer of large light brown eggs. The only official color is black but the bird does come in a variety of other colors as well. They are slow maturing, good foragers and also bear confinement well. However, they are shy and somewhat un-tame. But it’s also been reported that they are intelligent and very curious.
Nankin Bantam: One of the oldest of the Bantams, Nankins are now critically endangered, aside from being one of the rare chicken breeds. They are a true Bantam (miniature), meaning the breed originally is small, not just a miniaturized version of a larger breed. Nankins are a rich chestnut color with vibrant red wattles, combs, and faces. They are a moderate producer of small creamy to light brown eggs. They are exceptional brooders and mothers, making them a great choice for natural incubators for your flock. Nankins are known for being very sociable, personable, and charming.
Java: The Java is another critically endangered breed. One of the oldest American breeds, it was the foundation bird used in the development of several other breeds. It is a good forager and a nice, large, hardy dual-purpose breed. The Java is a very good layer of large brown eggs. They are known for being docile and friendly. Black is the standard color but they also come in white and mottled.
Araucana: Many people may be surprised to see the Araucana on a rare chicken breeds list. But the true Araucana is a rare breed. Many hatcheries market the Easter Egger (a much more common “mutt”) as an Araucana, but those are not true Araucanas. The Araucana originally came from South America. It is a rumpless breed, meaning no tail and no tailbone. It is also known for the tufts of feathers near the ears. But the quality the Araucana is probably most well-known for is the color of their eggs. They are layers of medium sized blue shelled eggs.
Sumatra: A beautiful long tailed ornamental breed, the Sumatra is typically black feathered that shines beetle green in the sun, although it can come in other colors as well. Originally used for cock fighting, the Sumatra is still a feisty, somewhat wild bird. They do not like confinement and need space to roam. They are also excellent flyers. The hens will usually go broody and they make excellent, protective parents. They are adequate layers of medium white to lightly tinted eggs.
Dorking: The Dorking used to be very common but now it is one of the rare chicken breeds. It is an ancient breed likely introduced into England from the Roman Empire. Up until the Civil War, it was very common on American farms. The Dorking is a short legged dual-purpose breed with 5 toes, instead of the usual 4. They are decent layers of large creamy colored eggs. They will consistently go broody and make great mothers. They are calm, friendly, dignified birds. They can be a bit less hardy while young and they are slow to mature.
Lakenvelder: The Lakenvelder gaining in popularity due to its looks hopefully won’t remain one of the rare chicken breeds for long. A beautiful striking bird with a black head and neck, mostly white body, then black tail. They are a smaller bird meant for egg production. They are decent layers of small to medium sized eggs that are white to lightly-tinted. They usually do not go broody. They are excellent flyers and good foragers, although also take to confinement well. They are shy and somewhat flighty, although not aggressive and get along well with other chickens.
Share your experiences with rare chicken breeds. Do you have any of the above breeds in your backyard flock? What are some of your favorite rare chicken breeds?