The physical traits used to distinguish chicken breeds are size, plumage color, comb type, skin color, number of toes, amount of feathering, earlobe color, egg color, and place of origin. They are also roughly divided by primary use, whether for eggs, meat, or ornamental purposes, and with some considered to be dual-purpose.
In the 21st century, chickens are frequently bred according to predetermined breed standards set down by governing organizations. The most commonly-used of such standards is the Standard of Perfection published by the American Poultry Association (APA), the oldest livestock organization in the New World. Others include European standards (especially British ones), and that of the American Bantam Association, which deals exclusively with bantam fowl. Only some of the known breeds are included in these publications, and only those breeds are eligible to be shown competitively. There are additionally a few hybrid strains which are common in the poultry world, especially in large poultry farms. These types are first generation crosses of true breeds. Hybrids do not reliably pass on their features to their offspring, but are highly valued for their producing abilities.
|Table of contents|
|By place of origin: Australia • Belgium • Canada • Chile • China • Cuba • Egypt • France • Germany • India • Italy • Japan • Malaysia • Netherlands • Norway • Persia • Russia • Spain • Sumatra • Switzerland • Transylvania • Turkey • Ukraine • United Kingdom • United States • Vietnam|
|By primary use: Eggs • Meat • Dual-purpose • Exhibition|
|See also • Footnotes • References|
Many breeds were selected and are used primarily for producing eggs, these are mostly light-weight birds whose hens do not go broody often.
The generalist breeds used in barnyards the world over are adaptable utility birds good at producing both meat and eggs. Though some may be slightly better for one of these purposes, they are usually called dual-purpose breeds.
Since the 19th century, poultry fancy, the breeding and competitive exhibition of poultry as a hobby, has grown to be a huge influence on chicken breeds. Many breeds have always been kept for ornamental purposes, and others have been shifted from their original use to become first and foremost exhibition fowl, even if they may retain some inherent utility. Since the sport of cockfighting has been outlawed in the developed world, most breeds first developed for this purpose, called game fowl, are now seen principally in the show ring rather than the cock pit.
|U denotes a breed primarily used for exhibition, but which is still used for utility purposes.|
|G denotes a game breed.|
Most large chicken breeds have a bantam counterpart, sometimes referred to as a miniature. Miniatures are usually one-fifth to one-quarter the size of the standard breed, but they are expected to exhibit all of the standard breed's characteristics. A true bantam has no large counterpart, and is naturally small. The true bantams include: