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Chicken matching

Finally the decision is made; we are going to keep chickens! The whole family has agreed but each member does have his or her preferences when it comes to the breed. How does this family find a breed that meets all the individual needs, because just once the most suitable breed is found, we can proceed with the purchase of a coop with all the supplies and the fencing off of the run. Then the chickens can come.

The choice is huge

In a previous blog we learned that there are hundreds of breeds of chickens, each with unique breed-specific characteristics. The art of matching is to find a breed of chicken that incorporates all of our needs. If we are looking for a very quiet (cuddly) chicken that lays at least 320 eggs a year and (thus) does not get broody with a spectacular appearance then we will be disappointed because that breed does not exist. So we will have to tussle and prioritize those characteristics that we find most important and that will differ per (aspiring) chicken keeper. So it’s great that there are so many different breeds but at the same time it makes choosing so difficult.

Cuddly chickens

Actually chickens are not really cuddle animals, but they do love attention (and tasty treats like raisins or mealworms) and then quickly accept that they are often picked up and put on your lap. In general, the larger heavy breeds with a lot of down, and the appearance of a football, are also calm people-oriented chickens, they are trusting and therefore easy to tame. Moreover, they are bad fliers that stay well behind a low fence. On the downside, such breeds are not as good layers, laying about half the number of eggs a true laying hen produces. In addition, they are often and easily broody (and not always easy to brood-off) which can also be a plus for those who enjoy having chicks on a regular basis, they also tend to be very good clucks. Breeds that meet these characteristics are Brahmas, Cochin’s, Wyandottes and Orpingtons.

Double Purpose

A large group of breeds represents the medium-purpose type. Often these breeds were bred in the past as utility chickens, they provided eggs and meat for farms in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Examples are the Barnevelder, Welsummer, Twents, North Holland, Australorp and New Hampshire. They are quiet affectionate chickens with good production but more lively and active than the “cuddle” chickens above.


For those who really go for egg production there is the Leghorn. This breed of Italian origin is also the starting point of the many leghybrids ( crosses) that we find today on the laying farms and which are also eligible. These lighter chickens are very lively, can also fly reasonably well and do not become broody, with the necessary investment of time and patience as well as mealworms they can be made reasonably tame. These characteristics also suit the land fowl, although their egg production lags behind that of the laying hen, they are real farmyard chickens; hardened, somewhat shy and in appearance they still show a lot of resemblance to their ancestor the Bankiva. Examples are the Dutch fowl, the Assendelfts fowl, the Lakenvelder and the Friesian fowl. These are all breeds that fall under the Rare Breeds of Domestic Animals and are worth considering for that reason alone. Also among our living heritage are the so-called ‘Herenhoenders’; old Dutch breeds that used to be kept in stately homes and often have a beautiful appearance such as the ‘Kraaikop’, the ‘Uilebaard’ and the ‘Brabanter’.


Knowing that we mention only a fraction of all chicken breeds, the Silky Fowl should not go unmentioned. A lightweight breed with very special characteristics; they are hairy (there is a part missing from the feathers that makes them look like hair) and therefore can fly poorly, they have blue skin, blue flesh and blue head ornaments, in addition to leg feathering, a beard and a crest and they are five-toed. Their calm, affectionate and curious nature makes them very suitable for children. Silky grouse (and crossbreeds of them) are widely used as clucks (natural incubators) to incubate eggs of all kinds of chicken breeds and pheasant-like birds, as they are often broody and thereby good mothers.

We have deliberately limited ourselves to the large fowls in this blog. If space to keep chickens is limited then bantams are more appropriate. Broadly speaking, the characteristics of bantam breeds correspond to the large (original) version of these breeds.

When choosing breeds, the character of a breed will play an important role. That character is indeed breed-bound (the so-called genotype) but can also be formed (the phenotype). With the necessary attention, patience and a calm attitude, leghorns can become tame chickens.

Breed character care eggs broody behavior size Special features
Brahma + + + – + – + + + + +
Northern Dutch fowl + + + + + + +
Barnevelder + + + + + – +
Hybrid laying hen + + + + – – + – –
Leghorn + – + + + + –
Fries Hoen + – + + + – + –
Silkie + + + + – + + + +
Wyandotte bantam + + + + + + +
Dutch bantam + + + + – –
Serama + + + – + – + – – – + –


Brahma (Orpington, Yersey Giant, Wyandotte, Cochin)
Barnevelder (Welsummer, Twents hen, New Hampshire, Australorp, Sussex, crow head, Chaams Hoen)
Friesian Gull ( Groninger Gull, Drents Hoen, Hollands Hoen, Assendelfts Hoen, Lakenvelder)
Wyandotte bantam (Cochin bantam, Australorp bantam, Amrock bantam)
Dutch bantam (Sebright, Ned. sablefoot bantam, Java bantam)
Character: + + (calm, tame quickly) – – (nervous, flighty)
are: + + (low requirements, hardy) – – (more sensitive e.g. due to different feathering, leg feathering, exotic)
Eggs: + + (many > 200/yr) – – – (few, < 100/yr)
Broodiness: + + (often and prolonged broody) – – (rarely or never broody)Size: + + (heavy breed > 4 kg) – – (light bantam breed < 750 grams)

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