When you decide to raise your own backyard chickens, you should choose the healthiest breeds available. Healthy chicken breeds are those that can live long lives even in extreme weather and various environments.
Healthy chicken breeds are often referred to as “hardy” chickens, meaning that they can withstand difficulties and unfavorable weather conditions.
The healthiest chicken breeds tend to be some of the most popular breeds thanks to their hardiness. Some of these most healthy chicken breeds that have stood the test of time are called heritage breeds. (source)
Heritage chicken breeds are known for their long lifespans living outdoors and their ability to adapt to different climates.
Here are 13 of the healthiest chicken breeds, many of which are heritage breeds that have truly stood the test of time.
1. Plymouth Rock
An extremely popular breed in the late 19th century, the Plymouth Rock breed is now considered a heritage chicken breed.
Not only are they exceptionally hardy chickens by nature, Plymouth Rock chickens are also great egg producers and a great source of quality meat when needed.
This means they are considered dual-purpose chickens, able to produce large numbers of eggs and serve as an acceptable meat source.
Plymouth Rock chickens are calm, black and white chickens that have a barred pattern, which simply means that they have alternating stripes of color throughout their feathers.
They do very well in cold climates, adapting easily and finding warmth when needed. Plymouth Rock chickens tend to be an extremely healthy chicken that can live a long, happy life!
2. Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red chicken breed was first recognized in 1904 and since then, it has become known as a well-known hardy and healthy breed.
Arguably one of the best dual-purpose egg layers, Rhode Island Reds can lay up to 200 brown eggs annually.
These gorgeous deep brownish-red chickens can grow up to 8 pounds and can withstand harsh weather, especially extremely cold temperature. Their reputation as a healthy chicken breed continues to hold up even today.
You will almost always see the Rhode Island Red breed at local farm supply stores when chick season rolls around, unless they are already sold out!
Ancona chickens are stunning black chickens that have mottled white spots, which are white tips on some of their feathers.
Reintroduced in American in 1906, the Ancona breed quickly gained momentum and became an extremely popular breed of its time.
It is a heritage chicken breed that is known to produce excellent egg layers that are very hardy in various environments.
Anconas have a reputation for being a little flighty, but that is a good thing when it comes to health. They can fly short distances when needed to keep away from predators and to find the food sources in harder to reach areas.
This flightiness helps them avoid injury and allows them to stay well fed on forage. Both factors contribute to their longer, healthier life span as well as their status as a longstanding heritage chicken breed. (source)
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Old rooster at the ranch. Hope to get more chicken s this spring for egg laying. We used to have all sorts of breeds from leghorns to aracunas, orpingtons, wyandotes, silkies, polish and we had every egg color under the sun. Its a fun hobby and healthy food too. #Roosters #chickens #hens #leghornchicken #orpingtons #wyandottes #favorellesrooster #chicks #eggs #sexlinks #polishchicken #birds #Farmfreshchicken #fresheggs #coloredeggs #broodyhens #henandchicks #aracunas #breakfast #cockadoodle
The Favorelle chicken breed was brought to America at the turn of the 20th century and over the years, this chicken breed has established its reputation as a healthy, hardy chicken.
In the United States, Favorelles are usually white or salmon-colored with feathered feet and toes as well as adorable beards.
Favorelles are a dual-purpose heritage chicken breed that produces up to 180 eggs annually. Not only are they great egg layers, they are also able to withstand cold temperatures thanks to their thick feathering. (source)
Leghorn chickens are active foragers that only stop moving to sleep or lay eggs. The leghorn breed is exceptionally hardy in various climates and tend to stay healthy throughout their lifetime.
These two traits helped establish the breed as a heritage chicken breed.
Leghorns are medium-sized chickens that were breed for a combination of hardiness, longevity, functionality, and appealing appearance. They are prolific egg layers and, in some cases, can lay up to 300 eggs annually! (source)
The Ameraucana breed was not established in the United States until the 1970s, so while they are not a heritage breed, they still have a reputation for hardiness.
They can come in a variety of colors including blue, black and splash. Ameraucanas are distinctive in that they must have beards and muffs to be a true breed standard.
Ameraucanas are good egg layers, producing gorgeous bluish-green medium-sized eggs most days of the week.
They do extremely well in cold climates, usually staying rather healthy throughout their lives.
Ameraucana chickens are friendly, hardy, active and extremely intelligent, a combination of factors that help them live long lives.
The Delaware chicken breed was created in America in 1940 by farmers who bred Plymouth Rock roosters to New Hampshire hens. The result was a dual-purpose chicken that produces lots of eggs and is a great source of meat.
Delaware chickens are hardy birds that do well in various weather conditions.
Delaware chickens have stout bodies with large, muscular legs that help keep them safe of predators and out of harm’s way! They are usually white with black peppering on their necks and black tail feathers.
Their body compositions, friendliness and hardiness make them healthy, strong birds that often live long, productive lives. (source)
Considered America’s first original breed of chicken, the Dominique chicken breed was created sometime before the year 1750. This is a heritage chicken breed and its popularity once dissipated almost to the point of nonexistence. The Dominique breed seems to always make a comeback thanks to its hardiness and ability to remain healthy despite harsh weather.
Dominique chickens have a black and white barred pattern and are considered a dual-purpose bird laying upwards of 275 brown eggs annually.
The barred pattern on their feathers makes them harder for predators to spot, allowing them to live longer, healthier lives.
Dominique chickens can easily survive in hot environments and their uniquely close-feathered plumage keeps them warm in the winter. (source)
First introduced in England around 1846, the Andalusian chicken breed is a heritage breed that has withstood the test of time.
Another dual-purpose heritage chicken breed, the Andalusian chicken sports gorgeous black, bluish, and white colored feathers.
This breed is a born forager and is extremely hardy, able to withstand harsh weather.
Andalusian chickens are considered a top egg layer, laying high numbers of white eggs annually.
They tend to be healthy thanks to their active nature and hardiness, especially in cold weather and harsh climates. Andalusian chickens thrive best foraging for food out in the open range as opposed to being cooped up all day. (source)
10. Jersey Giants
These stunning, often solid black chickens were officially considered a breed in 1921. Jersey Giants are dual-purpose chickens that are considered hardy and extremely healthy, even in harsh climates.
They can produce decent amounts of extra-large white eggs annually, more on average than other large chicken breeds.
Jersey Giants excel at being a great source of meat thanks to their large body size. They are great foragers, extremely calm, and their giant frames help them live longer, healthier lives than some smaller chickens.
Jersey Giants are the biggest of all the purebred chicken breeds of today!
This dual-purpose heritage breed of chickens has stunning deep red feathers. The Buckeye chicken breed can live in a large variety of climates, especially cold weather.
They prefer open areas that allow them to forage and move around freely, a trait that keeps them healthy and active throughout their lives.
Buckeyes are good egg layers, producing medium-sized brown eggs. They are friendly chickens, not only to people but also to each other, limiting the amount of injuries they experience over their lifetimes.
They are deep red in color and should not be confused with Rhode Island Reds, even though their colors are similar. (source)
The Brahma chicken breed is an extremely healthy and hardy heritage chicken breed that has been around since before the 1850s. They are large chickens that can be light, dark or buff.
Brahma chickens can stay healthy in cold climates thanks to their thick feathering and can thrive even when confined to chicken coops.
They are well-known in northern America thanks to their hardiness in cold weather. Brahmas are excellent egg layers, producing large brown eggs but they are also a great meat source, making them a true dual-purpose chicken. They usually live long and healthy lives in dry, cool weather. (source)
Established by Australian Orpington breeders, hence the name, the Australorp heritage chicken breed was brought to America in the 1920s.
They are hardy, medium-sized solid black chickens that lay large eggs prolifically, sometimes 1 almost every day of the year!
Australorps were bred specifically to incorporate hardiness and healthiness, two traits that are still desired by backyard and commercial farmers.
They continue to be a popular breed found in many backyard coops across the country thanks to their longevity and exceptional egg production! (source)
5 Tips to Keep Chickens Healthy
- Feed only poultry-specific pellets and scratch.
- Make sure they have adequate shelter in all weather conditions.
- Provide chickens constant access to fresh, clean water.
- Keep chickens safe from predators using fencing or locked coops.
- Act quickly if you notice health-related changes in your chickens.