Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
Why Did the Chicken...Cross the Road?
A chicken is a chicken is a chicken, right? I mean, they all taste like chicken. Aside from their propensity for crossing roads, no one really thinks much about them, or do they? Below I have listed some of the most fantastical chicken breeds created by enthusiasts.
12 Interesting, Rare Chicken Breeds
- La Fleche
- Silkie Bantams
- Scots Dumpy
- Modern Game Bantams
- Cream Legbar
- Colorful Egg Breeds
- Naked Chickens
Sometimes being fortunate enough to be born, or hatched, into the upper classes can mean you're not just better off but fancy. Just like with dog breeds, royalty around the world have kept their own favorite chicken breeds which are too high maintenance for most of us to want to bother with. Take, for example, the Onagadori.
This spectacular bird was bred to decorate the Imperialist Garden of Japan. They look more or less like every other chicken except the roosters sport fantastically long tails which take years to grow and can exceed twenty feet in length! Of course, this comes at a cost. Since chickens are not accustomed to such flamboyant plumage, they actually take a lot of extra care to maintain.
Only the most pampered of roosters can keep the feathers of their tail from breaking and keep growing their beautiful train. This isn't to mention that they drag on the ground and need to be kept extra clean as well. They are indeed a spectacle to behold, but perhaps that's where they should stay. Onagadori probably aren't going to find too many people willing to primp them for their own vanity.
Polish chickens aren't actually from Poland. They're a very old Dutch breed, mostly bred these days as show birds or to add a little flair to a flock. They come in an assortment of colors and are always having a 1980s sort of hair day. They have an extra piece of bone that creates a dome on the top of their skull that pushes their head feathers outward. This gives the hens a lovely bouffant and the roosters a crazy swoosh of rock and roll hair.
They are a lively egg-laying breed that are sadly also kept as "hawk bait" by some to protect more expensive chickens. They make for particularly easy targets for predators because their crest often obscures their vision making them slow to respond to a threat: basically the fainting goat of the chicken world. But that's not to say they aren't also adored by a great number of enthusiasts just for their beauty, their plucky personality, or their delicious eggs!
3. La Fleche
There's nothing quite like a Satanic-looking chicken with a crazy name to match. La Fleche were originally bred in France for the dual purpose of providing meat and eggs, but that doesn't explain why they're most often jet-black birds with what appear to be fleshy little devil horns.
La Fleche do poorly in confinement, and the French pride themselves in their free-ranging chickens. This means these birds are aloof around people. Far from following their owners to hang around, these interesting little fowl like to secret themselves away on obscure corners of the property. I think they're plotting, but that's just my theory.
4. Silkie Bantams
Silkie Bantams are a very weird breed indeed. They hail from China, and although they might look like dust bunnies, they're actually chickens that maintain their chick-like down feathers their entire life. Even their little legs are hairy. At the end of each leg, they have not four but five toes.
In the U.S., they're mainly kept as pets because they're tiny and adorable, but they're also great "broodies" (hatching the eggs of other chickens who want nothing to do with motherhood) and lay a fair amount of tiny eggs on their own. In Asia, they're considered a delicacy because they have black skin, meat, and bones. Their blue-black meat has shown to have different nutritional properties than regular chickens; in particular, it has higher carnosine content. However, in the US, they have been crossbred a lot with other breeds, and only some strains retain black skin and bones.
Ever look at a Manx cat and think, "Gee, I wonder what a chicken would look like with that gene?" Here is your chance to find out! Rumpless chickens exist almost wholly within the Araucana breed. When they hatch, they are short of a few vertebrae, in particular the ones that would normally hold up tail feathers, so they end up looking more like a dodo bird than a chicken. And since they are hailed from Araucanas, they lay blue eggs.
6. Scots Dumpy
Never has there been a more tragically titled chicken than the Scots Dumpy. Are they the drunken hobos of the chicken world? Or is there some other reason their name is so unflattering? Well, Scots Dumpies have been around for hundreds of years. They're achondroplasic chickens, which means that they're dwarfed. Although their bodies are the same as most large fowl, sometimes exceeding seven pounds in weight, they only stand two inches off the ground. Of course, being such an ancient breed, they have lots of names: creepers, crawlies, and stumpies.
Their meat is considered more succulent because with short legs, they can't get as much exercise, which makes them more tender for the table and easier to catch! They are a breed going extinct because 25% of the pure Dumpy eggs (those that receive two copies of the dwarfing gene) will die before hatching.
7. Modern Game Bantams
Legs, legs, legs, that's what Modern Games have the most of. In fact, when paired with a Scots Dumpy, you can almost hear the faint sound of laughter. About 100 years ago these birds were bred for cockfighting, but that wasn't to last as cockfighting became illegal in England, their home country. They continued to be very popular in the US for fighting until Louisiana became the last state in the union to ban cockfighting in 2007.
As of 2019, it is also federally illegal in all US territories. By that time these birds had endeared themselves not just to the seedy world of cockfighting but also to show breeders and pet owners. It's at this point they started to be bred to be smaller, less aggressive, and come in every color under the sun. They are said to be especially personable and continue to be a very common show bird.
Seramas are the teacup puppies of the chicken world. They're sweet, lovable, and come in a wild assortment of colors, feather patterns, and feather types. They're one of the few breeds that allow frizzles (curly feathers) and silkied (down feathers) onto the show table. Not allowed on the show table, but still in existence, are also booted varieties with feathered feet.
They come in over 2,500 different colors and are so loved in their native Malaysia that Serama-only beauty pageants are a huge deal there. Because they are only the size of a pigeon, these tiny wonders make for great house pets both in Malaysia and abroad. They are the world's smallest breed of chicken and have been flaunting their stuff in the United States since they were first imported in 2001.
Indoor Serama Rooster
9. Cream Legbar
For many years, breeders of egg-laying breeds have struggled with the issue of having too many roosters. In the old days, roosters would be raised and eaten. Today there are not that many people that like to eat adult roosters, which have the rubbery consistency of shoe leather. Besides, raising roosters comes at a cost. If you intend to raise the roosters for meat, you still have to feed them for several months before you can figure out which ones are hens and which ones are roosters.
That's where Cream Legbars came onto the scene. They were created as a blue egg-laying breed that had one very special trait: the ability to sort at hatching. As you can see by the photo, the females have "chipmunk stripes," and the males are a lighter, more solid color. Now extra rooster chicks could be immediately slaughtered or made into pet food, and the only ones left would be the future egg layers. This has made them very popular in many homesteads. In the US, some strains lay blue eggs while others lay green, and sometimes a white one is hatched.
10. Colorful Egg Breeds
For some people, it's all about beautiful chickens. For others, it's all about beautiful eggs. Normally eggs come in white, brown, and sometimes brown with speckles, but this isn't enough for the owners of Easter Eggers. These Araucana mixes lay blue and sometimes green eggs if they are crossed with a brown egg layer.
And if you'd rather have chocolate-colored eggs, the Marans are probably where it's at. They produce dark brown eggs, and when you cross them to a blue egg layer, you get dark green "olive eggers." If speckled eggs are your thing, some lines of Welsummers can really add character to your egg basket. Pink eggs can be laid by a variety of breeds, including Plymouth Rocks (which is the first photo in this article.) There are rumors purple-tinted eggs are also being bred somewhere out there.
So we've seen chickens with devil horns and vaulted skulls, but what about a giant red rubber glove jutting from their head? Buttercups have to be some of the more extreme-looking chickens with their giant, fleshy, double combs. Their combs fuse together and form a cup on the top of their head. Now if only you could teach them to collect rainwater and pour it into a bowl, you might have something really useful there.
12. Naked Chickens
The ability to breed naked chickens has been around a long time, but no one's really bothered to do it because who wants a naked chicken?! That is until in 2002 when some mad scientists decided that bald is beautiful. Actually, they theorized that naked chickens would be easier to process and that they would thrive in hot and humid climates where feathered chickens suffered from heat exhaustion. So in Tel Aviv, these chickens came into existence, but they didn't last long.
Apparently, without feathers, the chickens cooked themselves alive, getting terrible sunburns. They also overheated quickly, having no feathers to shield them from the sun's rays. And if that wasn't enough, roosters lost all sense of balance when doing the hoochie-coochie with their hens. Obviously, this meant very few naturally bred bald babies. The project was abandoned, but featherless chickens still exist in the pet population. Some are created on purpose, but most are the result of unfortunate crossings. The lucky ones get sweaters knitted for them.
Bonus: Dong Tao "Dragon Chickens"
Since writing this article, a new bird has shown up on the block, or rather the Westernized internet. Dong Tao chickens are from Vietnam and are a closely held secret there where it is illegal to import them to any other country. These birds seem to derive from fighting breeds but seem to be mostly bred as a delicacy for moneyed individuals. It's their bizarre feet that garner such attention. They are thick, stumpy, covered in scales, and can grow as wide as a man's wrist. I'm honestly not sure what to make of them!
© 2012 Theophanes Avery
email@example.com on March 21, 2020:
Wonderful weird chickens
Charles B. on November 08, 2018:
You forgot the Dong Tao chicken from Vietnam :)
Chook on October 13, 2017:
Even like the ones in the 11 photo down?
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on September 24, 2017:
Plymouth Rocks come in all sorts of colors Chook... I had Silver Penciled Plymouth Rocks at one point. What color are you looking for?
Chook on September 22, 2017:
What is the chicken that looked like a colourful Plymouth-rock.
dkokie2 on February 17, 2017:
Since I live in a city can't have chickens because of zoning laws. Love farm fresh eggs. When I lived in Florida a friend from work had an office party at his place in the country. He had the cutest little batom rooster with feathers on its legs just above the feet (his name thus was Feather Legs). This batom was super friendly, would sit on a lap to be petted, had the run of the acreage AND THE HOUSE and once he became familiar with someone's car he would run up to greet you. My friend had no idea where this little darling came from. The little rooster just showed up on the property one afternoon and just took over the chicken coop which is saying a lot since there where fighting cocks and hens (not used for fighting just eggs), a colony of guinea fowl and two wild peacocks (male and female). This little rooster was best of buddies with my friend's Labrador Retriever and would often sleep or even ride on the dogs back. Sorry no pictures this was in the early 1980s so no YouTube or Facebook.
Richard Lindsay from California on March 31, 2016:
Very interesting post, I didn't know there was such a thing as a naked chicken. I am also interested in the Maran chickens and am going to look into them more. Thanks for posting such an interesting post.
William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on February 24, 2016:
Thank you for sharing this useful information. ;-)
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on February 21, 2016:
This is a very interesting article, and I loved that they have pictures and videos, too. I used to always eat chicken, but my doctor has put my husband on a fish diet which I ended up following too. It's a very good thing as I have been realizing that chickens have personalities, and from your article, all kinds of personalities, too. I hope some day to have a pet chicken.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on June 30, 2015:
Welcome to the world of chickens therenegadehippie! Be warned they are addictive!
I have to giggle at your story because I wouldn't have known either before I got into chickens. It's just one of those weird things. Silkies aren't the only ones with black meat and bones, there are a few other Asiatic breeds that have this trait - the one in the spotlight in the US right now would be the Ayam Cemani. They were only imported a few years ago and the goal is to have a bird that's pitch black in all features - bones, meat, skin, feathers, beak, tongue, you name it. One day old chicks are fetching $100 or more per bird! I suspect in a few years when we realize we're too grossed out by their meat to eat them they will decline drastically in popularity and their prices will be driven down. A pure black bird is cool... but that's really where it ends....
The Renegade Hippie from Southern California on June 30, 2015:
I have been interested in keeping chickens, so I have been reading different hubs about different types of chickens, how to care for them, etc., but I found your hub very interesting, let me explain...
I live in a town in California where the majority of the population is Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Sometimes I like to shop at a Korean/Chinese Market that sells these black birds. I thought they looked like chicken, but couldn't be because it was black (the label except the price is in Mandarin Chinese). My husband and I have sat staring at these birds, like what type of bird could this possibly be?
Well, apparently it is chicken, and I would have never know if I hadn't seen your hub and the photos. Silkie Bantams were one of the breeds I was interested in getting too (although for pets not food). How funny! Thanks for sharing.
Daphne D. Lewis from Saint Albans, West Virginia on January 16, 2015:
Collecting the blue eggs would make it seem like an Easter egg hunt. My friends' two daughters have begun selling the eggs at the barn where their mother boards horses and provides riding/training. I think the blue eggs would be great marketing venture for their new little business.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on January 11, 2015:
Sounds great. We're just getting back into chickens after moving to a farm. Exciting times. :) Considering Cream Legbars for those pretty blue eggs... because why not?
Thanks for stopping by! Happy Chickening! And Hubbing!
Daphne D. Lewis from Saint Albans, West Virginia on January 10, 2015:
A great collection of wild and crazy chickens! I love the Polish chickens and the Easter Eggers. The Onagadori are so gracefully beautiful they don't even look real. My friends have chickens, and Easter Eggers will be my recommendation to them for future purchases.
poetryman6969 on August 23, 2014:
would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own Googly eyes.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on July 01, 2014:
Silkies are considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures because of their black skin and blue/black meat and a recent study shows that they might be more nutritious to eat because of it. (You can read about the study here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-09/acs...
Of course this makes them repugnant to us Westerners as food but this has been the inspiration of quite a few funny stories. I remember one about an Australian family during WWII who had some silkies and decided to eat the roosters only to be horrified at its darkened carcass. Wish I had the link to that - but alas I lost it....
I was aware of the Ayam Cemani chickens (was awe-struck by those black combs!) but I had no idea they were that expensive. Makes sense I suppose, I believe they're fairly new imports to the states. Prices always come down in time. :)
Jennifer on July 01, 2014:
As far as the silkies go, I'm not sure they actually have black meat and bones, though mine do have black skin.
There is a Malaysian chicken called the Ayam Cemani that is entirely black throughout, except for its blood. They're a gorgeous bird and I encourage you to look them up. They also come with a hefty price tag: $2500 for a single adult chicken.
Rainbow Ranch Farms on June 12, 2014:
Pix #14 The bamboo paper plate holder filled with a variety of colorful eggs. Thank you for displaying our eggs-photo for the Easter Eggers and Olive Eggers description. We are thankful.
Debby Pobst from Mountain Home, ID on June 14, 2013:
Weeeeeeird! but very interesting I had no idea there were so many kinds of chicken!
Krista Schnee from Wichita, Kansas on June 10, 2013:
One of my Facebook friends is a big bird lover. :) She has Seramas, along with several other different types of birds.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on June 10, 2013:
Krista Schnee: How strange! You must know someone with Seramas? :)
peachpurple: Well, I suppose they are big enough to eat but I am guessing they are probably mostly bred for show and ornamental reasons these days, as so many other lovely little "pretty" breeds are. :)
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 09, 2013:
i love the japanese breed chicken. So majestic and elegant looking rooster. I would love to have it as a pet. Does Japanese people have them as pets or cook them? Awesome pictures. Just couldn't imagine people to eat these odd looking chicks. Voted up
Krista Schnee from Wichita, Kansas on June 09, 2013:
Very interesting! I'd heard of Seramas, but none of the others.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on May 30, 2013:
Mellissa: Indeed - if I had an Oonagadori it'd become quite the mudball every time it rained. No thank you!
idigwebsites: Indeed, the featherless gene can be created through natural breeding - there are of course naked neck breeds but the most naked fowl probably are a result of someone breeding frizzle (curly feathered) chickens to each other for too many generations which causes bald patches and probably complete nudity if you keep going. Frizzle is a dominant gene (meaning one parent can pass it on to their offspring despite the other parent being normal) so there's no real need to keep breeding frizzle to frizzle.... unless you want a bald chicken...
idigwebsites from United States on May 30, 2013:
I remember seeing an e-mail years ago (forwarded to me) about the type of chicken used in KFC... and at first I was quite skeptical because I thought they were just plucked chickens... and seeing this hub I realize that there is indeed a such type of breed.... crazy and mad scientists indeed!
Melissa A Smith from New York on May 30, 2013:
The oonagadori looks like it would become dirty pretty fast. Interesting hub!
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on October 08, 2012:
Well Polish don't have much meat to give (reaching a mere six pounds in life) but they still remain popular show birds. :) I have no idea if anyone bothers to eat the onagadoris. Thank you for the comment.
iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on October 08, 2012:
Onagadori and Polish -- they look too beautiful to become food in tables. They're pretty! But I pity the featherless fowls... no protection from the hot (maybe as well as cold too) climates, I'm afraid they die easily without their feathers on. Very very interesting hub... :)
Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania to Minnesota on August 25, 2012:
I feel bad for the featherless chickens. I have some Americaunas and a couple Polish (which someone gives me for free every year). It's true that the Polish chickens tend to get themselves caught by raccoons and foxes before the other birds do. Those headdresses limit their vision! They don't lay very well or get very meaty, either, so I guess they're useful as fodder ;). Nice hub, fun to read, voted up etc.
Craig Hartranft from Southeastern Pennsylvania on August 25, 2012:
This is some pretty freaky stuff. La Fleche looks like the Devil's chicken. I might have to think twice when I'm making grilled chicken breast or chicken cordon bleu. We have several neighbors who are into urban farming and have chickens either in a coop or roaming their backyards.
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on August 25, 2012:
Wow, who knew? I have never seen most of these so I am glad that I spotted the title and saw the Onagadori. It was deserved to be chosen for adornment of the Imperial Gardens.
The Polish definitely could rekindle some former hair dos of years gone by...how poofy that headress is.
This was fun and informative. I am glad I stopped by this morning.
Nira Perkins on August 24, 2012:
Those are so strange. The one in the first pic is actually really nice looking. I almost feel sorry for it though, it just seems like a tail or feathers like that would be tought to walk around with. Same with the naked one, I feel so sorry for it :( Neat and interesting Hub.
hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on August 24, 2012:
Wow! I have chickens, a couple of "Easter Egg" ones, and all these chickens look really cool. But I can't help but feel really sorry for that featherless one. Poor thing! Voted up.
Georgie Lowery from North Florida on August 24, 2012:
Definitely bizarre yet they look strangely... tasty.
The nekkid one reminds me of the song Tennessee Bird Walk.
Thank you for this interesting and amusing Hub!