Chicken breed identification: It’s all in the details January 11, 2013
At My Pet Chicken, we get lots of questions from folks who would like assistance with chicken breed identification. We can often help… but sometimes we just aren’t given enough information to provide an educated guess!
So, be sure to provide details. A picture is always helpful, but keep in mind that it will have to show these details, or else you’ll face the self-same problem with chicken breed identification as you’d have if you provided an incomplete verbal description. Even when we can see your chicken’s legs in the photo, for example, their color might not be apparent. In some cases, the colors in the photo may not accurately reflect what your chicken looks like in real life.
So, help us out with some additional information.
Characteristics used in chicken breed identification
It’s all in the details. Here are the specifics we need in order to make a good guess about what breed your chicken is:
- Feather color (buff, splash, red, black)
- Feather pattern (laced, spotted, spangled, pencilled, etc.)
- Comb type (single, pea, rose, etc.)
- Leg color (slate, willow, yellow, white, black, etc.)
- Skin color (yellow, white, black)
- Number of toes (4 or 5?)
- Feather leggedness
- Unusual feather texture (silkied, frizzled)
- Egg color laid (white, brown, blue, green, chocolate, etc.)
- Large fowl or bantam
- Body shape and other factors ( tail length, tail angle, upright carriage, naked neck, etc.)
Because so many chicken breeds can be superficially described the same way, we need a lot of information to make a reasonable guess. For instance, when we get an email asking for chicken breed identification help, but the only detail provided is that the hen is black… well , it isn’t a question we can answer with any reasonable assurance of accuracy. There are numerous breeds that can be black or mostly black, including
On the other hand, just knowing the comb type can help narrow the field considerably and help with chicken breed identification. For example, a single comb would narrow the above list to four breeds (Jersey Giants, Australorps, Black Copper Marans, Cochins). Lack of feathered legs would narrow the list to two (Jersey Giants and Australorps). And knowing the skin is white rather than yellow would mean that the most reasonable guess would be that you have an Australorp. (Jersey Giants are also much different in shape and size than Australorps! But that difference might not be apparent, depending on the age of the bird.)
Even with with a photo showing the whole bird, sometimes we can’t be sure. For instance, the photo below is of one of my Black Copper Marans hens. But if I didn’t know that, it might be difficult to guess. In real life, her hackles are a beautiful coppery color. That’s not readily apparent in the photo. Also, her legs are feathered, although rather sparsely. You can’t see that in the photo, either. Her legs are dark in color… but if I didn’t know, I would have to wonder if her legs looked dark in the photo simply because she was slightly in silhouette, with the light behind her, or if it was an accurate reflection of the color of her legs.
In other words, it would be possible to guess, just judging from this photo, that this hen could be an Australorp, too… but we would be wrong
Additionally, there are sometimes other rarer breeds that might fit the description you’ve given, but which are less common. For instance, Black Orpingtons wouldn’t have been eliminated by any of the tests above. However, since black is a relatively rare plumage color for an Orpington in this country, it’s not a guess we would consider likely.
Finally, all our guesses may be for naught; you could have a mixed breed chicken. Unless you want to have DNA testing done, no guess will be absolute!
Do you have any chickens you need help identifying? You can ask about them below in the comments–be sure to give every detail! If you have any pictures, you can post them to our Facebook page and ask about them there.