Five Weird and Uncommon Chicken Breeds
Not your average chicken...
Chickens are a bit more varied than you may think. Their differences certainly extend beyond, "This one's red," and "This one's white." Through selective breeding over thousands of years, we've developed chickens that are awesome egg-layers, chickens that grow large and are great for meat birds, and chickens that are pretty darn good at doing both of those things.
But what about weird-looking chickens - ones that might actually make better pets than farm animals? Well, as you probably already guessed, we've got those, too!
These guys and gals may not be so great at laying eggs, and they might not get big enough to eat in less than five months, but they are interesting to look at!
Here's an informative list of just five of these "special" breeds of chicken. Enjoy!
Egg-Laying Frequency: 3-5 days
Egg Size: Small
Hen Size: 2-3 lbs liveweight
Concerns: Can't fly, like, at all
Sometimes spelled "Silky," these chickens almost look like they have hair instead of feathers. Don't be deceived though, those really are feathers - they're just particularly fluffy!
These weirdos really do make excellent pets, as they are very docile chickens. I might say that they're stupid, but that's probably just my calousness talking! Fluffy and cute as they are, they're no match for foxes or raccoons. These small chickens won't offer you much in the way of dinner, either, and the hens lay infrequently compared to other breeds.
In addition to their exceptionally puffy plumage, Silkie chickens are weird because their flesh is blue and they have five toes on each foot (like the Dorking chicken). Most chickens only have four toes (but that's kind of weird all by itself, right?).
What's it good for? Again, I guess I can make fun of these silly birds all I want, but they are so darn cute! The hens also have a propensity to go broody, so maybe there's room in a practical flock of chickens for a Silkie to be a mother hen to the eggs of maternally-challenged chickens like Leghorns. In fact, the Silkie is often used to hatch the eggs of waterfowl such as geese and ducks.
Egg-Laying Frequency: Once per week, maybe
Egg Size: Medium
Hen Size: 4 lbs liveweight (standard-sized hen)
Concerns: Not suitable for cold climates
I don't think these birds will be rising out of the ashes - it's more likely that they'll freeze to death! Those long tails might be beautiful, but unfortunately they render these chickens unsuitable for cold weather because the tail feathers can freeze and kill the bird.
The Phoenix is a rather old breed of chicken, believed to have originated in Japan where they were valued for ornamental purposes. Further selective breeding by Europeans resulted in the chicken called the Phoenix that we see today.
These pretty chickens come in a couple different color varieties, including gold, black, and silver; you can purchase them standard-sized or as "mini chickens," called bantams. Aside from having a nice-looking chicken running around, I can't say these birds have much of a purpose - they're not known to be very sociable, either.
That being said, they are so interesting-looking, I have to admit that even I am tempted to get one.
What's it good for? Well, they're pretty to look at! Beyond that, I can't say. If you have some experience with a practical purpose for the Phoenix, feel free to share what you know in the comments section of this article!
Egg-Laying Frequency: 3-7 days
Egg Size: Small
Hen Size: 3-4 lbs liveweight
Concerns: Limited vision; not cold weather hardy
This weird breed can be distinguished by the fine crest of feathers that the chickens sport on their heads. Roosters and hens both have the crests; the roosters typically have longer, fancy tail feathers.
Despite the name, it's not generally believed that these chickens originated in Poland, but rather in the Netherlands. Whatever their origins, they've been bred for hundreds of years (at least) to maintain those somewhat silly-looking feathered crests.
Unfortunately for the Polish, that pretty head-dress tends to impair his vision. Predators like foxes and hawks have an easier time picking off the Polish chickens simply because they can't see as well as other birds.
The feathered crest of the Polish is also susceptible to freezing during cold weather, which can result in the death of the chicken.
Through no fault of my own, I happen to have a few of these "weirdos" running around the farm. The hens lay very infrequently, and the eggs are pretty small. The roosters are also relatively small, and I'm sorry to report that from what I can tell, most of the attempts that they make to breed with the larger hens only result in a frustrated Polish rooster.
What's it good for? Here's two good things about the Polish: They're kind of cool to look at (obviously) and the roosters are the most aggressive roosters that I have; they even attack my dog. This means that when Mr. Fox comes prowling, these Polish roosters tend to make bait of themselves, which suits me just fine because I might not lose a more "valuable" chicken.
Bad news for Mr. Polish, though.
Egg-Laying Frequency: Determined by breed
Egg Size: " "
Hen Size: " "
Concerns: Curly feathers can break or be damaged easily
The Frizzle actually isn't so much a breed of chicken as it is a type of chicken. "Frizzled" feathers, that is, feathers that curl out instead of laying flat against the body, are a genetic trait.
This means that virtually any breed of chicken can produce the Frizzle variety. In fact, the genetic trait that allows for curly feathers is actually dominant, so if you breed a Frizzle to a Non-Frizzle, you're likely to get Frizzle offspring!
The Frizzle was mentioned in history as far back as 1600, though the birds may have existed before that. Here in the 21st century, it's certainly not difficult to find these chickens and purchase some. The most popular Frizzle is probably the Cochin; they also come in Barred Rock, Leghorn, Polish, and other breeds.
What's it good for? Because the Frizzle is a variety and not a breed, the traits of a "frizzled" chicken will be determined by the breed and not by her curly feathers. I'm not aware of anything that suggests that being a Frizzle has any effect on a chicken's ability to produce eggs or to grow meaty and tasty. However, the curly feathers of the Frizzle variety can break or be damaged more easily than normal chicken feathers, so a little extra care may be needed for these birds.
Egg-Laying Frequency: 3-5 days
Egg Size: Small-Medium
Hen Size: 3-4 lbs liveweight
Concerns: Critically endangered, therefore limited gene pool
These chickens originated in France, but that's not really what makes them weird. Their fluffy beards somewhat resemble those of the Araucana chicken, and their feathered crests bring to mind the Polish.
Don't mistake these guys and gals for a cross-breed, though; they're a rather old breed of bird, dating way back in France to before the 18th century - in fact, they're France's oldest chicken breed. They were first formally described around 1850, when livestock breed distinction became popular in the first place.
Originally a dual-purpose breed with some skill for producing both eggs and meat, the modern version of the Crevecoeur doesn't get very large and doesn't lay as frequently as some other breeds.
What's it good for? These French chickens are considered a rare breed, and are usually kept by breeders for show purposes. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) lists the conservation status of the Crevecoeur as "critical." The chicken's status as an endangered animal might be enough to convince some backyard farmers to keep a few around. Personally, I agree with any practice that helps to preserve genetic diversity in livestock animals, no matter how "weird" those diverse genes may be.