There are so many wonderful breeds of chickens. Oh so very many. They seem to be as numerous as all of the types of heirloom tomatoes that have been treasured and passed down in generations and shared in small pockets of people who share a similar culture. Yes, chickens have been bred and sculpted much like beautiful tomatoes, and each breed has something that makes them very special. For the urban backyard, there are some breeds that fit in better than others. Keeping in mind that chickens are certainly individuals themselves, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite breeds of chickens that are best for backyard gardens that may help point you in a generalized direction for selecting your city backyard chicken flock. But again, this list isn’t exclusionary- individual birds won’t always fit the breed standard in personality.
Go Small with Bantams!
In the chicken breed world, bantams are often literally just regular chickens only bred to be tiny. Their small size make them ideal in small spaces and in small coops as they don’t need as much room as larger breeds. There are many types of bantams. Some bantams are breeds unto themselves, and are usually meant to be ornamental in nature. These ornamental bantams aren’t the best layers and often they’re flighty and hard to keep contained, as well as not being the healthiest of chickens. But there are bantams that are still excellent layers that are pretty to look at, and are happy living in a small backyard or coop with a run. Here are our favorite bantam breeds for the urban back yard:
Bantam Barred Rocks: Barred Rocks are standard chickens on many homesteads all around the world. They’re healthy birds that are really hardy, they lay very well and are very mild tempered and quiet. Even as standard sized birds they do fine in runs and in coops. But the bantam Barred Rock is all of this only in a teeny little black and white package. They still lay plenty of light brown eggs, which are smaller than the standard Barred Rock but they come just as often.
Bantam Orpingtons: Just like the similarities of the standard Barred Rock and bantam Barred Rock, banty Orps are nothing but small packages of the larger version. Orpingtons are another standard breed globally and much loved for their good egg laying, hardy, healthy, and docile nature. They come in many colors- from a light tan of the Buff Orpington, to solid black, and many other colors and patterns. They’re also adorable chickens, being supremely fluffy and quite adorable.
Bantam Easter Eggers: Easter Eggers aren’t actually an established breed persay- they’re a mix of many breeds of chickens that result in hardy, easy to care for chickens that lay eggs of many colors- usually green and blue. They all look different from one another, and often they have super fluffy cheeks making them quite adorable. Easter Eggers and Bantam Easter Eggers are similar in that they’re decent layers of eggs (of fun egg shell colors), are healthy, very well suited to the cold weather with their small combs, and are calm and friendly.
Standard Chicken Breeds for Small Spaces
And of course, there are some standard sized chickens that are happy in a backyard too. Along with the three bantam breeds we’ve recommended in standard size, here are a few more to consider for your backyard flock:
Dominques: The Dominque is an older heritage breed that resembles the Barred Rock in coloring, as its filled head to toe with black stripes. One distinguishing and obvious difference however, the Dominique has a different type of comb than the Barred Rock. The Barred Rock will always have a single comb, which the Dominque will always have a rose comb, which is flatter on the head and smaller overall, with a more warty shape and no points that poke up. Dominiques are very docile chickens and do just fine in a closed run or space. They are also excellent layers of eggs, and they lay well even in the cold of winter.
Australorps: This chicken hails from the Land Down Under (Australia) and was bred down there to be a calm, friendly bird that would easily fill a kitchen basket with eggs. They come in many colors globally, but in the US they are most commonly available in solid black. They are healthy chickens and do fine in close captivity. And, they’re especially quiet.
Good ‘ol Leghorn: The Leghorn is the breed, or the base breed for most commercial egg production facilities. Leghorns are smaller chickens with an absolutely remarkable ability to lay every single day for the first two years of their lives. Often, these eggs are very large too. They’re white shelled, and of good quality if you offer them a good quality diet. Leghorns aren’t loud chickens, and they do fine in smaller runs and coops. They aren’t as personable as some of the other breeds mentioned here however, as they scare easily. And, in colder climates, their large floppy combs sometimes become a frostbite risk. And, because of their remarkable capability to lay like egg machines, they sometimes experience health issues with their reproductive systems and they don’t lay as reliably as long as heritage breeds. But overall they are healthy birds that lay a LOT of eggs. Plus, their solid white bodies are pretty to look at.
Welsummer: The Welsummer is an older breed developed by the Dutch to be another good, docile, and healthy egg laying breed. They lay really dark brown eggs with thick shells in abundance, and have beautiful feathering of pretty golds and fawns. They are easier to find now from hatcheries. People who have them really love their Welsummers and often switch their flocks over to just the single breed.
Whatever breed you choose is up to you. We hope our suggestions have you thinking about what makes a good urban backyard chicken breed, and you’re able to make your choice as easy as possible. Be sure to check out our selection of DIY chicken coops for small backyards.