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Meet 10 Rare Breeds You Should Consider Keeping

  1. Catie79
    There are some breeds everyone is familiar with (Orpingtons, Silkies, Barred Rocks) and some breeds that just don't get a lot of air time. Some of these breeds have become rare and are in danger of disappearing without some attention from people willing to help maintain the breed. Hopefully, if more people are introduced to them, some more people will give these chickens the attention they need.

    Please, if getting a rare breed with an eye toward breeding, start with a quality breeder when possible. Check the breeder's references and make sure everything is on the level. Networking with breeders will also give you an invaluable resource to help you on your way. Many of these breeds are offered by the big hatcheries, but the quality is not the same. If you're not looking to breed and only want a couple of pullets for your mixed flock and want no roosters, you will probably find it easier to go through a hatchery.

    Most breeders have a waiting list and it can take time and effort to find your starting stock. Each of these breeds has a club that will be happy to help you find a breeder and help you get started with their chosen breed.

    Below are ten breeds that are considered Threatened or Critical by the Livestock Conservancy. These ten breeds are also considered appropriate for novice owners and are generally even tempered, though that can vary from line to line. One of these ten breeds may be exactly what you're looking for in your chickens: solid layers, tasty roasters, or charming company.

    Status: Critical

    Photo courtesy of http://www.livestockconservancy.org/

    A gentle, winter hardy breed originally developed in Canada. It lost favor when production poultry took over and nearly went extinct. The breed is making a slow come back with the help of some devoted breeders. This is a fantastic bird for the extreme cold with a cushion comb and small wattles that aren't prone to frostbite. It's a good winter layer and makes a nice table bird at 22 - 24 weeks. The APA recognizes the white and partridge varieties. It's worth noting that the white and partridge varieties were developed from separate stock and by separate people, so they have some differences. The white was developed first in Quebec starting in 1908 and was admitted to the APA in 1921. The partridge variety was developed later in Edmonton and accepted by the APA in 1935.

    Chantecler Fanciers International

    Status: Threatened


    An ancient breed that is mentioned in Roman times, the Dorking is an elegant breed that has always been considered gourmet fare. they have five toes on each foot as opposed to the usual four. This breed was recognized by the APA in 1874. This is another breed that lost favor when fast growing broilers appeared on the scene and the once popular bird is now struggling to hang on. With a long, low posture and short legs, these birds are distinctive and give the impression of heft. All accounts agree that the Dorking is a docile bird that is easy to work around. Along with the qualities as a table bird, the Dorking is also a winter layer, though egg production can vary between lines. The APA recognizes the silver gray, colored, and red in single comb and the white in rose comb. The cuckoo is a recently accepted variety that allows both single comb and rose comb.

    Dorking Breeders Club

    Status: Threatened

    Photo courtesy of www.ansi.okstate.edu

    The black Langshan was originally bred in China. This ancient breed was first admitted to the APA in 1883. It is a broad, strong bird that also produces very dark brown eggs. This breed produces an excellent roaster and is noted for it's very white meat. This is also a docile breed that is known to go broody. The APA recognizes black, white, and blue Langshans. All of the varieties feature a line of feathers running down the outside of the bird's shanks, an easy way to identify this handsome breed. They were originally bred for warm climates and is the Asiatic breed best suited for heat, but can tolerate cold (single combs are prone to frostbite).

    American Langshan Club

    Status: Critical

    Photo courtesy of history.org

    The Nankin is a true bantam, which means that there is no large fowl equivalent. There's evidence of the breed being in England by the 1500's and possibly earlier and is thought to be one of the oldest bantams. This is a friendly, broody breed that is used to raise game chicks in England on small farms. The breed's skill with raising chicks may very well have been what saved the breed when it fell out of favor. Easy to tame with cocks that are generally agreeable, they're also noted for their ability to fly at a young age. Their eggs can be difficult to hatch artificially and are better left with the hen. There have even been reports of the cocks helping out with raising the chicks. The breed was accepted by the APA in 2012 and only comes in one color, the distinctive (but challenging) chestnut with slate legs. They have both a single and rose comb variety.

    Nankin Club of America

    Status: Threatened

    Photo courtesy of http://www.livestockconservancy.org/

    The Lakenvelder is an old German breed going back to about the 1830's. it was admitted to the APA in 1939. This is a breed known primarily for their egg laying abilities and their beautiful black and white plummage. The heads, hackles, and tails are rich black with the remainder a pure white. The red single comb and long tail finish the elegant picture. They lay lots of white eggs and are known to be non-setters that are also excellent foragers. This is not a breed for someone looking for a chicken to cuddle, they're an aware, wary breed well suited for taking care of themselves in the open. This is a good choice for someone that wants a flock of layers that can go outside and forage while taking cover when necessary.

    Status: Threatened

    Photo courtesy of: www.grit.com

    The Java is often noted as being a wonderful homestead bird. They're great foragers that make a nice table bird while laying a decent number of brown eggs. With roosters coming in at 9 1/2 pounds, they're one of the larger breeds available. They're slower maturing than modern broilers, but noted for their flavor. Both the black and mottled varieities were admitted to the APA in 1883 while the bird was quite popular, but like many other breeds, it fell out of favor when faster growing birds became available. This is a docile, easy to live with bird that can go broody.

    Java Breeders of America

    Status: Critical

    Photo courtesy of http://www.livestockconservancy.org/

    For fanciers that like the barred pattern and a calm deameanor, consider the Holland. The breed was developed to offer a dual purpose bird that also layed white eggs. The results was a single comb bird with a barred pattern that can rustle up a significant portion of it's own food when given access to free range or pasture. This is a hardy bird well suited to homestead life. The APA admitted both the barred and white varieties in 1949, though it is thought that the less popular white variety may now be extinct. This is a breed that is very rare and finding stock will be a challenge, though it's value as a homestead bird may make it worth the trouble.

    Status: Threatened

    Photo courtesy of: http://www.americanbuckeyeclub.blogspot.com/2014/09/eastern-ohio-poultry-association.html

    The Buckeye is a success story in the making with the attention of breeders and concerted work across many groups bringing the breed back from the brink. The handsome red bird that was designed to be a dual purpose bird back in the 1890's has rebounded and is currently at Threatened status. It's still not a common bird, but with it's good size and winter hardy traits, it's one worth considering. The pea comb is not prone to frost bite and the birds are well feathered. The breed is known to be friendly and very active foragers. They lay brown eggs and serve as a good table bird. They only come in one color, a distinctive deep red.

    American Buckeye Club

    Status: Critical

    Photo courtesy of: http://www.livestockconservancy.org/

    Back before the introduction of the commercial broiler breeds, the Delaware was extremely popular. It was a short period of time, but the Delaware was the king of the meat birds. After the introduction of the Cornish X birds, the Delaware fell out of favor. It is now a very rare bird that is still an excellent meat bird. Some lines are reaching production in sixteen weeks without the health problems seen in the faster growing lines. The Delaware is also a good layer of brown eggs and can go broody at times. This is a docile breed that comes in an attractive pattern similar to Columbian that can be difficult to perfect. They were admitted into the APA in 1952.

    The Delaware Club of America

    White Faced Black Spanish
    Status: Critical

    Photo courtesy of www.ansi.okstate.edu

    Arguably the oldest breed in the Mediterranean class, the Spanish is a distinctive, handsome bird well suited for the hotter climates in the world. It's easy to spot this breed, as they are the only breed that has the distinctive white face. Combined with the red comb and beatle black feathers, they are a striking sight. They carry several similarities with the Leghorn breed, a fellow member of the Mediterranean class. The breed is noted for it's laying abilities, producing large numbers of white eggs. These are active, non-setting birds. They can be flighty and are not suited for a situation that involves a lot of cuddling, but they often improve with age. Some lines are noted to be delicate, but this varies according to the line. Lines that have been pushed for the white face may have lost some of their hardiness.

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  1. krisPchik
    This is a wonderful thread and I intend to follow and study on these critical and threatened breeds.
      The Angry Hen likes this.
  2. The Angry Hen
    I didn't know Delawares are rare! Wow!
    I have them! Good article.
  3. Rabbitlover1
    Love this treed! But does any one no where i can get rare breeds that are not to $$ in middle tn? I'm looking for good layers(5 eggs a week and up) that are friendly. thanks!
      The Angry Hen likes this.
  4. gracies 4 girls
    I was looking for the white faced black Spanish but ended up with 2 Java's. great birds.
      The Angry Hen likes this.
  5. LeviS
    Dorkings *sigh*, someday you will be mine!
      Robz & Genia and The Angry Hen like this.
  6. ChickenLover200
    I think i may have a Lakenvelder. I got 4 rare breed chicks few years ago and i never figured out what my lil' black and white girl is. Do the girls have long tail feathers too? She doesnt but otherwise looks a lot like a Lakenvelder.
  7. Lady of McCamley
    I have had really good experiences with Buckeyes. The roosters come to table nicely by 22 weeks, earlier in a pinch especially if you feed them higher protein (22 to 24%). The hens were decent layers and well sized as well. Both Buckeye roo and hen were very sweet tempered. My Delawares were good solid layers of especially large eggs. A bit more domineering in attitude, but overall good flock members. There only draw back is the white coloring does not hide as well for hawk in my area, but admittedly, I never lost one to a hawk so they were savvy enough to stay out of the way. :D
  8. caychris
    Hollands are indeed hard to find. Managed to only get 1 pullet out of 30+ shipped eggs. Also have Delawares and they are wonderful birds
  9. Kino
    I have two Buckeye hens and one White Faced Black Spanish hen! Thank you for informing me!
  10. Blackberry18
    My friend has had Delawares and Lakenvelders. The Delawares have done really well in the poultry show.

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