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Poultry Breed Classes

By Kelly Klober

Editor’s note: For a complete list of all reported large fowl breeds and varieties, see pages 367 to 376 of Kelly Klober’s Talking Chicken.

Long before the acquisition of even a single bird, flock creation begins with a number of preliminary steps. Each is designed to prepare the producer and his or her facilities for the selection and rearing processes. The first task is, simply, assembling as much information as possible about the breed or breeds of choice and then researching available sources. The American Poultry Association and various breed groups have done quite a good job of documenting the breeds and varieties they sanction or represent.

Large Breed Classification

(as identified by the American Poultry Association)

American Class — Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds & Whites, New Hampshires, Jersey Giants, Dominiques, Wyandottes, Javas, Buckeyes, Chanteclers, Lamonas, Hollands, and Delawares.

Asiatic Class — Brahmas, Cochins, and Lanqshans.

English Class — Dorkings, Red Caps, Cornish, Orpingtons, Sussex, and Australorps.

Mediterranean Class — Leghorns, Minorcas, Spanish, Andalusians, Anconas, Catalanas, and Sicilian Buffercups.

Continental Class — Hamburgs, Campines, Lakenvelders, Barnevelders, Welsummers, Bearded & Non Bearded Polish, Houdans, Faverollis, Crevecoeurs, and La Fleche.

Other Standard Breeds — Modern Game, Old English Games, Sumatras, Malays, Cubalayas, Phoenix, Yokohamas, Aseels, Shomos, Sultans, Frizzles, Naked Necks, Araucanas, and Ameraucanas.

pullet and cockerel dominique
A Dominique pullet and cockerel

Bantams Classification

Single Comb Clean Legged — Anconas, Andalusians, Australorps, Campines, Catalanas, Delawares, Dorkings, Dutch, Frizzles, Hollands, Japanese, Javas, Jersey Giants, Lakenvelders, Lamonas, Leghorns, Monorcas, Naked Necks, New Hampshires, Orpingtons, Phoenix, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Spanish, and Sussex.

Rosecomb Clean Legged — Anconas, Antwerp Belgians (d’Anvers), Dominiques, Dorkings, Hamburgs, Leghorns, Minorcas, Redcaps, Rhode Island Reds, Rhode Island Whites, Sebrights, and Wyandottes.

All other Clean Legged — Ameraucana, Araucana, Buckeye, Chanteclers, Cornish, Crevecoeurs, Cubalayas, Houdans, La Fleche, Malays, Polish, Shamos, Sicilian Buttercups, Sumatras, and Yokohamas.

Feather Legged — Booted, Brahmas, Cochins, d’Uccle Faveroles, Frizzles, Langshans, Silkies, and Sultans.

Ameraucana cock
A silver Ameraucana cockerel

Poultry Feather Coloration Descriptions

Barred — white feathering with black or a very dark color as “bars”.

Birchen — Silver to white head, white neck and upper breast with a slender black stripe down the middle transitioning to black. Lower body black.

Columbian — white or silver white body with some black feathers with white lacing on the hackle and tail.

Crele — Males have pale straw colored feathers barred orange red and grayish white. Females have pale gold feathers with grayish brown barring. Rest of the body is dark gray with some barring.

Cuckoo — Bluish white feathers with irregular light and dark bars.

Exchequer — white and black colors mostly evenly distributed.

Henny — males lacking sickle feathers that look similar to females.

Laced (single or double) — single ring color around the outer edge of the feather with a different color filling the interior. Double has two rows of a color with another between.

Mille-Fleur (Millies) — A French word meaning a thousand flowers, a background made up of many small flowers or plants. In poultry, the background color is usually mahogany or orange with white or greenish black accents.

Mottled (Splash) — black with white v-shaped splashes on every two up to every five feathers.

Penciled — narrow bands of a different color across the width of the feather.

Porcelain — a background color of straw with blue barring with a white spangle highlights.

Pyle — Solid colors of orange, gold, salmon, white and red shading.

Spangled — silver color with sharply contrasting black at the end of each feather.

barred hens
Barred Plymouth Rock hens. Photo courtesy of Steph Merkle

Critical And Threatened Breeds

(as listed in the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Priority Watch List)

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy issues an undated Priority Watch List for large fowl breeds in the United States. This list includes breeds that have had an established and continuously breeding population in the United States since 1925 or have been imported or developed since that year. The breed must also be currently held by at least five different breeders in different locations throughout the nation.

Critical breeds are globally threatened and exist in the United States in known populations of five hundred or fewer birds. Five or fewer primary breeding flocks of fifty or more birds are known to exist in the country.

Critical — Andalusian, Aseel, Buckeye, Buttercup, Campine, Catalana, Chantecler, Crevecouer, Delaware, Faverolle, Holland, Houdan, La Fleche, Malay, Redcap, Spanish, Nankin, Russian Orloff, and Sumatra.

pullet and cockerel
A Delaware cockerel and pullet

Threatened breeds are also globally at peril and exist in America in a known population of one thousand breeding birds are less. They are being held in no more than ten primary breeding flocks of fifty birds or more.

Threatened — Ancona, Cubalaya, Dorking, Java, Lakenvelder, Langshan, and Sussex.

ancona chickens
An Ancona cockerel and hens

Birds in the “Watch” grouping have rather limited geographic distribution and have a breeding population of five thousand or fewer birds in this county. They are backed by ten or fewer primary breeding flocks.

Watch — Brahma, Cochin, Cornish (non-industrial), Dominique, Hamburg, Jersey Giant, Minorca, New Hampshire, Polish, and Rhode Island White.

brahma chickens
A Brahma cockerel and hens

Recovering breeds have exceeded the numbers for inclusion in the Watch category, but still merit close monitoring and increased support.

Recovering — Australorp, Leghorn (non-industrial), Orpington, Plymouth Rock (non-industrial), Rhode Island Red, and Wyandotte.

wyandotte hen
A Wyandotte hen

Abroad there are available even more varieties of some of these breeds. Outside of North America some of these breeds may even be known by different names. In England the Cornish is called the Jubilee and is bred in a near score of colors and patterns. I have recently seen photos of Wyandottes in a great many more colors and patterns than we have here including one or two with blue points and a Buff Columbian variety. A Partridge Wyandotte variety is even beginning to be seen here now.

Source: Talking Chicken

To learn more about heritage breed chickens, click here.

To learn about the best breeds for producing brown eggs, click here.

To learn about the best breeds for producing white eggs, click here.

To learn about the best breeds for brooding, click here.

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