How to Find Out What Breed Your Chicken Is

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Fashionable Chickens

A friend of mine just shared a picture of her “extra chick” that came with her latest hatchery order. I’m sure you’ve been seeing them all over Facebook and the chicken forums. Everyone wants to know, what kind of chick is this? Did you know that one of the best ways to identify a chick, or even an adult chicken, is by its feathers and its comb?

Chickens come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Learn to identify breeds by their comb and feather patterns. You'll be a chicken expert in no time at all.

Two breeds of chicken that seem similar to the average backyard farmer are then Dominique and the Barred Rock. Both are large breeds with black and white stripes. I use the comb to tell them apart, but their feathers are different as well. After we go over the comb and feather styles, I’ll show you pictures of both and you will see how different these breeds are.

Chicken Comb Types

There are 8 types of chicken combs. Some are very similar in style.

Chickens come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Learn to identify breeds by their comb and feather patterns. You'll be a chicken expert in no time at all.

#1 Buttercup Combs

The buttercup comb is reserved for the breed that carries its name. The buttercup comb has a very small single comb in the center, with larger ones on either side. Breed with a Buttercup Comb: Sicilian Buttercups

#2 Cushion Combs

The cushion comb is similar to the rose comb, but cushion combs are rounded and smaller than the rose. They also have no point. Breed with a Cushion Comb: Chanteclers

#3 Pea Combs

Pea combs often have 3 rows of peas side by side, although sometimes there is only 1 row. The peas are little bumps, usually quite uniform in shape and size. As the bird matures the comb grows, sometimes losing its neat, ordered appearance and becoming a large blob on its head. Breeds with Pea Combs: Ameraucanas, Araucanas, Brahmas, Cornish

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#4 Rose Combs

Rose combs are normally flat and close to the bird’s head. Sometimes it will form a point and extend further back than the rest of the comb. Breeds with Rose Combs: Wyandottes, Dominiques, Hamburghs, Sebrights

#5 Single Combs

The single comb is the most common. It is a simple straight row of spikes beginning at the bird’s nostrils and sweeping back its head. Breeds with Single Combs: Rocks, Australorps, Cochins, Leghorns, Rhode Islands

#6 Strawberry Combs

Strawberry combs are very similar to rose combs, except that they form no point and are not as flat. They are raised higher and sometimes resemble strawberries, hence the name. Breeds with Strawberry Combs: Malays, Yokohamas

#7 V-Combs

Breeds with V-combs have the appearance of little devils, with their long red hornsBreeds with V-Combs: Houdans, Polish, Sultans

#8 Walnut Combs

Walnut combs look almost exactly like the nut. Big, pitted, and round, they can grow quite large and nearly cover their bird’s face. Breed with a Walnut Comb: Silkies

Can you tell the difference between these chickens based on comb?

Left: Dominique with a rose comb. Right: Barred Plymouth Rock with a single comb.

Left: Dominique with a rose comb. Right: Barred Plymouth Rock with a single comb.

Chicken Feather Patterns

There are many different feather patterns that show up when birds have been mixed, but these are the most common and are deemed standard. Feather patterns can not only indicate the breed of a bird, but sometimes it can even tell you the bird’s gender.

Chickens come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Learn to identify breeds by their comb and feather patterns. You'll be a chicken expert in no time at all.

#1 Barred Feathers

Barred simply means stripped. Birds with barred feathers can be used to create sex-linked offspring, meaning you can tell from hatch whether a chick is male or female. Breeds with Barred Feathers: Rocks, Creles

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#2 Double Laced Feathers

Double Laced feathers have two cup-shaped lines of color across the feather. One along the edge and a second a bit further up the feather. Breed with Double Laced Feathers: Barnevelder

#3 Mottled Feathers

Mottled feathers are a lack of pigment in the feather tip, followed by a black band and then the bird’s standard coloring. Breeds with Mottled Feathers: Houdans, Leghorns, Polish

#4 Penciled Feathers

Penciled feathers have distinct lines that follow the contours of the feather. There can be anywhere from two to four lines on the feather. Breeds with Penciled Feathers: Hamburghs, Rocks

#5 Single Laced Feathers

Single Laced feathers are very common in backyard chickens. Birds with these feathers look like every feather has a decorative trim on it. Breeds with Laced Feathers: Cochin, Wyandotte, Sebright

#6 Spangled Feathers

Spangled feathers lack pigment in the center of the feather. These feathers give the appearance of spots on the bird. Breed with Spangled Feathers: Hamburghs

#7 Solid (not shown)

Solid colored feathers are most common among backyard chickens. Birds with solid feathers can be a variety of colors, but each feather is one solid color.

Can you tell the difference between these chickens based on feathers?

Both of these chickens are Plymouth Rocks. The one on the left is barred and the one on the right is penciled.

Both of these chickens are Plymouth Rocks. The one on the left is barred and the one on the right is penciled.

Also keep in mind, when trying to identify your mystery chicks, that some chickens have clean legs and others have feathered legs. Leg color may also help identify the breed. If you want to learn more about which breeds possess which characteristics, be sure to check out Henderson’s Breed Chart. It is the Bible of chicken breed standards.

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Chickens come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Learn to identify breeds by their comb and feather patterns. You'll be a chicken expert in no time at all.

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I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

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About Jessica Lane

I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

Comments

How to Find Out What Breed Your Chicken Is — 6 Comments

  1. Looking for a chicken with a pattern in a single feather that resembles the back end of the Penciled Plymouth Rock photo on this site. Hard to describe though…Looking at the photo of the Penciled Plymouth Rock you see thin lines zig zagging across the back and rear of this hen. I’d like to find a feather that has this thin line &zig zagging all on a single feather. The thinner the line, the better! Color is optional. This sounds Crazy I know, but I do have a good explanation and an even better reason for wanting it. It’s just too long to type right here. Does anyone know of a chicken, pigeon, Guiana…anything really, as long as it has this thin line zig zagging down a single feather? I don’t care if it’s on a Sea Gull or a Buzzard, as long as I can find a feather like this. Do I have you wondering now….. Thanks Guys!

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