The frizzy, the funky, and the (un)feathered — did you know about these loveable and somewhat weird-looking chickens? There are likely more unusual chicken breeds out there than many people realize!
It brings me back to this memory: “What the heck is that chicken doing in here?” exclaimed my little cousin as he walked into the normally chicken-free freestall dairy barn. The rest of us were a bit confused, as there were no chickens in sight. After questioning our cousin on where he saw a chicken, we quickly realized that he was pointing at a lonely pigeon picking corn out of the feed alley.
We all poked a little fun at him for not knowing the difference between a pigeon and a chicken, but in retrospect, I can’t blame him for mixing them up.
When I was young my parents got chickens for me and my siblings, and we somehow convinced my mom to let us get more chickens each spring. The more chickens we ordered, the funkier they got. Now we have absolutely no “normal-looking” chickens on the farm!
All the chickens are different colors, patterns, and sizes. Some have feathers on their feet, some have a few too many feathers on their heads, and some have no feathers at all in some places. Some are fuzzy, some have tails that stretch on like a wedding vale, and no two chickens are the same size. So in reality, there’s no bird who couldn’t fit in with our little flock.
The chickens that my family has are not the most productive egg layers, but we have some cute ones. Have you heard of all these different breeds of chickens?
This naked-necked chicken looks like a turkey and a chicken put together, hence the name turken. They are a hardy breed that lays big brown eggs. From personal experience, the naked gene is a dominant one! I bought three turken hens when I was 10 years old and haven’t since had a batch of chicks hatch at home without a naked-necked chick!
This cute little chicken looks like he’s gone through the dryer! These bantam chickens are funny to watch and hard to keep clean. They don’t lay many eggs, nor are their eggs very big. But they certainly make for a cute bird to show at the county fair!
They are one of the smallest breeds of chickens, weighing in at less than two pounds at maturity. Their heavily feathered feet make them one of the least naked chicken breeds! Mille Fleur is French for a thousand flowers, taking a crack at their cute spots and heavy covering of feathers.
These chickens are some of my family’s favorites. Our first top hat was golden, and his name was Phyllis Diller! They are some of the friendliest chickens we have ever had, perhaps it was just because they couldn’t see us coming! They make for great pet chickens, and great conversation starters too!
These roosters are known for their beautiful long tails. They originate in Japan, and are an ornamental breed. If taken care of well, their tail feathers can grow to more than five feet long. The hens do not have the exuberant tails like the roosters do, but they are beautiful chickens as well.
How can you resist cheeks like that? Araucanas are very special chickens. Not only do they have cute tufts by their ears, they are rumpless (meaning they have no real tail), and they lay beautiful blue eggs. They are a hard breed to come by, as they have a gene that makes the hatch rate lower than that of more popular breeds.
Chickens are some of the easiest farm animals to buy, as they are sold at farm supply stores nationwide, and they can be ordered online directly from hatcheries. My family orders chickens from Murray McMurray Hatchery, a hatchery in Iowa that has been mailing chickens across the country since 1919 — that’s decades before Jeff Bezos was born, let alone Amazon.
Next time you wonder what the next addition to the farm should be, keep these funky and weird chickens in mind!
Elizabeth Maslyn is a Cornell University student pursuing a career in the dairy industry. Her passion for agriculture has driven her desire to learn more, and let the voices of our farmers be heard.