Chicken breeds generally fall into two categories: egg layers and meat birds. Some breeds are dual purpose, or suitable for either use. There's a fourth category, consisting of chickens bred primarily for their fancy feathering and attractive coloration. These birds are raised both by poultry aficionados for open competition and by FFA and 4-H members for their shows.
Large and fully feathered, Brahmas are among the most beautiful of fowl. Besides their good looks, Brahmas usually have gentle temperaments and are easy to handle -- important attributes for exhibition chickens. Their dense feathering extends all the way to the feet. Brahmas mature later than other chickens but reach 10 pounds or more. They're available in light, dark and buff shades.
Another large breed, Cochin chickens look like giant feather balls. These heavily feathered birds also sport toe feathers. They appear in shades of white, black, blue, buff and partridge -- the latter a brown bird with black lacing on the feather tips. Relatively calm birds, Cochin hens are renowned for their broodiness and excellent maternal skills. If you plan to raise exhibition birds from chicks, Cochins are a good choice.
Relatively rare, Faverolles have been called "the French poodle of chicken breeds." These large, fancy birds boast lots of feathering and have five toes on each foot, compared with the standard four. Available in white or salmon with laced feathering, Faverolles don't always work out well in mixed flocks. Other breeds might harass these gentle birds.
Orpington chickens are a three-purpose breed, as they're suitable for eggs, meat and showing. While buff is the most common color, these big, handsome birds also come in white, black and blue feathering. Friendly and easy to handle, soft-feathered Orpingtons are clean-legged.
This tails of the uncommon Cubalaya breeds from Cuba resemble those of lobsters. The large Cubalayas might be gorgeous, but they're more aggressive than most other top show chickens. In their native land, Cubalayas were used for both meat and cockfighting. These birds might prey on other members of mixed-breed flocks. While the typical show-bird coloration consists of black-breasted red, Cubalayas also appear in black and white variations. They aren't a cold-climate breed, but they can thrive in warmer regions.
- Ithaca College: Henderson's Chicken Breed Chart
- Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Choosing a Chicken Breed -- Eggs, Meat, or Exhibition
- Stromberg's Chicks and Game Birds Unlimited: Show Quality Chickens
- Agriculture.com: Top 10 Show Chickens
- American Livestock Breeds Conservancy: Brahma Chicken
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.