When most people think of chickens, the first image that comes to mind is a white or brown hen. These people would be surprised to know that many varieties of chickens only sported black feathers originally, and these other colors appeared later on as the family tree grew. There are still many black chicken breeds available today.
While the simplistic beauty of an all black chicken draws people’s attention, selecting a chicken because of the color of their feathers may result in choosing the wrong type of chicken for your needs. Chickens have been selectively bred for color and bred for different purposes. One chicken breed does not fit all chicken keeper’s needs.
By comparing some of the most popular black chicken breeds, you can be sure to find the right type of chicken for your flock goals. Here are 4 of the most commonly kept black chicken breeds, labeled according to their most utilized quality:
Ayam Cemani – The Most Expensive Breed of Black Chickens
Originating in Indonesia, the Ayam Cemani chicken is the most expensive of the varieties of black chicken breeds. Some people pay over $1,000 for only one of these chickens!
Their solid black physical appearance is strikingly beautiful and has resulted in them traveling from Indonesia to be kept in many other countries. Every part of the Ayam Cemani is 100% black as a result of their melanin pigment. In the sunlight, their feathers may have a gorgeous iridescent green tint similar to that of beetles.
They are primarily kept as ornamental pets, partly because of their beauty, but also because the hens only lay 1 egg per week. Although their entire anatomy is completely black, their eggs are not black. It is not uncommon for these chickens to be advertised as black egg layers to obtain a higher price. Buyers beware; in reality their eggs are white with a pink hue.
Indonesian culture says that the Ayam Cemani chicken brings its owner peace and good luck. They are also believed to have healing abilities; there are many recipes for this chicken, and eating them is believed to cure or improve health conditions. Read more about Ayam Cemani.
Silkie chicken – Best Black Chicken Breed for Families with Children
Compared to the other most popular black chicken breeds, the Silkie chicken is the best black chicken for families with children.
Silkies are popular for families with children due to their docile and friendly nature and their very soft feathers. While many are kept as pets for this reason, these hens have very strong motherly instincts and are known for their brooding habits.
These ladies are very optimistic; they will try to hatch almost anything they find that looks like an egg to them! Despite their renowned mothering abilities, silkies do not lay many eggs; they tend to average 4 eggs per week.
The Silkie originated in ancient China, and when people saw these furry chickens, they quickly became popular around the world.
They have been bred in a variety of shades of brown, solid black, and solid white. There are bearded and no-bearded varieties. All varieties of silkies have feathered feet, which make them look like they are wearing slippers. These hens sport bright blue ears, black skin, and their meat is gray to black in color.
Silkies are only bred in one size; bantam, which is considered smaller than most breeds of chicken. Due to their size and their inability to fly, they are popular in small back yard flocks.
While the silkie’s feathers are fun to pet, they are a disadvantage in colder climates. These hens have been known to succumb to death rapidly in wet and cold weather, making it crucial that they have a warm indoor space during cold weather.
These hens do well in warm climates, but just like any other chicken, they need access to fresh water, shade, and if the temperature rises high enough, fans.
Silkie owners must be prepared to dry off their chickens when they get wet, as their feathers do not repel water effectively and it is unhealthy for them to stay wet.
If allowed to stay wet in cold temperatures, this may be lethal for them. If they are wet enough, they may require towel drying or even the assistance of a blow dryer! Read more about Silkie chicken.
Australorp – Best Black Chicken Breed for Laying Eggs
The Australorp Chicken is the best egg laying chicken among the most popular black chicken breeds.
The Australorp Chicken is the Australian version of Britain’s Orpington chicken, which is one of the most commonly kept breeds of chicken.
These chickens are bred in bantam and large varieties. In the sunlight their feathers are iridescent. They are known for their graceful walk and love to forage around their yards.
The Australorp can live in a variety of climates; both cold and hot. However, they tend to do better in cooler climates and they are less tolerant of heat. In general, they are very easy to care for and fairly hardy chickens.
Australorp chickens are the most reliable egg laying hens among the most popular black chicken breeds. On average, Australorp hens lay approximately 5 eggs per week.
Australorp chickens are also great for families with children. They have very sweet personalities and often follow their owners around the yard. Some even enjoy sitting in their owner’s laps and being cuddled.
Australorps can be a bit shy and it is not uncommon for them to be the victims of bullying by other chickens. Be sure to carefully choose flock mates to avoid them being bullied by bolder breeds of chickens. Read more about Australorp Chicken.
Jersey Giant – Best Black Chicken Breed for Meat
The Jersey Giant Chicken is the best chicken to raise for meat among the most popular black chicken breeds.
As you probably guessed from their name, these chickens were bred to be the biggest. They are being bred to their “giant” size was done in an effort to replace or compete with turkeys.
Out of the black chicken breeds, and most American chicken breeds, the Jersey Giant is the largest specimen with hens growing to weigh approximately 10 pounds and roosters growing to approximately 13 pounds!
In addition to being a good chicken to raise for meat, the Jersey Giant is also kept for their eggs. Happy Jersey Giant hens may lay up to 3 eggs per week.
Luckily for Jersey Giant keepers, they are gentle giants with a docile nature. Children often enjoy assisting with their care and many families keep them as pets.
These chickens tolerate cold weather better than hot weather. They enjoy having the ability to forage around their yard. While this would not be safe for most varieties of chickens, due to their size, Jersey Giants are less likely to become the next meal of a bird of prey and as a result, many owners give them the freedom to explore.
Jersey Giants are rarely raised for meat commercially because it takes them approximately 8 months to reach their maximum mature size. As a result, they are mostly kept by small hobby farmers or back yard chicken keepers. Since this breed is less common, they would be a unique addition to your flock. Read more about Jersey Giant Chicken.
Additional Black Chicken Breeds
If you are interested in researching other black chicken breeds to add to your flock, here is a list of additional varieties to explore:
- The Orpington Chicken
- The Cochin Chicken
- The Svart Hona Chicken
- The Minorca Chicken
- The Marans Chicken
- The Sumatra Chicken
- The La Flèche Chicken
- The Langshan Chicken
- The Breda Chicken
- The Java Chicken
Before bringing home the first of the black chicken breeds you come across, be sure to research what each variety was bred for to ensure that you add the right chicken to your flock.
Based upon the most common reasons people keep chickens and the most commonly found black breeds of chickens:
- If money is no object and you plan to keep your chickens as ornamental pets, consider the strikingly beautiful Ayam Cemani chicken.
- If you have children who want to help care for the flock and would like a few fresh eggs, you cannot go wrong with a friendly Silkie chicken.
- If you want to keep chickens to have farm fresh eggs daily, the Australorp chicken is who you want to rule the roost.
- If you plan to raise chickens for meat or just want some big friendly chickens and occasional farm fresh eggs, the Jersey Giant will give you the most meat to put on the menu.