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The Best Beginner Chicken Breeds & 4 to Avoid Entirely

Small chicks

If you’re new to raising chickens or are in the preliminary research stage of adding a few chickens to your backyard, you’ll be interested to learn that all chicken breeds have different personalities and traits. Some breeds are well suited to beginner chicken keepers with no experience handling birds. Other breeds are a better choice for seasoned chicken keepers. 

Why choose beginner chicken breeds?

The breeds on this list are great for beginners because they’re not likely to give you problems that could be tough to handle for newbie chicken keepers. 

Over the last 14 years, I’ve kept over 20 breeds of chickens, and some really stood out as easy to keep. 

What makes a chicken breed great for beginners?


Having friendly and affectionate chickens is a huge plus. If you’re keeping your chickens as pets with benefits, it’s heartwarming to have them sit on your lap and follow you around the yard while you do chores. 

Even if you plan to keep your chickens for eggs and don’t want to interact much with them, having friendly birds means you won’t get bit or scratched while collecting eggs and cleaning the coop. 

Docile and easy to handle

We’ve had some flighty birds over the years, some that were crazy fast and absolutely impossible to catch. This is not what you want if you’re a beginner. There are a number of reasons you’ll need to handle your chickens, from doing basic checks for insects to wound care to moving them from one area to another. All of this is much easier if you have chickens that are easy to handle. 

Easy to care for

Some chicken breeds are high maintenance, and others aren’t. Some are more prone to health problems and untimely deaths. These are not the types of birds you want for your first flock. It’s important to go into raising chickens with as much confidence in yourself as you can muster. Don’t get high-maintenance breeds; there’s no need to make things more challenging for yourself while you’re learning.

Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners

These are the breeds that made the top of my list of the best breeds for beginner chicken keepers. There are truly many more that I could have added. Do your research and talk with hatcheries before making a firm decision on what breeds are right for you. 

1. Dominique

Dominique chicken

The Dominique is my all-time favorite breed, and by far the friendliest breed of chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. This heritage breed was at risk of being lost entirely but is making a resurgence with more hatcheries carrying it and more backyard chicken keepers buying it. 

Dominiques look similar to Barred Rock but have a rose comb, which makes them an ideal cold-hardy breed for those who live in wintery climates.

They’re very chatty and just want to be around people. Our old Dominique, Dee Dee, lived to be 13 years old, and used to follow me around the yard while I worked in the gardens, always begging for worms! 

You can’t go wrong with this breed if you’re a beginner. 

2. Speckled Sussex

Speckled sussex hen

The Speckled Sussex is another friendly breed. They’re sweet, docile, and love to be held. Sussex are beautiful too, with mottled spots in white, red, and iridescent blue. 

While this breed is lovely, one thing to note, they’re also very vocal. They love to make noise, lots of it, and loudly. If you live close to other people or have particularly finicky neighbors, this may not be the breed for you. 

3. Australorp


Australorps are a favorite in our house, and for good reason. They’re a wonderfully sweet, docile bird, and absolutely stunning. Their black feathers glow in iridescent blue, violet, red, and orange in the sunlight. 

Austrolorp in nesting box

Our Australorps love treats and will run right up to us every time we step outside, expecting mealworms to be tossed at their feet. They love being picked up and cuddled, and are just so personable. This is a wonderful choice for any newbie chicken keeper.

4. Silkie

Silkie with chicks

If you’re brand new to raising chickens, you can’t go wrong with silkies. I’ve had many silkies in my flock over the years, and have found them to be consistently friendly, calm, and quiet.

They really are like little teddy bears running around your yard, supplying you with eggs. 

A quick word of warning about silkies, they do tend to go broody. This means that they’ll stop laying eggs and sit on a nest of eggs for weeks or months at a time in an effort to hatch them and become mothers. This can be a good thing if you want to hatch chicks, but it can also be a pain. Not only are you losing the eggs during that time, but broody hens tend to get picked on more by the flock, and you’ll have to dig under them every day to collect any eggs they’re sitting on. 

Our silkie’s broodiness never bothered us enough to make us not want to keep them around. In my personal opinion, their positives outweigh their negatives. 

5. Orpington

Orpington hen

Orpingtons come in many colors. While Buff Orpingtons are by far the most popular, this breed is also available in Blue, Black, Buff, White, Birchen, Chocolate, Cuckoo, Gold Laced, Jubilee, Lavender, Lemon Cuckoo, Partridge, Red, and Spangled.

Orpingtons are affectionately known as the “golden retrievers of the chicken world” because they’re one of the friendliest breeds out there. We had two in our first-ever flock of chickens, and they never gave us a lick of trouble. They were always eager and ready for chicken cuddles. 

6. Wyandotte

Wyandotte hen

Wyandotte chickens are absolutely stunning, very hardy, and docile. I have also found them to have funny, sassy personalities. It’s almost as if they know how beautiful they are and love to flaunt it. 

Wyandottes are a perfect breed for beginner chicken keepers. You’ll love their calm and friendly disposition. Silver-laced and gold-laced are the most popular Wyandotte colorings, but don’t miss the stunning Blue-Laced Red Wyandotte if you really want a show-stopper in your flock.

7. Marans


We had both Black Copper Marans and Blue Copper Marans in our flock and found them delightful. They’re friendly, curious, easy-going birds that get along well with all the other breeds. 

As a lovely bonus, Marans lay the most beautiful eggs. Black Copper Marans are coveted for their chocolate brown eggs. There are a number of breeds that can give you a rainbow of eggs in your basket.

Eggs in a bowl

You won’t regret adding a few Marans to your newbie flock.

8. Cochin


Cochin’s are the gentle giants of the chicken world. This large breed is known for being a great “pet with benefits.” They’re friendly and happy to be picked up and held. Cochin’s also come in a wide range of colors, so you could have a lot of variety in your flock, even just with this one breed. And get this, they have feathery feet! How cute is that? You really can’t go wrong with these beautiful, kind birds if you’re new to chicken keeping. 

9. Brahma


Another gentle giant on this list, the Brahma, is hefty and dual-purpose, meaning they can be raised for both meat and eggs. Brahmas are calm and docile and make wonderful pets. They’re easy to handle and great for beginners and children. One thing to note about this breed is that you may want to build a larger-than-average chicken coop if you plan to keep them. Brahma hens can weigh between 9-12 pounds, and roosters can weigh a whopping 12-18 pounds. These big birds need a lot of space. 

Breeds I Don’t Suggest for Beginners

Now that you have a good list of choices for your first chicken flock, I want to take a moment to point out a few breeds to steer clear of. At least for your first few years of chicken keeping.

The following breeds could make your experience more difficult and present you with issues that are hard to handle as a newbie, like bullying, aggression, and health problems. 



Leghorns are a wonderful breed if you want tons of eggs, as they top all the lists for most eggs laid in a year. But this breed is also flighty, fast, very hard to catch, and doesn’t like to be handled. Not only that, but because this breed lays lots of eggs, they tend to have reproductive issues that are not easy for a beginner to handle, like prolapsed vents and egg binding. We had a leghorn in our first batch of chicks, and it was a very bad choice for us. 



Ameraucanas have made many other lists of the best breeds for beginners, but I don’t agree with that choice. While this is a great breed, particularly if you want colorful eggs, Ameraucanas are not a great breed if you’ve never had chickens before. 

We’ve had many Ameraucanas over the years and all of them have been flighty and loud, extremely hard to catch, and generally unfriendly. I know people who have had friendly birds of this breed, but they also put in lots of time cuddling them and handling them as chicks. 


Sumatra chickens, particularly cockerels and roosters, are pretty well known for being more aggressive than other chicken breeds. It’s too bad because this breed is absolutely stunning, but if you’re a beginner chicken keeper, don’t add in breeds that are known to be aggressive. Not only could these birds fight other members of your flock, but they could fight you and your family too. While I don’t discount every member of this breed as being aggressive, I do insist that they’re not a great choice for beginners. 

Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red

This is a controversial take. I know I’m going to have some readers recoil at putting Rhode Island Reds on the ‘not recommended’ list, especially since they’re so frequently recommended for beginners and children. 

I disagree that Rhodes are a good choice for beginners. This breed is known to be aggressive to other chickens.

I’ve seen it myself, with three different sets of Rhode Island Red chickens in my flock causing major bullying issues with other chickens. One pair was so aggressive that I had to give them to a friend who didn’t have any chickens. I have also found this breed to be unfriendly toward humans and quite flighty. I’m sure there are plenty of chicken keepers out there who have affectionate RIRs that don’t fit these statements. 

But, why risk it? If you’re new to chicken keeping, stick to breeds that aren’t aggressive. Dealing with bullying can be heartbreaking and difficult, especially when you’re not well-practiced in raising chickens. 


A rooster crowing

This is clearly not breed-specific, but if you’re a beginner, you should avoid roosters. Roosters add many complications to your backyard chicken setup. Not only are they loud and will disturb your neighbors, but they can also be aggressive and hurt you or your kids.

In addition, they can overbreed with your hens, causing reproductive issues, feather loss, and wounds on the hens. It’s well worth it to avoid roosters for the first few years you’re raising chickens, and once you’re more accustomed to being a chicken tender, you can add one or two roosters to your flock. 

If you get stuck with a surprise rooster, Tracey has a few things you can do to rehome him.

Tips for Making Your First Flock a Friendly One

Steer clear of any breeds described as “flighty”

When you’re browsing hatchery websites while researching your first flock, pay attention to any breeds that feature the word flighty. Flighty is hatchery code for shy and scared. These birds do not like being handled, and while they’re usually excellent free-range breeds, they’re not going to be beginner-friendly.

Handle your chicks

Buying the best breeds for beginners is just the start of your chicken-raising adventure. The next and most important step is to socialize and handle the chickens so they’ll be comfortable around people. 

From the first day you bring them home, try to handle your chicks multiple times per day, every day. The more you can handle them, the more friendly and accustomed to people they’ll be as adults. 

Spend lots of time with them

If you want your chickens to trust you, it’s important to show them that you’re trustworthy. Spend a lot of time with them, give them pets when you go out to do chicken chores, sit in the yard with them while they free range, or hold them on your lap as you drink your morning coffee. When you’re with them, be calm, move slowly, and talk in a soothing voice. 

Always bring treats

The way to a chicken’s heart is through its gizzard! Always have treats in your pockets when you go visit your chickens, and you’ll be their favorite friend. 

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Get chickens well suited for your climate

Lastly, personality isn’t the only thing that matters when you’re a beginner chicken keeper picking out your first flock. 

More important than personality and aesthetics, is hardiness for your region. I hate to see people have big disappointments in their first year of chicken keeping because they chose birds that aren’t well suited to their climate. 

In short, there are cold-hardy and heat-hardy chicken breeds. The basic premise is that birds with small bodies, large combs, and large wattles are well suited to hot climates, while birds with bigger bodies, small combs, and small wattles are more well suited to cold climates. These natural characteristics make the chickens more comfortable and able to survive in different types of weather. 

When in doubt, ask customer service reps at your hatchery which breeds will be best suited to your region. 

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Meredith Skyer

Meredith Skyer is a writer, artist, and homesteader residing in Western New York with her husband and menagerie of farm critters.

She has spent the last 12 years learning and implementing a myriad of homesteading skills, specializing in growing food and animal husbandry. Her biggest passion is working in conjunction with the natural world to harvest healthy, organic food from her own backyard.

Meredith is a freelance writer and founder of Backyard Chicken Project, a place for crazy chicken people to gather, learn, and share in their love of chickens. She also contributes articles to Mother Earth News Online, From Scratch Magazine, and Grit.

Meredith works from her woodland homestead where she spends her days writing, creating animal-inspired art, and chasing after her flock of chickens.

You can visit her at