If you want to add one or more solid black chickens to your flock you have a great variety from which to choose. Since many breeds have black feathers — and some even have black skin and meat — there is no shortage of options!
In fact, there are 46 black chicken breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association. This is great news because there are different reasons for having a flock of chickens, so you can find the breeds that will work best in your backyard or on your farm.
Raising Black Chickens: Which is best for your flock?
Black chickens come in a variety of sizes, as well as temperaments and tolerance to different climates. They have different sizes and shapes of combs, which work better (or worse) in different climates. While most have clean legs, a few have feathered legs.
If you have a small flock of four to eight hens for your own fresh eggs, it’s fun to have different breeds so that you can get to know them as individuals. And the easiest way to be able to tell them apart is to choose birds with different feather colors, patterns, combs, and feathered feet or not.
Many of these breeds are excellent egg layers. Depending upon the breed, you can get black hens that lay white, brown, or blue eggs.
Black chickens are not popular as meat birds because of the black pin feathers that can be seen after plucking. This is why commercial meat chickens are white. People who are not familiar with chicken anatomy may think the chicken skin is dirty when they see black pin feathers. However, if you simply rub it with herbs before cooking, those pin feathers could blend right in.
This is the largest breed of chicken. When I first heard this almost 20 years ago, I thought they would be a great chicken to raise for meat. But they are very slow to reach maturity, so by the time they reach that massive size, the meat is not that tender.
If you want to fry or roast the meat, or do anything other than stew the chicken, they really need to be processed by 4-5 months of age, and the Jersey Giant has not come anywhere close to its optimal weight by then.
Since they are a very large chicken, that means they lay extra large eggs. If you have a backyard flock and use all of your own eggs, no problem! But if you are planning to sell your eggs, you will have to buy special cartons to hold the eggs. Otherwise the carton won’t close.
If you are planning to sell eggs and get licensed as an egg producer, the eggs in a single carton need to be the same size so they can be graded as small, medium, large, or extra large. That means you would have to have chickens that lay eggs of similar size. In other words, Giants would not fit well into a mixed flock of egg layers.
This bantam breed is one of the smallest breeds of solid black chicken. I fell in love with Silkie chickens when I first saw them at the Garfield Farm Museum Rare Breed Show in the late-1990s. They look like they have fur, but that fuzzy stuff is indeed feathers.
They are one of only four solid black chicken breeds that have black skin, meat, and bones. In spite of that, their feathers can be black, white, buff, blue and other colors.
My friend, Tammy Gallagher, from Shady Paddock Farm in Texas has been raising Silkie chickens for about four years now.
“So why all the fuss about these funny little poof balls?” asks Tammy. “It just takes a few minutes with one, and you will find that it is ever so easy to fall in love with these gentlest of chickens! They have an amazingly mellow personality, which, in my opinion, is one of their finest attributes. To date, I have never been challenged by any of my Silkie roos. This makes them an excellent pet chicken breed for children. Their small size lends them to being a great selection for those who want to have chickens in a suburban area. And the fact that they cannot fly over the fence, into your neighbor’s yard, is another bonus.”
“As with anything wonderful, there is always a down side,” she continues. “For the Silkie, it is their tendency to go broody, which always seems to interrupt their laying cycle at the most inconvenient time, so we just accept that with patience. They are also not the most winter hardy bird, but can do well with adequate shelter and a few accommodations for colder areas.”
Like all bantams, Silkies lay adorable little eggs. They weigh about half as much as a large chicken egg, so I always use two bantam eggs when a recipe calls for one. The smaller eggs are perfect for small children that can’t eat a whole egg, and many children love peeling those tiny boiled bantam eggs.
The downside to the small eggs is that you can’t sell them as a certified egg producer because they are not even big enough to be graded as small. In most states you would be able to sell them as ungraded to friends, family, and neighbors.
Another thing to note about bantams laying eggs is that they don’t lay much. Depending upon how many eggs you want or need, this could be a pro or a con. We are currently certified egg producers, but if at some point in the future we decided to just have hens for our own eggs, I will definitely have a lot of bantams in my flock because they are the cutest chickens!
This breed happens to be the favorite of Lisa Steele, author of Fresh Eggs Daily. She loves them for their calm demeanor, as well as their ability to lay lots of brown eggs. She says they lay 4-5 eggs a week during their prime, and they are also good mothers.
Lisa says they can handle both extremes of heat and cold temperatures. The breed has done well in their flocks when they lived in Virginia and now in Maine.
Is there a downside to Australorps? Lisa says that they can be a bit talkative.
Years ago my daughters raised Australorps for a 4-H project, and we also found that they were easy to handle, even for children.
Although they are solid black as adults, don’t be alarmed if you order them as day-old chicks and they are yellow on their chest and belly.
This is one of the most stunning breeds on the list due to its abundance of feathers, including its feathered legs! Cochins come in several colors and patterns, and they even come in a bantam size! That is somewhat ironic because the standard-sized cochin is one of the largest chicken breeds, weighing 8 to 11 pounds.
If you want hens that will go broody and hatch their own eggs, this is one of the few breeds still known for doing so.
Cochins are also known to be one of the most calm and gentle breeds. In fact, when we had a children’s camp at our farm, I specifically got bantam cochins for the children to play with, and it worked splendidly. Even with a new group of 20 children every week, the bantam cochin chickens were wonderful.
Of all the black chickens, the Orpington is one of the most common breeds, and it comes in a variety of colors.
We have had buff Orpington chickens on multiple occasions. They have always been fine in both weather extremes when the temperatures are above 90 degrees and when winter weather plunges below zero.
They tend to be good layers of brown eggs, although the roosters are not a great option for meat unless you buy from a serious breeder. When we have purchased Orpington chickens from a hatchery, the males grew so slowly that the amount of meat was still less than 4 pounds by 4 months of age. Even though they look big, you can tell that they are all feathers when you pick them up.
Ameraucana and Araucana
These are two different breeds that are closely related, and they come in a huge variety of colors. They are often loosely referred to as Easter Eggers because they lay blue to blue-green eggs. Hatcheries have paid little attention to the color of feathers, focusing instead on the color of the eggs, but they do come in solid black. If you want any specific color of Easter Egger, you will probably have to go to a breeder who specializes in individual feather colors.
Minorca chickens come in black, white, and buff, and unlike most breeds where the color is the only difference, in Minorca chickens, the black variety, weighing 7.5 to 9 pounds, is supposedly about a pound to a pound and a half larger than the white or buff.
Minorcas also come with two different comb types — single comb and rose comb. Chickens with a rose comb are preferred by some people who live in northern climates because it is much less likely to get frostbite. Although frostbite on a comb doesn’t cause death or disability in a chicken, some people don’t like the way it looks. If the tips of a single comb freeze, they will simply fall off.
I first became aware of the Java chicken breed in the late 1990s when I attended the Rare Breed Show at Garfield Farm Museum. At that time, the Java chicken was almost extinct, with less than 100 left.
The Java is the second oldest chicken breed developed in the United States. According to the Livestock Conservancy, the Java was used to create the Plymouth Rock and the Jersey Giant breeds.
We were lucky enough to have some Javas in our flock around 2005 to 2010. They are a calm chicken and lay brown eggs.
Java chickens have yellow skin, which may be unappetizing to some modern eaters. I could see some people thinking the bird had jaundice, if they were not expecting it when butchering them. I knew this before butchering them but was still surprised when I saw it myself.
We accidentally wound up with Japanese bantam chickens in 2002 when they were mistakenly sent to us by a hatchery when we ordered turkeys! But it turned out to be a wonderful surprise when we realized what breed we had.
Japanese bantam chickens come in a variety of colors, including solid black, and have a beautiful upright stature that is unmatched by other breeds. Their very short legs and very long tail feathers makes them truly striking to look at.
Crèvecoeur chickens were developed in France primarily as a meat chicken, which means they don’t lay a lot of eggs. But if you want eye candy, the crest on top of their head certainly gets attention and may be a great reason to add to your flock.
This is a great example of how feather color has nothing to do with egg color as Crèvecoeur chickens lay white eggs. Unlike some of the other breeds discussed so far, this one can only have black feathers. It also has a unique V-shaped comb, adding to its visual appeal.
“We have been keeping and breeding Crèvecœurs for about 8 years on our farm,” says Jeannette Beranger, Senior Program Manager at The Livestock Conservancy. “We had just finished the Buckeye recovery project and with that breed doing well, we decided to help out a breed that needed attention. We decided on the Crèvecœur because they were literally on the brink with less than maybe 50-100 birds left.”
“It took me months to find some stock from a long time breeder and it’s taken all these years to start to get them to meet APA standard size,” Jeannette continues. “They are now living up to their reputation as a fabulous table bird. They are delicious. I’ve also done extensive historical research and have found that they have a wonderfully rich history that few know about. So as a project it’s been great fun for this poultry geek.”
Prior to doing the research for this article I had no idea there were solid black Hamburgs. I’ve owned and loved silver-spangled Hamburgs, which are a medium-sized chicken that lays medium-sized white eggs. Live adult weights are only about 4-5 pounds with hens being smaller, of course.
This is the perfect chicken for you if you think that a standard chicken is too big and a bantam is too small.
They are somewhat docile though, and these are actually the only chickens we have ever owned that had trouble being added to our existing flock. Even though we didn’t see pecking, we kept finding the Hamburgs hiding in whatever crevice they could find.
Maran chickens are another breed that comes in a variety of colors, including black, which should not be confused with the black copper Maran. The black copper Maran seem to be easier to find than the solid black chickens. This breed’s claim to fame are their dark chocolate colored eggs. For those who want an egg basket with a variety of colors, this is definitely a breed to consider.
This is one of the most rare breeds on the list, and as you might guess from the name, it is originally from France. In the US, it is listed as “critical” on the Conservation Priority List of the Livestock Breeds Conservancy, meaning that there are less than 500 breeding birds in the U.S.
It has a distinctive V-shaped comb and lays large white eggs. They can only be solid black in color. They weigh 6.5 to 8 pounds.
The Langshan may have feathered feet like the Cochin, but it is a distinct breed of Asian black chicken. Their live mature weight is about 7.5 to 9.5 pounds, making it one of the larger breeds, but not as large as the Cochin or Jersey Giant. Although the Langshan was originally a solid black chicken, the APA also recognizes white and blue now.
The Ayam Cemani chicken is another solid black chicken that is a truly melanistic chicken breed, meaning that it has black skin, black feathers, black bones, black meat, and even a black comb and beak. They are on the smaller side, weighing only 4.5 to 7 pounds, and are poor layers of cream colored eggs. They used to be incredibly hard to find in the US but are now available from some of the larger hatcheries.
Other all black chicken breeds accepted by the American Poultry Association
This is really just the beginning, as there are 20 standard size solid black chickens and 26 bantam size chickens accepted by the APA that have black feathers. As already mentioned in some of the above breeds, however, it can be a challenge to find them with black feathers as other colors have become more popular.
In fact, prior to writing this article, I had no idea that some of these breeds were available in solid black, even though I’ve owned the more popular colors for the breeds. We bought silver-laced Wyandottes and buff Orpingtons when we first moved to our farm in 2002 , and I was not aware they also came in solid black.
It’s fascinating to think of the possibility of having a flock of solid black chickens that all look very different from one another because of their size, style of comb, egg color, and status of feathers on their feet.
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