People raise chickens for many different reasons. The most common is for egg production, but chickens can also be raised for shows, exhibitions, as pets, or simply to enjoy. Chickens come in hundreds of different breeds. In fact, there are over 500 breeds worldwide although not every breed is officially recognized.
Within each breed, there are various color variations. They can also be bred in different sizes like bantam and standard. With all the choices there are, it may be difficult to narrow down which chicken breed you want to raise.
Your choice just got easier if you have one particular trait in mind. Are you a fan of feathered feet? If you have your sights set on a feather-footed breed, first, define your goals for raising your flock. You are looking at a good 6 to 10 years or more, which is the lifespan of most chickens.
Within the feather-footed varieties, there are still options that will make a breed better suited for you due to climate, desire for eggs or meat, or if you desire dual-purpose birds. Even if these chickens will only be pets or yard ornaments, you want to select a breed that will be best suited for the conditions in which they will be raised.
- The Best Egg Laying Chicken Breeds for Beginners
- 5 Chicken Breeds That Lay White Eggs
- Chicken Breeds with Feathers on Their Feet
A Few Helpful Terms
When preparing to purchase chickens, it’s helpful to know the terminology for poultry so you can “talk chicken”.
- Hen – a mature female
- Pullet – an immature female
- Rooster – a mature male
- Cockerel – an immature male
- Chick – a baby (can be either sex)
- Dual-purpose – good for eggs and meat
- Broody – will be willing to incubate and hatch eggs
- Non-setting – will not be willing to hatch eggs
When considering which breed of feather-footed chicken you would like to raise, here are a few points to ponder.
- Do I want to collect eggs?
- What color eggs do I want?
- Do I want a dual-purpose breed?
- Do I plan on hatching eggs?
- Will I be showing or exhibiting these birds?
- Do I want friendly chickens?
Tips on Buying Your Chickens
You can purchase chicks from a feed store, hatcheries, or even online. You can also purchase fertile eggs and hatch them yourself. Know that if you get “day old” chicks, or hatch them yourself, you will have a mix of hens and roosters. Some towns have rules on keeping chickens in your backyard and don’t allow roosters.
If you only want hens, you need to buy them when they are old enough to identify the sex.
If you plan on hatching eggs or showing your birds, you want to track down a farmer that raises a heritage breed. Often the chicks you buy at a feed store or online have been commercially bred. Commercial farmers often overbreed the chickens which reduces their natural instincts.
To get good quality specimens of your breed, buy chicks from a reputable breeder, such as Cackle Hatchery. These chickens will also tend to be friendlier and less flighty. Certain breeds are known for being more friendly and people-oriented.
You can find a breed directory which can help you find a breeder in your area through the Livestock Conservancy website.
8 Breeds of Chickens with Feathered Feet
There are eight different breeds of chickens with feathers on their feet that are recognized by the feather-legged chickens are recognized by the American Poultry Association. They are part of a group called the Feather Leg Class. If you are a fan of bellbottoms, you will love this feather footed chicken video from YouTube.
1. Belgian d’Uccle (Mille Fleur)
The translation given to this Belgian breed of chickens is mille fleur, meaning a thousand flowers. The D’Uccle name came from the US because these chickens have small beards. They are true bantams and come in many color variations. Their legs are heavily feathered making them appear to be wearing boots. They are easy keepers and great for novice chicken raisers.
- Very easy to manage
- Do well in a small coop with a screened-in run
- Are attractive and come in many colors
- Lay tiny cream-colored eggs
- Make great mothers
- Friendly dispositions and good temperaments
- Make excellent pets
- Not good in cold climates
- Fly well so need enclosed runs
- Eggs are quite small
- Bodies are small so they can only hatch a few eggs at a time
2. Booted Bantam
Known as the Supermodel Breed, Booted Bantams are petite and classy. This is a Dutch chicken breed named for the extravagant feathering on the feet and hocks. It is a true bantam and not a breed derived from a standard-sized chicken. This is almost exclusively exhibition chicken but they are also kept as pets. They lay a decent number of small eggs.
- Appear in 20 color varieties
- Friendly and calm
- Good egg producers for bantams
- Brood easily and make great moms
- Get along well with other chickens
- Suitable for children
- Not fans of severe cold
- Need to be cleaned and maintained
- Should have protected coops and soft bedding
The Brahma breed of chickens is one of the more famous feather-footed chickens. Their breed was originally developed for meat and for minimal maintenance. They are also good for laying eggs so they are named as a dual-purpose breed.
Here are some of the attributes of the Brahma:
- Consistent layers
- Lay all winter
- Roosters are great as meat birds
- Friendly personalities, even the roosters
- They come in bantam size
- Gorgeous feathering and they come in 3 color varieties
- Do well in confinement
- Cold hardy
- Don’t brood easily
- Roosters are not great for protecting the hens
- Prone to muddy feat feathers
- Do best in cool climates
The Cochin is a large breed. It originated in China and its popularity spread to Europe and America. It’s not a breed you will find at a commercial poultry farm but they are very popular for backyard chicken keepers. Here are some of the Cochin attributes:
- Large and beautiful birds with an abundance of fancy feathers
- Come in standard size or bantam
- Available in an array of different color variations
- Easy to handle and great for families with children
- Make great mothers because they love hatching and raising chicks
- Cold hardy
- Happy to be confined
- Not good flyers so they are easy keepers
- Not the best breed for egg-laying
- Feathers will get muddy in wet weather
- Overheat in the summer if not properly cared for
This French feathered feet phenom was developed in the 19th century. They come in both large and bantam sizes and are considered a dual-purpose breed. They are good layers of brown to pinkish eggs. They come in several varieties but the salmon and white colors are the most common in the US. They are not as popular as other breeds so you may have to search to find them.
- Do well in confinement or free-range
- Standard size is a good dual-purpose
- Great layers even in winter
- Lay eggs with a pinkish tint
- Mature early
- Brood easily and make excellent mothers
- Bred for quality meat
- Very active but gentle and make great pets
- Due to heavy feathering, they are prone to external parasites
- Make take a few generations of breeding to refine the desired color
Also known as the Croad Langshan, this heavy and soft breed is rumored to have begun in China. The roosters can top out at 10 pounds. They are specifically bred to be good layers and will lay through the winter They do well in cold conditions but do not well when exposed to extreme weather. They are a docile breed that thrives under conditions where they are kept dry and clean.
- Docile birds that are easily tamed
- Great layers and will lay in winter
- Adapt to confinement or free-range
- Excellent sitters and mothers
- Cold hardy
- Come in three colors, white, black, and blue
- Large birds with beautiful feathering
- Don’t do well exposed to the elements
- Need to be kept in dry soil conditions
This breed is named for its delightfully fluffy plumage that feels like a cross between satin and silk. They have the appearance of dandelion just before it loses its seeds to the wind. They are also unique in that they have black skin and bones and blue earlobes.
Silkies are often used for poultry shows and exhibitions. They have friendly temperaments and are one of the most docile breeds of chickens. They are great for children and pets. They lay about 3 small eggs a week but are known for being broody and even hatching other bird’s eggs.
- One of the most popular breeds of ornamental chickens
- Commonly used to incubate other bird’s eggs
- Come in two varieties, bearded and non-bearded
- Great for confinement as they can’t fly
- Make very good mothers
- Come in a variety of colors
- Only come in bantam size
- Tend to get eaten by predators if left to free-range
- Not good egg layers
- Can be bullied by more aggressive breeds
Sultans belong to the crested chicken group and originated in Turkey. They have been primarily an ornamental breed and were bred to keep in the sultans’ gardens during the Ottoman empire. These birds have very decorative plumage. They are the smallest chickens in the large breed category. They lay small eggs and are not good layers.
- Very docile and friendly
- Bred for doing well in confinement
- Do not tend to go broody
- Impressive plumage includes crests, beards, long tails, dense foot feathering
- Come in 3 varieties, black, blue, and white
- Lay small, white eggs
- Main purpose is as an ornamental breed
- Not good layers
- Need special care to protect their feathering