Most people think a chicken is a chicken and they all look more or less the same but you couldn’t be more wrong. The world of chickens has all sorts of room for oddballs. Here are just a few.
Onagadori are a Japanese breed of chicken that used to decorate imperial gardens where they were pampered beyond measure. They had to be in order for their pristine feathers to grow out. The roosters sported tail feathers that when kept in the right conditions could grow an astounding twenty feet in length! If you’re looking for a chicken with easy upkeep this is not the bird for you. Just imagine keeping that tail clean. Phew. That’s be a lot of work for the vanity of a chicken.
Polish chickens are a well-known ornamental breed that comes in a variety of colors but they’re actually known for their crazy haircuts. The roosters have wild long feathers swooshing off their heads that make them look like they just walked off stage from an 80’s hair band while the hens have a proper very round afro-looking haircut. Very chic. It’s not just their feathers though, the Polish have this strange appearance because their skull has an extra piece on top, like a little dome, which pushes the feathers upwards and outwards. They are very pretty birds but sometimes a little vanity can be a bad thing. Due to their small size and inability to see many become victims to hungry hawks and other predators. Their extra feathers can also get wet and freeze in the winter, which I would guess is pretty unpleasant. Still these things can be prevented and they remain an interesting ornamental bird to have around.
Rumor has it that once upon a dark and thunderous night a group of Satanists were summoning demons when one of these chickens came flying out of the chimney, hopped onto the table, and chased off all the screaming conjurers. Or if you want the boring version of the story they were bred in France as dual purpose meat and egg laying birds who just coincidentally have a comb that looks like devil horns.. If I had one of these birds I would have no other choice but to name it Lucifer especially since this breed seems to thrive in free-range situations where they "shun humans and domestication." Maybe they're up to something...
Silkie Bantams are very popular as pets because of their small size and their fluffy appearance. Many people know about them and point out their unusual feathers which resemble down feathers or chick feathers. This fluffy appearance extends to their fluffy legs. They maintain these baby feathers their entire lives but this isn’t why I think they’re unusual. I think they are unusual because they are the only chicken breed that has black skin, black meat, and black bones. Many countries in Asia eat them as a delicacy but most of us Westerners think a little black lump of chicken is a little too gross looking to eat.
Rumpless chickens are those who are born without a rear end. Well, that’s not the complete story but it is half of it, no pun intended. They are actually a genetic mutation found within the Araucana breed that deprives them of their last few vertebrae (what would usually make up a tail in a regular chicken.) It’s probably the same gene found in Manx cats. Their somewhat upright carriage does little but highlight their lack of a proper booty. In fact if you gave it a different beak I'm pretty sure you'd end up with a dodo bird.
Scots Dumpies have to be the most tragically named chickens that are out there. To Americans they sound like something you fish out of a sewer. They are however named after their country of origin (Scotland) and their slang word for short – dumpy. These chickens are indeed short. Although they have a normal body carriage and size (up to seven pounds) their legs are not supposed to be any longer than two inches.Currently they are a very rare breed facing extinction. Breeding them has proved a frustration to some as up to 25% of their fertile eggs refuse to hatch.That being said once they are hatched the roosters can fight off predators with an impressing ferocity.
Modern Game Bantams
In stark contrast to the Scots Dumpies the Modern Games are sleek, proud-postured, and all legs. They are the super models of the chicken world and come in all sorts of colors to highlight their odd physique. They were originally bred by tweaking lines of game birds (those traditionally bred for cockfighting.) Perhaps someone thought that in our day and age fighting is more mental than physical, and if you look this freaky your enemies may run in terror at the sight of you.
Seramas are a Malaysian breed only recently (2001) imported into the United States. In their country of origin they are beloved pets surpassing the popularity of both dogs and cats combined. What makes them so lovable? Well their sweet personalities and their tiny statue which allows them to be house pets! The smallest of the breed, called micros, don’t get much bigger than a can of soda. Their chicks are the size of a battery. And to add to their charm they also come in over 2,500 different colors making them perhaps the most colorful breed, if not close to it! I admit I have been bedazzled by these cheeky little birds and have a pair of my own but they're the largest of the breed at 16oz. The smallest of the breed can be as wee as 6oz.
These chickens don’t look unusual from the onset but they do have one very special and desired quality, sexual dimorphism from hatching. In laymen's terms that means boy chicks and girl chicks can be sexed immediately after their hatching based on their coloring alone. Although many breeds have roosters that mature to look much different than hens very few chicken breeds have this marked difference from day one. It’s a breed that was worked on specifically for this characteristic before nearly going extinct. There are a handful of breeders trying to make a comeback with them.
Easter Eggers, Olive Eggers, and Marans
Easter Eggers are Americauna or Aricauna chickens who decided laying brown or white eggs was too boring and mainstream for them. They opted to lay bright blue eggs, some being baby blue, others being darker. This is rumored to be due to the fact the breed may have originated from crossing pheasants (who lay colorful eggs) with chickens several hundred years ago. I thought this was far fetched but it apparently can happen sometimes so I can’t be one to judge. In the meantime people sometimes cross these Easter Eggers with brown egg layers in order to create birds that lay green eggs which I hear are terrific with ham. And if egg color is really your thing there are also pinkish colored eggs, brown eggs, dark brown eggs (usually laid by Marans) and white eggs.
What happens when you cross a chicken with candy? Buttercups of course! These are chickens whose roosters display such an enormous fleshy comb that it almost looks like a hand jutting out of its head and because both combs are attached they actually can make a circular cup. This might be handy for collecting water for the other chickens if they can figure this out…
There have been several breeds of chickens that have had featherless necks but what happens when you want to take that characteristic to its logical genetic extreme? Well, you get feathers chickens like the ones created by mad scientists in Tel Aviv in 2002. These chickens were supposed to be fast growing, lower in calories, withstand hot climates, and be easy to process for the chicken plucker on the go. What really happened was the birds did terrible in heat suffering from sunburns and heatstroke having no protection from their imaginary feathers. Roosters also had to be truly acrobatic if they wished to mate for they could not keep balance flapping their wings like most rooster do. It was a flop, though a few did get loose into the pet market which is why you occasionally see a picture of a bare-ass chicken wearing a sweater. What next?