Domesticated for hundreds of years, chickens have been the single most prominent contributors to the industry of poultry farming. Numerous breeds of chicken have been classified on the basis of their size, egg color, plumage color, earlobe color, skin color, feathering, place of origin and many more distinguishing attributes. They are also classified according to their utilities like providing flesh, eggs or ones that serve dual purposes. Some of them are also bred purely for ornamental purposes.
Chicken breeds are also location specific. Every country can boast of a distinct set of breeds. They are bred in accordance with the regulations laid down by governing bodies such as the American Poultry Association and the American Bantam Association. Cross breeds are also developed and are very commercially viable due to their egg producing abilities. However, the hybrid variants may not pass on similar attributes to their off-springs. They essentially remain as first generation crosses of predominant breeds.
Breeds of chicken can be broadly classified into two sizes, the large or standard sized ones and the bantams. The standard breed is generally bigger in size and ideal for poultry farming because it lays large eggs. Because of their large sizes, the standard breed is generally meant for huge poultry farms and is bred primarily for large scale production of eggs. They are also utilized for meat, and are of the hybrid strain. Popular breeds under this category include Welsummer, Sussex, Wyandotte, Jersey Giants and Brahmas.
The bantams are of the smaller variety, and require lesser space to be bred. They are known to exhibit better personality traits than their oversized cousins. The size of bantams is almost one fourth the size of the standard or large breeds. The eggs they lay are also half the size of the ones laid by standard ones. Bantams are primarily bred by those who have space constrictions.
Bantams can be further classified into diminutive bantams and true bantams. The diminutive bantams are a miniature of the large chicken breeds. However, not all large breeds of chicken have a diminutive counterpart, however a majority of them do. Some examples of diminutive bantams are Sussex, Leghorn, Wyandotte, Barnevelder, Welsummer and Silkie.
True bantams are those that have no larger counterparts. Examples of true bantams include the Serama, which is the smallest chicken in the world and is as small as a 330 ml cold drink can. Other examples include OEGBs or the Old English Game Bantams, which are more commonly addressed by the Americans as Bantam Cochins. The Japanese or Belgian breeds are also examples of True Bantams.
Hybrid chicken breeds have steadily emerged as a commercially viable option. They can be classified broadly into two groups Meat Hybrids and Egg Hybrids. Egg hybrids lay as many as 300 eggs in the first year but are soon drained out due to over commercialization and are not famous for their longevity. Meat hybrids are given restricted food and are bred is such a way so that they can convert their intake into maximum flesh, for optimum profits. Gathering knowledge about the numerous breeds of chicken may be difficult, however understanding the basic classifications can provide a basic idea.