Black and white is a classic color combination – chic, sophisticated and smart. And it looks just as good in feathered form!
Here we take a look at some of the black and white chicken breeds gracing yards across the world. We’ll find out about their other physical characteristics. And because beauty isn’t only skin-deep, we’ll delve into their personalities too.
Ready to find out more? Step this way!
Black and White Chicken Breeds
Despite their exotic name, Brahma chickens are born and bred in the USA. The breed is probably descended from Asian birds exported from Shanghai in the mid nineteenth century.
Three color varieties of Brahmas are recognized by the American Standard of Perfection, the breed standards in the USA. Both light and dark chickens combine black and white plumage, while the buff variety has black and golden feathers.
Brahmas are large birds, with adult hens weighing around 10 pounds and adult roosters about 2 pounds heavier. Both the males and females have distinctively shaped heads and pea combs – that’s a comb with three ridges that runs from back to front.
They’re calm and gentle chooks, and are happy around children. Some smaller kids may find these gentle giants a little intimidating, though.
And they do need plenty of food to grow to their full size. So if you’re planning on keeping Brahmas, prepare for big feed bills! They can get crotchety if they’re hungry, and may bully other chickens in those circumstances.
Their size means that Brahmas were once seen as a bird for the table, but today they’re most often kept for their eggs.
The hens take longer to start laying than some other breeds, producing their first eggs at around seven months of age. But once they’ve got started, they’re consistent layers. And their eggs are a good size too, each one weighing around 2 ounces.
2. Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rocks are another American breed, and they’re one of the oldest of all. Today, they come in a number of different color varieties, but the original plumage of Plymouth Rocks was what’s known as “barred”. That means their feathers have alternating black and white bands.
Their other characteristics are yellow legs, yellow or horn-colored beaks, and a red comb, wattles and earlobes. The comb is single and has five points.
The Plymouth Rock was at one point the most populous chicken breed across the whole USA. Numbers declined after the Second World War with the advent of industrial farming, but are now slowly recovering.
These are relatively quiet chooks, making them a great choice for yards in urban areas. And interestingly, Plymouth Rocks with the barred pattern are reputedly the quietest of all.
The hens are good egg layers too, laying around 200 eggs over the course of a year. Each egg has a brown shell and weighs around 2 ounces. And Plymouth Rocks are also good sitters, capable of patiently incubating their eggs until they hatch.
3. Silver Spangled Hamburg
Despite its German name, most people believe that the Hamburg chicken originated in the Netherlands. They’re recorded there from at least the 14th century, making this one of the world’s oldest breeds.
They’re relatively small chickens, with adult males weighing around 5 pounds and females a pound or so lighter. The hens lay anywhere between 120 and 250 eggs a year, and will keep laying for many years. The eggs are smaller than those of some other breeds, however.
Hamburgs shine as an ornamental bird, with their elegant shapes and beautiful plumage. The silver spangled color variety is the best known of all, and has black spangles on silvery white plumage. It’s the only breed to have feathers quite like this.
They don’t make great pets, though, as they’re flighty and don’t enjoy being picked up. These curious and active birds do best when allowed to roam free. They’re also excellent foragers and good fliers, and they’ll often build nests in hedges and roost in trees.
The Orloff, often called the Russian Orloff or simply the Russian, actually originated in Persia. But it was the Russian Count Orlov who was instrumental in promoting the breed in the West during the nineteenth century.
It’s a tall chicken with full feathers and a very small comb, wattles and earlobes. That also means it’s very good at handling colder temperatures. Its shape and the heavy feathering on its neck gives it the appearance of a game bird, or even a bird of prey.
The spangled color variety features dark brown, black and white feathers. And in Europe, there’s also a black and white mottled variety.
The hens aren’t the most prolific layers. In their first year of laying, they’ll produce between 160 and 180 eggs, declining to between 120 and 150 after that.
Today’s birds are calm and friendly, but they won’t back down if challenged by more aggressive chooks. They’re good foragers, who enjoy roaming free. And while younger birds are susceptible to disease, they’re very robust by the time they mature.
The little known Thüringian is a rare breed with a number of different color varieties. These include birds with black and white plumage known as silver spangled. Other color varieties are black, white, chamois spangled, buff, blue and cuckoo.
The breed’s name comes from the German state of Thüringen where it was first developed. These chickens are thought to relate to Dutch chickens known as Owlbeards.
Adult males weigh around 5 pounds, while females are around 4 pounds. There’s also a bantam variety, with cocks weighing about 25 ounces, and hens about 21 ounces.
They have distinctive beards – ruffles of feathers around their necks – earmuffs, and a small comb. Their heads are medium-sized, broad and rounded, and they have large eyes and short, broad and curved beaks.
They’re hardy birds who can handle cooler temperatures. And they’re inquisitive and friendly, needing space to roam. They won’t do well kept in a coop, but are happy in mixed flocks.
Marans chickens hail from France and take their name from the town where they originated. They can be found in a range of different color varieties, but the silver cuckoo Marans is black and white. And it’s one of the most popular shades in the US.
Roosters weigh around 8 pounds, while hens are about 5 pounds. There’s also a bantam variety, with male bantam Marans weighing 32 ounces, and females 28 ounces.
Their most distinctive feature is their eggs, which often have very dark brown shells. The color gets lighter as the hen ages, and it gets darker after they’ve molted. Some of the eggs are completely spherical – which looks very cool, but can cause issues for storage!
There are two strains – French Marans and English Marans, the latter often simply called Marans. French Marans have feathers on their legs, so need a little more care and attention. If the feathers get dirty or wet, that can lead to frostbite in cold temperatures, and to other problems.
Marans have what’s known as “tight” feathering – short, rigid feathers that aren’t very fluffy. Their single combs are medium to large and usually held upright. And their earlobes are bright red.
Marans hens start laying from between 5 and 6 months old, and will produce between 150 and 200 eggs a year. Some strains can lay even more, but you won’t get the darkest shelled eggs with those.
They’re generally calm, friendly and quiet birds. They’re good foragers and resistant to most diseases. They do, though, need to roam free. They can get bored and overweight if confined.
The striking Lakenvelder has a Dutch name meaning “shadow on a sheet”. It’s a fitting description for these chickens, which have white bodies and black hackles and tails.
They’re believed to have been first developed in the Netherlands and Germany, and are recorded as far back as the early eighteenth century. They were first shown in the UK in 1902, and appeared in the US Standard of Perfection for the first time in 1939.
Lakenvelders are energetic chooks who like to forage. They can take flight if startled, which makes them better at avoiding predators than some other breeds.
The hens lay small to medium-sized white or tinted eggs, with each hen producing upwards of 150 per year.
Today, they’re an endangered breed. So if you’re looking to add some beautiful black and white chooks to your flock, why not consider helping the Lakenvelder survive?
This is an American breed, and it takes its name from the indigenous Wyandot people of North America. Its exact origins are unknown, but it’s believed to have been the result of breeding between spangled Hamburgs and dark Brahmas.
Modern Wyandottes weigh between 6 and 9 pounds, with males heavier than females. Both sexes have medium-sized bodies, full breasts, broad backs, and yellow legs. Their wattles and earlobes are red, and they have rose combs.
This is a great breed for eggs, with the hens producing around 5 medium to large eggs per week. From time to time, they’ll go broody, which will interrupt production. But they’re good sitters, and good mothers too, once the chicks have hatched.
Wyandottes prefer to be left free to roam. And they’re happiest in single-breed flocks.
The Sussex is one of the oldest of English chicken breeds. And the Light Sussex has striking black and white plumage.
Sussexes date back to the nineteenth century, and the light was one of the three original color varieties. (The others were red and speckled.) Light Sussexes have white bodies, black tails, and have black in their flight feathers and wing coverts. The hackles at the neck are white striped with black.
They’re graceful birds with long, broad, flat backs and wide shoulders. Their eyes can be orange or red. Their earlobes are red too, and their legs and skin are white.
The hens lay between 180 and 200 tinted eggs per year. And some strains specifically bred for laying can produce up to 250 eggs per year.
They’re docile, friendly and confident, and happy interacting with people. They’re hardy enough to cope with colder temperatures in winter, as long as they have adequate shelter. And they can cope with summer heat too, as long as they have access to shade and plenty of cold water.
But they will be lower in the pecking order, so shouldn’t be kept alongside more aggressive breeds.
The beautiful Dominique is known for its dramatic black and white barred plumage and rose comb. It’s another breed with a long history, considered to be the oldest of all American breeds. Sussex chickens are believed to be amongst its ancestors, along with another British breed, the Dorking.
It’s a medium-sized chicken, with adult males weighing between 6 and 7 pounds, and females between 4 and 5 pounds. The earlobes and wattles are red, while the beak, legs and feet are yellow.
Their smaller rose combs and tight plumage mean that Dominiques are better equipped to deal with the cold than some other breeds. They’re friendly and sociable chooks. And they’re very good at foraging, and love to roam.
The hens are good egg layers, generally producing at least four eggs a week. The eggs are medium-sized, and will get bigger as the hen ages.
Black and white beauties
That brings us to the end of our look at ten black and white chicken breeds. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about these beautiful chooks.
Some breeds are best known for their black and white plumage. For others, monochrome feathers are just one of a number of different color varieties.
But despite sharing their coloring, these breeds all have their own distinct looks, temperaments and requirements. Knowing those in advance will help you make sure you can provide the right environment to keep your chickens happy and healthy.