All chicken breeds range in beautiful colors, but gray chickens are truly spectacular. Choosing the right breed can be a dilemma because they are all stunning.
If you are looking for true gray chickens, there are only 9 breeds to choose from.
There are several other chicken breeds that are gray in name only. However, these breeds may have several chickens in a flock that are superficially gray or have gray feathers or feathers that are mottled, but they are not true gray breeds.
True gray chickens are gray because of a complex genetic combination of black and white DNA where either a dominant gene is incomplete or two birds with a recessive gene are coupled.
The gray is based on a black bird bred with a white bird over time to make the different shades of gray. These breeds can appear to be lavender, splash, silver, blue, or blue-mottled.
Thus, only nine breeds are classified as true gray.
Breeding with true gray chickens can be tricky because the chickens’ complex genetics can produce chicks that are either gray or mottled or colored.
As with Orpington chickens, 50% of a breeding pairs chicks will come up as gray, and the rest (50%) can come up speckled with other colors.
The breed is gray, however, colors do sneak in. If you are expecting to breed gray chickens, be aware of this.
The title of Gray Breeds can be deceiving because, when we think gray, our minds often jump to any chicken that is gray.
However, chickens that look gray are not necessarily true gray breeds. If we turn to genetics again, these birds will not have the same incomplete or the same pairing of recessive genes as true gray breeds.
Often you will find breeds that are called gray breeds but are not really bred gray. They are often called gray because of a flock that appears to be gray.
These breeds can come in almost all the colors of the rainbow. But that is just another demonstration of the complexity of the chickens’ complex genetics.
These birds are not true gray breeds.
Gray chickens can be classified as true gray or not true gray. Several also have bantams (miniature-sized chickens). This article will discuss both true and not true gray chickens.
First, let’s look at the gray chicken breeds to help you choose the breed best suited to your homestead. Here’s a quick overview table…
|Breed||Full-Size Bantams All Sizes||Bird Size||Eggs Per Week||Meat||Show||Pets|
|Silkie||All||SS||2 to 3||❌||✅||✅|
|Sapphire Gem||FS||M||5 to 6||❌||✅||✅|
|Ameraucana||All||M||3 to 4||❌||✅||✅|
|Orpington||All||L – XL||3 to 5||✅||✅||✅|
|Lavender Pekin||Bantam||SS||1 to 2||❌||✅||❌|
I am going to jump right in with the absolutely cutest gray chicken breed, the Silkie.
Their plumage is fluffy, and they come with a gorgeous hairdo. Their feathers are soft like silk. They have 5 toes on each foot, whereas other breeds only have 4 toes per foot.
Their skin and bones are black, and their earlobes are blue. Some have crested heads. Their beaks and eyes are black.
The American Poultry Association recognizes 8 varieties that range from gray to blue.
They are very friendly and make great pets for children.
They are bred mainly for exhibition shows and therefore do not mind being handled; therefore, they are great for kids to take care of, and the kids will get a kick from taking part in shows with other kids.
They find but tend to be picked on by other breeds. Be careful with choosing a breed you want to keep with your silkies; make sure the other breeds are not ill-tempered.
They are not really suitable for cold environments – unless they sleep in bed with your kids. Their size and fluffy plumage make them difficult to warm themselves up.
They weigh in at 4 pounds for roosters, and 3 pounds for hens.
They are also not great egg layers. They tend to lay only 2 to 3 eggs per week and their eggs are tiny. This chicken breed is made for mothering.
They do need coops to help them regulate their body temperature, to keep them warm and dry, and to keep them safe from predators.
But other than that, your only expenses will be food, water, and a dust bath.
2. Lavender Cochin
Lavender Cochins are a very large breed with beautiful plumage. Their layered feathers are gray and blue.
The American Poultry Association recognizes 13 color varieties, unfortunately, lavender is not one of these.
They are very calm birds that are fantastic with children. They are known for their gentle disposition. They are easy to handle and are popular at shows.
These birds are truly gentle giants; roosters weigh roughly 10 pounds; hens weigh roughly 8 pounds.
Their layers of feathers make them good for colder climates. However, their layered feathers do make them vulnerable to mites and lice, you will need to be vigilant in preventing or treating your Cochins for parasites.
They do not lay a lot of eggs; they only lay about 2 per week. However, their eggs are medium to large, and they will lay eggs all year round
They are very broody and are fantastic foster moms. They will happily sit on any eggs they find, even if the eggs are not chickens but rather ducks, geese, or even turkeys.
3. Sapphire Gem
Sapphire Gems are beauties with their blue and lavender feathers. The name is deceiving because Sapphire Gems only ever are gray. You will never find a red, brown, black, or any other color bird in this breed.
They are truly a gem to look at.
They are not aggressive; they are ideal for beginners as they are good layers, with extra-large eggs, and are easy to raise. They are very friendly and get along with other birds. They are calm and well-mannered.
They are suitable for cold weather or warm weather as they regulate their temperatures well. They do not tend to have many health issues.
They are medium-sized with hens weighing in at 6 pounds, and roosters weighing in at 7 pounds.
Ameraucana’s are strikingly beautiful with tinted bluish gray, fluffy feathers and a fluffy beard and muff.
They are recognized by the American Poultry Association.
They are good layers who lay all year. Their eggs are a good drawing point on their own as they are blue.
Their nature is calm which makes them great for beginners.
Orpingtons are gaining popularity for their bluish-gray plumage, their good meat yield, and their high egg production.
They are often used as show chickens because of the sheer volume of their silky feathers.
They do have a downside. As they are not true breeders, only 50% of their chicks will look like their parents in color. The other 50% will be either black or splashes.
Hens weigh 6 to 8 pounds and roosters weigh 8 to 10 pounds. People often think they are huge, however, most of what you see is plumage. Orpington chickens also can be bantams which weigh 3 to 3 ½ pounds.
6. Blue Andalusian
Andalusian chickens tend to be very nosy and curious. They are somewhat nervous and scatter easily. They are therefore not ideal for beginners or children. They love the freedom to wander around.
Andalusians are reasonably good layers, laying 3 eggs a week. They are not really interested in sitting on eggs or being moms. If you want chicks, you will need an incubator.
They do not do well in cold areas; therefore, you need to give them a heater at night. Do remember they like to move about, so, if you live in an area that is cold day and night, this breed is not what you are looking for.
They are fairly small compared to other breeds with the males weighing around 7 pounds and the females weighing 5 pounds. Bantams weigh 28 ounces for the roosters and 24 ounces for the hens.
They have 1 characteristic that unfortunately is an issue for some people: They do NOT have a volume or mute button! They are loud birds; if you are deaf, this will be no problem, so, lucky you.
7. Blue Australorp
They are friendly, easy-to-handle birds from Australia. They are great for beginners and for children.
In fact, they will come in close to, but definitely not better than (in my humble perspective) golden retrievers for friendly, loyal pets that form deep bonds with people.
They like nothing better than to hang around their human companions and show affection for anyone they are bonded to.
Their legs are black or blue which blends perfectly into their soft feathers.
They are great egg layers and lay eggs all year round.
Australorps are the best of the best for egg-laying. They lay eggs all year round and they lay more than 5 eggs per week.
They are dual purpose for meat and eggs. Hens can weigh 7 pounds; roosters weigh 9 pounds.
8. Blue Wyandotte
We already covered the Wyandotte chicken breed in another article, but the blue Wyandotte’s looks truly spectacular. This particular breed dress regally with slate blue or gray feathers that contrast their bright red wattles, combs, and earlobes perfectly.
They are quite calm and friendly, but they can also be somewhat reserved. They do not really like being handled, except for those occasions where a treat is a bribe.
They are bred for eggs and meat; they are also becoming more and more popular as show birds too. Males weigh 8 to 9 pounds; females weigh 6 to 7 pounds.
They are large birds that lay more than 5 large eggs per week all year round.
9. Lavender Pekin
You know that feeling when you walk into a room and suddenly feel overdressed? This is a chicken who knows the feeling.
Lavender Pekin chickens have so many fluffy feathers that they almost look like a soccer ball.
Lavender Pekins are great show birds who do not mind being handled. They are very friendly and make great pets.
They are true bantams, weighing only 1 ½ pound for the roosters and 1.25 pounds for the hens, and standing at 8 inches tall they are high-maintenance chickens for grooming.
Because they are so fluffy and short, they need a lot of cleaning to prevent matting from being in mud and dirt.
They lay 1 to 2 tiny eggs per week. They are very broody and make wonderful mothers.
Not True Gray
Isobars are a rare breed that produces a lot of unique colored eggs (200 per year). They are not prone to freezing in cold areas and love plenty of space to forage.
2. Norfolk Gray
Bred for meat and eggs Norfolk grays are on the rare, endangered registry, so keep that in mind if you are looking for meat. We need to promote breeding to strengthen the population.
3. Gray Junglefowl
Gray Junglefowl are attractive dual-purpose chickens from India. Their beautiful feathers are often used to make fishing lures.
Birchen chickens are one of the rarest chicken breeds out there. They lay stunning eggs the color of terracotta with speckling on them. Please help the breed by breeding them rather than eating them.
While lumped in with gray chickens, these chickens have a variety of colors. The bantams are a beautiful blue. They are dual purpose birds.
6. Iowa Blue
Iowa blue chickens are very docile, friendly birds that are bred for dual purposes of meat and eggs. The hens lay lots of eggs and make wonderful moms.
Favorelles are popular pets because of their friendly nature. They are bred as dual-purpose birds.
Frizzles are one of the best show chickens. They are bred primarily for their stunning plumage.
These small, docile birds are bred more for exhibition rather than meat or egg production.
10. Scots Gray
The Scots Gray’s are a hardy breed that is dual purpose for meat and eggs. True to Scotland (their country of origin), they are very sturdy, hardy birds.
It is VERY important to know that the Dorking chicken is a threatened breed on the endangered breeds list.
This means that if you want to take on Dorking’s you should first decide if you are trying to save the species or are you looking for food on the table? If your answer is food, move along.
They are great layers but get an incubator set up to help give the chicks the best chance for survival. Contact breeders in your area and be a part of re-establishing these beautiful birds.
These sweet, friendly birds are bred for meat, but they also are very friendly pets.
Leghorns are very skittish birds that startle easily that are bred for egg production; they are very good layers.
Minorca’s are a strikingly beautiful birds that are bred for exhibition. They are not good layers, and they do not produce much meat.
15. Naked Neck
These hardy chickens are not the most attractive birds, but they are great for meat and egg production.
16. Plymouth Rock
Plymouth rock chickens are recovering from the endangered list. They are primarily egg layers, but please let them hatch as much as possible. Help get the breed more stable.
17. White-Faced Black Spanish
This breed is medium to large, hardy, and bred for their good, large eggs. They are very pretty birds that do not like to be handled; they are skittish and easy to startle.
18. Whiting True Blue
Whiting True Blues lay the most spectacular blue eggs. The chickens are often speckled with other colors.
19. California Gray
The California gray is a relatively small to medium bird. It was bred for laying large white eggs, as well as for meat; the meat yield will be lower than most other meat breeds.
20. Easter Egger
Easter eggers are bred for their beautiful blue eggs. They are excellent layers but are not broody at all.
If you want to breed, get a different, super broody chicken, like the silkie or lavender cochin, to place with your easter eggers, that will adopt any egg it finds, sitting on the eggs happily and mothering the chicks well too.
Bantams are basically smaller versions of different breeds. If you do not have space for large chickens, you should consider bantams.
Most of the true gray chickens have bantam siblings, but there are plenty of other breeds of bantams that are just as pretty to look at.
You can choose from:
- American Game
- Belgian D’Anver
- Belgian D’Uccle
- Booted (Sablepoot)
- Modern Game
- Naked Neck
- Old English Game
- Plymouth Rock
Some gray chickens have goofy, silly behaviors that are a delight to see. Choose well, and help wherever you can by breeding, providing good shelters, using good feed as well as giving worms, fruit, and veggies, and taking care of parasites as soon as you see them.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.