What Are Black Chicken Breeds?

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on November 07, 2022
5 min read

Chickens can make a delightful addition to your backyard or farm. These quirky birds can provide your family with ethically raised eggs, meat, and countless hours of entertainment. If you’re planning to start or expand your flock, you can choose from a range of types. A breed of black chickens can make a colorful addition to your yard. 

What are black chickens? Chickens in this category typically have black skin and black feathers, though black chicken breeds like the Sumatra chicken can also produce other feather colors. If you enjoy these birds’ striking appearances, you can choose from many types of black chickens. Learn about black chicken characteristics, breeds, and benefits.

Generally, the term “black chicken” refers to any chicken that has dark plumage. More specifically, many poultry experts use this name for chickens with black beaks, bones, flesh, and skin. Depending on the breed, these black chickens can have a range of feather colors. For instance, silkie chickens have black bones and skin, but their plumage can be white, brown, or another color. 

Many black chicken breeds originated in Asia. For instance, Chinese farmers prized the Xichuan black-bone chicken and selectively bred birds with five black body parts, including feathers and skin. Preliminary research shows that multiple genes work together to produce the chickens’ black coat, skin, and shanks.

Some people believe that black chickens have medicinal properties. Other chicken owners simply admire the birds for their unique coloring and ability to supply eggs and meat.

There are dozens of types of black chickens that you can add to your flock. Each kind has a unique appearance, benefits, and traits. 

Black chicken breeds include: 

  • Black Australorp. Also known as the Australian Orpington, this breed has two variations. The Black Australorp has black feathers with a greenish sheen, while the regular Australorp has white feathers and skin. The Australorp is renowned for its high egg production, with backyard-kept birds producing approximately 250 eggs annually. The dual-purpose chicken breed can also be used to produce meat. 
  • Crèvecoeur chicken. This rare French chicken breed has a solid black beak, plumage, and shanks. The Crèvecoeur chicken also has a unique “V” comb that gives it a disgruntled appearance. The bird makes a great pet due to its docile temperament, moderate egg production, and striking appearance. You can also harvest this chicken for its savory meat. 
  • Spanish chicken. The visually arresting Spanish chicken has smooth, greenish-black feathers and a flowing tail. The male Spanish chicken has a large, erect comb, while the female has a floppy comb. The White-Faced Black Spanish variation has a large white face and white earlobes that stand out from the black body. This breed produces large quantities of white eggs, but the chickens require attentive care in extreme temperatures. 
  • Sumatra chicken. This glamorous black chicken breed originated in Borno, Java, and Sumatra as a fighting bird, but today, it's kept by backyard chicken raisers. The chicken has black bones, dark skin, green-black feathers, a purple face, and a long, majestic tail. The Sumatra chicken can be an excellent choice if you want an ornamental chicken that will add beauty to your backyard. A hen will also lay modest quantities of small white eggs. But these birds can be flighty and difficult to handle, making them a challenge for inexperienced chicken owners. 
  • Xichuan black-bone chicken. This all-black bird originated in the remote region of Xichuan County in China. Local residents used the black-bone chicken to create medicinal remedies for diabetes, menstrual abnormalities, and other conditions. Today, Xichuan chickens remain rare and understudied.

Depending on your budget and location, some of these black chicken breeds may be easier to acquire than others. Your needs can also help you determine which type of black chicken will work best for you.

All chicken breeds share a common ancestor: the red junglefowl, Gallus gallus. Approximately 8,000 years ago, humans began domesticating and selectively breeding chickens. Today, there are two popular categories of chicken breeds: black and white chickens. There are two key differences to keep in mind when comparing these birds: 

  • Egg color. The color of the eggshell depends on the breed. White chicken breeds typically produce brown, chalk white, or very light eggs. Many black chicken breeds, like the Crèvecoeur, Spanish, and Sumatra, produce white eggs. 
  • Skin color. White chicken breeds have white skin, while black chicken breeds have black skin. This trait can influence the meat that you harvest from the bird, causing some black chicken breeds to produce black-colored meat. 

For the most part, choosing between black and white chicken breeds is a matter of personal preference. You can find breeds with different egg-laying capacities and temperaments in each category, so it’s essential to research the types you’re interested in before you purchase either black or white chickens.

Selecting a black chicken breed has a few advantages, like: 

  • Health benefits. Research suggests that the dark meat of black chicken breeds like the Kadaknath provides a rich source of carnosine. Carnosine is a protein-building compound that has antioxidant properties, so eating black chicken meat may be a healthier choice than white meat.  
  • Ornamentation. The glossy dark feathers of black chickens can make these breeds more visually appealing than white chickens. Black chicken breeds commonly kept as ornamental fowl include the Araucana, Crèvecoeur, Cochin, and Sumatra. 

If you want a stylish bird that will produce healthy meat, a black chicken breed developed for meat can be a great choice.

Generally, black chickens require the same care as their white counterparts. Tips for raising healthy chickens of any breed include: 

  • Always make sure that your chickens have access to clean water.
  • Feed your birds a balanced diet of grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • House chickens in a spacious coop that will shield them from bad weather and predators.
  • Monitor your chickens carefully for signs of disease, like lack of appetite or sneezing.
  • Remove manure from your chicken coop frequently.
  • Supplement the diet of your laying hens with crushed oyster shells and grit to aid in egg production.

Some black chicken types may require additional care. For instance, fragile breeds like the Spanish chicken need greater attention and secure shelter during harsh cold or hot weather.  

Carefully researching chicken breeds can help you decide between black and white chickens. Selecting the best chicken for you will allow you to enjoy years of companionship, eggs, and meat.