Backyard chickens have become so popular that many towns and cities are now allowing residents to keep small flocks. These municipalities usually limit the chickens to hens, thus preventing the nuisance of crowing roosters.
But, even when restricted to hens, flocks of quiet chickens make better urban or suburban neighbors. Fortunately, a number of chicken breeds are typically less noisy.
Although some poultry breeds are considered quiet, all chickens do make noise. If you live in an area that allows roosters and you include them in your flock, they’ll crow throughout the day.
(It’s a fallacy that roosters only crow at dawn.)
If you’re planning on just hens, they’ll cluck, particularly after laying an egg. This normally lasts a few minutes and is quieter than a barking dog.
“In a flock without a rooster, it’s common for one hen to assume leadership,” says Janet Garman, author of 50 Do-It-Yourself Projects For Keeping Chickens and creator of the Timber Creek Farmer blog.
“She will call the other chickens when treats are being given or when danger is lurking. While not as loud and disturbing as a rooster crowing, the caution clucking is louder than normal-activity clucking.”
Keeping Them Healthy
There are a few items you should keep in mind to maintain quiet and healthy chickens.
In general, larger breeds should be given perches that are lower (no more than 12 inches above ground) so that they don’t injure themselves hopping on and off perches. Also, heavily feathered birds generally do better in colder climates and in runs that are well-drained (so feathers stay clean).
It’s best to provide your chickens with a spacious and secure coop and run. A coop and run protected from predators will make them feel safe and prevent them from cackling about possible dangers.
Lots of room helps prevent boredom and promotes peace between hens.
Finally, be sure to provide dust-bathing areas. “One way to keep chickens quiet is by providing a dust-bath area in the run,” Garman says.
“Dust-bathing chickens seem very content. Give the flock an area that has a mixture of sand, wood ash and dry dirt. Toss in a few dried grubs to get the party started. After a snack and a good dusting, your chickens will feel like they spent the day at a spa.”
The breeds described in this article are all known for being quiet and are considered dual-purpose chickens (good to raise for their meat as well as their egg production). They are listed in alphabetical order along with other breed characteristics to help you select the perfect quiet chickens for your neighbor-friendly flock.
Ameraucana chickens are a relatively new breed developed in the U.S. They were admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1984.
They come in many beautiful colors including Black, Buff, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Buff, Silver and White. Their popularity today is due to their good looks and the blue eggs they lay (about three to four per week).
At 5 1⁄2 pounds average weight (6 1⁄2 for roosters), hens are fairly small and have a striking appearance because they have beards and muffs instead of ear tufts. Bantam varieties exist.
They are normally calm and docile but become anxious (and noisier) if they feel threatened. They won’t respond well to confinement, so it’s a good idea to give them plenty of room to roam in a protected run. That way, they feel safe and stay calm and quiet.
Ameraucanas are friendly and can be handled as long as they are familiar with you. They do well in cold weather but aren’t particularly tolerant of heat.
Australorps originated in Australia and were admitted to the APA Standard in 1929. In the U.S., they are approved only in Black, although blue and white colors are found Down Under. Hens average 6 1⁄2 pounds; roosters, 8 1⁄2. Bantams also exist.
Australorps are active but gentle, peaceful birds, and they’re generally extremely friendly and enjoy being held. The breed’s tendency toward quietness serves as a bonus for urban farmers.
They are fast growers and are incapable of flying because of their heavy size.
Australorps respond well to confined settings and are excellent egg-layers. They produce upwards of 300 large tan eggs per year and occasionally become broody. They are considered cold- and heat-tolerant.
If year-round eggs are a priority for your flock, then Australorps are a great choice.
Brahmas are stately birds that came to the U.S. from China and were admitted to the APA Standard in 1874. They come in Light, Dark and Buff colorations and have calm, docile temperaments.
Hens average about 9 1⁄2 pounds, while roosters are big boys at 12 pounds. Despite their large size, they’re friendly chickens with abundant plumage and feathered feet. Smaller bantam versions exist at 34 and 38 ounces.
Brahmas were originally mostly used for meat or exhibition because of their enormous size, but hens will lay a considerable amount of medium-to-large tan eggs each year, roughly 140. They do better in colder climates, occasionally go broody and make great winter egg-layers.
The very docile rooster doesn’t mind sharing its coop with other males and keeps its soft crows to a minimum. This gentle giant also doesn’t fly and is easy to catch if allowed to roam outside its coop.
The Cochin is another breed that arrived in the U.S. from China and were admitted to the Standard in 1874. These pretty birds have a profusion of long, soft plumage and feathered feet. All that feathering makes them good chickens for colder climates.
They come in many attractive color variations, including:
- Silver Laced
- Golden Laced
- Brown Barred
At an average hen weight of 8 1⁄2 pounds (11 for roosters), they make for large, fluffy birds, as do their bantam counterparts (28 and 32 ounces, respectively).
Cochins are typically docile, calm, relaxed and caring. They make good surrogate mothers and pets, and do well in confined settings. Chicken-keepers usually keep them as meat or ornamental birds, but hens will produce approximately 140 large brown eggs per year.
A neat tip: They’re quick to go broody and can be used to hatch larger eggs such as duck or turkey eggs.
The Java is one of the oldest breeds developed in the U.S. and was instrumental in creating some of the newer American breeds such as the Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red. Javas come in Black and Mottled colors.
Hens weigh on average 7 1⁄2 pounds (32 ounces for bantams), with the roosters tipping the scales at 9 1⁄2 pounds (36 ounces for bantams). Javas are docile but active birds that prefer smaller flock dynamics.
They were listed in the APA Standard in 1883.
Javas do well in warm and cold climates and dependably lay 150 or more large brown eggs per year. Considered great homestead birds, they forage well and grow slowly, making their meat very flavorful.
Orpingtons originated in England and were admitted to the APA Standard in 1902. They come in Buff (a cross between Golden Spangled Hamburgs, Buff Cochins and Dark Dorkings), Black, White and Blue colors and are a popular breed because of their easygoing personalities.
Extremely calm, they like to interact with humans and are generally happy to let you pick them up. They are good with children and make good pets, too.
Orpingtons do well in free-ranging and confined conditions. At an average of 8 pounds, the hens are big birds that have lots of soft feathers; roosters weigh in at 10 pounds. All those feathers make them winter-hardy birds that need shade in hot climates.
Hens produce around 250 large brown eggs each year and can go broody. Bantams varieties exist at 34 (hens) and 38 ounces (roosters).
- Rocks come in many colorful variations, including:
- Silver Penciled
The breed was admitted to the APA Standard in 1874.
Hens weigh approximately 7 1⁄2 pounds (roosters, 9 1⁄2). Bantam hens weigh 32 ounces, while roosters weigh 36. The large-fowl hens produce in excess of 200 large brown eggs a year, and tend to get along well with humans, forage well and can tolerate confinement.
The breed might be the perfect dual-purpose bird—friendly, quiet and able to adapt to most climates and living situations. They display an almost affectionate disposition, even in roosters, and make great pets for children.
They are considered extremely hardy and tolerate heat and cold. This immensely admired breed is an all-around solid selection for an urban or suburban coop.
Barred Plymouth Rocks are the most popular color and are always readily available because they can be sexed at hatching. (Roosters have a single white dot on their head.)
Rhode Island Red
As the name indicates, Rhode Island Reds are red in coloration. They were developed in the U.S. and admitted to the APA Standard in 1904. RIR Hens weigh in at about 6 1⁄2 pounds (8 1⁄2 for roosters) and are docile birds that get along well with other breeds.
They’re not particularly friendly with humans unless trained from an early age. Bantam hens weigh 30 ounces; roosters, 34.
Reds are very hardy and tolerate hot and cold conditions. They were once considered to be the finest flavored chickens in the U.S. In addition, because they lay in excess of 250 large brown eggs per year, they are one of the best egg-layers of the dual-purpose breeds.
Most hens will go broody but some strains of Reds developed specifically for egg-laying have had the broody characteristic bred out.
While Rhode Island Red hens are calm and easy to handle, roosters can become aggressive. This breed doesn’t display strong flying skills and requires only small-fencing enclosures. Confined and free-range environments are both tolerated by RIRs.
Sussex come in Speckled, Red and Light colorations, with the Speckled variety being particularly attractive. They were admitted to the APA Standard in 1914.
Hens weigh approximately 7 pounds (9 for roosters) and are calm but curious and alert. It’s not unusual for a Sussex to follow its owner around looking for treats, and they’re easy to handle.
Bantam versions are available, weighing 32 (hens) and 36 ounces (roosters).
Sussex hens lay more than 200 large tan eggs per year. They forage well and tolerate hot and cold conditions. They do tend to go broody, but they make good mothers.
Unlike most chickens, the appearance of their plumage tends to improve as they age.
Wyandottes come in nine gorgeous APA-approved color varieties:
- Silver Laced
- Golden Laced
- Silver Penciled
Hens weigh an average of 6 1⁄2 pounds (roosters 8 1⁄2) and are friendly. Bantam version are available at 26 (hens) and 30 ounces (roosters). The breed was admitted to the APA Standard in 1883.
Wyandottes, known for being good for meat, eggs and exhibition, produce approximately 200 large tan eggs per year and lay reliably through winter.
They are typically good mothers and tolerate hot and cold conditions. The breed’s bright-red rose comb gives it an additional advantage in cold climates because less surface area reduces the chance of frostbite.
Overall calm and easygoing, some strains can become slightly aggressive. The Wyandotte isn’t a high-maintenance bird. If kept in a coop in the yard, this breed easily adapts to confinement.
With the proper housing and environment, chickens selected from the breeds described in this article should produce a relatively quiet backyard flock. By choosing the other attributes that are most important to you—such as egg production, hardiness, appearance, etc.—you can have quiet chickens that you and your neighbors will all love.
Sidebar: Breeds to Avoid
Easter Egger and Polish breeds are two types of chickens that you might want to avoid if you want a quiet coop.
Easter Eggers aren’t actually a recognized chicken breed. They’re any mixed-breed chicken that carries the blue-color egg gene.
They may lay blue eggs but may also lay green, tan, pink or yellow eggs. Their colored eggs make them quite popular, but because they are a mixed-breed chicken, their tendencies toward quiet or noisy vary significantly. Many are quite vocal.
Unfortunately, Easter Eggers are sometimes sold as Ameraucanas, so be wary when purchasing this breed.
The Polish chicken is a distinctive-looking breed because of the crest of feathers on its head. However, this crest tends to restrict its vision, causing the breed to be easily surprised or lost from the flock. When this happens, it can become nervous and noisy.