Poultry breeds are defined as domestic fowl which are reared for the table or for their eggs and sometimes for their feathers. There are numerous poultry breeds which includes vast numbers of varieties of chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. Many of these breeds are ornamental birds while others are specifically bred for their egg laying abilities or meat production.
There are over sixty different varieties of chickens, capons and cockerels, with some ten varieties of ducks and seven to eight breeds of turkeys and geese. Within each of these different breeds there are further varieties each with its own distinctive attributes. Each breed of poultry is also classified by the feather type, for example hard feather, soft feather heavy, soft feather light.
Ducks are classified as heavy, light and Bantam which is based on their size and weight. Waterfowl, ducks, are often kept with other fowl and are bred for their eggs and meat.
Turkeys are raised primarily for their meat which is used as the main table food to celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States and Christmas in the United Kingdom. Turkeys can grow into very large, heavy birds which are relatively tame, although known to fight among themselves. They are reasonably hardy poultry breeds which, like most birds, prefer to have some shelter from wind and rain.
True Bantams are not generally used for their meat or eggs but are bred for their ornamental qualities. There are many different varieties of Bantam all with their own distinctive colourings and plumage style.
The breed of chicken known as Anconas were originally known as the Black Leghorn due to their black colour, like the Leghorns they are used mainly for their egg prolific egg laying, they were at one time the most popular egg-producing breeds in Europe and became used in the United States in the 19th century as they are hardy birds which are not overly affected by different climates.
Chickens which have their own specialist breed clubs in the UK are known as rare breeds although some of these poultry breeds are raised for either their eggs or meat. Houdan chickens are a example of a rare breed which are used for their egg production, however, due to their average weights they are also used for the table as they produce a reasonable quality of meat which is often favoured by the French.