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Ancona Chickens: In-Depth Breed Profile

Learn about the characteristics of Ancona chickens, understand what defines the breed, and determine if they are the right fit for your homestead or backyard coop.

ancona chicken sitting on nest

Ancona Chicken Background

The Ancona chicken breed is a heritage breed. It originated in Italy, in the city of Ancona. Later moved and bred in England, it ended up in the United States of America in the late 1800s.

What Does an Ancona Chicken Look Like Exactly?

This chicken breed has a distinct look, characterized by a mottled appearance. It is all black, which is where the original name “Black Leghorns” comes from. On some of its black feathers are pure white tips. With each consecutive moult, the white tips, or mottles, grow in number.

One incredible feature of this breed, in other countries, they can come in both red and blue colors, but these colors will always have white tips.

Another thing about the Ancona chicken is it has white ear lobes. They have yellow beaks and bright yellow legs. As for their comb, this can be either a large single comb or a rose comb. The eggs they produce are cloud white.

The feathers on this breed are close to the body, and it is said to be the reason they excel in winter weather. Overall, these are the type of chickens you would want to sign up for a contest at a fair. They surpass other chickens and poultry breeds in beauty.

Our Ancona chicken is probably one of the most unusual laying hens in our flock. Her companions include Barred Rocks, Speckled Sussex, Australorps, Golden Comets, and others commonly found in a group of chickens.

She came to be here when one year I let the children flip through a poultry catalog and each could pick anyone they wanted. This was Lydia’s choice, and the sole survivor from that order as the rest fell victim to playful kittens.

Pros and Cons of the Ancona Chicken Breed


Here are some good reasons to have this breed in your flock.

1. Distinct Coloration

Ancona chickens are very beautiful. Similar in shape to leghorn chickens, this chicken breed is stunning. It has piercing eyes and a mottled pattern of beautiful black plumage with v-shaped white tips. You can spot these chickens a mile away.

As we have explored above, these chickens are aesthetically pleasing to have on your homestead. If colorful feathers and beautiful bodies are important to you when purchasing your livestock, Ancona chickens are right for you!

2. Matures quickly

This breed matures quickly and becomes ready to get to work early on in life. They will give you eggs a few weeks earlier than most pullets start laying.

3. Laying Ability

Ancona chickens are great layers. They lay an average of 220 large white eggs per year. They also tend to lay better in the winter time. Compared to other chickens who slow down quite a bit as the days get shorter, the Ancona chicken breed will keep laying regardless of the weather.

4. Climate Adaptability

Anconas adjust rapidly to the environment they are placed in. The Ancona Chicken breed is very heat tolerant. They can also tolerate cold.

However, due to their large comb and wattle, they are prone to frost bite in cold conditions. Proper housing and care can mitigate the risk of frostbite. However, it is something to consider if you live in a cold climate because they do not like confinement.

5. Foraging

Anconas have a great feed-to-eggs-ratio. This means the amount they eat and their production of eggs gives you the best bang for your buck.

Being very active and good foragers, the Ancona chicken will not eat you out of your house and home. This means that your feed bill will be low and your pastures will be well taken care of. They have tons of energy and are always doing something productive. This breed adds so much to the quality of your homestead by foraging. They are always on the search for bugs and ticks.

Anconas like to snack on seeds, grains, and the most common, grass, meaning their feed consumption is low. They are fairly small chickens, but they produce so many eggs. It is a highly profitable situation all around!


Here are the different challenging things you have to consider when deciding if you want them on your homestead.

1. They do not like to be confined

This breed does not do well in confinement. They can fly over fencing or will look for other ways to get out. They are best as free-range birds who are given the ability to run around as they please. If you are not prepared to let your chickens roam and have this level of freedom, or if you don’t have space for it, don’t consider this breed.

2. Being flighty

Though most Ancona chickens only fly when there is danger nearby, coming with good wings gives the possibility of being flighty, depending on the specific bird’s personality. Some may be flighty, and this simply means you will need better fencing and cover on your chicken run. But as a rule, these are not flighty birds by nature, aside from self-preservation.

You can decide whether this point is a pro or a con. Though most owners steer clear of flighty chickens, this flight ability is precisely what protects them from predators. They are looking for a chance to get away annd are alert and ready to defend themselves from any creature who threatens their existence.

3. They are loud

Some would say talkative and excited, others would say loud and annoying. These chickens can be obnoxious, and they are definitely a more conversational breed.

This can be seen as a pro or a con depending on who judges it, but it is absolutely something to consider before purchasing Anconas.

black ancona chicken breed

Ancona Chicken Breed Profile

Ancona Chicken PurposeEgg Laying
Size4 1/2 lbs
AppearanceLarge, floppy, single comb; black with white mottling, white earlobe
TemperamentVery flighty, nervous, avoid people
Estimated Annual Production220 eggs per year
Egg ColorWhite
Egg SizeLarge
Winter HardyNo (only because of the comb)
Foragingaverage and does not do well with confinement
ancona chicken

Our Experience with an Ancona Chicken

I will start by saying I’m sharing our experience with the Ancona chicken breed from the one hen we managed to raise from a chick. We are not sure if this is just her personality, or traits within the breed as a whole.

Ancona chickens are loners. Our gal will be in the general vicinity of the flock, but she doesn’t roost or eat with any of the others. She is very nervous, hates to be near people, and quickly runs away if you get too far into her comfort zone. This nervousness has probably served her well over the years, not allowing predators too close.

She doesn’t like it when other hens are in her comfort zone either and can’t tolerate being cooped up with the rest of the flock. She will not roost in the coop but instead finds a high corner or nook in the barn – which is also usually where she prefers to lay her eggs. If confined, she always manages to break an opening in the chicken wire bordering the top of the coop area and fly out.

Even though, as our only white egg layer, I can always discern her eggs from the others, I feel I can’t vouch for whether the projected annual egg totals are at all accurate since so often we’re only gathering her eggs when a whole nest of them is found. Who knows if there are other nests missing?

This desire of hers to roam free and nervousness makes it an excellent choice for a free-ranging bird; however, if yolk color is an indicator of a particular hen’s ranging abilities, her yolks are always more yellow rather than orange like the other eggs produced in my flock. I don’t know if this is a characteristic of the breed or an indicator that she isn’t foraging as well, getting enough of the nutrients that darken the yolk color.

Final Thoughts

While on the one hand, it’s always nice to have friendly hens in your flock, the nervousness of the Ancona chicken and her preference to range makes her an excellent fit for a freely ranged flock.

Particularly if you are on small acreage living in close proximity to the chickens, this is not one you’ll find hanging out on the deck or in the driveway, which to me is a TREMENDOUS bonus.

However, the difficulty of always having to find her eggs does offset this benefit since, after all, the eggs are the primary reason for raising chickens. Thankfully, for now, I have many little folks who are usually more than willing to go on egg hunts in exchange for a small fee.

Though the Ancona chicken breed is one that is not recommended for a beginner, there are reasons people choose and enjoy them.

I have shared with you our experience. Have you ever raised Ancona hens in your laying flock? What are your thoughts on the breed?

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  1. She is such a pretty hen though ~ I love the ‘speckled’ look! Sounds great with the staying away from the house type of free ranging! 🙂

    1. And if you’re in the garden a lot, she’ll have little use for being in there herself… could help with that issue too!