To be honest, I've only raised a handful of breeds, just the first five in the list below. But I've added other breeds to the list that I've researched as well. My personal preference are birds with the following features: well natured around humans and other chickens, good egg production with decent sized eggs, cold weather tolerant, and not prone to flight (yes, I'm a chubby chicken chaser).
- Plymouth Rock - this was my first breed of chicken and it was a great one. Beautiful black and white speckles. Laid medium large brown eggs, about 200 eggs per year. Very tame and well natured that can survive the winter in Denver. I am now raising all white colored Plymouth Rocks. Looking forward to seeing how it goes.
- Leg Horn - this was also my first breed of chicken because I wanted the classic large white eggs. They do lay a lot of eggs (about 300 per year) but aren't as good natured as other breeds. They can also be flighty so be sure to have an enclosed coop design or 5-6 ft fence. They also aren't as girth-y so need heat or company of winter chicken breeds to keep them warm.
- Buff Orpington - I got this breed in my second year. Very much like the Plymouth Rock in terms of being well natured, winter hardy, and good egg layer. I just found their egg production to be slightly less than the Plymouth Rock and the eggs were medium sized, so slightly smaller.
- California White - I wanted to try a different breed that lays white eggs so I got this breed in my second year. Unfortunately, it is very flighty and flew over the chicken fence when I had them free ranging one day. I was not around at the time and my dog was able to get to it. This breed is in a group of breeds called sex link. They are called this because the males and females are different colors. So much easier to ensure a female chicken with a sex link breed. Other sex link breeds include the Red Star and Black Star. All seem to be on the flighty side.
- Speckled Sussex - I just got this variety for the first time in my third year. I chose it because it seems to be much like the Plymouth rock and Buff Orpington - well natured, winter hardy, and good egg layer. I will update this if and when it starts producing eggs.
- Rhode Island Red - this is the ideal dual purpose bird - eggs and meat. They are also winter hardy but just aren't as well natured as other breeds so I've avoided them. Egg production seems to be higher than the Plymouth Rock at an average of 250 eggs per year.
- Wyandotte - this is a beautiful variety that comes in different colors and shades, most striking is the orange and purple feathered variety. They are known as the divas of the chicken world with peculiarities as a breed and also noisy. So a larger yard might be necessary for this breed to distance from the neighbors.
- Black Astrolop - this is a beautiful all black bird that is a proficient egg layer. The average is 300 eggs per year but they are on the medium size. They too are a well natured bird that is winter hardy.
There are of course hundreds more varieties including some for show, some for eggs, some for meat, some large/small/weird looking. Even some like the Araucana that lays different colored eggs with shades of blue and green. Given my criteria for winter hardy, well natured breeds that are good egg layers and not flighty, I'd definitely continue to get Plymouth Rock and Buff Orpington breeds again. I look forward to seeing how the Black Sussex performs this season. And I look forward to one day trying Black Astrolop and possibly the Wyandotte and Rhode Island Red.