What are the best egg laying chickens?
Many know about the wonderful benefits associated with raising chickens, but with more than one hundred breeds out there, making the right chicken-choice may seem somewhat intimidating.
From the puffy Muppet-looking Silkie to the more traditional Marsh Daisy and from the cute Wyandotte to the elegant Brakel, chickens simply seem to come in a superabundance of sizes, shapes, colors and physical characteristics.
Finding the best fit for your particular needs is a subject worth “scratching and digging” over, and one we are certainly determined to guide you through.
So, with these all said, let’s get started…
5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Choosing A Breed
Here are some things you can consider first before choosing an egg-laying chicken.
1. Free Range Vs Cooped
Where would you be keeping your chickens?
Do you want them free-ranging in your backyard during the day and in a coop at night, or would you rather have them constantly in a coop and run?
If you plan on letting them free-range, check out our article on how you can keep havoc away from the garden.
Normally, the number of chickens you intend to keep will determine the amount of space you’ll need. There are many differences of opinion when it comes to how large this space should be.
For example, while the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests that the minimum floor space necessary to keep three layer hens is of one square meter, many chicken enthusiasts say that the key to keeping happy chickens is to at least provide each one of them with a one square meter area.
What is clear though, is that the more space your hens have, the more they will be able to express their natural behavior.
2. What’s The Weather Like in your area?
Do you live in a place with extreme cold or hot weather? Or do you reside in a temperate zone marked by a summer, autumn, winter and spring pattern?
Take into account that some breeds are more sensitive to extreme weather than others, and, whereas many chickens will provide you with a steady egg supply throughout the year, some breeds might not be able to lay eggs during winter without having an appropriate light supplement.
My Pet Chicken’s post on why hens take a break during this season offers a great and detailed explanation.
3. Egg Shell Color: Brown, White Or… Blue!?
Aside from the popular white- and brown-shelled eggs, you might be surprised to find breeds that lay spotted-, pale-, blue-, and even green-shelled eggs due to their differences in genetics!
Although the nutritional values of all eggs are pretty much the same, at times people often prefer some colors over others.
The question would then be, what is your favorite egg shell color palette?
Watch this video to know more about the different egg shell colors:
4. Do You Want Chickens For Eggs Or For Meat (Or Both)
Are you looking to raise hens that supply you with both eggs and meat?
Birds that are usually referred to as “dual-purpose chicken breeds”, aren’t just well-known for laying large quantities of eggs, but also for providing significant amounts of meat, because of their broad-body builds.
New Hampshire Red, Sussex, and Plymouth Rock are some examples of regularly used dual-purpose chicken breeds.
The best egg-laying chickens
More and more homeowners are turning to the raising of chickens, and it is estimated that nearly 4.3% of Americans on one acre of land or more own chickens.
Once you feed your chickens, a lot of the cost and work is pretty much done and you are on the way to collecting eggs!
There are hundreds of breeds of chickens and its easy to find yourself with a stubborn, non egg-laying animal.
You don’t want an egg-laying chicken that only puts out one egg a week! Even in an urban environment, you can get chickens that lay eggs.
More urban dwellers are turning to chicken ownership, and the average age of chicken owners is decreasing.
Take on your chicken raising adventure for benefits like:
- Controlling pests in your garden
- Reduce the number of weeds growing in your garden
- Watching chickens has been shown to decrease stress hormones
- Knowing the source of your eggs
- Decreasing your individual support for factory farming
- Get rid of garbage and table scraps by feeding them to the chickens
- Adding an unlimited source of organic fertilizer to your yard
|NAME OF BREED||WHY?||EGGS PER YEAR|
|Rhode Island Red||They do well as foragers and don’t require much maintenance.||260|
|Golden Comet||The Golden Comet starts laying eggs at 15 weeks of age.||300|
|Buff Orpington||The Buff Orpington makes a great pet.||150|
|Hamburg||The Hamburg is a speckled chicken that has the coloring of a Dalmatian||200|
|Speckled Sussex||This chicken doesn’t need a lot of space compared to its eight-pound size.||300|
|New Hampshire Red||Bring this breed to cold weather conditions because it is cold hardy.||200|
|Barred Plymouth Rock||You’ll love this family-friendly breed that also gets along with kids.||280|
|Golden Laced Wyandottes||This breed is one of the best chickens at free-range living and foraging for food.||200|
|Ancona||Looks like the Plymouth Rock but is about half the size for families with size restrictions.||200|
|White Leghorns||The White Leghorn is happy when living in a pen.||280|
The Utility of the Breed
Are you worried about your weather conditions?
The utility of the breed matters in the long-run of your chicken’s life.
While the occasional weather event happens, a regular winter freeze or three seasons of 100% humidity matters in the selection of your breeds! If you want eggs, be sure to choose a hen that will love her new home.
Size of the Chicken
When selecting your chicken breeds, consider the available space you have for them.
For example, some of the examples on our best breeds love to forage!
Your hens need the space to stay full, happy, and egg-laying. Add chickens to your yard, but only if you have the area to support them.
A standard sized chicken in most breeds falls into the range of four to eight pounds, so remember the full size of your chicks need space to eat.
Don’t forget the size of eggs produced by the chicken as well.
Remember, a smaller chicken means smaller eggs. Every chicken needs space to live although the amount of space required in your chicken coop and for roaming varies based on breed.
Interested to find out more on smaller chickens? Check out our complete guide to the Bantam chicken for more information on pocket-sized farm fowls!
Climate of Your Area
Chickens are hardy creatures and fit in with most environments but don’t forget that the environment of your area must be a consideration in the purchase of a specific breed.
If you live in a place that is unusually hot or cold, keep breeds able to adapt to your harshest conditions.
As a general rule, slender bodies lose heat more quickly.
Chicken combs and wattles are also susceptible to frostbite in the harshest of conditions. Make sure the breeds selected suite your climate as well.
Color of Feathers
The color of your chicken’s feathers does impact its lifestyle.
Some foraging chickens rely on their camouflage feathers to keep them hidden within their environments.
If your chicken is going to be a free-range animal remember that:
White is seen quickly (except in the snow), patterns protect from predators, and solid colors aren’t as good as evading predators.
The Best Chickens For Eggs…
Check out what are some of the best egg-laying chickens:
|Breed/Factor||Space Needs||Weather||Egg Shell Color||Temperament|
|Rhode Island Red||High||Cold-hardy||Brown||Even|
|Barred Plymouth Rock||Medium||Cold-hardy||Brown||Friendly|
|Australorp||Medium||Cold- and heat-hardy||Brown||Friendly|
|White Leghorns||Medium||Cold- and heat-hardy||White||Nervous|
1. Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is a widely used breed which, having been developed in New England in the state of Massachusetts, has a strong capability of enduring harsh winters.
These even tempered hens produce brown eggs and tend to supply large amounts throughout the year.
In general, one can expect approximately 260 eggs annually, however, the Rhode Island Reds might need a relatively reasonable amount of space to roam.
This breed is suitable for both egg and meat production, and some have even considered it to possibly be the best egg layer of all dual purpose breeds.
For those of you who are interested in saving up space, it is important to mention that there is a bantam variety available for this breed. A bantam, in this context, is basically a small version of a larger chicken.
These birds are not a breed in itself, instead they have been created by selective breeding.
- Even tempered
- Dual-purpose breed
- Need reasonable amount of space
2. Barred Plymouth Rock
This friendly breed was developed in the United States in the 19th century and, because of its commonly gentle character, tends to be a great bird for newcomers or people with young children.
Like the Rhode Island Red, Barred Plymouth Rock chickens are known for withstanding cold temperatures and, if fed correctly, they may lay up to 280 brown-colored eggs per year.
Their space needs are regularly categorized as medium, but there are bantam varieties available for this breed too for those looking to make the most out of their spaces.
- Gentle temperament
- Medium space needs
- Need right care
Developed in Australia from the Orpington stock, the Australorp is known to be a docile and sturdy bird that easily adapts to both hot and cold temperatures and has moderate space needs.
These chickens produce brown colored eggs and supply from 250 to 300 eggs per year and are also considered a dual-purpose chicken breed.
Bantam varieties are also available to suit reduce spaces.
- Generally hardy
- Docile temperament
- Medium space needs
- Dual-purpose breed
4. White Leghorns
Having adopted its name from the Italian city of Leghorn, this Mediterranean chicken breed is known to have a nervous temperament and usually tolerates both warm and cold temperatures.
The White Leghorns produce white eggs and you can await around 280 to 320 per year, as long as they are fed and taken care of their basic needs appropriately.
They generally need a low ceiling coop and free-ranging during the day. This breed is also considered a dual-purpose chicken breed and has a bantam variety available to go with small spaces
- Generally hardy
- Dual-purpose breed
- Nervous temperament
- Need right care
5. Golden Comet
Laying up to 300 eggs a year, the Golden Comet is one of the most prolific layers on the list. A female weigh about five to seven pounds and starts laying at a younger age than most breeds.
Some hens get broody, which appears like aggression toward their eggs, but generally, this breed has a kind disposition.
The Golden Comet does well in cold weather.
The Golden Comet starts laying eggs at 15 weeks of age.
6. Buff Orpington
The Buff Orpington is known for having distinct personalities that are also laid back.
Although they produce 150 to 200 eggs annually which is less than some of the others on this list, this is still enough to keep a person fed!
The Buff Orpington not only produces great eggs, but can also make a great pet!
The Hamburg is a speckled chicken that has the coloring of a Dalmatian. Their feathers are white with black tips.
They do not do well inside of a chicken pen so make sure they have enough space to walk.
If they don’t have enough space to roam, the chickens are known to get aggressive in small spaces when they can’t get out.
8. Speckled Sussex
After just sixteen weeks of age, your speckled Sussex hens start laying eggs at a rate of up to 800 eggs per year. They are a docile breed that also looks beautiful with a speckled appearance.
Because the Sussex is so kind, bullying breeds may target them.
This chicken doesn’t need a lot of space compared to its eight-pound size.
Want to know more? Feel free to take a look at our complete guide to the spectacular Sussex breed!
9. New Hampshire Red
The New Hampshire Red is a cold hardy chicken breed that does well for both egg-laying and providing meat.
After just 18 to 21 weeks of life, a hen starts laying her 200 eggs per year. Just give your chickens a comfortable place to sleep and food to eat for egg and meat production.
Bring this breed to cold weather conditions because it is cold hardy.
10. Golden Laced Wyandottes
Get a big bird that lays eggs in a size we are most familiar with if you buy the Golden Laced Wyandotte. This calm chicken is good at foraging for its own food and also raising chicks if you allow the eggs to hatch.
If you ever want to consume the chickens, their size makes them suitable for cooking as well.
This breed is one of the best chickens at free-range living and foraging for food.
This small hen suits your needs if you don’t have a lot of space. They lay about 200 eggs annually although the eggs are smaller than the standard size most people are familiar with.
The Ancona is one of the most popular breeds in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Be careful though – the Ancona will fly away if its feathers don’t get clipped!
This breed looks like the Plymouth Rock but is about half the size for families with size restrictions.
The bottom line
For us, the champion is… the Australorp!
Here’s why: The Australorp requires a moderate space need, plus there is also a bantam variety for those with very limited areas.
It is a breed known for it docile character, which makes things easier for those who are just getting started with raising chickens or for families with young children.
It is a flexible bird in terms of withstanding both cold and warm temperatures and being dual-purpose.
But, the most important aspect of the Australorp is that it is a consistent layer that can provide us with up to 320 eggs a year if we treat her right!
Want more than just eggs? Find out how chickens mate to get you up to speed on the fertilization process!
All in all, what a great way to get started with raising chickens…
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