For many people, the main incentive of raising chickens in the backyard is a fresh supply of eggs. I still remember the joy of picking fresh eggs from my chicken’s nesting boxes for the first time! But one thing that most beginners don’t know about is that the breed of chicken you get makes a huge impact on the number of eggs you should expect to receive every day. Some breeds, such as Japanese Bantams, generally do not lay eggs at all, whereas white leghorns can lay over 300 eggs per year—nearly an egg every day. Choosing the right breed is crucial if you want fresh eggs all year long, so in this article, I have written up a list of my top 10 egg-laying chicken breeds. Let’s start with White Leghorn.
The White Leghorn is one of the best egg-laying chickens. It is, undoubtedly, the most advantageous to breed for profit and the easiest to raise on the farm. They originated in Southern Europe and were even called “Italians” before their name changed to leghorn. Their plumage is pure white throughout, but leghorn varieties of other colors also exist. They are also very livable and very resistant to disease, and their feed to egg conversion ratio is excellent, holding down the cost of egg production. Their large combs can be damaged in cold weather, so choose rose comb varieties if you live in the northeast. The leghorn’s energetic and flighty nature makes them a good choice for predator-rich areas. They are very wary of predators and will fly and hide on a tree if needed. Leghorns can handle small spaces, though they prefer to have more space because of their energetic nature. They are good foragers and can find a lot of their food, making their eggs more nutritious. Generally, they have an independent and shy character and can be afraid of people, therefore not making them the best breed for a pet. But, keeping them rewards with truly lots of eggs.
White Leghorn Key Facts
Size: Medium-sized breed, with chickens reaching 4.5 – 5.5 pounds.
Color: The original standard color was white, but there are now over a dozen variations. The birds are typically all white with pink combs and wattles.
Broody: Leghorns rarely brood, so you will need an incubator if you want chicks.
Eggs: An excellent egg layer, leghorns produce 280 eggs annually, which sometimes goes as high as 320. They lay huge quantities of big, white eggs. The ordinary white eggs that you see in the supermarket were probably produced by Leghorns.
Nature: They are active, intelligent, and energetic birds. They can be quite shy of people and are good flyers and will roost on trees and jump over fences. They can be noisy, especially at the egg-laying time, though it varies by strain.
Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red originated in the United States, where it is used for dual purposes, both for eggs and meat. These chickens are most commonly kept on small-scale farms because they can easily adapt to small backyard conditions. The Rhode Island Red is bred to withstand cold New England winters, and therefore they are an excellent chicken for cold climates. So, if you live in the northern states of the US or Canada, where the winters can be cold, this is one of the hardiest breeds around. They also have high resistance against disease and usually a rather tough temperament. A Rhode Island Red is an excellent chicken for eggs, laying 260 large brown eggs annually. Generally, they are a great breed that can bring cheer to every small backyard or farm, laying many eggs and also providing tasty meat sources.
Rhode Island Red Key Facts
Size: Large chickens are on the light side of heavy, with chickens averaging 6.5 pounds in weight.
Color: Dark, brick red plumage with a single red comb. Roosters have some dark green tail feathers also. A white strain exists but is much less common.
Broody: They only occasionally go broody, but when they do, they are very protective mothers.
Eggs: Rhode Island Red chickens are frequent (5 eggs per week or 260 per year) layers of large brown eggs.
Nature: These chickens can be a little bit hot-tempered, but usually gentle and friendly.
The Plymouth Rock is the most popular of all breeds of chickens as a general-purpose fowl. The Barred variety is the most well-known, and its history dates back over a quarter of a century. Various breeds were used in its making, the belief being general that it originally came from a cross between the American Dominique and the Black Java. It has also been shown that Light Brahma, Dark Brahma, and Pit Game were used in their creation.
For the farmer or market poultry breeder, these birds are favorites as they are medium in size, well built, making them the most wonderful birds for market purposes. They are hardy, mature early, and make excellent broilers when from 8 to 12 weeks old. They are good layers year-round, and in winter lay exceptionally well. They are also great sitters and excellent mothers.
Plymouth Rock Key Facts
Size: Chickens range from 6.5-7.5 pounds, making them one of the heavier breeds.
Color: Barred Rock: Black and white bar pattern with bright red combs and wattles. Partridge: The partridge variety is dark red with a copper-colored collar and some black feathers around the edges. White (all white), black (all black), and several other color schemes exist as well.
Eggs: The Plymouth Rock is one of the good egg-laying chickens that lay an average of about 4 per week or 200 per year. The eggs are brown in color and large in size.
Nature: They are known to have a sweet, calm, and curious nature.
Wyandotte is another general-purpose chicken that is rated next to the Plymouth Rock. From the beginning, it gained popularity and continues to the present day. It was originally bred from the Dark Brahma, Silver-spangled Hamburg, and Breda. Overall, the Wyandotte chickens have proved a success, being medium in size, weighing an average of a pound less than Plymouth Rocks, being hardy of the constitution, and prolific layers. They are easy to care for and tolerate cold weather quite well. They are among the best egg-laying chickens, on average about 200 eggs per year, and as winter laying chickens they do well under normal conditions. There are eight varieties of the Wyandotte breed, and it is only a matter of opinion as to which is the best. General characteristics are the same for all. The distinguishing feature is the difference in plumage color.
Wyandotte Key Facts
Size: Medium to heavy breed, with chickens weighing around 6-6.5 pounds.
Color: There are many different colors of Wyandottes. Including black, white, buff, gold laced, silver laced, and partridge (with a golden collar).
Broody: Wyandottes are reliable sitters and good mothers.
Eggs: Wyandottes are great layers of large, brown eggs, averaging about 4 per week or 200 per year.
Nature: Calm and carefree, very accepting of confinement.
These chickens represent the latest breed imported from England. They were bred by William Cook, of Orpington, in the county of Kent. It is a good general-purpose bird as it is of good size and is a good layer of brown-shelled eggs. Orpingtons are huge, block-shaped birds that provide a good rate of egg production. They have a dual purpose, which means that they are excellent egg layers and are often used for meat as well, making them great for small farms. Orpingtons are very friendly and easy to care for, so they have become favorites in backyard flocks also. They are also quite cold hardy, which makes them suitable for northern climates.
Orpington Key Facts
Size: Very large, with chickens ranging from 8 pounds to 10.5 pounds.
Color: Buff is the most common, but black, blue, white, and splash are others that also exist.
Broody: Orpingtons are broody and because of their big size they are suitable for hatching large numbers of eggs.
Eggs: Dependable layers of 3-5 eggs per week or 180 per year. The eggs are large in size and brown in color.
Nature: Friendly, calm, and docile.
The Speckled Sussex is an old breed of chicken originating in what is now the county of Sussex in South East England. Some say they have existed since the Roman invasion, while other reports have them being developed in the 1800s. Speckled Sussex chickens are respectable egg layers and bring a calm, complacent manner to the backyard. At the same time, many people who kept Speckled Sussex chickens have described these birds as the most active, alert, and intelligent of their chickens.
If you have space to free-range your birds, this breed is a great pet. They are excellent foragers and can find most of what they need to eat, therefore greatly reducing the cost of feeding and increasing the quality of the eggs and meat. They are good and reliable egg layers. Speckled Sussex chicken have a dark brown and black feather with contrasting white or light gray spots on their feather tips.
Speckled Sussex Key Facts
Size: Chickens are large, averaging around 7 pounds.
Color: The Speckled Sussex variety has white feather tips over dark brown or black plumage.
Broody: Speckled Sussex hens have a tendency towards broodiness and generally raise chicks well.
Eggs: Speckled Sussex chickens lay large, light brown tinted eggs at a reliable rate of about 4-5 per week or around 250 eggs per year.
Nature: These birds are very friendly, calm, curious, and love being “one of the family”.
New Hampshire Red
New Hampshire Reds were bred directly from Rhode Island Reds and have changed so much over the years through selective breeding that they have become recognized as a new breed. New Hampshire Red differs from the Rhode Island Red in that it produces more meat and therefore fewer eggs, it matures and feathers-out earlier and it’s even more vigorous. New Hampshire Red is an excellent chicken for eggs as well as meat. They have a very tame and pleasant character, and are generally a great chicken for small backyards and farms.
New Hampshire Red Key Facts
Size: 8.5 pounds for the rooster and 6.5 pounds for the chicken.
Color: New Hampshire red chickens have very beautiful golden-red-brown or chestnut-red plumage. They have black tail feathers, while chickens tend to have black-tipped neck feathers.
Broody: They are moderately broody depending on the strain.
Eggs: New Hampshire is a good egg layer of around 200 large light brown eggs per year.
Nature: They have a very gentle and pleasant character.
Ameraucana chickens, also known as “Easter Egger” are the famous blue and green egg layers. Developed in the United States, the name means American-Araucana. Ameraucanas are Chilean birds known for their large ear tufts and for laying green or blue eggs, a gene which they apparently passed on to Ameraucana birds (though some think they got it from another South American source). Not all Ameraucanas lay blue or green eggs. I have had five of these chickens on my small farm; one lay white eggs, another lay green-brown olive eggs, and the others lay light blue eggs. I have heard that some even lay brown or pink-tinted eggs.
Besides laying exotic-looking eggs at an above-average rate, these birds are sweethearts. They are quiet, friendly, and very easy to keep in small backyards. In a mixed flock, Ameraucana chickens often become the owner’s favorite. If you are looking for some chickens that children will love, you cannot do better than these.
Ameraucana Key Facts
Size: Ameraucana chickens are fairly light, small to medium-sized birds. The chickens weigh around 5 pounds.
Color: The Ameraucana chickens come in a variety of colors: black, blue, brown, silver, wheaten, white, and much more. Most commonly, chickens have brown or gold-laced black feathers.
Broody: Ameraucana hens will occasionally go broody, but this depends on the strain.
Eggs: These chickens are very prolific egg layers, producing around 5 eggs per week or 250 per year. The eggs are medium in size and can be blue, green, white, brown, or tinted pink in color.
Nature: These are calm and lovable birds and make some of the best pets.
Australorps are excellent egg layers. Their friendly, docile nature also makes them great pets. If you are looking for a chicken with both features, you simply cannot do much better than Australia’s national breed. Australorps are large, black birds with bright red combs and wattles, though strains of white and blue (slate gray) Australorps also exist. They were developed in Australia from Black Orpington stock (hence the name, which is short for Australian Orpington). Their genetic lineage also includes Minorca, Langshan, and White Leghorn. They were bred in Australia as a dual-purpose breed (for eggs and meat), but their egg-laying capabilities quickly made headlines. In the 1920s, a group of Australorps set a world record by producing an average of 309.5 eggs in the course of a year. A single Australorp chicken later set an individual record by producing 364 eggs in 365 days. What may have been a regional or national breed was quickly shipped all around the world. Today, Australorps are fairly common in backyards and easy to find locally in the United States.
Australorp Key Facts
Size: A large chicken ranges from about 7-9 pounds.
Color: Generally: Jet black feathers and bright red combs and wattles. Feathers have an iridescent green or violet sheen in bright sunlight. Blue: Slate gray feathers, usually with a darker neck. White: plumage is all white.
Broody: Depending, some of them will go broody and have a strong motherly instinct.
Eggs: The Australorp chickens lay at a very prolific rate, usually 5 large and brown eggs per week or more than 250 per year.
Nature: The Australorp chickens are a very gentle-natured, and docile breed that will soon become the best friends with their owners. They are very calm and are a delight in any backyard. These chickens are also excellent for families with children because they are so tame and pleasant.
Polish chickens are one of the most unusual-looking breeds of poultry. Their crested heads resemble feather dusters. In addition to their crests, some Polish varieties are bearded as well. This breed is frequently used for show birds. While suitable as pets and moderate egg layers, their main attraction is their exotic appearance and resulting entertainment value. Polish chickens are calm, cooperative, and do not mind sticking to small areas if confined. Most chickens lay fewer eggs than average, but some owners report a higher rate of egg-laying. With the feathers on their heads, they cannot see all that well, so they frequently appear to behave strangely. In the backyard, they are very fun to watch and are excellent chickens with great character.
Polish Chicken Key Facts
Size: Small, chickens weighing 4-5 pounds.
Color: Golden, silver, white, buff, white-crested black, and black-crested white.
Broody: Polish hens rarely go broody.
Eggs: The Polish chickens are also good egg layers, laying around 200 per year.
Nature: These birds are very friendly, calm, cooperative, docile, and lovable birds. They make some of the best pets.
In this article, I have written up a list of my favorite chicken breeds taken from my own experience. They are all very good egg layers and some are even excellent for meat. I have many chicken breeds on my small farm in Oklahoma and I am very familiar with all these types. Whichever you choose, all of these breeds have their own pros and cons. I wish you to choose the best chicken breed and enjoy the farm life with chickens at their best.