The best layer chicken breeds
May not be your best choice
The best chicken breed for laying white eggs is by far the Leghorn, laying about 280 eggs per year. This is the breed that produces most of the commercial eggs available. Leghorns rarely go broody, thus don't interrupt their egg laying schedule. They only grow to 3 or 4 pounds so don't make a great meat bird. Leghorns have the best feed to egg ratio of any chicken, requiring only 125 grams of nourishing food a day.
As for brown egg laying chicken breeds, the title has to go to Rhode Island Reds, laying up to 200 eggs a year. Rhode Island Reds are a larger chicken breed weighing 6 to 8 pounds, so excess roosters make a viable meat bird. The Rhode Island Red chicken is resistent to illness and is a good free range chicken.
The down side to both of the these breeds is that they can be somewhat flightly and might not be the best chicken breeds to have around if there are kids on the farm. With gentle handling they tend to be calmer around people they know, but strangers and dogs can still set them off.
Other egg laying chicken breeds
The black star and red star breeds are also good egg layers. Being good producers in both hot and cold weather. These two breeds are also sex linked which means it possible to sex them at time of hatch by their color.
If you are looking for something a little more unusual you may consider some of these breeds:
- Araucana, sometimes called the 'Easter Egger' of laying chickens because it produces blue, green or even pink eggs. The chickens are nearly as defined so the adults will have various colors which makes them very unique.
- Wellsummer or Cuckoo Maran or Copper Maran, these breeds of chickens will produce a very dark brown egg. The maran is considered to lay the darkest of all chicken eggs and is used as the basis for coloring grading of other brown eggs. Some Welsummers can lay almost as dark as Marans.
- Dominique are a heritage breed that is widely considered to be one of the original American breeds. These are the typical 'barnyard chicken' that you see in all the old pictures. Many people will mistake them for Barred Rock chickens which is a breed that was developed using among other breeds the Dominique. The Dominique is a nice dual purpose breed that will lay good year round and has a small comb so handles cold weather better than some large combed breeds.
- Dorkings, this is a very old breed, dating back to the times of the Romans who first introduced them to England. They tend to be a layer chicken breed with a calm temperment and good mothering skills.
Different layer chicken breeds for different environments
Above are listed just some of the available laying chicken breeds, there are many more. If you are interested in helping preserve some of the older more endangered breeds you may wish to check out American Livestock Breeds Conservancy which is working to preserve many of the heritage breed of animals that are in danger of disappearing.
Many hatcheries also offer a wide selection of laying chicken breeds to choose from. It is important to evaluate how you plan to handle the chickens and select a breed accordingly. Not all chickens will do well in a free range situation and others will produce poorly if maintained in cages.
Check out some of my other chicken articles: