Not only is the chicken just about the easiest “farm animal” to keep and care for, chickens will also supply you with healthy eggs and meat. But some chickens are better egg-layers than others; in fact, some chickens are downright pathetic when it comes to egg production.
I’d like to help spare you the trouble of purchasing and raising baby chicks that will grow up to be real losers when it comes to supplying you with breakfast!
So if you’re just considering getting a backyard chicken flock, here’s the list of my five favorite egg-laying chicken breeds, from bottom up .
Egg Laying Frequency: Every 2-3 days
Hen size: Large
Color Variations: Black and white, barred-feathered
The Barred Rock is a decidedly popular breed of backyard chicken, and they have their place on the farm, too. Cheap and easy to aquire due to a large demand for the bird, I like to keep a few around because they lay pretty well and the cockerels (young roosters) are good eating!
The Barred Rock is really a dual-purpose chicken, pretty good at producing both meat and eggs but not the very best at doing either.
The hens lay one medium to large brown egg every 2-3 days, which is pretty good as far as I’m concerned! The hens also have a tendency to go “broody” (decide to sit on and hatch their eggs). If you have a rooster doing the fertilizing, this is a good thing because you’ll get more chickens virtually for free. If you’re rooster-less, or just don’t want your hens hatching eggs, then you might have to go to a little extra trouble to “steal” the eggs from the broody bird.
Egg Laying Frequency: Every 3-4 days
Hen size: Medium
Color Variations: Black and white “barred”
Similar to the popular Barred Rock chickens, the Dominique is a medium-sized black-and-white “barred”-feathered bird. Personally, I prefer the Dominique to the Barred Rock because the breed is considered rare by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). This is basically like being an endangered farm animal. I believe that older genetics in our food animals should be preserved and incorporated into more “commercial” livestock production where possible.
But I digress…
These girls will lay one medium to large brown-shelled egg every 3 or 4 days, depending on the season. During the summer months, the days with the most hours of sun, my Dominiques will lay every 2 to 3 days. During the winter, production is much slower (but that’s okay, because my other girls keep up).
The Dominique is also about the gentlest, most easy-going chicken I’ve dealt with. I’ve never had a hen peck me for egg-stealing. For just this reason, I’ve unfortunately found the roosters to be just about worthless in terms of flock protection (unless you consider running off and getting themselves eaten a sort of “sacrifice” for the team).
The Dominique is probably not the only breed of chicken you would want in your flock, due to the slower egg-laying and the tendency to get ever slower when it gets cold.
Egg Laying Frequency: Every 2-3 days
Hen size: Large
Color Variations: Varied! Black and brown, black and white speckled, brown, black, tan, etc.
Bred out of the Araucana breed, the Americauna makes a great addition to any chicken flock. With their fluffy “beards” and the lovely colored tails of the roosters, these birds are definitely near the top of my list of favorite chickens for any purpose.
Americauna hens will lay one large green or blue-tinted egg every 2-3 days. They don’t call them “Easter-Eggers” for nothing – these girls dye their eggs for you!
Aside from the colored eggs, another cool thing about the Americauna is the temperament of the bird. Some of my nicest hens are my Americaunas; I can pick them up and handle them pretty much at will. The roosters of this breed are also easy to handle, as compared to some others like the Rhode Island (one of which decided to attack me from his roost one evening when I was egg-gathering – I’m just waiting for cooler weather to make him dinner!).
Egg Laying Frequency: One egg every 1-2 days
Hen size: Large
Color Variations: Red with some black feathers
The Rhode Island is a very productive, large chicken with beautiful coloring. These girls are, in my experience, generally friendly and easy to handle.
From your Rhode Island Reds, you’ll get one large brown-shelled egg every one to two days. In general, my ladies lay every other day.
My only complaint with the Rhode Island is that the hen’s large size means she needs more feed. On the other hand, I butcher and eat my hens when they start becoming less productive, and/or when I receive fresh replacements. Such is the circle of life on the farm. If you’re not planning on eating your egg-layers, and you’re not in need of the frequent egg production offered by the Rhode Island, you may want to consider a slightly smaller (less hungry) breed of chicken.
Egg Laying Frequency: About one egg per day!
Hen size: Medium
Variations: White & black
These girls know what’s up when it comes to egg production! Now I can’t say much about the black Leghorn, because I’ve never kept them, but I hear and read that they don’t lay as well as the white Leghorn.
Check out the eggs at your local grocery store. I bet most of them are large, white, and uniform in shape. While most egg ranches don’t keep pure Leghorns, almost all of them do keep Leghorn crosses. Bottom line: If you want eggs, you want white Leghorns. These white eggs are extra large to jumbo, and hens lay an egg just about every day of the year.
Keep your Leghorns’ water fresh and their feed free-choice, and you’ll probably have more eggs than you can eat.
The downside to keeping Leghorns is that they’re skittish and a bit aloof. They will also fly over a fence six feet in height if you don’t keep their wings clipped short. Oh, and they’ll just about never go broody, for whatever reason, but if you keep a few Dominiques you’ll solve that problem. Once they’ve decided to brood, hens don’t care whose eggs they’re trying to hatch.
Whatever minor flaws Leghorns might have, I don’t think they’re rivaled in egg production. I wouldn’t keep chickens without having some white Leghorns in my flock.
Because people have asked me about this stuff…
Chickens can’t lay eggs without a rooster, right? Well, no, actually, that’s not true. Just like a female human ovulates every month with or without the presence of a man, a female chicken lays eggs with or without a rooster around. What is true is that a chicken cannot hatch a baby chick out of an egg unless a rooster has fertilized it.
Chickens will lay eggs until they get old and die, right? Not exactly. Chickens have a ticking clock on their fertility, just like any other animal. A hen has a finite number of eggs that she can lay in a lifetime. Peak laying age for hens in usually 1 year of age through 3 years of age. After 4 or 5 years, a hen’s egg production is going to slow down. At this point, she will make either an excellent pet or an excellent stew.
If I eat an egg, it’s like eating a baby chick, right? No, it’s like eating a chicken egg. If you want to get technical about what an egg is… well, you probably don’t. Anyway, the egg yolk exists to feed the baby chick while it’s in the egg. If you’re concerned about eating fertilized eggs from your flock, simply shine a flashlight through any eggs you might be curious about. An embryo should be visible as a dark spot in the egg. If you want it hatched, try to find a broody chicken in your coop. If you’ve got a bunch of Leghorns or other chickens that seem to lack maternal instincts, consider investing in an incubator.
Eggs will spoil in my coop if I don’t collect them right away, right? Luckily, we have a pretty large window of time from the egg being laid to the egg going bad. Sometimes I get “lazy” and don’t collect eggs for a few days. Even in the summer, this isn’t a problem. If you’re ever unsure about whether an egg is good to eat or not, simply float it. This means filling a pot or bowl with enough water to cover the egg, and placing the egg in the water. If the egg stays at the bottom, it’s a good egg. If the egg floats, it has probably started rotting. The gas that builds up as the egg goes bad is what will make it float in the water.
Any other questions? Feel free to use the “Comment” section below, and thanks for reading!