If you’re considering getting your very own flock of chickens, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans keep chickens these days; you can find them on homesteads as well as in the backyards of suburban America as well.
One of the best reasons to keep chickens is for the fresh eggs that they produce. There is nothing better than going out to the chicken coop, pulling freshly laid eggs out of a nesting box, and cooking them up for breakfast.
However, when it comes to laying eggs, not all chickens are created equal. If you select the wrong breed, you may end up with a bird that may look nice in your yard, but barely leaves any eggs in a nest box.
So, if you’re getting ready to buy some new hens, here are ten egg laying chicken breeds you should definitely consider.
1. The Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Red chickens are a popular breed, and it is easy to understand why. Reds are handsome chickens, with rust-colored plumage topped off with black highlights.
These chickens are extremely hardy and can handle extremely cold temperatures with ease. They are prolific layers of brown eggs; in fact, they are considered one of the very best brown egg laying chickens available.
Rhode Island Reds are also a dual-purpose bird, which means they grow big enough to butcher and make a decent meal on the homestead as well. If you’re just starting out with chickens, Rhode Island Reds’ high capacity egg laying, ease of care, and general availability make them a great breed to begin with.
Here is a nice, short video that talks all about Rhode Island Red chickens:
When it comes to egg laying ability, it is hard to beat leghorn chickens. Leghorns are one of the very best egg laying chickens of any breed or egg color.
They have been bred for generations to lay large numbers of white eggs of consistent size and quality. Leghorns, which come in a wide variety of colors, also tend to keep laying eggs much longer than other chickens as well.
According to the Murray McMurray Hatchery, this breed also has a great feed to egg conversion ratio as well, which makes keeping them more economical.
If you are looking for a good chicken breed to produce eggs for you or the local farmers market, it is hard to go wrong with leghorns.
This video shows how to raise Leghorns, from day-old baby chicks to adults:
Wyandottes are versatile egg layers that fit in great on any homestead. Wyandottes come in a wide variety of colors, all of which are striking. However, these chickens are not just good looking; they are consistent layers of big brown eggs.
Wyandottes have close-fitting combs and thick layers of feathers so they are especially cold-hardy. They are also quite adept at laying eggs during the winter months, which makes them a great poultry choice for homesteads in the colder northern parts of the country.
Finally, Wyandottes are heavier birds, so they are also a great dual-purpose meat chicken as well.
This video provides a great overview of the Wyandotte chicken breed:
Buff Orpingtons are another classic breed that any new chicken owner should consider. These chickens are a lustrous golden in color and are great layers of brown eggs.
Orpingtons have great reputations as setters, too, so they are a great breed to consider if you plan on expanding your flock. They are tamer than many other breeds, so they are a great chicken to have if your children are going to do many of the poultry chores around your homestead.
Like Wyandottes, the heavy-bodied Buff Orpingtons are great in cold weather and will continue to lay eggs even through the winter, when other egg layers take a break. Orpingtons are great, easy to clean meat chickens too, an added bonus.
Here’s a great video about why you should consider Buff Orpingtons for your homestead today:
Plymouth rocks, particularly the most popular color variation, the Barred Rock, have been a staple on American homesteads for over a century.
These big hardy birds are consistent layers of big brown eggs. They’re great foragers, and a small flock of free-range Plymouth Rocks will patrol your homestead all season long, scratching around for any morsel they can find; pity the poor grasshopped than wanders into their path!
Plymouth Rocks do great in climate extremes, and if they are well taken care of, they will thrive in hot or cold weather alike. These birds also dress out big once they’re full grown, so they make great dual-purpose meat chickens on the homestead as well.
Here is a video of Barred Plymouth Rocks free ranging, and searching for something good to eat:
Sex link chickens are chickens that are cross bred to make it instill hybrid vigor and to make it easier to differentiate the sexes. These chickens have been bred to optimize both their egg laying capacity as well as their feed to egg conversion rates.
There are several different varieties of sex-link chickens on the market, such as the Red Star chicken from Murray MacMurray Hatchery and the Golden Comet from Cackle Hatchery:
They are a great breed to have on your homestead if you’re focused on producing the maximum amount of eggs possible and are less concerned with the size and color of your birds.
This short video takes a quick look at Red Star sex-link chickens:
Ancona chickens, originating from Southern Europe, are a great chicken breed if you’re looking for white egg layers.
Anconas have a unique, beautiful black and white mottled color pattern; their feathers help them blend in well with their environment, and some people believe that their appearance makes them a more difficult target for hawks and other birds of prey.
Since the breed was developed in the Mediterranean region, Anconas are very heat tolerant birds, and make a great choice for homesteaders in the south and other warmer regions of the U.S. If you’re looking for a handsome, alert and prolific white egg layer, Anconas are a terrific choice.
Here is a video showcasing gorgeous Ancona chickens at a local poultry show:
Marans are another handsome chicken breed that are a great choice for homesteaders who are who want to sell their eggs at a local farmers market, through Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) programs, or even a local organic grocery store.
There are many varieties of Marans, and they all lay beautiful, dark brown eggs. Maran eggs are arguably the most distinctively colored eggs out there and could really set you apart at the local farmers market.
They are terrific layers, too, so even if you don’t decide to market your eggs, you’ll have plenty on hand for your family all year long!
Here’s a great video that talks all about keeping Maran chickens:
Ameraucanas – the “Easter Eggers”
Another distinctive egg laying chicken variety are the so-called Easter Eggers – chickens that lay blue eggs. Ameraucanas are the most commonly found Easter Egger breed out there, but McMurray Hatchery has developed breeds that lay even deeper blue eggs called the Whiting True Blue.
Easter Eggers are prolific layers of eggs shaded a degree of blue. Much like Marans, these uniquely colored eggs are a hit at most farmers markets and can set your offerings apart from your nearest rival’s.
These breeds are also easy to care and beautiful too; they are particularly notable for the wide variety of plumage colors they can sport.
While they can be a bit more expensive than other chicken breeds, Easter Eggers are a practical, no-fuss egg laying breed that will fit in well on any homestead.
This video provides a ton of information about the Ameraucana Chicken Breed:
Another prolific tinted egg laying strain of chickens is the “Olive Eggers.” Many of the big hatcheries have developed crossbred chicken strains that consistently produce large numbers of olive-green tinted eggs.
For example, Cackle Hatchery has a strain of chickens called Olive Eggers, while Murray MacMurray Hatchery produces the Whiting True Greens. These chickens are great to have around the homestead, since they produce plenty of eggs to keep your family happy.
However, since their eggs are so uniquely colored, they’re great to sell at farmers markets as well.
Here’s a nice short video about Olive Eggers; check out those eggs!
Bonus: Do Forget About Bantams!
If you are a suburban homesteader and space is an issue, no worries: many of the breeds mentioned here are also available in bantam varieties as well! For example, you can purchase Bantam Rhode Island Reds, Ameraucanas, and Plymouth Rock s that are pint-sized versions of the original breeds.
While they may not lay quite as many eggs as their larger brethren, they are still prolific layers of delicious eggs. Bantams’ compact size means that you can fit a few more of them in your back yard, and it is easier to accommodate them in smaller coops.
So, if the local regulations allow you to have a few chickens in your suburban housing development, two or three bantam varieties of the egg-laying hens mentioned earlier might be just what you need!
Any of the egg laying chicken breeds detailed here would make great additions to your homestead. So, do your research, prepare for their arrival, and get ready to enjoy some delicious, free range chicken eggs on your homestead right away!
When Tom Harkins is not busy doing emergency repairs to his 200 year-old New England home, he tries to send all of his time gardening, home brewing, foraging, and taking care of his ever-growing flock of chickens, turkey and geese.