Today’s look at chickens is a compilation of the best egg laying breeds around.
Most people get backyard chickens to lay eggs – so if you want lots of eggs you need to pick the correct breed.
For each breed in our list we have given you a mini-profile so that you can determine which breed might work best for you and your situation.
Some of the breeds selected may not be familiar to you, but they are all good layers.
It was hard to prune down the list to only fourteen birds!
But we did include honorable mentions for several other breeds too.
Contents and Quick Navigation
1. Plymouth Rocks
The old dependable – Plymouth Rock.
She has been around for a while and has contributed her genetics to many of the hybrids we see today, but she remains a well-loved hen in many backyard flocks today.
They have a mellow, friendly soul and love their people. This makes her a great family bird and good with children.
She does enjoy free ranging but does equally as well in confinement.
As an egg layer she will give you 4-5 brown eggs each week, that is around 200-250 eggs each year.
2. Rhode Island Reds
A well-loved heritage breed, the Rhode Island is one of the egg laying stars. They will give you 5-6 brown eggs each week.
They have a bold personality, are curious, and are generally a good hen to have in your flock.
These birds are good foragers and as a bonus they are pretty good with children. If they are hand raised they are not adverse to cuddles or lap time.
The Rhode Island Red came into being in the late 1800s and has not looked back – they have remained a firm favorite of chicken folk everywhere.
They are a fairly self-sufficient bird that can make the best of most situations.
The white Leghorn is possibly the best layer of all!
She will put out 5-6 white eggs each week.
There are several varieties of Leghorn but the white one is the egg laying queen of the family. It is because of this that the Leghorn hens were an industry favorite for many years.
Although she is a splendid layer, the Leghorn is not a cuddly bird. While they are friendly with their humans they dislike being picked up or held. They originated from a Landrace chicken in Italy and were refined over the years to become the Leghorn that we know and love today.
They love to free range and will fly up into trees for safety (and roosting if allowed).
Meet Australia’s national bird.
Australians wanted a bird that was a good egg layer, so they cross bred the Orpington with several other breeds and came up with a winner!
The world record for the highest number of eggs laid in one year is held by an Australorp.
An Australorp will give you 4-5 light brown eggs per week which equates to around 200-250 per year.
Australorps are known as a friendly laid back breed – an ideal bird for urban settings since they are not particularly noisy.
Barnevelders are not so well known outside of their native Netherlands.
However they are a hardy heritage bird with a gentle and curious nature.
The Barnevelder will lay 3-4 dark brown eggs per week. Some strains will lay eggs with speckles and others can lay a darker almost chocolate colored egg.
They are quite mellow and if raised by hand are not adverse to lap time.
There are several different varieties but the double laced is probably the most popular and spectacular.
Hybrid birds were created solely to lay eggs – which they do abundantly. They will give you 5-6 eggs per week depending on the strain of chicken you have.
Some of the more popular hybrids include the:
- California Whites
- Golden Comets
- Cinnamon Queens
- Red Star
- Black Stars
Sadly they will only be this productive for 18-24 months as the stress of almost continuous egg laying takes its toll on the hens body.
Sadly the Delaware is not as well-known as it was a few years ago.
At one time it was the darling of the broiler industry, then hybrids came along and the Delaware faded into obscurity.
It is now slowly making a comeback as folks are discovering what a useful bird the Delaware is.
She will give you 4 jumbo sized brown eggs each week (that is around 200 eggs each year).
The Delaware is an excellent dual purpose hen. She is a beautiful heritage bird that is friendly, curious, likes to be held and even enjoys lap time.
The Faverolles is an ancient heritage breed from France.
In the egg laying department they will give you around 200 or so eggs per year.
They have beards, muffs and feather feet, so they are quite funny to watch.
The most common in the US is the Salmon Faverolles – their plumage is a warm honey brown. They are friendly and inquisitive, so make a great bird for a family setting.
The Hamburg is an industrious little bird that has been around for a long time (their history dates backs to 14th century Holland).
She is on the small side for a standard bird but is a prolific layer giving 3 white eggs per week – over 150 eggs per year.
This is not a bird for a town or urban settings though.
You should allow them to free range as they are excellent foragers. Combine this with their smallness and you get a very good feed conversion ratio – meaning they won’t cost too much to keep.
The Jaerhon is a small, active and friendly hen.
While not recognized in the US they are slowly becoming more popular.
Laying around 4 white eggs each week she has an excellent feed conversion ratio.
They are very predator savvy and love to free range.
Another bonus is that this breed is autosexing!
11. New Hampshires
The New Hampshire is often overlooked because of their rival (Rhode Island Reds).
These hens will give you around 3 large tinted brown eggs per week – a little over 150 eggs per year. Their personalities vary from super friendly to moody, but in general they are a family friendly bird and are not people aggressive.
They are poor flyers and usually quiet so an urban setting would suit them quite well.
The dependable Sussex breed has been around a very long time indeed.
They were developed as a dual purpose breed over the years and although it lost favor with the poultry industry, backyard keepers favored this heritage hen and so she endured!
She is a bountiful layer, producing 4-5 large brown eggs each week.
There are many color variations to choose from with speckled being the most popular.
13. Euskal Oiloas
You may have never heard of this chicken breed.
They are better known as the Basque hen and are still very rare.
The bird comes from the Spanish Basque region. An area that is scrubby and sparse, so the Basque hen is a very good forager. The most common variety seen is the Marraduna hen (golden cuckoo or barred).
They are good egg layers putting out 4-5 brown eggs per week (between 180-220 per year).
Welcome to the ultimate homestead chicken!
This is an Italian breed that has become quite popular in the UK and US in recent years.
The Ancona is a lovely bird that is quite hardy and very active.
They really do not thrive in confinement, so urban living is not for this chicken.
Expect around 220 large white eggs per year.
What Do Chickens Need To Lay Eggs?
To keep you flock laying eggs, give them a good quality layer feed of 16% protein.
In addition to the feed you should provide two separate bowls. One containing insoluble grit to aid with digestion and another containing oyster shell to add extra calcium to their diets for their bones and eggshells.
Do not add calcium directly to their feed as too much calcium can cause problems with some hens.
Fresh clean water is very important and you can add a vitamin/ electrolyte solution once a week to help them stay in peak condition.
Sick chickens will not lay eggs so getting to know your flock as individuals is very important.
Spending time with them getting to know their quirks and behaviors can give you an insight into how they are feeling.
Many old time chicken keepers have said their most important piece of equipment is a 5 gallon bucket – turn it upside down and sit on it. Then watch your birds and you will be amazed at what you can learn!
Chickens are very good at hiding illness – showing weakness is a death sentence for birds in the wild and chickens have not lost that survival instinct.
By studying them and handling them regularly you will learn who is not feeling good today.
Parasites are often common culprits.
Making sure they stay healthy will help them to lay eggs.
If you want your hens to lay well all year round you are going to have to trick them!
Chickens need about 16 hours of daylight to keep producing eggs on a regular basis, so you will need to add light in the winter months.
It is best to add the light in the morning and let the natural fading daylight see them
to bed. A simple 60w bulb on a timer will serve this function well enough.
Remember though without a winter break (and rest from laying eggs) the long term health implications for your hens are bad.
Egg Laying Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best white egg laying chickens?
In our selection above the Leghorn, Hamburg, Jaerhon and Ancona are the stars of white eggs.
Addition honorable mentions go to:
All of these breeds will lay around 3 eggs per week.
What are the best brown egg laying chickens?
The Rhode Island Red, Australorp, Barnevelder, Delaware, Faverolles, New Hampshire and Sussex made our list for brown eggs.
Other honorable mentions include:
All of these breeds will give you 3+ eggs per week.
While you may be surprised or unfamiliar with some of our selections, we have chosen the best around.
We have tried to select breeds with different likings (confinement, free range, people oriented) and to spice it up we added some variety to the selections.
All of our selected hens are known to be good layers and many are dual purpose breeds too!
So whether you want your birds to be cuddly and affectionate or prefer them to do their own thing, there should be something for you here.
Let us know your favorite egg laying breed in the comments section below…