The Best Egg-Laying Chickens

Categories: On The Farm

If you want to learn about which is the best breed for egg laying, you have found the right article. It is a condensed short article that sums up all the basics.

It's hard to ignore the call of farm-fresh eggs. In an effort to make a step toward self-sufficiency, to know where one more element of your diet comes from or to add character to your small-scale farm, you might be exploring the best layer chicken breeds for your farm. There are hundreds of chicken breeds out there, and many of those are ideal for eggs.

Heritage vs. Hybrids


Egg-laying chicken breeds tend to fall into two categories: heritage and hybrid. Heritage-breed chickens have been around since your grandparents' time and often have multipurpose qualities, while hybrid chickens are commercially developed for a specific purpose. Some layers have both a heritage strain and a variety that has been commercially bred for production—not necessarily hybrid, but commercialized—so be sure to ask your source which you're getting if this distinction matters to you.

Heritage Chickens

"[Heritage] breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment, and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture,” according to The Livestock Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to protect livestock and poultry breeds from extinction. The organization defines heritage chickens as those that:

  • are American Poultry Association Standard Breeds, meaning their parent and grandparent stock breeds were recognized by the APA prior to the mid-20th century and meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines
  • are naturally mating
  • have long, productive outdoor lifespans; breeding hens should be productive for five to seven years and roosters for three to five years
  • have a slow growth rate, reaching appropriate market weight for the breed in no less than 16 weeks

Hybrid Chickens

Hybrid chicken varieties have been developed by crossing certain breeds for one trait or a set of traits—in this case, primarily egg production. Whereas heritage-breed chickens might be good at egg laying and meat production, hybrid chickens will excel at one or the other. When two hybrids are bred together, you will not get the same traits as a result, so if you try to breed two Black Stars, for example, you would end up with chicks that don't look like their parents.

The Best Breeds To Keep For Eggs

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right egg-laying breed for you, from production to temperament and feed requirements. The breeds mentioned here are only a few of the many egg-laying chicken options that you have for your backyard or small-scale farm flock. Read the basics about these top egg-laying hens, but don't stop your research here!

White Leghorns

Marji Beach/Flickr

Originally from Italy, the layer breed is considered by many to be the best egg-laying hen around. There’s a commercial strain often used in industrial-scale egg production, as well as a heritage type. The heritage breed lays 220 to 300 large or jumbo white eggs per year; the commercial breed lays more than 300. The heritage White Leghorn likes to forage in free-range situations, but their white color makes them attractive to predators. The commercial type has been developed for indoor egg production. Being from the Mediterranean, Leghorns are heat-tolerant, but their large combs make them prone to frostbite in frigid climates.

Rhode Island Reds

Garrett Heath/Flickr

This layer chicken also has a commercial and a heritage strain. Both do well in outdoor egg-production systems. Developed in Rhode Island, this breed lays extra-large brown eggs—250 or more each year beginning at 6 months of age—and adapts well to most climates. The variety with a rose comb does better in cold environments than that with a single comb. The heritage strain is considered a dual-purpose meat-and-egg bird.

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