There are over 200 recognised breeds of chicken around the World but not all hens are equal in their laying ability so if you would like chickens for eggs, look at my top 10 laying hens below first. It is commonly accepted that all chickens decended from the Jungle Fowl. Pure breeds of chicken have been developed over many hundreds, even thousands of years from the Jungle Fowl (although science is still challenged by the Auraucana that lays blue eggs).
A Little History of Laying Hens
Before the First World War, ducks were the better egg layers and chicken breeds that layed 100 eggs or more per year were considered good layers. Most of the development of pure bred laying hens came after the Second World War when there were many laying trials and tests and it was common for breeders to ‘trap nest’ hens to record their individual output so that they could be used to produce further generations of laying hens.
The developments with pure breeds were soon to be followed by hybrid (a cross of pure breeds) laying hens. There were millions of pounds spent during the 1950′s on creating hybrids that were not only capable of laying more eggs but also had a good feed conversion. These days, the parent flocks that create these hybrids are themselves a breed of their own that are selected for production rather than their looks.
Duck eggs could have been on our breakfast table rather than chickens eggs… but they did not do well kept in confined conditions like chickens.
My Top 10 Chickens for Eggs
The following table lists my top 10 laying hens (a mixture of hybrids and pure breeds) and gives an estimate of the number of eggs they are capable of producing if kept in the right conditions. Note that there are many different strains of hens from different breeders that will perform differently. Exhibition strains that have been closely bred are not usually selected for their egg laying performance. Try to purchase hens from a good ‘Utility Strain’. There are some breeders that advertise utility strains and the number of eggs they expect from their strain every year. Hybrids are usually more reliable at producing a given number of eggs.
Work in Progress… (I need a few more photos!)
|1||Goldline (Hybrid)The ultimate egg machine. This little brown hen will lay up to 320 large brown eggs in her first year. They have a good feed ratio and are very similar to the birds used on farms to produce eggs for the consumer market. A very friendly bird that will be in your house if the door is left open!|
|2||White LeghornSmall attractive birds with a good feed efficiency that lay up to 300 large white eggs in their first year. These are the standard commercial hen used in the U.S. for egg production (because white eggs are preferred). They can be quite flighty and can fly well so make sure they can be kept securely before you buy them or clip a wing to keep them on the ground.|
|3||Nera (Hybrid)Hardy birds that are great foragers and layers of a good quality large brown egg. The Nera is a cross between a certain strains of Rhode Island Red and Barred Plymouth Rock, originating in Scotland. You can expect around 270 eggs in their first year,||Picture|
|4||Amber (Hybrid)The Amber is a Rhode Island Red based hybrid that looks attractive and has very soft feathering. She is a fantastic layer of up to 300 medium eggs in her first year.||Picture|
|5||Speckledy (Hybrid)The Speckledy is a flecked dark hen, a cross of a Rhode Island Red and Marans. She lays around 270 large dark brown eggs in her first year.||Picture|
|6||Rhode Island RedThe Rhode Island Red is a good layer of up to 220 large brown eggs in their first year. Be sure to get a utility strain though as these are a popular show bird.||Picture|
|7||MaransGood layers of medium to large dark brown eggs. Copper Black Marans seem to be the best layers laying up to 200 eggs in a year. They are often good winter layers, with pullets coming into lay during January.||Picture|
|8||Light SussexAttractive birds that will reward you with up to 200 medium tinted eggs.||Picture|
|9||AraucanaAraucanas are very unique looking. They initially came from Chilli in South America. The Araucana lays around 200 medium sized blue to bluish-green eggs.||Picture|
|10||Crested Cream LegbarAn attractive hen with a small crest that will lay up to 180 medium sized blue to bluish-green eggs that will add a little colour to your egg boxes.||Picture|