Chickens for Eggs

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!)

1Goldline (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!
2White 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.
3Nera (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
4Amber (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
5Speckledy (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
6Rhode 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
7MaransGood 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
8Light 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
10Crested 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

246 Responses to Chickens for Eggs

  1. casey says:

    I’m completely new to owning chickens but really want to do so and want to make the right decision on breeds before purchasing is it ik to own a single chicken? Or would I definitely need more than one? What breed is a good egg layer but also very friendly I.e could potentially be good with children as I wish to involve my son in the chickens care. Thanks x

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Chickens are flock animals and shouldn’t be kept on their own. 3 is usually a good number as this provides the average family with enough eggs and you have a spare if one dies to keep the other company.

  2. Bill Norman says:

    Hi
    I have an issue with my two and a half year old Goldline Chickens. They are now very infrequent layers. Can you advise.

    Thanks

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      This is a hybrid that was produced to lay 300+ eggs in a year – the normal sort of hen you’ll find in a commercial set up.

      The down side is that their genetics are tipped towards producing as many eggs as possible in the first couple of years, after which commercially they are ‘spent hens’. Pure breeds lay less but for longer.

      If their diet is right and you don’t suspect red mite in the coop or sickness and they are 2+ years old, I think it’s probably time to retire them off. Perhaps you could add a few new hens to make up your egg numbers?

  3. Alison Collins says:

    Hi. A relative newbie to keeping chickens, and today I think I am losing my mind. I have 3 chickens that are kept in an Eglu. Most days, I get 2 or 3 eggs. Today, I have found 5, 3 in their nesting box, and two outside their house on their wood chips. Either they are being super efficient, or is it possible they have been laying on the wood chips on a different day and I didn’t notice them? Occasionally, I have seen them impatiently queuing to use the nesting box when one of the other ladies has been taking her time. They are very efficient at digging through the wood chips to make big piles, so maybe these two extra eggs were buried. Yesterday I used ground sanitising powder on the wood chips, so am I right in thinking it is best to bin these eggs given the porous nature of the shells?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Chickens can normally only lay one egg every day. Very occasionally, I’ve heard of high production hybrids such as Goldlines managing a second one late in the day, but I can’t be sure this is true.
      I would say they laid them outside on other days and you didn’t spot them ;-)

  4. Lucy Halford says:

    I have a bantam and a hybrid which I have had since April. The bantam started laying and then went broody, but has now stopped being broody but hasnt started laying again yet. Do you know why?
    Also, we wanted to introduce some silkie chicks which we have in a separate shed at the moment until they are a bit older, but I was wondering what would be the best way to introduce them?
    Thanks, Lucy

  5. leandro angeles says:

    How many months before white leghorn laying eggs and how long she gonna laying eggs or months.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Chickens generally come into lay between 19-24 weeks of age. Leghorns usually start around 19-21 weeks, it’s the larger / slower growing breeds that can take 24 even 25 weeks such as Orpingtons.

  6. Alfredo Larios (@Guero187) says:

    Love your List it’s really nice

  7. Simon Elder says:

    Hi there, I’m really looking to get reasonably reliable regular egg production over the longest period possible. So I see from one of your earlier answers that a pure breed lays for longer, any idea which breeds lay for the longest?

    I don’t really want to be killing and eating the ones that are no longer laying either, so I guess they are just unproductive pets from then on, is that right?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Yes, as they age, they slow down and the quality of the shell and the whites deteriorates. Eventually they will stop laying.

      I have Light Sussex that are still laying a few eggs at 5-6 years old. It’s the high production commercial hybrids that produce 300 or so eggs per year that usually lay really well for a couple of years but then fade after that and rarely live past 3-4 years old.

  8. sharon thorne says:

    my husband kept chickens as a lad and now at 50 is feeling the urge again! I want to make sure that they are a) easy to handle and friendly b) Fairly quiet as chickens go c) reasonable egg layers but I’d rather they laid fewer and went on for longer as I have no intention of getting rid of a chicken because she doesnt lay eggs any more, they are here for the whole of their life, like a pet, so we may as well have eggs for quite a while if poss! What breed would you recommend – or any in particular to avoid? thank you, love your site x

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      I would go for a hybrid hen but not high producing strains (such as the Goldline – the little brown hens you see on the front of egg boxes). Something like a Barred Plymouth Rock crossed with Rhode Island Red, called a Black Nera, Bovans Nera or Black Rock (they have various names). These should be strong / productive birds that will last a good few years.

  9. mark Hyde says:

    I have 10 brown chickens and have had them for a week now but i am only getting 2-3 egg’s a day and I am new to keeping chickens is this normal or am i doing something wrong they only seem to lay the egg s in one nest box can you advise me please

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Well they always have a ‘preferred’ nest box. Most people who get chickens for eggs buy point of lay hens but ‘point of lay’ is usually 16-17 weeks old and they won’t come into lay until they are 18-22 weeks old. It could be they are too young.

      If they are older hens then they do slow down as they get older but also moving chickens causes stress and can stop them laying. Once a chicken stops laying, they finish a laying cycle and then you may have to wait a few months for them to start again. Hens will also stop laying when the daylight hours drop – so in the UK from mid October to mid January is normally the time for few eggs.

      I would wait and let them settle in a bit longer.

  10. Emily says:

    I have 3 girls, two started laying last weekend. One then didn’t lay for 3 days and then the next day produced an egg with no shell. She has not laid again since then 3 days ago. The other hen has laid everyday with no problem. The third hen is a little younger so I expect her to start laying soon. There is grit in the run and they are all on layers pellets. Is there any advice you can give me on the chicken that has stopped laying after only a week into starting laying eggs. Many thanks

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