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.

Feeding Chickens 1910

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

keeping chickens for eggsThe 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… egg numbers can vary on a number of other factors too, particularly with feeding and daylight levels.

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 much more reliable at producing a given number of eggs and are bred mainly for this purpose.

Work in Progress… (I need a few more photos!).. coming soon honestly

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

267 Responses to Chickens for Eggs

  1. Jess Harris says:

    Hi, I am looking to start keeping chickens for the first time. I only want them for fresh eggs for the family. I was wondering is it OK to mix breeds? Do they get on well together if they are all different. Also is it necessary to keep a cock even if you don’t want to breed?

    Thank you for your help.

  2. Lizzie Law says:

    Hi there, me and my partner are looking to get a couple of chickens to keep as pets and also for the occasional eggs, we have a young daughter who likes to be involved. We were just wondering which breed might be more, how can I put it “tolerant” of her? :)

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Hybrid hens are usually quite placid. Goldlines or similar (the little brown commercial hens you see on egg boxes) would be my starting point.

  3. peter sinek says:

    In the UK, the housewife prefers a brown egg, and the darker brown they are seems to evoke a more earthy feel making them seem more appealing…I know in the States the housewife seems to prefer a white coloured egg. It seems to be the Marana that lay the darker brown egg, but I am looking for a breed that can not only lay the colour, but over 300 in her first cycle, making it commercially more viable…do you happen to know if this exists yet?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Marans lay a very dark brown egg. Is this what you’re looking for? If so try searching for Burford Browns from Legbars of Broadway.

      Normal Brown eggs come from commercial strains such as Bovans Goldline.

  4. Richard Nsokolo says:

    I would like to know how I can improve laying of eggs in pure breed chicken and how many hens per male

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Hi Richard,

      You would need to buy a good utility egg layer (not many people specialise in these though) or create your own strain.

      To create your own, you would need to ring each hen for identification and use trap nest boxes. Trap each hen when she lays and record the number of eggs she lays in her first year. Use the hens that lay the most eggs in the breeding pen and continue to do this every year. By doing this you are genetically selecting for good egg numbers and should see numbers increasing (to a point). Good husbandry and feeding (e.g. sufficient protein) is also required for good egg production.

  5. Gail Solomon says:

    i have cross breed chickens, i was told that they won’t lay eggs is this true.

  6. razi says:

    hai.. can you describe differences between heavy and light breed of layer chicken..tq

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      There are categories of fowl according to the Poultry Standards of GB. Heavy fowl are birds such as Orpingtons and Wyandottes and light fowl such as Leghorn or Legbar. It basically comes down to weight.

      • bartonsindevon says:

        My three hens have a lovely life free ranging in a large garden and are fed only the best layers pellets. They also get treats and health supplements. However, their eggs have rather flat yolks and watery whites which spread out in the pan like cheap supermarket eggs close to their sell-by date. Why should this be? They are good layers and give me two eggs one day and three the next.

        • Keeping Chickens says:

          This usually happens as hens get older but watery whites can also be thanks to a disease they have had at some point. Hybrid layers that lay many eggs will usually deteriorate first so Ex-Batts for example will have watery whites as they age more so than pure breeds.

  7. Fiona Barnard says:

    Hi, I have had my current hens ( one Light Sussex, one Maran and one Lavender Blue) for about 3 years. They have always been good layers but now when I go to the laying boxes the eggs are broken and eaten. Could this be one of the hens? The hen house is quite secure, I don’t think it is rats. Should I separate the hens? Any advice appreciated!

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Egg eating is a difficult vice to cure – make nest boxes darker (an old feed bag nailed over the top 2/3 of the entrance with a few slits so they can push their way in), add golf balls or dummy eggs to the nest and collect eggs as soon as they are laid.

      If all of this doesn’t work (and it usually will if you’re really clever with collecting eggs as they are laid) then you can blow an egg and fill it with a mustard-curry-egg mixture, basically anything unpleasant that they won’t like the taste of when they break it.

  8. simon costin says:

    Great site very infomative. just moved back from spain where i had 4 hens and a so called white leghorn male but it layed?????? I shall use this site for uk Chicken keeping. The sly fox will not get my hens………

  9. james says:

    ive decide to keep some hens down at my allotment for egg purposes only. i have a coop which 6ft x 6ft, i was wondering how many hens would i be able to keep and what type is best for all year round eggs


    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Hybrids are by far the best layers – e.g. Goldlines / Warrens but they give all they have in their first 2-3 years of life so can be short lived. In that space, assuming you have adequate perches and they can get out in the day, I would say 12 – 20 perhaps. Either way, you should get enough eggs from that number of hens!

  10. J T says:

    You didn’t mention blue Sumatrans in your top ten, but these have proved to be phonomenal egg layers for us. They practically look after themselves when free range, perch up in the barn rafters, and their eggs are a lovely blue green colour with tough shells.
    Well worth consideration!
    Thank you for an informative site ????.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Thanks for the tip – I haven’t kept these and they aren’t as easy to find but I shall certainly look out for them.

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