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

Feeding Chickens 1910Before 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.

Development of the ‘Hybrid’

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.

During this development, the parent flocks that created these hybrid layers were becoming a different ‘strain’ of their own because hens were selected for egg production rather than the way they looked.

Interestingly, 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.

keeping chickens for eggsMy 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… 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.

1. Goldline (Hybrid)

The ultimate egg machine. This little commercial 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 Leghorn (Pure Breed)

Small 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.

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.

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.

6. Rhode Island Red (Pure Breed)

The 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.

7. Marans (Pure Breed)

Good 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.

8. Light Sussex (Pure Breed)

Attractive birds that will reward you with up to 200 medium tinted eggs.

9. Araucana (Pure Breed)

Araucanas are very unique looking. They initially came from Chile in South America. The Araucana lays around 200 medium sized blue to bluish-green

10. Crested Cream Legbar (Pure Breed)

An 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.

302 Comments

    • In general, hens lay an egg every 26 hours or so in a cycle of 5 or 6 days, taking a break for a day or two afterwards. There are extremes at both ends of the scale, but none can lay 3 eggs in a day.

  1. Hi

    We have 3 hens that we bought as POL 2 weeks ago but so far have had no eggs, we have 2 blue star and 1 white star. How long do they usually take to settle in before laying. We feed them layer pellets and a handful of corn at night. They have a large run with plenty of vegetation to nibble on.

    Love the site, been very helpful for a first time chicken keeper.

    • POL is usually a few weeks before birds come into lay – although moving them to a new home can delay egg laying too. Be patient, they will come into lay soon I’m sure and they will be the best eggs you’ve tasted 🙂

    • It’s more to do with size than breed, although some some hard feather varieties are more prone to fighting (they were after-all originally developed for cock fighting).

  2. Hi, we have four light Sussex hens, two have started laying but we were wondering if the eggs are ok to eat as the chickens have not been immunised or treated for worms or any other illnesses?
    Thanks

    • Yes, the eggs should be fine if the chickens are healthy. When they become ill, they usually stop laying first…

  3. Hi, We’ve had 3 chickens for a couple of months and they are happy and laying well, we all love the girls, especially my 2 year old!

    One of them had gone broody recently, they tend to lay when we are at work so cant collect them until tea time, how do I stop them being broody? Can I take the eggs from under her?

    Love the web site thanks!

    • Yes, take the eggs from her and shut her out if you can. It’s a case of being cruel to be kind and most people will use a cage (no bedding) with feed and water, either hanging inside a coop or shed, or placing the cage on a cold floor – such as a concrete garage floor. Putting her in this during the daytime for a few days should ‘break’ her and then she can go on being a normal hen again.

      • Thank you for that, will give it a go, we looked online and found a clip of someone putting the chicken in a bucket of cold water (not submerging!) to reduce the body temperature, we have tried this but she still just wants to go straight back in the house, we have been shutting them out during the day and she seems happy to wander, or she just sits, is the water thing a good idea or not?

        Thanks again.

        Sare.

        • Yes, you can do that – the idea is it cools her off and wets her feathers so she doesn’t do back to sit – but I have found it doesn’t often work, especially if you have a really keen broody.

          • It worked! Phoebe is back to normal!

            where do I dispose of the muckings out? Just got them in a pile at the moment!

            Thanks again.

          • I like to compost mine but wood shavings can take 18 months to break down so you may need 3 or 4 compost bins. The black plastic circular bins are pretty fast if left in the sun and you add enough moisture. Once composted, it can be dug into the garden or spread or even mulched around trees. It’s good stuff and you’ll see a big difference in your plants growth

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