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.


  1. hi, great site!

    I am probably getting warrens (which i believe are goldline?) my question is how long can i expect them to lay for?

    ive seen conflicting sources from 12 months to 4 years!


    • It’s a tough question. The actual hens genetics play a role here – a hybrid that was created to lay eggs isn’t usually a straight forward ‘pure breed crossed with another pure breed’ for commercial hens. There can be many crosses along the way and the name of the hybrid comes from the ‘manufacturer’. Roughly speaking though, yes they are the same sort of cross. They could be a straightforward RIR X Light Sussex from a breeder or maybe have been bought by the hundred from a commercial supplier and if so, could be quite a mixture along the way.

      So… all of this to say that commercial hens are ‘optimised’ for the most production in the first 18 months of their lives (after that they are killed or re-homed). Egg numbers and egg quality decrease after this. I have typically bought these hens 10 at a time, just for eggs and I guess 50% died by 3 years old with one thing and another, the rest lived to no more than 4.

      A hen contains all the eggs she can lay in her body at birth. I’d say they give all they can in those first years of their lives whereas pure breeds lay for longer but at a slower rate.

  2. I have a question and it may sound stupid but…..
    Do chickens lay the same colour eggs throughout their lives or can the colour change due to such things as diet or age etc. I have six hens, two Sussex, two rhode islands, a blue Maran and a silkie and am trying to determine which hen is laying which egg!!!

    • The Sussex should be laying a small to medium light cream coloured egg that shouldn’t really change colour. RIR lay brown eggs that shouldn’t vary and the Maran should have pretty dark brown eggs – but these fade at this time of year. I’m not sure about the Silkie – White / Cream I think but I haven’t kept them before..

      The Marans and other dark egg layers can lay a whole shade of different colours since the pigment that is deposited on the outside of the shell changes with hormone levels, which changes with the time of year. The darkest eggs appear in the spring.

  3. Hi, I have 1 White Star and 2 Grey Star chickens about 8 months old, but 1 of the Grey Star has stopped laying. She hasn’t laid many eggs in all the time we’ve had her, and is now larger than her ‘sister’ . Any idea of why she may have stopped? She did have diarrhoea for a couple of weeks, and I gave her ACV and multivits in her water, but still no eggs. Is this related or maybe it’s just the time of year?

    Love the site, very helpful to a chicken novice

    • Yes, you are right. Chickens stop laying when they moult (often in the Autumn) and will not always come back into lay before the dark nights, or I should say ‘decreased daylight hours’. Mine have stopped laying too and I don’t expect to see eggs from the older hens now until the end of January. Pullets that hatched this year that are resonable layers and haven’t yet laid will often come into lay over winter but at a much reduced rate.

      People are often very keen to see eggs and want their chickens to start laying but I take the opposite approach – I want my hens to grow fully and be the healthiest they can be before they start. They usually lay bigger eggs then and for longer in the season.

  4. I have some barred Rock and three Black Sexlink. I was told my chickens are winter hardy. I live in Northern Idaho close to Canada. We get lots of snow and it gets to zero to -20 in the winter for a few days otherwise appx 25 degrees in daytime. How cold can my chickens take it before they need a heat lamp. There coop isnt insulated.

    • People do keep hens in very cold temperatures, I think some Canadians do take precautions but generally speaking if the birds are well feathered, they should be fine. Mine went down to -18 a couple of winters ago when we had a particularly cold winter here.

      Do not insulate the coop – it needs ventillation / air movement. This article may help: Chickens in Cold Weather.

  5. Hi,

    Quick question, we’ve had our chickens for 3 weeks now- two types of hen (Rhode Island Reds 16 weeks old and ISA Browns 20 weeks old) they are obviously young birds so we weren’t expecting any eggs however, what eggs they are laying are very ‘rubbery’ eggs and not particularly nice to eat. Is there a reason for this or is this just what we should expect from such young birds in a new environment?
    They are being fed Layer pellets and a small amount of mixed corn as a treat.
    Many thanks for any advice…

    • I haven’t heard of this before. If you mean they are rubbery when hard boiled then it could be that they are just really fresh, or if you mean they taste strange then diet can change the taste of the egg, garlic or Cod Liver Oil fed to chickens in large quantities can for example make the eggs taste odd.

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