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. I am just wondering that you say the araucana lays roughly about 200 eggs but on most website they usually lay about 260? I’m asking because I’m looking for a hybrid that lays and looks good at the same time.

    • Egg numbers are difficult to quote because it depends on the strain of the bird – for example if you trap nested each bird in a breeding flock and recorded the number of eggs each bird lays and only bred from the biggest egg producers, you could increase the number of eggs laid by your strain.

      This is supposed to be the way to create ‘utility strains’ – you select for production over looks. The reality is few people actually do this so egg numbers can decline and you’ll find strains from different breeders will lay different numbers of eggs.

      When I put the egg numbers together (which was originally for a publication, not this website), I used a few different sources – a German friend who keeps tables of measured egg production, tested in Germany, data from an American publication, my own experience of keeping a breed (although I have not kept Araucanas but a close friend has), 2 different books I have, breed club secretaries and the internet. Breeders’ websites were giving higher numbers every time…

      So I guess you can call it an estimate of what you should expect. Some will lay more, some might lay less but hopefully my estimates are reasonably accurate.

    • Thank you for the interesting article on egg layers. I’m getting ready to buy a few so the info is appreciated.
      In Mexico and Latin America…Chile (country) chile (pepper)…both the same spelling.
      We do have the Chilli Restaurant chain, but I think it’s spelled that way because of its Tex/Mex menu…It’s more Tex than Mex.

  2. I’ve decided to keep chickens now I’m retired, when is the best time to buy them, e.g. is it best to get them in spring after the cold winter weather?

    • Hi Sally,

      For pure breeds, autumn is the best time to find excess stock that breeders have hatched that year.
      For hybrids, most places will have the biggest trade and stock levels in the spring and early summer.

      Good luck!

  3. Hi, I have 4 red shavers. They are currently 2 years old. For the past 4 -5 weeks 1 or 2 of them are laying thin and weak soft shelled eggs. These are either v delicate and too soft to pick up or they are soft and leathery. The obvious answer to me is a lack of calcium, however they get a complete nutrition balanced layer’s pellet, plus some crushed oyster shell and baked and ground down egg shells, plus greens ie weeds, vegetable trimming etc? Do you have any idea of what may be causing this? I am getting a little fed up of feeding 4 hens and only getting 2 eggs on a good day!

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