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Egg Laying Chicken Breeds

Updated on September 4, 2012
Farmer Rachel profile image

Rachel worked as a farm manager for three years in Pennsylvania. She now owns a small farm in Minnesota.

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Chickens for Eggs!

Not only is the chicken just about the easiest "farm animal" to keep and care for, chickens will also supply you with healthy eggs and meat. But some chickens are better egg-layers than others; in fact, some chickens are downright pathetic when it comes to egg production.

I'd like to help spare you the trouble of purchasing and raising baby chicks that will grow up to be real losers when it comes to supplying you with breakfast!

So if you're just considering getting a backyard chicken flock, here's the list of my five favorite egg-laying chicken breeds, from bottom up .

Barred Rock Chicken & Egg

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Barred Rock eggThis is actually a Barred Rock rooster... my hens were being shy... but they look just like him, minus the large comb and height
Barred Rock egg
Barred Rock egg | Source
This is actually a Barred Rock rooster... my hens were being shy... but they look just like him, minus the large comb and height
This is actually a Barred Rock rooster... my hens were being shy... but they look just like him, minus the large comb and height | Source

The Barred Rock

Egg Laying Frequency: Every 2-3 days
Hen size: Large
Color Variations: Black and white, barred-feathered

The Barred Rock is a decidedly popular breed of backyard chicken, and they have their place on the farm, too. Cheap and easy to aquire due to a large demand for the bird, I like to keep a few around because they lay pretty well and the cockerels (young roosters) are good eating!

The Barred Rock is really a dual-purpose chicken, pretty good at producing both meat and eggs but not the very best at doing either.

The hens lay one medium to large brown egg every 2-3 days, which is pretty good as far as I'm concerned! The hens also have a tendency to go "broody" (decide to sit on and hatch their eggs). If you have a rooster doing the fertilizing, this is a good thing because you'll get more chickens virtually for free. If you're rooster-less, or just don't want your hens hatching eggs, then you might have to go to a little extra trouble to "steal" the eggs from the broody bird.



Dominique Chicken & Egg

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Dominique egg.Young Dominique hen.
Dominique egg.
Dominique egg. | Source
Young Dominique hen.
Young Dominique hen. | Source

The Dominique

Egg Laying Frequency: Every 3-4 days
Hen size: Medium
Color Variations: Black and white "barred"

Similar to the popular Barred Rock chickens, the Dominique is a medium-sized black-and-white "barred"-feathered bird. Personally, I prefer the Dominique to the Barred Rock because the breed is considered rare by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). This is basically like being an endangered farm animal. I believe that older genetics in our food animals should be preserved and incorporated into more "commercial" livestock production where possible.

But I digress...

These girls will lay one medium to large brown-shelled egg every 3 or 4 days, depending on the season. During the summer months, the days with the most hours of sun, my Dominiques will lay every 2 to 3 days. During the winter, production is much slower (but that's okay, because my other girls keep up).

The Dominique is also about the gentlest, most easy-going chicken I've dealt with. I've never had a hen peck me for egg-stealing. For just this reason, I've unfortunately found the roosters to be just about worthless in terms of flock protection (unless you consider running off and getting themselves eaten a sort of "sacrifice" for the team).

The Dominique is probably not the only breed of chicken you would want in your flock, due to the slower egg-laying and the tendency to get ever slower when it gets cold.

Americauna Chicken & Egg

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Americauna egg.One of my Americauna hens, being extremely shy and refusing to look at my camera...
Americauna egg.
Americauna egg. | Source
One of my Americauna hens, being extremely shy and refusing to look at my camera...
One of my Americauna hens, being extremely shy and refusing to look at my camera... | Source

The Americauna (The "Easter Egger")

Egg Laying Frequency: Every 2-3 days
Hen size: Large
Color Variations: Varied! Black and brown, black and white speckled, brown, black, tan, etc.

Bred out of the Araucana breed, the Americauna makes a great addition to any chicken flock. With their fluffy "beards" and the lovely colored tails of the roosters, these birds are definitely near the top of my list of favorite chickens for any purpose.

Americauna hens will lay one large green or blue-tinted egg every 2-3 days. They don't call them "Easter-Eggers" for nothing - these girls dye their eggs for you!

Aside from the colored eggs, another cool thing about the Americauna is the temperament of the bird. Some of my nicest hens are my Americaunas; I can pick them up and handle them pretty much at will. The roosters of this breed are also easy to handle, as compared to some others like the Rhode Island (one of which decided to attack me from his roost one evening when I was egg-gathering - I'm just waiting for cooler weather to make him dinner!).

Rhode Island Red Chicken & Egg

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Rhode Island Red egg.Rhode Island Red hen (with a Dominique in the background).
Rhode Island Red egg.
Rhode Island Red egg. | Source
Rhode Island Red hen (with a Dominique in the background).
Rhode Island Red hen (with a Dominique in the background). | Source

The Rhode Island Red

Egg Laying Frequency: One egg every 1-2 days
Hen size: Large
Color Variations: Red with some black feathers

The Rhode Island is a very productive, large chicken with beautiful coloring. These girls are, in my experience, generally friendly and easy to handle.

From your Rhode Island Reds, you'll get one large brown-shelled egg every one to two days. In general, my ladies lay every other day.

My only complaint with the Rhode Island is that the hen's large size means she needs more feed. On the other hand, I butcher and eat my hens when they start becoming less productive, and/or when I receive fresh replacements. Such is the circle of life on the farm. If you're not planning on eating your egg-layers, and you're not in need of the frequent egg production offered by the Rhode Island, you may want to consider a slightly smaller (less hungry) breed of chicken.


Leghorn Chicken & Egg

Click thumbnail to view full-size
White Leghorn egg.One of my prized white Leghorn ladies! (With some Dominique and Barred Rock buddies.)
White Leghorn egg.
White Leghorn egg. | Source
One of my prized white Leghorn ladies! (With some Dominique and Barred Rock buddies.)
One of my prized white Leghorn ladies! (With some Dominique and Barred Rock buddies.) | Source

The White Leghorn

Egg Laying Frequency: About one egg per day!
Hen size: Medium
Variations: White & black

These girls know what's up when it comes to egg production! Now I can't say much about the black Leghorn, because I've never kept them, but I hear and read that they don't lay as well as the white Leghorn.

Check out the eggs at your local grocery store. I bet most of them are large, white, and uniform in shape. While most egg ranches don't keep pure Leghorns, almost all of them do keep Leghorn crosses. Bottom line: If you want eggs, you want white Leghorns. These white eggs are extra large to jumbo, and hens lay an egg just about every day of the year.

Keep your Leghorns' water fresh and their feed free-choice, and you'll probably have more eggs than you can eat.

The downside to keeping Leghorns is that they're skittish and a bit aloof. They will also fly over a fence six feet in height if you don't keep their wings clipped short. Oh, and they'll just about never go broody, for whatever reason, but if you keep a few Dominiques you'll solve that problem. Once they've decided to brood, hens don't care whose eggs they're trying to hatch.

Whatever minor flaws Leghorns might have, I don't think they're rivaled in egg production. I wouldn't keep chickens without having some white Leghorns in my flock.


Interesting Misunderstandings About Chickens & Eggs:


Because people have asked me about this stuff...

Chickens can't lay eggs without a rooster, right? Well, no, actually, that's not true. Just like a female human ovulates every month with or without the presence of a man, a female chicken lays eggs with or without a rooster around. What is true is that a chicken cannot hatch a baby chick out of an egg unless a rooster has fertilized it.

Chickens will lay eggs until they get old and die, right? Not exactly. Chickens have a ticking clock on their fertility, just like any other animal. A hen has a finite number of eggs that she can lay in a lifetime. Peak laying age for hens in usually 1 year of age through 3 years of age. After 4 or 5 years, a hen's egg production is going to slow down. At this point, she will make either an excellent pet or an excellent stew.

If I eat an egg, it's like eating a baby chick, right? No, it's like eating a chicken egg. If you want to get technical about what an egg is... well, you probably don't. Anyway, the egg yolk exists to feed the baby chick while it's in the egg. If you're concerned about eating fertilized eggs from your flock, simply shine a flashlight through any eggs you might be curious about. An embryo should be visible as a dark spot in the egg. If you want it hatched, try to find a broody chicken in your coop. If you've got a bunch of Leghorns or other chickens that seem to lack maternal instincts, consider investing in an incubator.

Eggs will spoil in my coop if I don't collect them right away, right? Luckily, we have a pretty large window of time from the egg being laid to the egg going bad. Sometimes I get "lazy" and don't collect eggs for a few days. Even in the summer, this isn't a problem. If you're ever unsure about whether an egg is good to eat or not, simply float it. This means filling a pot or bowl with enough water to cover the egg, and placing the egg in the water. If the egg stays at the bottom, it's a good egg. If the egg floats, it has probably started rotting. The gas that builds up as the egg goes bad is what will make it float in the water.

Any other questions? Feel free to use the "Comment" section below, and thanks for reading!



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  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 22 months ago from Long Island, NY

    I'm not in a position to have a chicken farm. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to learn about it. And your hub was the most enjoyable that I've read on the subject, as well as educational.

    I found it interesting that there are so many breeds of hens, and that they vary so much with their mood and various maternity instincts. Some let you take the eggs while others fight you for them.

    It's also interesting to realize how similar their functions are as compared to humans. As you said, "A hen has a finite number of eggs that she can lay in a lifetime." That's true for human females too. I guess the hens also go through menopause.

    Congrats on this being selected as Hub of the Day.

  • pstraubie48 profile image

    Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

    Very interesting...did I miss it? Why does the Araucana (hope I spelled it correctly if not a bot will fix it for me :D )...tint their eggs? Does it have to do with the food they consume?

    I would love to have chickens but my pup would love to eat them...I remember fondly gathering eggs from the hen house as a child.

    A lady at our church has chickens and she brings in eggs which we buy for 25 cents for small to 75 cents (per dozen) for large.

    Angels are on the way Congrats on HOTD ps

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

    I'm looking forward to the day when we can have a little flock again, but it won't be soon. Some of this I knew, but it was good to learn about the window of time on spoilage. Any old ways, congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this informative and fun read.

  • Austinstar profile image

    Austinstar 2 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

    I would love to have chickens, but I have two cats. I think they would kill the chickens. What do you do to protect the chickens from predators?

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    Rachel, this is a great article about chicken breeds for eggs. It's quite interesting to know about them, too.

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

    This really brought back great memories of my childhood. We always had chickens. In fact, I got six biddies for my grandchildren to raise. They make wonderful pets. People don't realize just how smart a chicken is.

    I wrote a Hub about our chickens.

    Voted this UP, etc. and shared.

  • Suhail and my dog profile image

    Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

    Rachel,

    When I was young, my parents only used to keep Rhode Island Red (Called Red Rhode back then) and the White Leghorn, with black Plymouth thrown in there sometimes.

    Very useful article once again from your personal experience and it really makes a difference.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Anonymous, you bring up a good point. It's always best to keep informed about what the USDA standards are for "free-range" and "organic" labels. Even USDA Organic food doesn't have to be 100% organic ingredients. Best to buy local, from people you know, or raise your own if you can.

  • profile image

    anonymous 4 years ago

    I never used to think about label like organic and free range I just assemud they were more healthy. Until my 80-year old dad one day informed me to my horror I've been reading about the free-range label. Apparently, you can call a chicken free range if their wire cage opens up onto a 2 x2 gravel or concrete space. And it doesn't matter what they feed them or if they give them drugs or hormones to call them free-range. Doesn't sound very free range to me. You're best off growing your own food. I also found out a few years ago while working with environmental engineers that Energy Star classification is more about buying the use of the name than anything else. Sad.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Hi Sheppy - You can breed the chickens as long as you have at least one female and one male, and neither is sterile (unable to breed). Feeding layering mash or pellet is a good idea; just let the roosters do their thing with the hens, and either 1) wait for a hen to go broody and hatch the eggs or 2) collect the eggs every day or so and put them in an incubator.

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    sheppyzhax 4 years ago

    is it possible for me to breed from the brown egg layers hens if i get the cocks and continue to feed on layers mesh...are the eggs going to fertilised

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Dirt Farmer - That's a shame, Jill! Well, hopefully someday!

    Angel - Thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed the article! Sorry to can't keep chickens :( It's lots of fun and nice to have healthy eggs to eat.

    Internpete - You're right about the store-bought eggs being inferior to home-raised eggs. It's the feed and the amount of sunlight that's the cause, I'm sure of it. Glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks for the votes!

  • internpete profile image

    Peter V 5 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

    Growing up, my family always had chickens, even when we lived in Japan. We didn't always have the best egg laying chickens, but the quality of the eggs was always superior to store bought eggs. This was an interesting hub as I didn't know which chickens were better egg layers. Thanks and voted up!

  • Angelo52 profile image

    Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

    Great article on keeping chickens. Unfortunate that the place I live in (a community) doesn't allow them. Sharing.

  • The Dirt Farmer profile image

    Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

    Oh, if only our neighborhood were that open-minded, but ... we live in one of those communities with a homeowners' association that bosses you around about everything--even where you can put your trash cans, so chickens are definitely out, at least for now. Btw, shared your hub. Hope you get lots of readers!

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

    Deborah - Yay for getting chickens! I actually have a couple of those rediculous Polish birds, too. My local 4H programs give me about 60 chicks every year - for some reason, they will go to the zoo for snake food, otherwise. It's always a mixed up lot. Your Polish should lay smallish white eggs, but they're not super tiny. I haven't quite figured out their laying frequency, but I think it's about 2-4 days. The red smallish bird... if you're interested in figuring out what she is, maybe post a picture with a question in Q&A? If I see her, I might be able to identify her for you. Thanks for the comment and good luck with your hens!!

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

    Sunnie - Sorry you had to re-home your chickens. Hopefully you'll get more some day. I've heard/read that Austrolorps are great egg-layers as well, but didn't want to speak on them because I haven't kept them yet. Is it true that they have rather short legs? Thanks for reading and commenting :)

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

    Dirt Farmer - Hi Jill, always nice to hear from you! Glad you enjoyed the hub. I hope you'll get to have your chickens one day. Ya know, many suburban areas will allow you to keep a few hens if you have some kind of a backyard (just not roosters because of the crowing). I don't know where exactly you live, but you can always check with your local people-in-charge.

  • DeborahNeyens profile image

    Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

    Great hub! I just added a micro flock of three backyard hens this summer. They haven't started to lay yet, but should be getting close. I got them from my sister-in-law, who ordered a bunch of mixed baby chicks in the spring. I have one Barred Rock, which I've already guessed will be a good layer. She's also my favorite, in that she's very friendly and almost dog-like in how she comes when called. Another hen is a Polish Crest, which is kind of a ridiculous bird that can't see well because of all the feathers on her head. The third I have no idea about; she is a red-colored, smallish bird. I kind of have a feeling those two won't be as good as layers as the Barred Rock and probably will lay smaller eggs. We'll see. Should be any day now!

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    Sunnie Day 5 years ago

    Great hub...I just found a home for my lovely chickens due to moving in town and oh how I miss them girls. I had Austrolorps which were good laying chickens and very sweet. Thank you for all the information. Maybe one day I will have them once more.

    Take care

    Sunnie

  • The Dirt Farmer profile image

    Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

    Fantastic hub! Enjoyed your fun style and appreciate your expertise. I'm coming back to this one! Raising chickens for egg production is one of my goals for the future (when we get out of this woodsy but still suburban suburb). Up, awesome, etc.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

    Radcliff - Thanks! Nope, no rooster required :) I hope you'll get your land and chickens one day.

  • Radcliff profile image

    Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

    I love how you put this hub together. I will definitely hold on to this in hopes of one day getting some land and a flock of my own. I also thought you were supposed to have a rooster--I'm glad to hear you don't need one! Thank you :)

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

    sgbrown - Thanks for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it. I strongly dislike raccoons - I've lost 30 birds at a time to coon raids. The brats don't even eat all of the birds, they just pick their favorite parts and leave the rest. What a mess. Anyway..... Hmm, how old are your Reds? If you got them as chicks in the spring, they probably should be laying small, brown eggs by now, just not as frequently as they will when they get older. I usually see eggs from my pullets (young female chickens) at 3 to 4 months of age, unless they're Leghorn-Egg-Machines, of course. Feed the Reds a layer pellet or layer mash free-choice, keep them well supplied with water, and let them get out in the sunshine if you can (Vitamin D helps them fix calcium). Also, try offering them oyster shell or another calcium supplement; that'll help make good egg shells. Hope that helps! If not, let me know.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

    Bill - You're welcome! Like I said, I was working on this one when you emailed me, so it was actually great timing. Now I can work on a longer, more involved Hub about raising chickens from chicks. That should fill the rest of the gaps for you :) Thanks for the comment!

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

    Homesteading - Thanks! Yes, sometimes people are confused about that. I guess you can't blame them, considering how distant most people are from the source of their food. Chickens are a lot of fun to have around. :) Do you butcher your own? Thanks for commenting.

  • sgbrown profile image

    Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

    This is great information. We inherited about 12 Rhode Island Red chickens when we bought our place almost 11 years ago. Over the next few years we lost most of them to some racoons who kept managing to chew throught the chicken wire and get the hens. When replaced some of them, we tried different breeds. None of them laid as well as the "reds". We are back to all Rhode Island Reds now. We got them as chicks so we still have a little time to wait on eggs. Can you tell me about how long before the hens start laying eggs? Voted this up and useful! :)

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    You are a sweetheart for doing this hub; I greatly appreciate it and now I'm 100% more knowledgeable about chickens than I was five minutes ago. Thank you Rachel! Oh, and great hub! :)

  • Homesteading profile image

    Julie Z 5 years ago from North Central Florida

    Love how you addressed the chicken not having an egg without a rooster, as incorrect. What a misconception that is among many. Was questioned often when had no rooster, but a ton of eggs. Very educational write up. I love my chickens ... Barred, Light Brahmas & Buff Orps. :)