Best Laying Hens - For Beginners, White Eggs, Brown Eggs (2022)

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What are the best laying hens? The answer will vary, depending on your needs. First, ask yourself some basic questions: What is your purpose for getting chickens? Do you primarily want a good source of eggs? If so, how many eggs do you want in a week? What egg color do you want? Will your chickens be more like pets than working livestock? Do you want a dual purpose breed so that you get a little meat?

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Chickens come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. They also come with differing innate abilities to produce eggs! If you want sturdy hens that produce a LOT of eggs, sex-links are the way to go. These birds were bred carefully by the various hatcheries over time to maximize the vigor and productivity a small farmstead would need. If you want dual purpose birds, or want to breed your own laying hens, other breeds may be a better fit.


  • Best Laying Hens for Beginners
  • What are the Best White Egg Laying Hens?
  • What are the Best Brown Egg Laying Hens?
  • Best Meat and Egg Laying Chickens
    • Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds
  • Which Chickens Lay the Best Eggs?
  • Where to Buy Laying Hens
  • Breeding Your Own Laying Hens
  • What About Bantams for Egg Laying?
  • Common Poultry Terms
  • Should I Start with Chickens or Eggs?
  • What About Duck Eggs?
  • Are you ready to start your laying flock?

Best Laying Hens for Beginners

My recommendation is to begin your flock with sex-links. These are readily available, lay well, have a good disposition, have hybrid vigor, and are reasonably priced. When we started, we alternated getting a different color of sex link each year. That way, we could tell the age of the bird by color. A rotation of Isa brown, black sex links, and rounding off with DeKalb ambers made a colorful flock in the yard and gave us confidence when culling.

(Video) Top 5 *BEST* Egg laying Chicken Breeds!

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What are the Best White Egg Laying Hens?

For white eggs, a cross that is based on leghorns is the standard. The most common of these is the California white, produced by mating a California Gray (which was never recognized as a breed and is thus fairly rare) male over a white leghorn hen. The resultant female chicks are excellent producers of white eggs with a somewhat better temperament than a simple white leghorn would be.

My dad used to relate stories about his mother’s egg route. Every year, they would get in a batch of leghorns for laying. These were only available as straight run. Leghorns are known for their ‘lively’ personalities. As the males began to cause troubles, they would be butchered for ‘Sunday dinner’. The kids did not like the job of picking eggs because leghorns do not like someone messing with their nests. Consequently, we could never have chickens when were growing up!

What are the Best Brown Egg Laying Hens?

The BEST brown egg layers? Hands down, eggs-perienced chicken people go for the sex links. I call them my work horses. It seems to me that historically, each hatchery developed their own particular cross from slightly different parent lines. Red stars, Red Comets, ISA browns, and DeKalb ambers are some of the names. All of these sex links use either Rhode Island Reds or New Hampshire Reds as the males crossed with a light female such as a Delaware, Wyandotte, white rock or a Rhode Island white. Black sex links can also be produced by crossing the same males over barred females such as the Barred Rock.

With sex link chickens, male chicks are one color; females are another. This means that there is no need to hire special personnel to divide the sexes. This saves the hatchery time and money. It means that you can be confident that those chicks you get WILL grow up to fill your egg cartons and not a frying pan! Any of the sex links can be expected to begin laying before six months and to produce 270 to 320 eggs per year. They will lay for longer stretches, be more cold tolerant, and have shorter episodes of molt than their purebred counterparts. My personal vote? Isa Browns!

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Best Meat and Egg Laying Chickens

Looking for a dual purpose bird, one for meat AND eggs? Regretfully, there is not one breed that has it all. The better the meat production, the less adapted to laying or the higher the cost to maintain body weight, thus increasing the cost of their eggs. The better layer birds are too light to produce your Sunday roasted chicken. If you are willing to concede this, there are some breeds that are a great addition to a homestead.

Weed out the extremes! The Jersey giant sounds wonderful for meat, but it takes months to achieve the big size that fits its name– months that result in a tougher bird, and the egg production is only 150 to 200 eggs per year. The Mediterranean breeds are good layers — leghorns, Anconas, Andalusians — providing as many as 300 eggs per year, but their body size is too small to be worthy of that frying pan.


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Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds

Virtually every breed has its defenders. Our experience in looking for that balance between meat and egg production also take into account rate of growth and carcass quality. My husband was trained as a federal meat grader, does our butchering, and is picky! He likes Ameraucanas, naked necks, and a new one to us, the Chantecler and its crosses. We have had many of the others, including purebred Rhode Island reds, New Hampshires, Cochins, Brahmas, buckeyes, Australorps, etc.

For dual purpose, experiment with the mid-sized breeds such as any of these mentioned.There standard weight will be 6 to 8 pounds. There is no one perfect bird for every homestead. Look for a breed developed in a climate similar to yours. Take personality into account. For example, Lakenvelders are aggressive foragers, lay fairly well in their first year, and are absolutely stunning out in the yard.That aggressiveness carries into a flighty nature, which is fine for adults but not for children. Apply common sense, and look at the price. That gorgeous lavender orpington may set you back $20 per chick or more, while its buff cousin can be found for a more reasonable price.

The old timers around here (northeast Wisconsin) told me that they always kept a flock of white rocks. The hens were fairly good layers, and some could always be counted upon to set a nest of eggs. The pullets were replacements, but the males made a nice carcass for a family meal. As the demand for chicken meat increased, the Delaware was developed, primarily for meat. Within a few years, they were surpassed by Cornish rocks for the meat purpose, but some have found that the Delaware or any of the rocks are worthy homestead birds for eggs and meat.

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Which Chickens Lay the Best Eggs?

Any well cared for chicken with access to forage will produce eggs that are far better than the average supermarket egg. As mentioned above, sexlink laying hens produce the most eggs, but other breeds also make solid laying hens.

When you are ready to mix things up, then I would buy some of the purebreds. You can buy a baker’s dozen through a hatchery assortment or get a better feel for personality and production characteristics by buying several of each breed, such as 4 cochins or 4 Ameraucanas. Landscaping with chickens is like gardening– you can learn as you go. As you become a crazy chicken person, you will begin to decide which breeds best fit your homestead and your heart.

If a smorgasbord of colors, shapes, sizes and personalities is your goal, then grab a copy of your favorite hatchery catalog and pick some that attract your eye. BUT be warned that the pure breeds almost always lay fewer eggs– 250 or less per year. They lay smaller eggs than the sex links that begin lay with medium eggs and quickly move to large and extra large in size. They will protest winter with fewer eggs in the cold; in my observation, the more the breed is billed as a heritage bird, the longer it will take to begin laying again in spring!

(Video) Top 5 egg laying chickens

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Where to Buy Laying Hens

Sourcing your birds will become important when you make the jump to selecting breeds for more than just eggs. In the poultry world there are three camps– the exhibition world, the production world, and the hobbyists with one foot in both of the other two.

Typical hatcheries are selecting for production characteristics. These are good healthy birds and may even produce more eggs than their exhibition counterparts. The downside is that their color patterns will be less than precise and their body form may not match the Standard of Perfection. The exhibition world breeds according to that Standard, ruthlessly culling to achieve a blend of form and color. In any given year, a breeder may produce only one truly show-worthy bird. This is expensive AND not for the faint of heart. The backyard hobbyist loves all their birds, but can make great strides to improve their bloodlines with careful selection of breeding stock, purchasing from the exhibition world for new genetics.

Some poultry hatcheries now offer older birds that are almost ready to start laying, called started pullets. These started pullets are 15-22 weeks old. This allows you to purchase your birds, get them settled in, and have them start laying shortly thereafter. If you're in a hurry for eggs, this may be a good option. Keep in mind that near adult laying hens will be much more expensive than chicks.

You may also be able to find someone local who has chicks or egg laying chickens for sale. Feed and farms stores often carry chicks for sale at some times of the year.

Breeding Your Own Laying Hens

One goal with your flock may be to allow natural reproduction, and setters can be highly valued. I discovered that if your flock is just one breed, and that breed tends to set, your egg production is going to go way down– when they all go broody at once! Unless you have plenty of spots to keep them happy, they will compete to set the eggs with the resultant jostling ending in broken eggs and no chicks nor any eggs in the cartons! (You can seed nest boxes with ceramic eggs to encourage the girls to spread out.)

Becoming a breeder requires further research of the breeds. Some of the Eastern European / Scandinavian breeds of chickens –really any of the breeds in high demand– can become your specialty. Pay attention to birds that are true to breed characteristics in color and form so that hatching eggs or purebred chicks can become a source of income. Easter and Olive eggers specialties is in great demand at the moment. The novelty of a range of egg colors from blue to green to olive are achieved by crosses of Ameraucanas with a number of other breeds. These are not purebreds, but always sell out quickly. The Small Scale Poultry Flock is an excellent resource for establishing a breeding flock the right way and keeping bloodlines strong.

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(Video) 20 Best Egg Laying Chicken (Hen) Breeds | Up to 300 Eggs per year

What About Bantams for Egg Laying?

Bantams are not a breed, but lovely miniature birds similar to their large fowl counterparts. The exception to this is a few breeds that are truly bantams (silkies, sebrights). As such, they lay miniature eggs — small to medium, depending on the breed. They need less space and eat less feed as well. Some breeds such as the sebrights are not very cold tolerant. Others such as the silkie or cochin do well in the cold, but they are not known as good layers. The silkies and cochins are great setters, and some homesteaders seek these breeds just to set the eggs of their other breeds.

Common Poultry Terms

  • Pullet – Young female bird, less than a year old
  • Hen- female bird, older than a year
  • Cockerel – Male, younger than a year
  • Cock or rooster – male, a year plus
  • Straight run – a mix of sexes that is basically what nature provides, roughly 50 / 50 males and females.
  • Bantam – small breeds of birds, some which are basically miniatures of large fowl chickens (leghorns, cochins) and some which come in bantam only ( Sebrights, silkies)
  • Sex links – The genetics for plumage color are tied to the sex chromosomes. Therefore, males and females have different color upon hatch.

Should I Start with Chickens or Eggs?

What came first–the chicken or the egg? Despite this old joke, if you want eggs in a timely manner, the chickens had better come BEFORE the eggs. It is fun to begin with tiny, peeping chicks, but egg laying does not commence for at least five months. Plan accordingly if you are on a timeline for egg production.

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What About Duck Eggs?

Although less popular than chickens, keeping a ducks for eggs is another option. Ducks tend to be messier than chickens (they love water), but won't dig up the garden like chickens. Some people who don't tolerate chicken eggs can eat duck eggs without issue.

Some of the best duck breeds to raise for eggs include:

  • Khaki Campbell
  • Runner
  • Buff
  • Welsh Harlequin
  • Magpie
  • Ancona

Are you ready to start your laying flock?

I hope you've found the post helpful and are ready to find the right laying hens for you. We have other chicken resources on the site, such as “What to Feed Chickens – Do’s and Don’ts for a Healthy Chicken Diet” to help you select the right chicken chow. TheQuick Lock Chicken Doorwill help protect your ladies in the coop.Getting Started with Meat Chickensprovides tips for bringing home your new batch of chicks.

If you're new to chickens,Top 7 Tips for First time Chicken Ownerscovers the basics.How to Raise Chickens Cheaplyis good for those on a tight budget. If you're concerned about disease transmission, check out 5 Strategies for a Healthier Flock.

What's your favorite type of laying hen? Do you have any questions about a particular chicken breed? Leave a comment and let us know.

(Video) The Best Egg Laying Chicken Breed for Backyard Flocks

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This post is by Debra Ahrens.Debra lives with her family on a five acre hobby farm in northeastern Wisconsin which she often describes as ‘short on hobby, long on farm'. Besides the School of Hard Knocks (Life), she attended UW-River Falls, majoring in Dairy Science. Along with her husband Jerry and their three youngest daughters, they raise every kind of domestic poultry known to man, and maybe a few that shouldn't be known. Their furry animal family includes a flock of Suffolk sheep, dairy goats, a few rabbits, their dog and a lone beef heifer, Thelma. In her spare time, Debra is a poultry and sheep project leader for Kewaunee County 4-H.


Are brown eggs better than white eggs? ›

Often, people who prefer brown eggs do so because they believe brown eggs are healthier and more natural than white eggs. However, the truth is that all eggs are nutritionally very similar, regardless of their size, grade, or color ( 2 , 7). Both brown and white eggs are healthy foods.

How can you tell which hen will lay brown or white eggs? ›

There is no outer ear, such as we humans have, but chickens do have earlobes which can be clearly seen. The colour of the lobe varies with the breed of the chicken, ranging from white to almost black. Chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs exclusively while birds with dark lobes lay brown eggs.

Why do some hens lay brown eggs and some white? ›

The color of a hen's ear area is the color indicator, with a white or light spot meaning white eggs. Usually, white hens lay white eggs, and brown hens lay brown eggs. Eggs that are not white have pigments deposited on them as the eggs travel through the hen's oviduct.

How many chickens should a beginner have? ›

Chickens are extremely flock-oriented, so a good starter flock size is no fewer than three chickens. You should collect about a dozen eggs from three laying hens. A flock of five or six hens is a good choice for slightly larger families.

Can you mix different breeds of chickens together? ›

The short answer to this is, yes. Different chicken breeds can live successfully together in what's called a mixed flock. But a mixed flock does take some consideration. For instance, some breeds are known to be very docile and calm, while others have a more dominant personality.

Why do brown eggs cost more than white? ›

Brown and white eggs are nutritionally identical. The only reason brown eggs cost more is because all that brown pigment takes more food – and more money – to produce.

What chicken breeds lay brown eggs? ›

For large brown egg production, my list of breeds and varieties would have to include; White Plymouth Rocks, Black Australorps, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Single Comb Rhode Island Whites, Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshires, Welsummers, and Buff Orpingtons.

Do chickens lay the same color eggs every day? ›

Here's proof that it's totally possible for one chicken to lay multiple colors of eggs. As you can see, some days they have faint speckles. Some days are shinier than others. Some days the egg shell is darker, some days it's lighter.

Why are white eggs cheaper? ›

You would be correct to assume that there are more white eggs in the market than brown ones but that's because breeding and raising white-feathered chickens is much cheaper. Since they aren't fed as much as their brown counterparts.

What color eggs will my chickens lay? ›

Fun fact: You may be able to tell the shell color by the hen's earlobe. Hens with white earlobes typically lay white or lightly tinted eggs. Hens with red earlobes most commonly lay brown eggs, but there are always exceptions to those rules. Different shades of eggshells can come from the same bird on different days.

Which is healthier brown or white eggs? ›

Shell color can influence people's choice of eggs, and some people believe that brown eggs are superior or healthier. However, there is no significant difference in nutrients between brown and white eggs.

Which eggs are the healthiest? ›

Pasture-Raised Eggs / Pastured Eggs): Pasture-raised eggs (sometimes referred to as pastured eggs) are the healthiest eggs to buy, no question. Pasture-raised means that the hens are free to roam and graze freely in a large open pasture.

Do I need a rooster for my hens? ›

Hens will lay eggs with or without a rooster. Without a rooster, your hens' eggs are infertile, so won't develop into chicks. If you do have a rooster, eggs need to be collected daily and kept in a cool place before being used so that they won't develop into chicks.

What should be inside a chicken coop? ›

It has to hold a feeder and water containers, a roosting area, and a nest box for every three hens. A proper coop should be large enough that you can stand in it to gather eggs and shovel manure comfortably, but a simple henhouse can be quite a bit smaller.

How long does it take for hens to accept new hens? ›

It can take quite a long time – up to 3 weeks for new chickens to get to like each other. Be patient. There will be pecking orders established so some pecking is okay. Just watch to make sure they aren't fighting for more than 20-30 seconds, drawing blood.

Do brown eggs peel easier than white eggs? ›

Is there any difference in the shell? Other than the color, there is no difference between the shell of a white egg and a brown egg. Some people make the assumption that brown egg shells are harder than white, but that's not the case. What's true is that younger chickens lay eggs with harder shells.

How do you clean fresh chicken eggs? ›

The best method for how to wash fresh eggs is by using warm water that is at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Washing with warm water causes the egg's contents to expand and push dirt and contaminants away from the shell's pores. Never soak eggs, even in warm water.

Are cage free eggs better? ›

So, while cage-free does not necessarily mean cruelty-free, cage-free hens generally have significantly better lives than those confined in battery cages. The ability to lay their eggs in nests, run and spread their wings are tangible benefits that shouldn't be underestimated.

What chicken lays purple eggs? ›

What Chicken Lays Purple Eggs? No chickens lay colored eggs that are a true purple. Eggs have a protective layer on their outside called “the bloom,” which helps eggs stay fresh and bacteria free. Some hens will lay brown eggs with a heavy bloom that can tint the egg purple.

What chicken lays 350 eggs a year? ›

Isa Browns

Isa Browns are the true workhorse of the egg laying world. You'll love them because of their traditional reddish-brown feathers, but also because they can lay between 300-350 eggs every year! These big birds are robust and are known to thrive in typical chicken coop environments.

What chicken lays the most eggs per day? ›

What Are the Most Eggs Laid By a Chicken in One Day? The most eggs ever laid in a day were seven. A white leghorn holds the record for most eggs laid in a year, with 371 in just 364 days.

Do chickens attract rats? ›

Do Chickens attract rats? Rats are not attracted to chickens. However, they are attracted to chicken feed, and love stealing a freshly laid egg. Rats are also attracted to nice, warm, cozy places to live, especially if there is a reliable food source nearby.

How much should I pay for a laying hen? ›

Egg-laying chickens aren't cheap.

Unless you know someone who has a chicken surplus (I do not), you'll need to pay up. Baby chicks can cost between $3 and $5, and egg laying hens can cost between $20 and $50. If you want a fancier breed of chicken, you can expect to pay a premium for both chicks and hens.

What kind of chicken lays 2 eggs a day? ›

Chickens lay one egg a day. Some hens can, however, lay two eggs in a day, mainly young and maturing hens. Your hens can lay around 250 eggs annually if you feed them properly. It takes an average of between 24 and 26 hours for a hen to lay an egg.

Can the same chicken lay white and brown eggs? ›

Both brown eggs and white eggs are the same in structure, different hens produce different colored eggs. A hen with brown feathers and red earlobes will likely lay brown eggs, whereas a white feathered hen with white earlobes will produce white eggs.

What chicken lays red eggs? ›

Maran chickens are renowned for laying large, deep-brown, chocolate, and sometimes reddish-brown eggs — up to 200 large eggs per year. These eggs are regarded by most as some of the most delicious in the world and some of the most unique.

What type of chicken lays pink eggs? ›

Cream/Pinkish Eggs

Light Sussex, Mottled Javas, Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, Silkies, and Faverolles all lay a pinkish-cream egg. As noted above, some Easter Eggers will also lay cream or pink eggs, while others will lay green or bluish eggs. Australorp (back) and Mottled Java (front) chickens.

Why do chefs use brown eggs? ›

For the biggest difference in taste, it comes down to freshness—and brown eggs are sometimes fresher, since they tend to come from local farmers and hit your supermarket with that local timeliness.

How long can eggs be safely stored in the refrigerator? ›

Eggs may be refrigerated three to five weeks from the day they are placed in the refrigerator. The "Sell-By" date will usually expire during that length of time, but the eggs will be perfectly safe to use. Always purchase eggs before the "Sell-By" or EXP (expiration) date on the carton.

Are brown eggs worth it? ›

They still contain a yellow yolk and some gelatin-like egg white surrounding it. Nutritionally speaking, white and brown eggs are essentially the same. Brown eggs have no superiority over white eggs or vice versa (via Best Food Facts).

What color eggs do Silkies lay? ›

Unfortunately, Silkies are relatively poor egg layers. They will lay around 3 eggs per week, with some Silkies not laying at all over summer. Their eggs are small to medium in size and cream or white in colour.

What color eggs do Australorps lay? ›

Well looked after Australorps lay approximately 250 light-brown eggs per year. A new record was set when a hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days. They are also known to be good nest sitters and mothers, making them one of the most popular large heritage utility breeds of chicken.

What chicken breeds lay white eggs? ›

Many breeds of chicken lay white eggs, the most popular include White Leghorn, Andalusian, Polish, Ancona, Egyptian Fayoumis, Hamburg and California White.

What chickens have the best tasting eggs? ›

So the results were clear: For the best tasting eggs, go for pastured chickens.

Can chickens remember faces? ›

Chickens can recognize up to 100 faces

These faces include those of humans! Chickens even remember positive or negative experiences with the faces they recognize and pass that information on to members of their flocks.

How often do chickens need to be let out? ›

So yes, chickens can stay inside their coop all day as long as they have everything they need for the entire day, including light. If your coop does not have windows you can put in lights and a timer, but that often requires running electric and many people don't want to do that outside.

What does it mean when my chicken wags its tail? ›

Tail Wagging = Happy Yes, chickens wag their tails when they are happy! Fluffing Out = Happy/Relaxing Like one big sigh, they will fluff out and shake all of their feathers. Preening = Relaxed/Secure Very sweet to watch them all do it together, especially in your presence-they trust you!

How long can you leave fresh eggs in the nest? ›

Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than 2 hours."

What chicken lays the most eggs per day? ›

What Are the Most Eggs Laid By a Chicken in One Day? The most eggs ever laid in a day were seven. A white leghorn holds the record for most eggs laid in a year, with 371 in just 364 days.

How much space do you need for 3 chickens? ›

A good rule of thumb is that regular-sized chickens benefit from at least three to five square feet of coop space per chicken if they have access to the outdoors. Preferably, you'll provide space on the larger end of this size range.

When should you start chickens? ›

Spring and early summer are historically the most popular times to receive baby chicks, for two basic reasons. First, female chickens start laying eggs at 6 months of age (sometimes even earlier), meaning you'll usually get your eggs before the year is out!

What chicken lays 350 eggs a year? ›

Isa Browns

Isa Browns are the true workhorse of the egg laying world. You'll love them because of their traditional reddish-brown feathers, but also because they can lay between 300-350 eggs every year! These big birds are robust and are known to thrive in typical chicken coop environments.

What is the most disease resistant chicken? ›

Research confirms that Fayoumi chickens are less susceptible to many diseases. Examples include Salmonella, coccidiosis, Marek's Disease, Avian Influenza, Rous sarcoma virus, and vND. They are also fertile, thrifty, heat-tolerant, and excellent at foraging and avoiding predators.


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