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Chickens: Best Backyard Egg-Laying Hen Breeds

Updated on April 26, 2017
K9keystrokes profile image

The author's background includes law enforcement and U.S. military service. She enjoys writing about canine behavior and breeding chickens.

Young Ameraucana hens
Young Ameraucana hens | Source

Raising Egg-Laying City Chickens

What difference does the size of a chicken make? Plenty if you are raising backyard hens for their eggs. Chickens come in two sizes: bantam (small) and standard (large). But, breeds can differ in more ways than simply their size, proving that not all chickens are created equal. Some hens lay green eggs and some lay brown eggs. Some are friendly and some are moody. Some are guarded about things and some are calm and free spirited — yep, even foul have their hippie society!

Which Hens Lay the Most Eggs?

The chart below helps you determine what size and type of egg-laying chicken you want to choose for your backyard flock. Th birds on this list have a reputation for being reliable egg layers. They are all light-to-medium weight hens, they do well in most climates (some do very well in even cold weather), they are moderately calm birds, and finally, they are considered friendly and quiet (well, as quiet as chickens can be).

Best Egg-Laying Hens for a Backyard Flock

Breed
Eggshell Color
Body Weight (In Pounds)
Remarks
Ameraucana
Army green to blue
5
Good layer. Guarded.
Araucana 
Army green to blue 
Good layer. Guarded.
Australorp
Dark brown 
Good layer. Guarded. Does fine in cold weather
Black Minorca
White
5
Good layer of white eggs. Guarded.
Black Sex Link
Dark brown
5
Great (hybrid) layer. Friendly personality.
Buff Orpington
Medium brown
7
Great layer. Friendly personality. Does fine in cold weather.
Leghorn
White
5
Great layer. Friendly personality.
New Hamshire Red
Medium brown
6
Guarded, but calm.
Red Sex Link
Medium brown
5
Good (hybrid) layer. Friendly personality
Rhode Island Red
Medium brown
6
Great layer. Friendly, calm personality.
White Wyandotte
Medium brown
6
Good layer. Does fine in cold weather.

A Broody Hen Does You No Good

The egg-laying urban chickens listed for you on the chart are not considered to be too "broody." A broody chicken does you no good because she is too busy sitting on her clutch of eggs in an attempt to hatch them when she should be laying fresh eggs for you instead. In other words, a broody hen will stop laying new eggs while being broody. Because an urban hen has no rooster to fertilize her eggs, she dutifully sits on them for a long time, only to find she has been wasting her time.

This is my flock. The 3 tan colored ones are Buff Orpingtons; the 3 dark tan are Ameraucanas.  They're about 9 months old this month (March 2011).
This is my flock. The 3 tan colored ones are Buff Orpingtons; the 3 dark tan are Ameraucanas. They're about 9 months old this month (March 2011). | Source

The Size of an Egg-Laying Hen

Big burly birds, like the Brahma and the Jersey giant chicken, can weigh in at around 10 pounds; they hold their own even when compared to a table turkey. While these big birds may be difficult to locate, they can definitely be found.

Then, you have some chickens that are small and seem unlikely to lay any egg bigger than a walnut. However, before you grab up a heavy-weight Brahma or Jersey giant foul, remember this: The bigger the bird, the more it's going to eat — and chickens live to eat, rather than eat to live!

So when choosing a breed for your backyard flock, consider whether you will be able to afford enough food too feed them. The difference in the size of the eggs is negligible when compared to the sizes of the actual chickens and the amounts of feed they consume.

Egg shell color and egg size can differ from breed to breed.
Egg shell color and egg size can differ from breed to breed.

My Chickens' Moods and Egg Production

Currently, I have a small two-breed backyard flock that consists of three Ameraucanas — considered to be a good laying breed — and three Buff Orpingtons — considered to be a great laying breed. I have raised them all from hatchlings. I divided my little backyard flock into two groups of three and named them accordingly. The three Buffs are the "Dixie Chicks" and the three Ameraucanas are the "Rocker Chicks."

My Ameraucana chickens lay beautifully pastel greenish-blue eggs, while the Buffs lay big, beautifully smooth brown eggs. Of my six chickens, the smallest Buff (named Dixie Chick Prudence) is the best layer in the flock. She is also the most friendly and active of my hens. Her eggs come out at least as often as the sun rises, and are big, perfectly egg-shaped creations. She falls right in line with the assumption that Buff Orpingtons are great laying hens!

My biggest Ameraucana (named Rocker Chick Ellen) lays medium-small pastel bluish eggs, but is less likely to offer her goods on a daily basis. She is still, as expected of her breed, a good egg-laying hen.

Then there is my medium-sized Ameraucana (named Rocker Chick Stevie) who is a moody layer that responds emotionally to what's going on in her environment. If the gardener comes by on a certain day, she won't lay any eggs that day, but I might find an extra large egg in her nesting box the next day. Once in a while, it's a double-yoked offering. Stevie's production is unlike what is expected of most Ameraucanas because her moody egg-laying is not considered to be "good-laying."

Diagram of Basic Chicken Anatomy
Diagram of Basic Chicken Anatomy | Source

Every Individual Is Different

The point I want to make is that even when a chicken breed is categorized as a "good" or a "great" layer, it may not apply to all chickens within that breed. Some hens are more sensitive than others, and some can tolerate almost anything and still remain reliable daily egg layers. This goes to show you that not all chickens within their breed are created equal.

From left to right: Stevie, Prudence, and Ellen.
From left to right: Stevie, Prudence, and Ellen. | Source

The More You Know About Hen Breeds, the Better

Now that you have a little understanding about hens and their emotions around egg production, you can make better decisions about what type to get for your backyard. You will have to get to know your hens to determine the production of each individual bird. Keep this in mind as you study the chart provided above. It has been developed as a guide to help you get a jump start on knowing which chickens do better in an urban flock and what you can most likely expect from their egg production. The best way to get to know your chickens is to buy them as chicks and raise them to be as tame and as friendly as a chicken can possibly be. When your flock knows you, they will be far more reliable layers.

Baby Chicks are very cute, but take dedication to raise!
Baby Chicks are very cute, but take dedication to raise! | Source

When and Where to Get Chickens?

As fun and interesting as hatching your own chicks may sound, it is a very involved operation that requires a lot of your time, some know-how, and above all, dedication. If you choose to hatch your own birds, you have the duty of sexing them, and this is a difficult task for even seasoned chicken professionals.

I recommend that you buy "sexed" chicks (female chicks that have been separated from the males) from your local feed store as opposed to "straight-run" chicks. Straight-run chicks may be either male or female because their gender has not yet been determined by professionals.

You will pay as much as .50¢ more for a sexed chick, but if your goal is eggs, you want a high degree of certainty that your chick is female. Sexed chicks have a 96% breeder guarantee that you will get a girl chicken.

As a general rule, roosters are not allowed in urban backyards, so if you happen to get one of the 4% sexed chicks that is a rooster, you will have to return it, sell it, give it away or...well, bon appétit!

How Much Should I Pay for My Chicken Babies?

  • Buy girl (sexed) chicks when they are 1 or 2-days-old. When you get them at this young age, they will bond with you as if they had been personally hand-hatched by you.
  • Check around with your area's feed stores to see which breeds they have (or will be getting) and on what day. Make certain that you are picking from a sexed group of chicks.
  • The chicks can run from approximately $2.50 to $4.50.
  • Only buy the number of chicks you will need. Chicken farmers have long lived by the rule of buying 25% more chicks than they plan on keeping because there is a high rate of death among chicks (but this is in reference to large flocks).
  • The small urban backyard chicken farmer does not need to follow this rule. If you choose healthy sexed chicks and take good care of them — feed them good food, give them plenty of fresh water, change bedding frequently, and keep them warm — you should be able to prevent any death in your little flock.
  • Purchase only the number of chicks you intend to keep and take really good care of them, and you will discover the joy of urban backyard chickens and their deliciously fresh eggs!

Interesting Fact

Chickens chatter when they lay eggs. Check out the video below to get an idea of the noise level.

© 2011 India Arnold

Comments

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  • profile image

    Keith 2 years ago

    Just thought I would mention on this site of a very large egg layed by one of my hens. It weighed in at 166 grams or in the old money 5.9 oz! The hen was a light sussex in may 2012. Our local newspaper reporter took photographs and witnessed the egg. I still have the eggshell which by the way contained a single yolk.

  • LongTimeMother profile image

    LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

    Hi k9keystrokes.

    This is a fabulous hub! I am providing a link to it from my 'Top 10 reasons why every home needs a chicken' hub. I live a self-sufficient lifestyle off the grid, and our chickens play an active role in daily life.

    We have some of the same types of chickens here in Australia as you have on your list, but most of my readers come from your part of the world anyway. Your advice will be very valuable to them.

    Great hub. Voting it up and awesom.

  • Suhail and my dog profile image

    Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

    I am thinking of starting backyard laying chickens in about two years and this hub can come in handy at that time.

    I am thinking of Black Minorcas and White Leghorns.

    This is a useful hub.

  • Mardi profile image

    Mardi 5 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

    Excellent article. Glad to see I am not the only one that names my chickens. This year I tried ducks, geese and turkeys as well as all are doing well and living in harmony free range!

  • profile image

    Tracy 5 years ago

    One of my hens is real quiet and has been for two days.. No eggs either for those days. she's about Ten months old and us a leghorn, all the other 8 are fine. No feed change just the weathers cold and wet ... Any ideas please,

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

    Good luck to all of you that are building chicken coops. I just saw one like the one in the photo this past week, so more and more people are raising chickens.

  • profile image

    mikal 5 years ago

    i wish i can get a hen or 2 but parents wont let me we have a dog and 3 cats they say the cats will kill them, boo

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

    I may get my wish for chickens sooner than I expected. A retired friend is going to volunteer on an organic farm on the weekends beginning in March and free range chickens seem part of it. Wonderful. Thanks again for the Hub!

  • K9keystrokes profile image
    Author

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    homesteadpatch~ Wow! 15 hens is a house full! But having all of those fresh eggs has to be pure joy. Earlier today I read your hub on how to use all of those extra daily eggs, and bookmarked it, for when our hens start laying summer quantities! Thanks for stopping by today! Oh yea, I linked to that hub also! ;)

    Cheers~

    K9

  • homesteadpatch profile image

    homesteadpatch 5 years ago from Michigan

    We currently have eleven New Hampshire Reds and four Red Sex Link hens. We are getting a dozen plus eggs on a daily basis in late winter. Once the daylight hours get longer we'll be up our eyeballs in eggs. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

  • K9keystrokes profile image
    Author

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    Patty Inglish, MS~ I am honored you are linking in. I just read your "Chicken Whisperer" hub, great stuff! Ain't HubLove Grand!

    HubHugs~

    K9

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

    I'm going to link this to my Chicken Whisperer hub if you don't mind. If I had more room, I'd have chickens!

  • K9keystrokes profile image
    Author

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    JJ~ The eggs I have weighed from my hens measure anywhere from a little over 1.6 ounces (about 45 grams) to as much as a fluke 1.9 ounce (54 grams) once in a while. But, on average I see eggs weighing in at around 1.7 to 1.8 ounces(which is right around 52 grams). Thanks for a great question, and good luck on your thesis!

    Cheers~

    K9

  • profile image

    jj 5 years ago

    may i know asap please coz i need this information in my thesis.. thank you..

  • profile image

    jj 5 years ago

    what are the weight or size of the egg?

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    nicol 5 years ago

    thanks for this i do my project

  • K9keystrokes profile image
    Author

    India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

    mia capretta~ Aren't they fun!? Hens are a wonderful contributing element to our little backyard farm also. Nothing like a farm-fresh egg to start the day! (I love the name mugget,...hilarious!) If I had to suggest a compatable breed for your PR hens, I have always been quite partial to Buff Orpington's, and they should aclimate easily into your flock. Just use caution with hatchlings and introduce the new hens in a safe and monitored fashion. Some adjustment time will be required, so you will need to protect the new additions from getting pecked to death until they find their place among the flock. RI Reds are ammother good choice, but they can be more aggressive than the Buff hens. I hope you find years of fun and yummy fresh eggs! Thank you for sharing your story!

    Cheers~

    K9

  • mia capretta profile image

    mia capretta 5 years ago from North America

    Great information and a really good hub! We're new to the backyard chicken world but have been enjoying a steady supply of eggs from our girls.... so far so good! They are Plymouth Rocks (rock and roll chicks, too.... Dinner and her sister, Nugget) and very friendly, they actually follow us around the yard like puppies. As we are thinking of expanding the family, can you suggest a compatible breed? RI Reds, maybe? Thanks!

  • profile image

    pcmariner 5 years ago

    After raising poultry for over 50 years, I have tried numerous breeds for meat and egg production. I normally replace the flock every 18 months. In 2009 I tried a new breed called "Ideal 236" which is a white leghorn hybrid. These birds are now 3 years old and just starting to slow down on egg production. They lay large white eggs and averaged over 310 eggs per year each. The hens are only about 5 lbs but roosters 9-10 lbs. This breed doesn't eat as much as other breeds. I bought them from Ideal Hatchery in Texas. Advise order pullets only since they arent great meat birds but are tame and woould make an incredible flock. They are not broody. Good luck.

  • profile image

    bryan 5 years ago

    which hens are best in order to get chicks? which hens are good for breeding?

  • K9keystrokes profile image
    Author

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    AMD2~ Thank you for your comments. I hope the information you found here on choosing, raising, and enjoying egg laying city chickens serves you well if you start your own little backyard egg production. Just have fun with them!

    K9

  • profile image

    AMD2 6 years ago

    Really enjoyed this article. fantastic amount of great info.

  • K9keystrokes profile image
    Author

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    crystolite~ So pleased that you chose to read this egg farming hub. I wish you the best of luck with your new adventure. You are going to be amazed at just how great your eggs will be. Thank you for your comments.

    K9

  • crystolite profile image

    Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

    Good information for me that really wants to invest on poultry pretty soon.thanks for this article.

  • K9keystrokes profile image
    Author

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    LeanMan~ How sad for the chick, some lessons are harder than others, and this one was a whopper. Hopefully with the pecking of the pups and the witnessing of a sibling being eaten, your flock and litter will remain well.

    Wow, the Philippines? What a change for you. Possibly you can now look women in their eyes and have a conversation with them without too many repercussions?

    Glad you are finding fun and food with your backyard flock!

    K9

  • LeanMan profile image

    Tony 6 years ago from At the Gemba

    Now in the Philippines K9, the pups have worked out that the chicks taste better than their puppy food, but they are scarred of the mother who has already badly pecked one of them - so only one chick lost!

    Enjoying both eggs and the chickens themselves!!

  • K9keystrokes profile image
    Author

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    Char Wipff~ I hope you find as much enjoyment with your flock as I do. The girls are sweet, friendly little givers of protein. I wish you the best of luck with your New chickens! Thanks for the comments.

    K9

    Eiddwen~ How much fun you must have had, and what great memories you must recall of your grandmother's farm! I too enjoy animal topics above all others. Thank you for stopping by and dropping off your comments!

    K9

    LeanMan~ Oh my goodness! I hope the puppy and the chicks can manage to work things out. How fun it must be to watch the natural process of the Chicken world...hatching chicks and the entire cycle. Makes eating the eggs (presuming that you do) a little more interesting when chancing cracking into a fertilized ovum...for me no Rooster in the hen house. Stands to reason though, huh? ;)

    I hope things are going spectacularly for you. Are you still on the job in the Middle East? Bidding you fond wishes LeanMan! Thanks for making it by today.

  • LeanMan profile image

    Tony 6 years ago from At the Gemba

    Great hub, have a rooster and two hens in my yard at present and 10 small chicks hatched by the larger of the hens.. unfortunately just returned from the shopping trip to find that our new puppies objected to one of the chicks eating their food!!

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

    Hi K9keystrokes,

    I really enjoyed this one.

    Having grown up spending a lot of my tie on my grandmother's farm. Anything with animals/nature /farming etc is a great read.

    Take care

    Eiddwen.

  • profile image

    Char Wipff 6 years ago

    I loved you article. We are in the process of building our pen now