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©2011 Shanna Lea (formerly Shanna Ohmes)
Hens of all breeds lay eggs, but given the same conditions such as care, shelter and food, the best chicken breeds for egg production are just better layers. These chickens were bred for optimal production for eggs almost year-round. They are hardy breeds, but some are better suited to farms and homesteads where others can readily adapt to the backyard coop. Some are active and busy while others are docile and calm. Read on to find out which breeds are suitable for your homestead or backyard situation.
- Leghorns (pronounced “leggerns”)—This breed originated near Livorno (translated Leghorn) Italy. They were brought to America in 1852. Leghorns are active, hardy, know how to forage and are exceptional layers. This breed is not suited for backyards, but rather forage-based systems and homesteads. They are busy, active flyers and noisy. They can be flighty around humans and generally don’t make good pets. They lay 300 eggs per year. Produce large white eggs.
- Sex-Link Hybrids—These chickens are bred from crossing 2 different purebred breeds. They are called sex-link because it’s easy to tell the difference between the male chicks and the female chicks by color. The 2 categories of sex-link chickens are black sex-links and red sex-links. They are hardy for both hot and cold climates, calm and quiet. This friendly breed is suitable for city backyards they make great pets. They lay 300 eggs per year and are active foragers that also do well in smaller spaces like chicken tractors. Produce large brown eggs.
- Rhode Island Reds—One of America’s oldest chicken breeds, Rhode Island Reds were developed in New England in the 19th century. Excellent foragers, they are calm and do well in chicken tractors and movable coops. These birds make great backyard chickens as well as for the homestead. This is a dual-purpose breed, meaning they are meat-and-eggs birds. They lay 250-300 eggs per year. Produce large brown eggs.
- New Hampshire Reds—Bred from many generations of Rhode Island Reds, the New Hampshire Reds are a strain within the breed that were the handpicked and carefully selected individuals for vigor and hardiness. They mature early and produce 208-260 eggs per year. They were called New Hampshire Reds for their rich, red plumage and they were meatier than the Rhode Island Reds. A calm quiet breed for backyards and coops. Produce large medium-brown eggs.
- Rhode Island Whites—This is a separate breed from the Rhode Island Reds, and was developed by crossing rose-combed White Leghorns, White Wyandottes and Partridge Cochins back in 1888. Laying 240-250 eggs per year, they are hardy and efficient foragers. They are a meatier bird with well-rounded breasts. Rhode Island Whites are well adapted to very cold climates. Produce large brown eggs.
- Australorps—Developed in Australia for harsh climate conditions, this dual-purpose breed lays 250 eggs per year. Australorps are hardy, vigorous and efficient at foraging. They are a meaty breed that is intelligent and has a docile and friendly personality. They are also good for backyard pets in the city. Produce light-brown eggs.
If you want a year-round supply of eggs, these are the best chicken breeds for egg production. Be sure to learn more about these breeds to find out which ones will do best in your climate, confinement situation (pasture-based or backyard coop), personality type (calm and friendly or noisy and busy) and land-use regulations before buying. By choosing the breed suitable to your situation, you and your chickens, and your neighbors will be happy.
Click here to read Choosing the Right Chicken Coop for Your Urban Backyard Chickens
Check out these books to learn more about chickens: