Rundown of the Best Laying Hens

If you're going to the trouble of having chickens, it only makes sense to find the best laying hens. Female chickens have no problem laying eggs without a rooster. In fact, if eggs are your primary reason for keeping chickens, you don't actually need a rooster.

Laying Hens: Best Bets

If you're looking for laying hens, there are a few types of chickens you'll want to avoid. Dual-purpose breeds are chickens bred to provide meat and eggs. Like most compromises, dual-purpose birds don't excel at either job. Meat birds (like Brahmas and Cornish Rock) are bred to convert feed into meat-not what you're looking for in a laying hen.

Laying hens are bred to efficiently turn feed into eggs. If you are looking for eggs to produce chicks, you'll want a variety that is known to be "broody." Broody hens like to sit on eggs, which will help the eggs begin their incubation process. If you're looking to eat the eggs, avoid broody hens, as they will shorten the shelf life of edible eggs.

Different breeds of chickens produce different colored eggs. While the color of the egg doesn't affect its taste or nutritional value, it's nice to know what you can expect in advance. Here are several breeds known for their egg laying abilities:

  • Leghorns: These chickens are prolific layers (up to 300 eggs per year when mature) who produce large to jumbo-sized eggs. Leghorns are known as "flighty" birds, both for their habit of bolting when approached and their difficult-to-understand behavior.
  • Rhode Island Reds: These hens are considered the premier brown egg laying chickens available. These large hens will begin laying eggs at 5 to 6 months old.
  • Production hybrids: Sometimes chickens are crossbred to create hybrids that combine the best features of each breed. Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire and Barred Rock breeds are commonly used to create hybrids.
  • Ameraucana: Cross-bred from a rare South American breed called the Araucana, these "Easter Egg" chickens produce eggs that range from blue through green to cream. Although the novelty of these eggs can't be denied, Americuana chickens offer good laying production as well.
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