**J&R Pierce Family Farm is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to allow sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products on Amazon. I often link to Amazon when recommending certain products, and if you choose to purchase, I may earn a small percentage of the sale. It costs you nothing extra, and all recommended products are ones that I personally vouch for. **
When we first started raising chickens, high egg production was not one of our main goals. We were really interested in some of the other benefits of raising birds, such as for meat and free fertilizer, and the eggs were a side benefit.
However, as our small farm has expanded and we have begun selling eggs, we realize how important it is to invest in some chickens that are really good layers, too. And to be fair, the main incentive of raising backyard chickens for many people is to have a fresh supply of delicious, pasture-raised eggs. After all, nothing says “homestead” quite like a basket of warm, just-laid eggs!
When our chickens arrived, I foolishly assumed that all chickens were about the same when it came to egg production – definitely not the case. In fact, there are some that don’t lay eggs at all!
That being said, there are many species of birds (such as hybrid species) that can lay nearly an egg every day, allowing for maximum production on your small farm.
In the market for a good egg laying breed? Consider these top ten egg-laying chicken breeds as you start your search.
Funny story. When my husband and I purchased our first flock of chickens a few years ago, we ordered them from an online hatchery and had them shipped to our local post office. We ordered 25 New Hampshire Reds. They grew just fine for the first few weeks, and then we started noticing something…well, odd…about one of our birds.
This bird was much smaller than the others, and developed pure white feathers instead of the New Hampshire’s characteristic browns and reds. We quickly realized that the bird we had on our hands was not, in fact, a New Hampshire Red, but was actually a white Leghorn.
Now this chicken had some problems. It was frequently bullied by the other chickens, probably because it looked so different (yes, chickens are cruel like that!) and as a result took to sleeping outside the coop. It flew up and away every night, sometimes sleeping on a trailer hitch, sometimes sleeping in a tree, sometimes sleeping god knows where.
It lived on its own like that for several months, making it all the way to mid-autumn before it was killed by a fox. We let the chicken live in this self-sufficient manner, since we figured it was better left to its own devices than to be forcibly put back into the coop and bullied by the other birds.
Anyway, the sad moral of this story is that we were never able to reap the full benefits of having a Leghorn because this chicken didn’t quite make it to maturity (plus, we weren’t sure if it was a hen or a roster – we always called it a “he” but why we did that is still a mystery).
That being said, Leghorns are some of the most prolific egg layers. They were brought to the country from Italy back in the 1800s and are a perfect backyard chicken, laying about 250 white, medium-sized eggs per year.
These unique birds – yes, they are the ones that gave name to Foghorn Leghorn! – have snow-white feathers and thick red combs. We later found out that Leghorns are shy and notoriously hard to tame, which is probably why we had such a hard time “domesticating” our rogue bird.
Leghorns are small, with females weighing only about five pounds. They can be free ranged, although they tend to be rather nervous, and start laying at around sixteen weeks of age.
Golden Comets are just one of many newer hybrid hens. These hens are usually a dark gold color with soft downy tail feathers. These chickens are relatively tough and resilient to inclement conditions. They don’t usually turn broody, so if you’re looking for a low-maintenance egg layer that will thrive throughout most of the year, this might be the bird for you.
These birds are cold-hardy free rangers, and lay a decent number of brown eggs. They get along well with other birds and are relatively easy going. Females can weigh up to eight pounds and start laying at 15 weeks.
Also known as Easter Egg Chickens, these birds are some of the most fun to own – particularly if you have children. They lay multicolored eggs that are both tasty and colorful, and can tolerate all climates. You can keep them penned or in coops, but they are more prone to a rare genetic disorder called “crossed beak.” This disease is uncommon, affecting only about one in every hundred chicks, but is something to be aware of.
Ameraucanas are small, with most females weighing no more than five pounds, and they take a bit more time to reach laying age – most will start to lay at twenty-five to thirty weeks of age. They do have a tendency to get broody, something to be aware of if you plan on raising chicks.
These docile birds are good egg layers that can be raised for meat as well. Most females will grow to about six pounds in weight. They are good free-rangers and are some of the best at foraging. They have a tendency to become broody, making them a good choice if you plan on raising chicks.
Lohmann Browns are some of the most widespread of all the chicken breeds, found in just about every part of the world. These birds are tiny, rarely exceeding four pounds. Despite their small size, however, they are productive breeders, laying up to 313 eggs per day. They have a great feed to egg conversion ratio, too, needing just 110 grams of food per day on average.
These hardy birds are some of the most friendly breeds you can raise. If you’re looking for a chicken to raise as a pet, this is the one. These birds raise a ton of eggs and produce good meat, too, if you’re interested in that. With gorgeous coloration and lovely eggs, these birds start laying around twenty-two weeks of age. They can get aggressive with other birds, however and are also notorious egg eaters!
Rhode Island Reds, as you can imagine, originated right here in the United States. They are known as “dual purpose” chickens, meaning they can be raised for both eggs and meat. One of the nice things about this “dual purpose” breed is that, unlike with other breeds that are raised for both purposes, you don’t lose your egg production as a compromise for meat yields.
As a result, Rhode Islands are one of the most popular backyard chicken breeds. They are tough and produce brown, medium-sized eggs. They have reddish-brown feathers and are very friendly, which contributes to their popularity among first-time chicken keepers, too.
There are eight different varieties of Sussex chickens, with the Speckled Sussex being one of the most common. These birds are very calm, and are probably one of the tamest birds you can raise if you are looking for a more domesticated bird. They can easily lay 250 eggs per year, with their colors varying from brown to creamy white. Like Rhode Island Reds, they are dual-purpose, allowing you to get more bang for your buck in that regard, too.
Marans are absolutely gorgeous birds. These hens are also dual purpose, and they produce vibrant dark brown eggs along with decent meat. They can lay about 200 eggs per year, and have dark grey feathers with white edging. They are ideal for homesteaders who have limited space, as they don’t need a ton of room to roam about. They are extremely gentle, and while they can be shy, they won’t be aggressive toward each other or other types of poultry.
Plymouth Rocks are good for first-time chicken keepers. They tend to lay every other day, producing small eggs in a light brown hue. These chickens are attractive and absolutely dazzling to look at, sporting light grey shades with white stripes that wrap around their entire bodies.
These large birds stay productive and healthy when they are allowed to free range. They are friendly and can be easily tamed, making them a good choice for urban chicken keepers.
While some of your chickens’ egg production will depend on their breed, there are other factors that come into play when determining how many eggs you will get every day.
Age is one of the biggest factors in deciding how many eggs a bird will lay each year. Chickens who are older will inevitably produce fewer eggs than younger birds. A chicken’s first year of egg production will always be its best, with production declining every year thereafter. After the age of three, production can stall almost entirely.
While providing your chicken with a good life – including access to fresh pasture, clean water, and plenty of space to roam – can improve a chicken’s production despite age, at the end of the day there is not much you can do to delay the effects of aging.
Providing your chickens with an adequate diet is also of utmost importance when improving or maintaining egg production. A chicken needs at least 20 grams of protein a day to continue laying eggs. If your current feed does not provide this – a common problem when you are making your own chicken feed – you might have problems with egg production.
Most layer pellets are formulated to contain all the minerals and vitamins that hens require. Consider feeding a special egg producer feed to up your birds’ protein content and keep them laying successfully.
If it’s wintertime and your chickens are struggling to produce, you might have shortened daylight hours to blame. Chickens need about fourteen hours of daylight to produce. Many farmers, ourselves included, use artificial light to help keep their chickens laying.
I will admit that many frown upon this practice, as winter gives your chickens a break from laying, but since we raise dual-purpose breeds that we keep for only a year or two anyway, we encourage laying throughout the winter months to keep our egg production up throughout the year.
We use a light to stimulate laying, which helps us keep our egg numbers up during critical times where we need to be collecting eggs for incubation and for our normal sales. If you can get by without using artificial light, kudos, but the harsh reality for many farmers is that you may need to do this in order to continue being a profitable business.
How and where you keep your chickens is another crucial factor in how successful they are at producing eggs. Make sure your chickens have plenty of space to stretch their legs, as well as ample access to food and water. A fully insulated chicken house will help increase egg production during the summer and winter months, where temperatures can play a huge role in laying.
You might also consider a pen or space to free range if you are trying to improve your egg production. Hens won’t lay as well when they feel crowded, and overcrowded nest boxes or coops also increase the likelihood of accidental egg breakage. While free range will always be the healthiest option for your birds, if predator or space issues prevent you from total free range systems you can always set up moveable pens or chicken tractors to make your birds more comfortable.
One of the biggest improvements we noticed in our chickens’ production was when we installed an automatic coop door opener. These door openers can be programmed to open and close at a certain time, meaning we could let our chickens out as soon as the sun came up so that they didn’t have to wait around for us to open the door in case we got caught up with other chores or were out of town for the night.
Have your eggs (and eat them too!) with these affordable, productive chicken breeds. For best results, consider mixing and matching breeds until you find the breed that works best for you. What other chicken breeds have I missed – any tips on increasing egg production? Be sure to let me know in the comments, and subscribe to our email list for updates. You can also check out our Instagram (@jrpiercefamilyfarm) and follow us on Pinterest (J&R Pierce Family Farm) for live photo updates as well. And thanks for reading!