10 Best Chicken Breeds for Eggs – With FREE Printable Breed Chart!

by | Aug 7, 2020 | Latest, Livestock, Sustainable Living | 0 comments

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Fresh eggs from your own hens are amazing – you can’t beat them. We get through a lot of eggs in our household, from baking, tasty breakfasts, and lunches, to in the dog’s dinner or as a yummy healthy dog treat (I make our dog’s food from scratch). I also hate waste, so I give away any excess fresh eggs or find creative ways to use them up. If you’ve got some space in your yard or on your property, it makes perfect sense to install a good coop (you can find a free plan later in this post), and get yourself a flock of chickens. Even if you only have room for three or four hens, if you choose the right chicken breed, you’ll have fresh eggs almost every day.

If you’re not overly interested in meat birds, your main focus when choosing a chicken breed should be on their egg laying capabilities, their suitability for your climate, and their temperament. A terribly nervous bird who doesn’t like cool weather is not well-suited to free-ranging in a zone with hard winters. Remember, don’t just be swayed by the number of eggs a chicken breed can lay – if your birds aren’t happy, healthy, and thriving in your climate, their egg production will drop or even stop completely. We’ve put together a list of the best chicken breeds for egg laying in a range of climates and habitats so you can find at least one breed that’ll suit your needs. We’ve tried to stick with breeds that are well-suited to all levels of chicken keepers, including the total beginner.

1. Golden Comet – Up to 300 Eggs Per Year

golden comet best egg laying breed

The golden comet is one of the most popular hybrid chicken breeds. These birds are prized for their egg-laying capability, producing up to 300 eggs per year. Golden comets are versatile and friendly, too. They are a particularly cold-hardy chicken breed and have fantastic temperaments, making them a great choice for families in all climates. They’re great little foragers, too, so they’re a solid free-range bird, but they also tolerate being penned well. You’ll get up to 300 brown, medium-sized eggs per bird per year, providing you keep them happy and healthy. Golden comets are tough and resilient and rarely get broody, plus, they weigh in at up to 7.5 pounds, so make a decent dual-purpose bird.

With such a good temperament, these hardy, egg-laying hens tolerate other breeds well and don’t tend to bully weaker, smaller, or more submissive breeds. Plus, because they have a pretty sunny disposition, they are easy to tame and, if you’d rather keep your girls for eggs and entertainment than meat, they make great pets, too.

2. Rhode Island Red – Up to 250 Eggs Per Year

Rhode Island Red best chicken breed for eggs

Rhode Island Reds are the classic dual-purpose chicken. They’re great all-rounders, producing up to 250 eggs per bird, per year, and making a tasty meat bird, too. Popular with first-time chicken keepers, Rhode Island Reds are tough, hardy birds who love to forage and make excellent bug catchers and weed eaters. Because of their love of foraging, it’s important that you either allow them to free range or that you provide a large penned area or utilize a portable pen or run that you can move regularly to give your birds plenty of opportunities to forage.

Plus, if you grow your own vegetables, once you’ve harvested, you can let your chickens access the space and they’ll clean it right up! These medium-sized chickens are confident and friendly, so they’re easy to tame and make great pets as well as livestock. However, they can get a bit bossy with other breeds, so avoid keeping Rhode Island Reds with bantams or submissive breeds.

3. Barred Plymouth Rock – Up to 250 Eggs Per Year

barred plymouth rock best egg laying chicken breeds

The Barred Plymouth Rock is a popular breed for first-timers who want hens that lay, on average, between 250 and 280 eggs per year. The eggs are light brown and are prized for their flavor. The birds are gray with white stripes and weigh in at up to 6.5 pounds. These are considered one of the friendliest chicken breeds, with a sweet, outgoing, and often clownish nature. They thrive as free-range birds and are first-class foragers.

These hens don’t always do well when confined for long periods, so aren’t a good choice if you plan to keep your chickens cooped up most of the time. Plymouth Rocks are calm and gentle and don’t bully smaller breeds, so they are particularly popular as additions to mixed flocks.

4. White Leghorn – Up to 280 Eggs Per Year

white leghorn

Anyone old enough to remember Foghorn Leghorn?!? If so, you’ll surely recognize the next entry on our list of best chicken breeds for egg-laying. Originating from the port of Leghorn in Italy, the white leghorn is a prolific layer, producing up to 280 white, medium-sized eggs each year. Their white body and bright red comb make these chickens readily recognizable. These medium-sized birds weigh in at around 5 pounds and they’re a pretty hardy breed, faring well in most climates.

However, they are nervous, flighty birds – in other words, total wimps! Therefore, they aren’t the best choice if you want tame pet-like chickens, as they are notoriously hard to tame because of their nervous disposition. They don’t really love the cold and, because they’re so nervy, you’ll be better off keeping them in a generously proportioned coop and run, rather than letting them free range all the time.

During the warmer months when forage is plentiful, these birds do fine free-ranging, but they’ll still need a safe, secure chicken coop. You also need to be careful not to pair leghorns with pushy or bossy breeds, as, because of their temperament, they’ll often get picked on by feistier breeds.

5. New Hampshire Red – Up to 200 Eggs Per Year

New Hampshire Red best egg laying chicken

The New Hampshire Red is a great all-around chicken breed. They make the list of best chickens for laying because they produce a respectable number of eggs per year – around 200 per bird, they are tasty meat birds, and they are broody and dependable mothers. Therefore, if you want a self-sustaining flock that gives you both meat and eggs, a flock of New Hampshire Reds should be your choice.

This breed is feisty, so don’t mix them with meek, nervy, or submissive breeds, and I wouldn’t recommend mixing them with bantam breeds, either, as they can get a bit pushy and aggressive. However, their temperament is secondary to their performance as a self-sustaining all-around flock breed.

6. Buff Orpington – Up to 200 Eggs Per Year

Buff Orpington hen best chicken breeds for eggs

Laying up to 200 eggs per year, the Buff Orpington is a large, friendly chicken that’s a definite contender for best chicken breed for egg-laying. They come from Kent, England, and are friendly, robust birds with a great temperament. Their sunny disposition and inquisitive nature makes them easy to tame and brilliant pets, so the Buff Orpington is a very popular choice with families.

These are large birds, with hens tipping the scales at up to 8 pounds, and they don’t fly well. Additionally, because their coats are so fluffy, they do retain moisture. Therefore, it’s vital that you provide adequate shelter – while these birds love to forage, they need a well-kept coop to stay healthy. Also note that these chickens can get broody during the summer, so egg production may slow some.

7. Sussex – Up to 250 Eggs Per Year

White Sussex hen best chicken breeds for eggs

The beautiful Sussex is a striking bird and makes the list because it’s a prolific egg layer – up to 250 large, brown to creamy-white eggs per year – and is a dual-purpose chicken, making a delicious meat bird. There are eight distinct variations of the Sussex, with the two most distinctive ones being an all-white body with black neck and tail feathers, pictured above, and a brown and black body speckled with white.

These dual-purpose chickens reach up to 8 pounds but can happily live with smaller birds – even bantam breeds, because they’re docile and friendly. Sussex chickens are inquisitive birds who make great pets as they’re so calm and easy to tame. They’re awesome little foragers who devour common garden pests without destroying your yard, so they’re a good choice for backyard chicken keepers who want to let their birds roam within the confines of the garden. Note: Because they are so placid and submissive, they are often the target of feisty breeds, so don’t pair with more aggressive birds.

8. Ancona – Up to 200 Eggs Per Year

Ancona chicken Source: Festina lente / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

The Ancona is another chicken breed with Italian roots. This one lays around 200 small white eggs per year. Lively and hardy, Anconas are winter-hardy, making them a good choice for colder climates. They weigh in at under 6 pounds, and they don’t get broody, so they’re a solid choice for purely laying flocks.

They are notorious for flying away, though, so it’s a smart idea to keep their wings clipped. Anconas are fairly nervous birds and aren’t easy to tame, so they aren’t the best choice if you’re more interested in having tame, pet-like birds.

9. Marans – Up to 200 Eggs Per Year

maran chicken - best chickens for eggs

Marans lay up to 200 eggs per year and, while they might not be the most prolific egg layer, the dark brown eggs are delicious, and the meat quality is exceptional. The Marans chicken is a dual-purpose bird with a calm, gentle temperament, so they’re a solid option to mix with smaller breeds and other submissive birds.

However, they don’t make good pets – they aren’t easy to tame and they prefer the company of other chickens to humans. But they are the perfect dual-purpose bird – tasty and meaty, and reliable laying hens. And the hens are good sitters, too, so if you want a self-sustaining dual-purpose flock, you can’t go wrong with marans.

10. Ameraucana – Up to 250 Eggs Per Year

Ameraucana chickens - best egg layers

The Ameraucana is a comparatively rare chicken, closely related to the Araucana. They’re often confused with Easter Eggers as they produce eggs in varying shades of blue. These medium-sized chickens (up to 7 pounds), are winter hardy but don’t like extreme heat.

Friendly and inquisitive, they are loved by many chicken keepers because of their fun personality and entertaining antics. They’ll free-range or do well in coops (providing they get adequate access to the outdoors). Ameraucanas produce up to 250 eggs a year and can get broody, but they do make great family chickens. They’re distinctive, too, with earmuffs and a beard.

It’s important to note that this particular breed has a genetic disorder – crossed beak – that appears in roughly one percent of chicks.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it – our list of the best chicken breeds for eggs. We’ve included a good mix of sizes and temperaments, egg layers, and dual-purpose breeds, so you should be able to find one here that meets your needs. Remember that the egg quantity we’ve indicated here is an estimate, and there are a lot of factors that contribute to how many eggs your birds lay:

  • How much sunlight they get
  • How much space they have
  • Their diet
  • Their age
  • Their general health
  • Their mental health

Take good care of your birds, give them the right coop, space, as much daylight as possible, a good diet, and plenty of mental stimulation to optimize egg production.

Find out how much it REALLY costs to keep chickens here!

Free Printable Chicken Breed Egg Chart

Just click the image to load a less ink-heavy, printer-friendly version of this chicken egg layer chart. 

FAQs

🐔 What are the best chickens for egg-laying?

The best chickens for egg-laying depend on a few different factors. To choose the right breed, consider what type of climate you live in and make sure the breed you choose can tolerate your local climate extremes, whether that’s heat or cold. Next, consider how many eggs you actually want, how much space you have, and whether you’ll let them roam or keep them in a smaller, secure area. Do you want a self-sustaining flock? Do you want egg layers who also make good pets? Or do you want a purely functional flock? Would you prefer dual-purpose birds that you can harvest for meat when they’re no longer as productive? Do you have existing chickens? If so, are they a docile or feisty breed? Do you want a mixed flock or a single breed flock? Answer all of these questions to figure out which chicken breeds are the right choice for you.

🐤 What breed of chicken lays eggs earliest?

If in good health, golden comets, white leghorns, Sussex, Rhode Island Reds, and barred Plymouth Rocks, can all lay as early as 16 weeks. 

🥚 Can a Chicken Lay 2 Eggs a Day?

No. At most, in optimal conditions, and depending on the breed, a hen will lay one egg every day or every other day. And, unless you provide steady daylight and warmth during winter, which actually isn’t necessary, egg production will likely drop during colder weather. This is perfectly natural and will increase again when the weather improves. 

🥚 How many eggs does a chicken lay in a week?

There’s no simple answer to this. It depends on a lot of factors. The breed, the time of year, her age, her health, her condition, the conditions in which you keep her, and more. If everything is optimal and you have a highly productive breed, you’ll get at least one egg per bird almost every day. 

🐔 How long do chickens lay eggs for?

Chickens live for, on average, about 8 years, and they are the most productive for the first two to three years, then egg production gradually reduces. However, if the birds are healthy, they’ll still lay – just not as often. But they’re still useful – they produce rich fertilizer and happily gobble up all the garden pests you really hate. And, if you’re super practical and the chickens are livestock rather than pets, you may decide to add them to the pot once their egg production drops significantly. 

🍳 Are fresh laid eggs safe to eat?

Yes. Mostly. A clean, freshly laid egg from a healthy bird is unlikely to be contaminated with salmonella. However, there’s no 100% guarantee. Take reasonable precautions when handling hens and their eggs. Wash your hands after contact and clean down surfaces that come into contact with raw eggs. Make sure you discard cracked eggs and store the remainder in cool, dry conditions to maximize their lifespan. And, most importantly, make sure you get your hens from a reputable hatchery. 

💲 Is raising chickens cheaper than buying eggs?

Not really. But it depends on your outlook. Nothing beats the taste of fresh eggs or the satisfaction of being able to harvest my own eggs. And, according to multiple studies, eggs from healthy backyard flocks are far more nutritious than eggs from commercial flocks. And you know what you’re putting into your birds and what you’re doing with the eggs, so you can be confident that you aren’t feeding your family eggs laden with chemicals and synthetic nasties. And then there’s all the other things that chickens do – they’re awesome weed eaters and pest controllers. They give you an endless supply of fertilizer, and they’re excellent composters and waste recyclers. So, on the surface, unless you normally buy premium organic eggs, no, egg-for-egg, raising your own chickens won’t save you money. But when you also account for fertilizer, built-in weed and pest control, entertainment value, and the quality of their eggs, yes, I firmly believe raising chickens is cheaper than buying eggs. 

🐥 How many chickens should a beginner start with?

It depends how many eggs you want and how much space you have. Your chickens won’t be productive if they are over-crowded. They’ll be unhealthy, too. But, because chickens are flocking animals and are not happy alone, you should have a minimum of 3 hens. That should give you roughly a dozen eggs a week, depending on the breed. If you need more eggs than that and have adequate space, get 5 or 6 hens. 

🐔 Do chickens get sad when you take their eggs?

No. Most definitely not. Egg laying is instinctive – it’s a biological function no different than their need to scratch, perch, and take a dirt bath. Unless a hen is particularly broody, she’ll leave her egg as soon as she’s laid it and go about her daily business. 

🐣 Can you eat a fertilized chicken egg?

Yes. It’s perfectly safe to eat a fertilized chicken egg, assuming your hen hasn’t been sitting on it for so long that it’s transformed into an actual chick. It’s always good practice to collect eggs at least once a day, and particularly if you’ve got a rooster. Even if an egg is fertilized, as soon as you refrigerate it, development stops. 

Katy Willis

Written by Katy Willis

Katy is a life-long homesteader and home herbalist. She is passionate about living naturally, growing food, keeping livestock, foraging, and making and using herbal remedies. She's been writing and editing professionally for over a decade, and she's been living green her entire life. She firmly believes that every small green change we make has a huge impact. Making greener choices is better for your bank balance, your health, and the planet.

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