Egg-cellent Eggs! The Best Egg Laying Breeds for Your Backyard Needs

Raising your own laying hens, right from the comfort of your backyard, can save you a trip to the grocery store and let you consume more of the perfect protein source in your everyday life! However, it may be difficult trying to decide which laying breeds are best suited for your space, needs, environment, and overall egg-cellent! Whether you’re experienced with raising backyard poultry for eggs or completely new to this way of life, it’s important to consider different egg laying breeds and weigh their similarities and differences.

 

Important Considerations with Laying Hens

 

Firstly, what are laying hens? Laying hens are just female chickens, usually leaner and smaller than your meat-producing counterparts, that primarily produce eggs! You may already be familiar with a few laying breeds like Leghorns, Ameraucana, and Rhode Island Reds. There are still important things to consider before looking at specific laying breeds, like:

 

  • Space: There are certain laying breeds, like Orpingtons, that require more space because of their bigger size.
  • Temperament: When chickens brood, they sit on their eggs to attempt to hatch them. If you’re looking for a laying breed that produces more eggs, you may want hens that don’t brood as often since they won’t lay when they are brooding. You may also want to consider if a laying breed is generally docile, aggressive, and has easy or difficult temperaments.
  • Climate: Laying breeds like Catalanas are suited for hotter climates, and Jersey Giants do better in colder climates. Many popular breeds like Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds, however, are suited for any climate!
  • Egg Color: Although all eggs have the same nutritious value regardless of color, if you’re looking to produce specific egg colors this is something you’ll have to consider with certain laying breeds! A general rule of thumb is that if a chicken has white earlobes they’ll produce white eggs, and if they have red earlobes they’ll produce brown eggs (but there are always exceptions)!

 

Rhode Island Red

 

Even though Rhode Island Reds are a dual-purpose breed (raised for both meat and eggs), they are now mainly used for their egg production, especially since they’re great at it! They lay on average 150-200 brown eggs per year.

A rhode island red hen sitting on her nest with brown eggs.

They don’t brood as often, are adapted to any climate, but they can be aggressive. Overall, they’re a great choice for a small flock!

 

Orpington

 

Orpingtons are pretty big compared to other layer hens, so they do need more space. Their size also makes them able to endure cold temperatures better. They brood often, aren’t normally aggressive, and they produce around 200-280 light brown eggs per year. Be careful though! The eggs are slightly bigger than those you would normally buy at your grocery store. If you live where it gets pretty cold, have the space, and don’t mind slightly-large eggs, Orpingtons are a great choice!

 

Australorp

 

Australorps are similar to Orpingtons but smaller! Like Orpingtons, they produce brown eggs and are suited for any climate. They don’t need as much space as Orpingtons, brood a bit less than them (but still frequently), and lay around 250-300 eggs per year!

 

Leghorn

 

There are many different varieties of Leghorns, but on average hens will lay 200 white eggs per year. Most of the eggs you buy in the grocery store are from this breed (or hybrids developed from them)! They need a good amount of space, and their temperaments can range so if you were to house them with other breeds they should be of the same temperament (not more docile). Leghorns don’t brood often, and they can live in any climate!

 

Conclusion

 

There are lots of different aspects to consider when choosing which laying breed is the best for your setup such as space, temperament, climate, and even egg color! Going with Rhode Island Reds, Orpingtons, Australorps, or Leghorns are a great choice, and they all have their similarities and differences. In order to produce egg-cellent eggs, it’s important you take all these factors into account!

 

References

 

Written by Reena Grewal, University of California, Davis Student