The Best Egg Laying Chickens: A Guide to Raising Hens

Last Updated on February 1, 2024 by Gabby Hatten

our first week of eggs

photo: Holman Homesteading

Have farm Fresh Eggs Every Day

With Your Very Own Chickens

We all know chickens are the gateway to homesteading… and for good reason! Aside from the complete and utter joy they provide by simply existing, they also provide delicious, nutritious, eggs! If you’re looking into food security, chickens are a great dual-purpose place to start.

Chicken Basics for the Beginner

Before we even think about the best chicken breeds, we’ve got to lay down the basics. Understanding the difference between heritage breeds, meat birds, and a dual-purpose breed is crucial when curating your very own backyard flock. It’s not as simple as creating a ‘best breeds” list because, frankly, that’s subjective. Figuring out what qualities are most important to you is the only way to determine the best breeds for your flock.

Some popular breed choices when it comes to high-production egg layers are Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Golden Comets, ISA browns, Buff Orpington, Australorps, and Easter Eggers. Read on for more on these breeds and to find the best choice for your backyard chickens. 

For the purpose of this article, I’ve made three categories to put different types of chickens under;

  1. excellent layers
  2. beautiful birds
  3. dual purpose breeds

Heritage Breeds

Heritage chicken breeds are traditional breeds raised by farming communities for generations. They offer diverse genetics, adaptability, and natural reproduction. Raising them preserves unique genetics and supports the environment. These chickens are hardy and well-suited for free-range farming, honoring tradition and promoting sustainability. If you want your flock to repopulate and not have to visit Tractor Supply every year for Chick Days, heritage breed chickens are a great choice!

photo courtesy of Holman Homesteading

Common Heritage Breeds

  • Ancona
  • Araucana
  • Barred Plymouth Rock
  • Black Australorp
  • Buff Orpington (they make excellent mothers)
  • White Leghorns
  • Dominique
  • Java
  • Jersey Giant
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island Red
  • Sussex
  • Wyandotte
  • Buckeye
  • Chantecler
  • Brahma
  • Cornish
  • Marans

Meat Chickens

When selecting chickens for meat production rather than egg laying, it’s important to focus on specific meat bird breeds. These birds are bred and raised for their meat qualities, such as fast growth, efficient feed conversion, and ample breast meat. Breeds like Cornish Cross, Red Broiler, and Jersey Giants are popular choices for meat production due to their rapid growth and favorable meat-to-bone ratio. Opting for meat bird breeds ensures that the chickens are well-suited for processing, resulting in high-quality meat for consumption. By choosing the right meat bird breeds, you can efficiently raise and process chickens for a sustainable and rewarding meat supply.

Dual-Purpose Chickens

Dual-purpose chicken breeds are versatile options for those seeking to raise chickens for both meat and egg production. These breeds are valued for their ability to provide a reliable supply of both eggs and meat, making them practical choices for small-scale farming and homesteading. Dual-purpose breeds, such as Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red chickens, and Sussex chickens, are known for their balanced attributes, combining good egg-laying capabilities with decent meat production. By selecting dual-purpose birds, you can efficiently manage a flock that meets both their egg and meat needs, offering a sustainable and economical solution for poultry production.

Cold Weather + Hybrid Breeds

When it comes to choosing breeds of chickens for a small farm in cold climates, it’s essential to consider the winter months and cold weather conditions. Opting for hardy breeds such as Black Stars or Rhode Island Reds can be a good choice, as they are well-suited to withstand cold temperatures and continue laying eggs during the winter months. These breeds are not only prolific egg layers but also make great pets, particularly for families with young children. Additionally, Mediterranean breeds like Legbars or Sussex are known for their ability to lay a good number of eggs, adding diversity to the egg basket with their tinted egg layers. When raising chickens in cold climates, providing a well-insulated chicken coop and access to oyster shell for calcium can help ensure that the chickens remain healthy and continue to lay eggs even in the coldest of winters.

For those seeking maximum egg production and a good amount of meat, hybrid chickens can be a good fit. Hybrid breeds, such as Red Stars or Cinnamon Queens, are known for their prolific egg-laying capabilities, providing a steady supply of large brown or large white eggs. While these hybrid birds may lay fewer eggs in subsequent years, they are a better choice for those focused on a high initial egg yield. Whether it’s free-range birds or those kept in a coop, selecting the best egg-laying chickens for a small farm involves considering the specific needs and priorities of the chicken keepers. Overall, choosing the right breed of chicken can ensure a happy and productive flock, yielding fresh eggs and potentially a lot of meat for the table.

A Quick Guide to the Breeds Discussed Above

Excellent Layers

  • Rhode Island Red
  • Legbar
  • Sussex
  • Australorp

Aesthetics|pretty birds

  • Araucana
  • Marans
  • Ameraucanas
  • Easter Eggers
  • Orpingtons (Lavender is my favorite)

dual purpose breeds

  • Rhode Island Red
  • Plymouth Rock
  • Sussex

Author Profile

Gabby Hatten
Gabby Hatten
Hello there, I'm Gabby! I am a mother of three, married to my wonderful husband Marco, and I have a deep passion for simple living, vintage homes, and cooking everything from scratch! Although I grew up in Las Vegas, my husband's military service brought us to the east coast, where we have now made coastal North Carolina our home. While I didn't grow up on a farm, I have always been fascinated by that lifestyle and have dedicated my adult life to learning and embracing those skills, which I am excited to share with all of you!

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