There are many wonderful chicken breeds for farm fresh eggs
We’ve been keeping egg laying chickens for a few years now and we’ve had experience with many breeds. We’ve kept both the hybrid layers, that lay A LOT of eggs a year, to the dual purpose breeds.
There’s one important question you need to ask other than ‘how many eggs per year’ when it comes to choosing chicken breeds.
Things like your climate, where you keep your chickens, what you plan on doing with them after they’re done laying in 2-5 years and what your chicken keeping goals are. It also depends on if you want heritage breed or hybrid and whether or not you want broodiness (when chickens sit on the eggs to ‘hatch’ them, which if you aren’t hatching your own chicks or want to grab eggs without getting pecked at, is something to consider).
If you have kids friendliness will also be a factor
This post will give you a rundown of 7 chicken breeds to help you figure out the best choice for your flock.
Today’s review of chicken breeds
The following chicken breeds that lay anywhere from 200-350 eggs per year. I’ll review the pros and cons from experience of each of the following top egg laying hens:
- Lohman Lite
- ISA Browns
- Barred/Plymouth Rock
- Speckled Sussex & Light Sussex
Some other fantastic layers include Rhode Island Red but we’ve never kept them as *apparently* they have a hotter temperament they aren’t as friendly with kids. Other great layers include Australops or Golden Comet.
This review will also show you photos + let you know which ones are mellow & which ones love to escape.
What makes a good egg-laying chicken breed?
Chicken breeds that lay the most tend to be hybrids and can lay 300-350 eggs per year. This, however, puts stress on a chickens body and they *can* have more health problems. Because they’re smaller the cost less to feed. Many chickens will molt during the winter and stop laying eggs with the reduced daylight hours. Some of the hardier chicken breeds like the dual purpose ones, can often lay year-round even with shorter daylight because they are cold hardy breeds. These breeds tend to offer less eggs in a year though 200-250 (still good!). If you have a cold climate some of the skinnier hens won’t be able to withstand cold deep winters, especially if they have large combs which can get frostbite.
What breed of chicken you choose will also depend on what you plan on doing after a few years when the hens lay fewer eggs or cease production altogether.
The egg layers that lay the most in a year tend to be very thin skinny chickens mostly meant for chicken stock. The dual purpose hens will give you a nice sized meat bird afterward. Or the third option is to let your hens ‘retire’ and just keep them as pets, which can work depending on your backyard or acreage set up.
First I’ll review the ‘big layers’ breeds that lay 300+ eggs a year. Then I’ll review the ones that lay around 200-250 eggs a year.
Lotsa eggs 280+/year
Leghorns, ISA Browns, Lohman Lite
The chicken breeds that are egg-producing machines can sometimes start tapering off egg laying at 2.5 years. We actually noticed a drop in our ISA browns at 2 years and it happened rapidly. This means while these breeds will offer a log of eggs for a couple of years, you might not keep them as long.
Out of all our big egg producing chicken breeds, the ISA browns were preferred over the leghorns & Lohman Lites.
They had a friendlier nature and had a *little* more meat on them. They also seemed less flighty and more friendly towards humans.
Chicken breeds that lay 280+ eggs a year often skinnier offering less ‘meat’ if any at all, mostly meant for the chicken broth if you plan on culling them.
One great thing about hens that are prolific layers is that they cost less to feed because they’re slimmer.
Apparently leghorns are supposed to be quite flighty, however we didn’t experience that. Our leghorns, which were brown/black, unfortunately met the demise of a black bear (who ripped the plywood right off of the chicken coop) so we didn’t get to experience these hens for longer than a year. We currently have 5 Lohman lite which are huge producers of eggs, but super skinny & flighty. We didn’t get them as chicks, we bought them as pullets and we noticed a huge difference in friendliness towards humans.
- Lohman Lite (hybrid) -300-350 eggs/year
- ISA brown (hybrid)- 300+ eggs/year
- Leghorn 280-320 eggs/year
Chicken breeds that lay 250+ eggs per year
Here are some great breeds that lay great but are also more dual-purpose rather than just for eggs. Some of these breeds are cold hardy too- the Sussex & Barred Rock.
Barred Rock/Plymouth Rock – 250+ eggs/year
I think so far this is my fav chicken breed!
They lay lots of eggs, have quite a lot of meat on their bones & are super friendly. In fact, even though they are larger chicken I’m so attached to the ones we have I might just have to let these girls retire. This is a great dual purpose & cold hardy breed for those areas with snowy winters.
Speckled Sussex – 250 eggs/year
This breed is super friendly & curious. Another great dual purpose cold hardy breed.
We have a speckled sussex but they come in other colors. The next year we got 3 light sussex chickens (which I LOVE)
Ameraucana & Easter Eggers – 250 eggs/year
Ameracauna lays blue eggs and have fluffy cheeks. Easter Eggers can lay blue/green eggs. I talk about chickens that lay blue eggs in this post.
Our Ameracauna crosses have been our most troublesome hens to date.
Although we got them as chicks, they had less handling, but they also didn’t want to be caught OR held. While our barred rock, wyandotte & speckled sussex chicks were fine being cuddled by the kids, these chicks were not having it at all.
They didn’t even want to sleep inside the chicken coop, preferring the cherry tree outside.
As we had a drought all summer and it barely rained for months so they got use to sleeping in the tree. It took a lot of convincing for them to stay inside the fenced area and not fly out (8 feet fencing) to sleep in the tree. Once we trained them to sleep inside as the weather began to get cold, we still have one that is escaping EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
She flies on top of the chicken coop (about 12 feet up) and flies over the other side.
I know we could trim their wings so that they don’t fly away, but so far we’re letting them be.
Even though I love having blue eggs, I’m not sure this breed & it’s personality suits our homestead.
Wyandotte- 200 eggs/year
This is the ‘diva’ of the chicken world. They’re pretty & they know it.
They’re often more vocal and queen of the flock. We’ve only every had one wyandotte as they don’t lay as many eggs but I would have to agree with that description. She has a very cute ‘cluck’ noise she makes
That concludes my review of the chicken breeds we’ve had the most experience with.
If I had to choose ONE breed I’d pick the barred rock.
I prefer having a mixed flock though, it’s nice to get a bit of both worlds!
The breeds that lay a lot of eggs to the dual purpose ones that lay for longer period and are meatier towards the culling ages.
What is your fav egg laying chicken breed?
My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.