For many people the main incentive of raising backyard chickens is a fresh supply of eggs. I still remember walking down to my chickens’ nesting boxes for the first time and picking up those warm fresh eggs!
But one thing most beginners don’t know is that the breed of chicken you get makes a huge impact on the amount of eggs you should expect to receive each day.
Certain breeds, such as Japanese Bantams tend not to lay eggs at all, whereas Hybrid hens can lay more than 280 eggs per year- nearly an egg every day.
Choosing the right breed is crucial if you want fresh eggs all year long, so we’ve drawn up a list of our favourite top 10 egg laying chickens.
There are many different hybrid breeds and one of the most common is known as the Golden Comet. Hybrids have been bred to lay huge amounts of eggs whilst only consuming small amounts of food. This makes them cheaper to feed than other breeds.
Eggs: You should expect for a typical hybrid hen to lay around 280 eggs per year. These eggs will be medium sized and brown coloured.
Colour: Hybrids are normally a golden, brown colour with soft white tail feathers.
Character: They tend to be a very tough and resilient chicken and rarely ever turn broody. If you are looking for an all year round egg layer who is easy to look after, a Hybrid chicken is definitely the pick for you.
2. Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Red’s originated from America and are known as a ‘dual purpose’ chickens. This means they can be raised for either eggs or meat. They are one of the most popular backyard chicken breeds because they are tough and lay lots of eggs.
Eggs: You should expect a young Rhode Island Red to lay 250 eggs a year. These eggs are brown and medium sized.
Colour: Contrary to their name, Rhode Island Reds actually have brown and black feathers giving them a dark appearance.
Character: They are more than capable of looking after themselves, and are well known for being tough. Rhode Islands are very friendly and are commonly picked by first time chicken keepers.
Any child who grew up in the 50s or 60s will know what a Leghorn looks like from the popular TV show Foghorn Leghorn. Leghorns were brought to the States from Italy back in the 1800s and have made the perfect backyard chicken ever since.
Eggs: They should lay around 250 eggs per year. These eggs will be white and medium sized.
Colour: They are one of the most unique breeds going, with a full white body and a large thick red comb.
Character: Whilst they would still make an ideal pick for a beginner, anyone looking to tame their chickens shouldn’t choose Leghorns as they are known for being shy and hard to tame.
Like the Rhode Island Red, the Sussex is a ‘dual purpose’ hen which means they can be raised for either eggs or meat.
Eggs: A Sussex is easily capable of laying 250 eggs a year. The colour of the eggs will vary from brown through to creamy white.
Colour: The Sussex breed has eight different colours, the most common one being a pure white body with black neck and tail feathers.
Character: They are a very calm breed who would happily free range in a garden without destroying it! If you want a tame breed which would eat from your hand the Sussex is for you.
5. Plymouth Rock
The Plymouth Rock (Barred Rock) is an ideal pick for a first time chicken keeper who is looking for a hen that lays eggs roughly once every two days.
Eggs: A healthy Plymouth Rock should lay around 200 eggs a year. These eggs will be small to medium sized and are a light brown colour.
Colour: They are predominately grey with white stripes wrapping around their body.
Character: Plymouths are a large bird that is much better suited to the free range lifestyle. Like the Sussex they are very friendly birds who can easily be tamed.
The Ancona is a small hen which originates from Italy but is now much more common in the United Kingdom and the US.
Eggs: It will lay around 200 eggs per year. These will be small white eggs.
Colour: In feather appearance, it looks very similar to the Plymouth Rock except it is less than half the size.
Character: The Ancona isn’t a breed to be picked as a pet. It is skittish and will need its feathers clipping often as it’s notorious for flying out of chicken pens!
The Barnevelder is a cross between the Dutch Landrace and Asian jungle fowl. It is native to Holland and is known for its glossy feathers.
Eggs: It is capable of laying around 200 eggs per year. These eggs will be small to medium sized and a light speckled brown colour.
Colour: The Barnevelder is predominantly a black chicken with brown tipped feathers.
Character: This is a great garden bird that is much better suited to a garden pen. It isn’t a great flyer so you don’t need to worry about clipping their feathers.
The Hamburg (also spelt Hamburgh) is a chicken native to Germany and is one of the most attractive chicken breeds around.
Eggs: They will lay around 200 eggs per year. These will be small to medium sized eggs and will have a white glossy shell.
Colour: Their feathers resemble the coat of a Dalmatian and are white with black feathers. Hamburgs also have another colour variation which is black with golden tipped feathers.
Character: Hamburgs need lots of space to roam around in and don’t do well inside a chicken pen. They are known to be aggressive in small spaces and are much better as a free range chicken.
Make sure to read How Much Space Do My Chickens Need if you are unsure about what counts as a small space.
Marans are another dual purpose hen and are renowned for their vibrant dark brown eggs and exception meal quality.
Eggs: A Maran will lay around 200 eggs a year. These eggs are a vibrant dark brown colour and are medium sized.
Colour: They are very similar in appear to Plymouth Rocks and are mostly dark grey with white flutters.
Character: Marans don’t require much space to roam in and are a very gentle hen. With this being said they aren’t very tame and don’t make good ‘pets’.
10. Buff Orpington
In tenth place is the Buff Orpington, which is my personal favourite chicken breed. They originate from Kent, England and are a backyard chicken keeper’s dream!
Eggs: Orpingtons will lay around 180 eggs a year. They have a tendency to get broody during the summer months which is why they lay less than the other breeds mentioned on this list.
Colour: They are a glorious golden-yellow colour and have a thick layer of feathers.
Character: Buff Orpingtons are one of the tamest breeds you can get and will make a great garden pet. Within no time you can train them to eat from your hand and socialise with you.
How to Keep Egg Production High
Just because you have a breed who can lay lots of eggs, doesn’t mean they will lay lots of eggs.
Many things can affect how many eggs a chicken lays. Their diet, age and access to daylight are all important.
It’s a sad fact of life that older chickens just don’t lay as many eggs as younger chickens.
A chicken’s first year of laying eggs is always their best.
Chickens Egg Laying Reducing Over Time
You can see in the graph, once a chicken hits the age of three the amount of eggs they lay really slows down.
If your chicken laid 250 eggs in their first year, then by the third year it will only lay 160 eggs.
There is nothing you can do to stop this; it’s just nature’s way.
Chickens need around 20 grams of protein every day for them to keep laying eggs. If their diet isn’t providing them with this protein then they won’t be able to lay many eggs.
To ensure your chickens are getting plenty of protein make sure you are feeding them layers pellets.
Layers pellets have been manufactured to contain all the key minerals, nutrients and minerals that hens require.
If you are looking for how to increase the amount of protein your chickens get read 9 Healthy Treats Your Chickens Will Love.
In addition to a good diet, chickens need at least 14 hours of daylight to lay eggs.
If they don’t get this amount of daylight their egg laying will be limited.
To ensure they get this amount of daylight make sure you are letting them out as close to the sun rise as possible- even if it means those early morning starts!
During the winter there won’t be 14 hours of daylight and many chicken farmers will use artificial lighting to keep their chickens laying eggs. I would never do this because chickens need this downtime during the winter for their body to recover.
If you are forcing your chickens to lay by using artificial lighting it means their bodies don’t recover and your hen’s health will progressively get worse.