Farm fresh eggs are one of the greatest joys in life. Eggs are such a versatile food with amazing health benefits. But getting your chickens to lay them is not quite as simple as it might seem.
To cover the basics, every hen lays eggs, no rooster needed. However, if there's a rooster present and eggs have been fertilized then a chick can eventually hatch.
Farmers have selectively bred chickens to develop specific egg-laying breeds that will drop more eggs than others. Dual-purpose breeds provide the best of both worlds by laying eggs and offering choice meat. There are also meat-specific birds, but they aren't the greatest at laying eggs.
Chickens don’t start laying eggs until they’re 15 to 25 weeks old, so if you’re buying them as chicks you have awhile to wait. You can also find hens that are already laying online if you don't want to wait.
Caring for laying hens is fairly simple. Make sure they always have access to fresh, clean water, food, forage, a clean and private place to lay eggs, and of course a safe and warm coop.
When choosing a breed, be sure to consider one that lays the number of eggs you need, is readily available nearby, and can handle your climate. If you’re homesteading and have free-range birds, it’s also worth looking into chickens with good foraging abilities. Here's a list of chicken breeds that are egg laying or dual purpose, are easy to find, and have great reliability in egg production.
White Leghorn By far the most popular chicken breed in the commercial industry, these chickens lay approximately 300 white eggs per year. However, they aren’t a great chicken for the homestead. They aren’t very hardy and don't have great foraging capabilities.
Red Sex Link This hybrid breed is very common and easy to find when you're looking to buy laying hens. They’re hardy and drop around 300 brown eggs per year. They make a decent homestead bird.
Plymouth Rock This breed is very hardy and reliable with egg production. They also make great foragers and lay about 280 brown eggs per year.
Australorp Beautifully dark colored, this chicken is a great egg layer. They lay roughly 275 light brown eggs per year. They’re cold hardy, have great foraging abilities, and make a great dual-purpose bird.
Rhode Island Red This is a heritage breed with rich reddish-brown feathers. It's a great homestead bird with great foraging ability. They lay up to 250 light brown eggs per year.
New Hampshire This newer breed originated from the Rhode Island Red. They’re very cold hardy and lay around 250 light brown eggs per year. They also have very good meat with faster growth timeframes and higher weights, making them a fantastic dual-purpose bird.
Sussex This is a great dual-purpose bird with good foraging capabilities that can tolerate heat and cold. They also come in many colors such as brown, buff, speckled, white, and silver. They lay approximately 250 brown eggs per year.
Amerauana Also known as Easter Eggers, they reliably lay 280 blue eggs per year, give or take. Known as an egg-producing breed and not a dual-purpose breed, the Amerauana is the one for you if you want blue eggs and aren’t concerned with meat.
Wyandotte This beautiful heritage breed is one of the first we bought for our homestead. They’re a great foraging breed, are cold hardy, can be used for meat, and lay about 200 brown eggs per year. This breed is also great at foraging in the pasture.
Buff Orpington This was the first rooster breed we had on our homestead. Orpingtons come in a variety of colors such as lavender, white, buff, and silver laced. They’re great foragers, cold hardy, dual-purpose, and just solid all-around birds that lay around 200 brown eggs per year.