5 laying Chickens to Have
A few laying
the backyard are great for insect control, grass fertilizer and cheap
entertainment -- not to mention fresh, nutritious eggs. Once you have a
secure pen (check out our chicken
coop plans page for ideas) and a bag of grain, you're ready
to get started with a flock. Here are the top five laying
chickens I recommend:
Rhode Island Reds: These classic hens are a dual-purpose breed; they are both proficient egg layers and the males are large enough to eat (meat birds). This is especially good if you decide to incubate and hatch your eggs; the males can be raised for meat and the females kept for egg laying purposes. This breed tends to produce hens with easygoing personalities; docile and friendly, they make good pets for children. They lay brown eggs, almost one per day. If they are allowed to free range, their eggs will often be jumbo in size.
Barred Rock is the name of a particular color pattern in the Plymouth Rock breed. These black and white birds are another dual-purpose breed, very hardy and a steady egg layer. They are a little less friendly than the Rhode Island Reds, but make up for it with their docility and ability to go broody; that is, to incubate and hatch eggs. They are also consistent, reliable egg layers and protective of young chicks. Their roosters get tall and handsome and make great flock guardians.
Americaunas have been dubbed “Easter Egg Chickens” because of their lovely eggs, which have shells colored various shades of blue and green. These birds are prized in backyard flocks for adding variety to the egg basket as well as to the flock. Their personality varies; some are a bit standoffish while others respond well to attention from humans. They have facial features, such as beard and muff, which give them more character and make them fun to look at.
Leghorn hens, a breed originating from Italy, are possibly the best chicken to have for overall egg production and efficiency. As a lighter hen, they require less feed and lay more eggs annually than practically all other breeds. They are basically egg-producing machines. Their eggs are white, not brown, but with a good flock of brown egg layers the white will add a different color that sets off the brown and makes for a nice varied basket of eggs. Most newer laying chicken breeds, such as sex link hens, have some Leghorn in them.
Orpington chickens hail from England, and are another dual-purpose bird as they get large enough for meat purposes but also produce friendly hens that lay brown eggs in abundance. The ruddy colored variety pictured here is known as Buff Orpingtons; other recognized colors for this breed include black, white, and blue. The birds have a wide, low stature and a broad chest. They are great to add to your flock of laying chickens and produce lovely brown eggs.
With a variety of different laying chickens in your flock, backyard hens can be a fun adventure, and quite satisfying and profitable as well.
Best Coop Plans:
How to Build a Chicken Coop - detailed plans and construction guide for making backyard coops.
These chicken coop plans and building guide are the best I've found, and purchased them myself to build our first coops. There are five different chicken coops included, beginning with the most basic double-story ark and culminating with the largest design, the Chicken Barn with attached screened-in chicken yard. I want to use their plans again for their largest chicken coop, the chicken barn, when we are ready to upsize our chicken flock's habitat. The coop pictured here is a medium-sized all-in-one design.
Recommended Chicken Books:
- Homemade Living - Keeping Chickens: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock by Ashley English
- Storey's Guide - Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow
- Barnyard in Your Backyard - A Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle
Favorite Chicken Quotes
“ A chicken you eat only once — eggs a hundred times." ~ Tajikistani Proverb
“ You cannot cook one half of the chicken and leave the other to lay eggs." ~ Sanskrit Proverb
“ You don’t have to kill the chicken to get eggs." ~ French Proverb