There are several reasons to raise your own chickens, but for many people, the eggs are the most important part. Setup costs and daily chores are worth it when the reward is beautiful, delectable, farm-fresh eggs. That’s why many chicken owners fill their coop with the best egg-laying breeds. What makes a certain species of hen stand out among her peers? In addition to productivity, you want to look at the types of eggs she lays, what kind of personality she has, and how much maintenance she’ll require. Choose the best chickens for your flock with this overview of what to look for in an egg-laying chicken breed.
The number of eggs your chickens lay is a major factor in what kind of breed you buy. A productive egg-laying breed can get you well over 200—and sometimes up to 300—eggs a year. That’s nearly one egg every day! Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Sussex chickens are some of the most lucrative layers out there. However, before you choose a productive breed, you should consider just how many eggs you want and need. Do you just want enough to feed your family, or would you like excess eggs to give to friends and neighbors? Maybe you want to start a small business or sell eggs at the local farmers’ market. Having a plan for your eggs will help you choose a breed with the right level of productivity for your needs.
Like any other animal, chickens have personalities. Their needs and behavior—and the kind of care you’ll need to give them—will vary depending on what kind of breed you have. For example, breeds with gentle temperaments make better backyard birds than breeds that are more prone to aggression. Make sure you know what kind of personality you’ll be facing in your coop. Calmer, friendlier chickens are better for people who are first getting into chicken keeping. These breeds also work better with young families.
In addition to the number of eggs you’ll receive, you should also consider what those eggs will look like. Different chicken breeds lay eggs of different colors and sizes. What colors do you want to see in your egg basket? Your chickens might provide you with classic white, golden brown, or even beautiful blue eggs. Size also matters, as larger eggs make larger meals and can sell at a higher price. Many chicken keepers purchase more than one breed to get some variety out of their daily egg collections.
Once you have the perfect breed in your coop, how will you take care of them? Hardiness and maintenance are important parts of what to look for in an egg-laying chicken breed. How well will your chickens handle your climate? Is this breed particularly prone to certain diseases? With this information, you’ll be able to prepare a safe, comfortable, and healthy living space for your birds, complete with enough coop space, nutritious feed, and comfortable chicken nesting pads. These things will allow your chickens to lay as peacefully and productively as possible.
Everyone has their favorite breed of chicken—what’s yours? Tell us about your favorite egg-laying chickens in the comments below.