Which are the best laying chickens is a loaded question. Best can be the most eggs, the most colorful eggs, the biggest eggs, hens that begin laying the earliest in life, hens that continue to lay eggs later in life, the best tasting eggs, or hens that seem to have the least trouble laying eggs.
THE MOST EGGS/ EARLIEST LAYERS: are Production laying hens.
Comets, Golden Sex Links, Black Sex Links, White Leghorns, Production Reds, and other breeds specifically designed for commercial egg production.
Well cared for hens of these breeds can begin laying at 4.5 months of age and produce over 300 eggs per year. The downside is that these hens are often laid out by 2 years of age and need to be replaced near that time due to failing production and health.
BEST LAYING CHICKENS OF COLORFUL EGGS: Naturally colored chicken eggs come in many colors other than grocery store white and the often unnaturally colored brown grocery eggs. Some believe that brown eggs are more natural and healthy than white, maybe like brown rice is more healthy than white, but this is not true.
The healthy nutritional value inside an egg is in direct proportion to the health of the hen’s diet. Hens fed the highest quality fats, proteins, and vegetation will be more healthy and produce healthier giving eggs than a chicken fed not as good food.
Chicken eggs come in these basic colors: Brown, white, pink and blue-green. By mixing pink and blue-green laying breeds some near purple colors have been reported. Some hens lay a speckled brown egg by laying pigment on the eggs with the final protective coating. The Marans breed is famous for this dark coating that can produce almost chocolaty brown eggs, sometimes speckled.
The best laying chickens of colored eggs are:
HENS THAT CONTINUE TO LAY LATER IN LIFE/ LEAST TROUBLE: are generally Heritage or Heirloom Breeds. These breeds are usually slower to mature and hens begin laying around 6 months of age.
Often these breeds only produce 200 eggs a year per hen. Rather than only 2 years of laying, hens can lay up to 7 years and beyond. These are usually Dual Purpose Breeds, providing eggs, easy reproduction of off-spring and good size to raise chickens for meat. THE BIGGEST EGGS: are produced by the biggest hens, though some large hens, depending on breeding, can be the best laying chickens of larger eggs than other similarly sized hens. Bantam chickens are small and lay small eggs. Large chicken breeds include most dual purpose, laying and meat breeds. Large hens can lay medium to extra-large eggs. Often the first few eggs of a young hen are very small. As her oviduct begins to work tissues expand producing larger eggs. Giant breed hens can lay extra-large or larger eggs.
YOUR BEST LAYING HENS: will be a good laying breed. Select a breed developed for your climate, from a local farmer or reputable hatchery. Feed them well and provide a calcium supplement.
Laying hens need extra calcium to produce strong egg shells, but also for good muscle tone to be able to lay well. Laying hens need exercise, fresh greens, plenty of proteins and good fats. The best chicken feeds provide most of that and will give you the best laying chickens.
WATER: is vital for all chickens, but laying hens most of all, since the contents of their eggs is mostly water. Laying hens will drink as much as they feel is necessary, so fresh water in clean containers should always be available.
PRODUCTION BRED HENS: have the tendency to lay through winter and possibly through the fall molt, but again, you shouldn’t expect more than 2 years of health and laying. These breeds were designed for the most eggs in the least amount of time in egg production factories.
They often have no instincts for hatching eggs or mothering chicks. When their egg laying declines they are sent off for meat processing and replaced with young hens just starting to lay.
DUAL PURPOSE HENS: are the best laying chickens long term. They tend to take a break during the fall molt and winter, but resume laying in the spring, once daylight hours are longer again.
These hens may be encouraged to lay in winter by providing artificial full spectrum lighting in the early morning after 8 hours of natural darkness. It’s best not to extend lighted hours at the end of the day, and have a light suddenly go out in the middle of the night.
This may cause panic with chickens off their roosts and unable to see. It’s better to set a timer to light the coop after chickens have slept 8 hours and shut off after sunrise for a more natural transition.
These make good mothers with natural reproductive cycles. It would be pointless to try to hatch chicks in winter temperatures; so why lay eggs?
A PEACEFUL LIFE: is necessary for the best laying chickens. Some people prefer not to keep a rooster with their laying hens so the girls can focus on eating and laying. I find a rooster, one per 12 hens, provides balance and a sense of security for a flock of laying hens. Too many roosters can stress the hens with their desires to breed often.