Searching for the best egg laying hens can actually be fun. Any hen will lay some eggs, and some breeds lay more eggs than others. The different breeds also have different personality traits, so to speak, which make certain ones easier to care for and more enjoyable to have around. The breeds described below are high producers with good personalities.
The Delaware breed is a white bird with some black markings. The breed is named after the state of Delaware, where they were originally developed in the 1940s. Their eggs are large and brown, and you can usually count on the mature Delaware hen to lay an egg a day. Delaware hens are friendly, calm and easy to handle, from my experience. But other growers have said they can be “fiery.” There is an old saying about being as mean as a Delaware rooster.
Photos from Meyer Hatchery
The females, at least, get along well with other breeds. The average weight is around 6 pounds when they are full grown, making them a relatively good choice for a small mixed backyard flock – hens for laying and cockerels for the dinner table.
Note: the Delaware Blue hen is a not a relative of the white and black Delaware. The Blues are basically considered “ornamental” and they are not good producers. Their eggs are white and small in comparison to those of other breeds, but the birds are quite pretty to look at.
Leghorns come in a variety of colors. White is standard and brown is also common. They are excellent egg laying hens with a pleasant temperament. One of ours will take a piece of bread from your hand. She likes to stay near the back door of the house, as she knows that is where the treats come from. She lays an egg every day, except when she is brooding.
Bantam-sized leghorns, which are smaller, are a good choice for a small backyard coop. They are not the best egg laying hens because they only lay every couple of days, but they are calm and easy to care for. Also, they handle being cooped up without complaining and make a good choice if you aren’t able to free range your flock every day.
New Hampshire Reds
The New Hampshire Red breed is similar to Rhode Island Reds, but with a lighter color and better egg laying traits — they mature earlier and are stronger layers. Like the Delaware breed, they make one of the best egg laying hens, producing an average of one per day.
They are docile, but will stand up for themselves when meeting a new flock. Their eggs are large and brown. Weighing in at around 7 pounds, they need a little more food than the Delaware breed, but they are good at foraging if you have the space to let them roam.
The Orpington breed can be seen in a number of different colors, but the Buff color is most common. They are friendly with people and other birds. As far as egg laying hens go, they are not quite as productive. You can expect an egg every other day. But, depending on the size of your family and how much you like eggs, that could be just enough. They are very pretty birds.
Breeds You Might Want to Avoid
Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks and Brahma roosters can be aggressive if they are not raised by hand. It is only necessary to keep a rooster if you want your eggs to be fertile, but even the best hatcheries cannot guarantee the sex of a bird. You might not know you have a rooster until he starts crowing.
A bird’s personality does depend on how it was raised. Handling them frequently and showing them they are cared for will help to ensure that your best egg laying hens are also the friendliest.