More and more people, in both rural and urban areas, are starting to raise chickens. Raising chickens for eggs is a great family project and an easy way to be more self-sustainable. It’s often the first step toward starting a homestead, because you’re not eating the chickens — just their eggs, so you can name each of your chickens and treat them more as pets than livestock, before possibly diving into the animals-for-meat arena one day.
Best Chickens for Laying Eggs
Traditionally, the White Leghorn has been the breed of choice for commercial poultry egg farms. In addition to being a powerhouse layer, the breed is very slight and small, and therefore the feed conversion ratio (how much it costs to feed the chicken compared to how many eggs they produce) is very good and allows the commercial farms to maximize their profits.
However, Leghorns can be a bit flighty and skittish. A far more family-friendly breed is the Australorp. This gorgeous, large glossy black breed of chicken is related to the Buff Orpington, another very docile breed. In fact, the Australorp (Australian Orpington) holds the Guinness Book World Record for laying eggs. In the 1920’s, a “team” of six Australorps laid 1857 eggs in 365 days, averaging more than 309 eggs each that year. In the years following, several other Australorps broke that record, until one hen finally laid a whopping 364 eggs in 365 days!
Another breed known for their egg-laying prowess is the Sex Link. Black and Red Sex Links are egg production machines! They tend to lay well year-round, even through the winter, when some of the other breeds slow down. They are also known as Black (or Red) Stars, and the red hens (or similarly crossed breeds) are also sometimes called Cinnamon Queens, Golden Comets or Gold Stars.
How Many Eggs Can I Expect?
Realistically, a chicken won’t lay an egg every day. You can count on maybe 4-5 eggs a week from each of your chickens when they are at maximum production age, which is between 2-3 years old. As a hen ages, her production will start to go down; but I have a six-year-old Australorp, named Charlotte, who still lays an egg every month or two, so a hen can feasibly lay eggs for you for four to five years or more.
Many people ask when do hens lay eggs? Chickens usually begin laying anywhere between 16-24 weeks old, the average being around 18-22 weeks. Often young layers will lay small eggs (called “wind” or “fairy” eggs) which will gradually get larger as time goes on. A chicken laying soft eggs is not always a cause for concern, but if you start collecting eggs with no shell, or a very thin shell, making sure your chickens are eating a good quality layer feed and have access to crushed eggshell or oyster shell at all times is important to provide them the calcium necessary to make nice strong shells for their eggs.
Raising chickens for eggs is a great way to know what is going into the food you and your family eat. Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and lots of other vitamins and nutrients. An interesting egg fact is that a recent study seems to point to new evidence that eggs aren’t nearly as bad as previously thought and might not necessarily contribute to high “bad” cholesterol levels in the body. Eggs are versatile, and can be made a part of lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast, so why not start raising some chickens for eggs in your backyard?