You'd like some hens for fresh eggs, but you're not sure what kind of laying hens you would like. Chickens come in many breeds, several intended for specific purposes such as meat, eggs or pets. Some are dual-purpose, meaning that they can be used for both meat and eggs. But if you're looking strictly for a laying hen, one way to classify them is by the color of eggs they lay.
The leghorn lays at least 90 percent of the white eggs you see in stores. These prolific birds lay five to six eggs a week, or nearly an egg every day, during their first year of laying. Leghorns tend to be nervous and flighty, so many chicken enthusiasts who want white eggs opt for birds from other breeds such as the Ancona, Campine, Hamburg and Minorca.
Brown egg layers include hybrid (mixed-breed) birds such as the ISA Browns and Red Stars, but they also include many purebreds such as Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, and Buff Orpingtons. Hatcheries produce hybrid birds to increase egg production and develop breeds in which the sex of the bird can be determined according to color (called sex-links). Brown egg layers may or may not lay almost as many eggs as leghorns and other white egg layers.
If you want unusual eggs, you may be looking for breeds that lay blue or green eggs. Araucanas lay blue eggs, the Ameraucana lays blue and blue-green tinted eggs, and their production or hatchery version, the Easter Egger, which is a mix, lays blue or green eggs. The Araucana is an infrequent layer. Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers lay around three to five eggs a week.
Breeds such as the Welsummer, Marans, Barnevelder and Penedesenca lay dark-brown eggs. Their egg colors range from terra-cotta to dark chocolate brown. They aren't as prolific as leghorns, Rhode Island Reds ISA Browns, and few hatcheries breed them. If you wish to add chocolate egg layers, find a breeder who specializes in one of these breeds.
- Raising Chickens for Dummies; Kimberly Willis and Rob Ludlow
- Ithaca.edu: Henderson's Chicken Breed Chart
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