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I have been keeping and breeding chickens for more than 20 years, and during that time, many different breeds have passed through my homestead.
For me, like for the vast majority of chicken keepers, the main reason to keep chickens is the almost endless supply of daily fresh eggs.
Some breeds have been developed for their looks, others for their taste, but there are many breeds that have been developed purely for their egg-laying abilities.
In this article, I look at the 20 top egg-laying chicken breeds that are suitable for beginners.
In my experience, the 20 breeds I list below are the top laying breeds, with all the breeds listed laying at least 150 eggs per year on average, and many of the breeds laying a lot more than that. A White Leghorn for example can lay up to 280 eggs per year.
Each of the breeds I mention is, in my experience, hardy and easy to look after, making them ideal for first-time chicken keepers.
20 Best Laying Chickens for Beginners
|Chicken Breed||Eggs Per Year (up to)|
|Rhode Island Red||260|
|Golden Laced Wyandotte||200|
|New Hampshire Red||200|
1. White Leghorn
The White Leghorn is one of the oldest domesticated breeds of chicken. They were first developed in Italy in the mid-1800s and were exported around the world thanks to their fantastic egg-laying abilities.
White Leghorns can be shy birds that some people find difficult to tame, however, I have always found, that providing I was happy to make the effort in the early days, taming is relatively straightforward as long as they are offered lots of treats. These birds soon realize you mean them no harm and they will happily take from your hands.
As the name suggests, these birds are typically white in color all over with thick, bright red combs.
The White Leghorn lays a bright white egg which is usually large-sized. These chickens will lay up to 280 eggs per year, and they are considered very reliable layers.
White Leghorns are relatively small birds. They are also very heat tolerant, making them a great choice for anyone living in warmer parts of the country.
2. Plymouth Rock
The Plymouth Rock (which is sometimes called the Barred Rock) is much easier to tame than the White Leghorns and they are a great choice of chicken for anyone that wants to let their hens free-range over a larger area.
Plymouth Rock chickens are another breed of chicken that lays up to 280 eggs per year.
The eggs laid by Plymouth Rock chickens are a traditional brown color and they are usually medium-sized.
These birds are classed as dual-purpose birds as they are good for egg production and as meat birds.
Plymouth Rock chickens were first introduced in 1849, although they were rarely seen until around 1869 when they became a popular breed.
This chicken is so popular around the country thanks to its high egg production, tasty meat, tolerance to colder weather, and the ease with which a flock can be maintained.
Anyone who has ever kept these birds will tell you they are considered a happy-go-lucky breed that seems to take everything in their stride.
I have kept a small flock of these birds for many years. They are also available as a bantam breed.
3. Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red chicken is another bird that is famed for both its egg-laying abilities and its tasty meat, although in the last 70 or 80 years the breed has moved towards egg production over meat quality.
Rhode Island Reds will lay around 250 to 260 medium-sized brown eggs per year
In my experience, the Rhode Island Red is a gentle breed of chicken that is ideally suited to beginners. These birds tend to be very easy to tame and most Rhode Island Reds will eat from the hands of people they have never even met before.
The Rhode Island Red, which is the state bird of Rhode Island, was developed in the late part of the nineteenth century and was created by crossbreeding a number of different breeds of chickens.
This bird has a well-deserved reputation for being hardy, and they are currently one of the most popular breeds of chicken in the US.
The comb, earlobes, and wattles of the Rhode Island Red are a vivid red color and the plumage is a deep pink color with a black tail.
4. Golden Comet
The Golden Comet chicken is not seen as often as some of the other breeds on my list, however, I find these birds are well worth searching out.
Golden Comet chickens will lay around 250 to 260 medium-sized brown eggs each year.
In my experience, these birds are hardy and easy to look after, making them an ideal choice for the first-time chicken keeper.
These birds were first developed by crossbreeding Rhode Island Reds with Leghorns. They were specifically bred for high egg production, however, they sometimes suffer from egg laying issues due to their high production levels.
The Golden Comet is a light/medium reddish-brown colored bird that often has flecks of color throughout its plumage.
The Ameraucana is a breed of chicken that was developed in the United States in the 1970s.
The Ameraucana was developed to enhance the blue egg laying abilities of the birds it was developed from, and this breed is now considered a reliable layer, typically laying around 250 eggs per year in varying shades of blue.
Ameraucana chickens are available both as normal-sized birds and bantams with the bantams being about 1/3 the size of regular Ameraucanas.
These chickens are considered to be dual-purpose chickens as they are kept both for their egg-laying abilities and their tasty meat.
Ameraucanas are social chickens that stand their ground but are not considered aggressive or overly dominant in a flock of mixed breeds.
This chicken is cold tolerant, making it an ideal choice for those who live in colder parts of the country.
I think the Australorp currently holds the record for the most eggs laid in a single year (which I am told was 364). The average Australorp however will probably lay you around 250 eggs per year.
These birds have the most amazing black to iridescent green plumage which can look stunning when hit by the sunlight at the right angle. Their combs are a bright red color and they usually stand proudly above the Australorp’s head. These birds have black to slate grey legs.
Australorps lay medium-sized brown eggs that typically have bright yellow yolks.
These are confident but friendly birds, which makes them an ideal choice for beginners. They are an active species that spend much of their day strutting around the farm yard, scratching at the floor looking for food.
If you keep a small group of Australorps you will soon discover they will follow you around your backyard, watching you as you go hoping you will give them a treat.
I have had Australorps that lived for 8 or 9 years. They are a robust chicken that will tolerate the odd mistake rookies sometimes make.
Delaware chickens are one of my all-time favorite breeds of chicken. These birds were created mainly from the Rhode Island Red with the aim being improving the egg and meat quality.
Sadly these birds are considered critical due to the low numbers currently being kept.
Delawares are mainly white birds with some black barring on the heckles, wings, and tail. They have yellow legs and red combs, earlobes, and wattles.
These are calm, friendly birds that are ideal for new chicken keepers. They are inquisitive and can quickly be trained to come and take treats from the chicken keepers’ hands.
Delaware chickens lay around 250 large, brown eggs each year, meaning a flock of 4 or 5 hens will produce enough eggs for a small family.
In my experience, Delawares are excellent birds for those with young children.
The Sussex is a British breed of chicken that is well known for its high egg production and tasty meat.
Sussex chickens are hardy, independent birds that work well for beginner chicken keepers, although they do prefer not to be stroked or handled too frequently.
These hens lay around 250 light-brown eggs per year.
Sussex chickens were one of the first breeds of chicken I ever hatched myself from fertile eggs, and they continue to feature on my homestead to this day. They are reliable birds that always deliver no matter the weather conditions.
There are many different color forms of the Sussex chickens, with 8 varieties currently recognized by the Poultry Club of Great Britain.
Sussex chickens are generally calm birds that will happily free-range around your garden, usually without destroying it. They are available both as regular hens and as bantams, with the bantams being around 1/2 the size of the regular Sussex chickens.
Do be aware that these birds are prone to ‘going broody‘ and they can end up sitting in their nestboxes, sometimes for weeks, trying to hatch their eggs.
9. Golden Laced Wyandotte
Golden Laced Wyandottes are stunning-looking chickens that were developed in the 1880s to be the ideal dual-purpose chicken.
These birds are essentially a golden color with black lace markings across their bodies and wings, with black feathers mainly making up their neck and tails.
Their sturdy legs are yellow as are their beaks. They have red combs, wattles, and ear lobes.
Golden Laced Wyandottes will lay around 200, medium-sized light brown eggs per year.
This breed does have a high tendency to go broody, but I have used this to my advantage in the past by placing fertile eggs from other breeds under a broody Wyandotte, letting her hatch the eggs out for me, saving me using an incubator.
This breed of chicken is well known to be very cold tolerant and they have strong personalities, meaning they tend to be higher up the pecking order when kept in mixed flocks.
I have found that when kept in a mixed flock, the Golden Laced Wyandottes tend to stay together in a group with their own kind.
Golden Laced Wyandottes are fairly laid-back birds that generally take life in their stride. They are typically not in a hurry to do anything unless it is run to you for treats, and then they will typically be the first to notice you have something tasty in your hands for them.
If you are looking for an attractive, friendly bird that lays lots of eggs and is great for beginners, the Golden Laced Wyandotte might be the one for you.
10. New Hampshire Red
These birds look very similar to the Rhode Island Reds, and they share many of the same characteristics. In fact, the two breeds were developed just a few years apart, however, the New Hampshire Red has never become as popular as the Rhode Island Red.
New Hampshire Reds are fantastic chickens that will lay you around 200 eggs per year.
This is another dual-purpose breed meaning it is prized by homesteaders for its high egg production and its tasty meat.
The New Hampshire Red is a broad bird that has light red feathers over most of its body with darker feathers on its wings and neck. Typically the tail feathers are black.
These are friendly birds that are easy to tame, will quickly get used to interactions with people, and will readily become hand tame.
New Hampshire Reds are excellent mother hens, and they can be trusted to sit on their own eggs, hatching and raising the chicks will little to no intervention from the homesteader. On the flip side of this desire to hatch their eggs, New Hampshire Reds can get broody and they will frequently sit on a batch of eggs when allowed to.
New Hampshire Reds are hardy birds that will happily free-range around both the backyard and homestead.
11. Buff Orpington
Buff Orpingtons are another one of my favorite birds. I currently keep a small flock of bantam Buff Orpingtons and I have managed to keep them for many years as they will happily sit on and hatch their own eggs, meaning so far my flock has not died out.
These are friendly, stocky birds that typically have a uniform, buff color across the whole of their body, wings, and tail. Their comb, earlobes, and wattles are all a deep red color and their beaks are a light cream color.
Buff Orpingtons are heavily food driven and they will typically be first to the feeder in the morning and there isn’t much they won’t do for a treat. This can however lead to them becoming overweight, which will, in turn, shorten their lives, so be aware.
This bird is a good layer, producing around 200 light color eggs per year.
They are another bird that does like to go broody, which can cut down on their production rate, although they are good as surrogate mothers, so you can always slip a dozen fertile eggs under a broody hen.
There are many who say the Ancona is nothing more than a color variant of the White Leghorn. Despite this, I feel it is worth a mention as a breed in its own right as it is such a lovely chicken to keep.
Although Anconas can be a little skittish, and possibly not for the faint-hearted due to their tendency to fly out of the coop at a rate of knots in the morning, they are hardy birds that will lay around 200 small, white eggs per year.
Anconas tend to be more popular around parts of Europe than they are in the US, however, in my opinion, they are worth seeking out if you want a bird that can look after itself and will lay a good batch of eggs without going broody.
These chickens will need their wings clipped every few months or they should be kept in a covered run to prevent them from flying off into your neighbor’s backyard.
Anconas are not best suited to very cold climates as their combs are prone to frostbite, but in mild climates, they are fairly hardy and they will spend much of their day scratting around looking for bugs and worms.
Barnevelders are extremely popular chickens thanks to their fairly high egg laying rate, their fun personalities, and their attractive plumage.
Originally developed in the Netherlands, Barnevelders have been prized for the quality of their eggs for well over 100 years, and although they are no longer considered a commercial breed, they are well-loved by homesteaders and backyard poultry keepers.
Barnevelders will lay around 200, medium-sized almost chocolate brown colored eggs per year.
These chickens have brown feathers with black lace coloration throughout. Their wings sit fairly high on their backs and the wing tips are typically brown with no lacing. Their red combs are usually small and their earlobes and wattles have the same red color as their comb.
This is another breed of chicken that does not tend to go broody, so if you struggle to collect your eggs two or three times a day, this breed is less likely to punish you by going broody and sitting on the unclaimed eggs.
Barnevelders will happily keep laying even through the winter months. Unlike other breeds, they do not tend to slow down, and for the first year at least, they will lay consistently no matter what the season.
This breed of chicken is reported to have originated in the Netherlands, although some sources (not least the breed’s own name) suggest its roots lie in Germany.
Hamburg chickens are mainly white in color with black speckled coloring over much of their body and wings. The wing tips tend to be a gold color.
These chickens work well for beginners, providing they are kept in a large run. When kept confined to very small quarters, Hamburg chickens can be aggressive towards other members of their flock. They do however make an excellent breed for those wishing to free-range their hens.
The Hamburg chicken will lay around 200 small to medium-sized white eggs per year, making it an ideal choice for those wishing to keep up a daily supply of eggs.
This breed is typically only kept for egg production and the meat is not especially tasty.
Hamburg roosters have flamboyant plumage that is certainly note-worthy. If you are able to keep a rooster, then a Hamburg rooster won’t disappoint you.
These chickens are available in regular and bantam sizes, with the bantams being around 1/3 the size of the full-grown Hamburg.
Marans are another breed that makes a great chicken for beginners thanks to their quiet, gentle nature, although they are not a breed that is going to want to be handled and are unlikely to come and eat from your hands.
In my experience of keeping these lovely birds, Marans will lay around 200 small, dark brown eggs per year, and they typically have bright orange, glossy yolks.
These chickens are considered a dual-purpose breed with many homesteaders keeping them for their superior tasting meat rather than their egg laying abilities.
Marans are happy living in slightly smaller enclosures than some of the breeds on my list, which makes them ideal for a backyard chicken keeper who perhaps has less space than a homesteader.
Marans share a very similar coloration to Plymouth Rocks and are occasionally confused with the larger, friendly Plymouth Rock chicken.
In different parts of the world, different poultry associations recognize different color forms of the Maran. In Great Britain, 5 color forms are officially recognized, whereas, in France, there are officially 10 color forms.
This is another breed that is available both as full-sized hens and bantams, with Maran bantams only being 1/4 the size of the full-grown form.
The Micorca chicken is one of the most distinctive breeds thanks to the deep black feather color, red comb and wattles, and their striking, large, white earlobes. They also boast slate-colored legs.
The exact origins of this breed are a little hazy with many sources suggesting it was originally developed on the island of Menorca but by British inhabitants. It is said further development of the breed then continued in Britain.
Minorca chickens lay up to around 200 large white eggs per year. These birds are famed for their ability to lay double-yolk eggs. In fact, Minorcas almost can’t help but lay double yolkers with many of their eggs being that way.
This is not a breed that is suited to very cold areas, and they often suffer from frostbite when temperatures drop below freezing.
Minocra chickens are slightly larger than some of the other breeds on my list, which is helpful if you are looking for a dual-purpose bird that has a good quantity of meat on it.
Whilst the Minorca chicken does not like the cold, it is otherwise considered a hardy breed that does well in warmer climates.
New chicken keepers that are looking for a breed that will free-range well should certainly consider the Minorca breed. They will usually be the first out of the coop in the morning and the last birds to return at night, sometimes only returning to roost after sunset.
17. Easter Egger
The Easter Egger chicken is a hybrid bird created by breeding two different breeds together. These chickens are highly variable in color, and their feathers can be either a solid color or mottled with two or more colors.
Easter Eggers have parentage based around either Araucana or Ameraucanas or possibly both, mixed with other birds. Their true parentage is somewhat hazy with different sources suggesting different breeds.
What I can tell you from my experience of keeping these birds is they are generally fantastic layers. The Easter Egger chicken lays around 200 generally blue eggs (although the color of the eggs can vary too).
These chickens make great hens for anyone with young children as they are generally friendly, inquisitive birds that can be tamed very quickly.
The downside with such a good-natured bird is they often end up at the bottom of the pecking order, meaning other birds frequently pick on them.
The Chantecler was developed in Canada around 1900. This bird was specifically developed to cope with the harsh winter climate parts of Canada see. This meant they developed a bird that is now perfect for colder areas of the country.
Chantecler chickens lay around 180 medium-size brown eggs each year, and they are especially good at laying even during the winter months, again making them an ideal choice of bird for anyone who lives in colder climates.
This chicken was also developed as a dual-purpose bird, and there are many people who say the Chantecler has the best tasting meat of all the dual-purpose birds.
Chantecler is a hardy breed of chicken that does well both when kept in a run or when allowed to free-range, and in my experience, they tame fairly quickly.
My own Chantecler rooster will happily eat treats from my hand, and the hens probably would too if the rooster ever got bored of eating the treats and gave them a chance.
If you are looking for a breed of chicken to improve your self-sufficiency, the Chantecler is great at hatching and raising the next generation on its own, with hens seeming to go broody when required, but not excessively so as some breeds do.
Welsummers are well known to be gentle, well-natured chickens that are frequently recommended to beginners as great ‘pet’ chickens. A small flock of Welsummers will quickly become hand tame and they are great to keep around children.
These hens will lay up to 180 medium-sized dark brown eggs per year.
If you are looking for a bird that is happy to live in an enclosed run, but also enjoys the freedom occasional free-ranging provides, then the Welsummer may be the chicken for you.
I have kept this breed for more than 10 years, and I think they are some of the calmest, well-behaved chickens I have.
Welsummers seem to do equally well when living in both warm and cold climates, and they are suitable for pretty much anywhere in the country.
Sadly these hens are not kept as widely as they should be, although they do tend to be more popular in parts of Europe, the UK, and Australia.
If you have a modest-sized homestead then the Welsummer would make an excellent choice.
I almost did not include the Brahma on my list as they only lay around 150 eggs per year, however, they are such a gentle, sweet-natured bird I felt they should make any list of chickens for beginners.
The Brahma will continue to lay eggs even during the winter months, keeping going after most breeds have decided to stop until spring.
The original heritage of these birds is a little unclear, although it does seem that the Brahma was developed in the US from birds that may have been imported from China in the 1840s or 1850s.
The American Standard of Perfection currently recognizes three different color forms of the Brahama, light, dark, and buff, although some other poultry associations around the world accept other color forms too.
This is a calm, docile breed of chicken that is considered a dual-purpose bird thanks to its tasty meat as well as reasonably high egg production.
In this article, I have named what I consider to be the best 20 egg-laying chickens suitable for beginners. In reality, I could probably have added another 5 or 10 breeds to the list.
Whatever breed of chicken you are considering, make sure it suits your needs. If you plan to free-range your hens, make sure you choose a breed that likes to have some freedom.
Equally, if you are after a dual-purpose bird, don’t go for a breed that has little meat but lays hundreds of eggs.
At the end of the day, choosing a chicken breed is all about personal choice, and if you can’t settle on just one breed, you can also create a mixed flock with two or more breeds living together.
- White Leghorn Wikipedia
- Plymouth Rock Chicken Wikipedia
- Rhode Island Red Wikipedia
- Ameraucana Wikipedia