Selecting the best laying hens for your homestead can be an exciting but challenging task. The right choice depends on various factors, including your egg production goals, preferences for egg color, and whether you're looking for dual-purpose chickens. In this article, we'll explore the best laying hens for beginners, those that lay white and brown eggs, and options for both egg and meat production.
Best Laying Hens for Beginners
Starting your flock with the right chickens is crucial for a successful homestead. If you're new to raising chickens, sex-links are an excellent choice. These hens are readily available, produce a substantial number of eggs, have friendly temperaments, and are reasonably priced. Experimenting with different colors of sex-links can add variety to your flock while helping you determine the age of your birds.
What are the Best White Egg Laying Hens?
For those who prefer white eggs, consider crossbreeds based on leghorns. A popular option is the California white, resulting from mating a California Gray male with a white leghorn hen. These female chicks are known for producing white eggs and having a better temperament compared to pure white leghorns.
What are the Best Brown Egg Laying Hens?
When it comes to brown eggs, sex-links once again shine as the top choice. Varieties like Red stars, Red Comets, ISA browns, and DeKalb ambers are known for their prolific egg-laying capabilities. They are typically created by crossing Rhode Island Reds or New Hampshire Reds with light-colored females, offering consistent egg production, cold tolerance, and shorter molting periods.
Best Meat and Egg Laying Chickens
If you're looking for chickens that can serve both as a source of meat and eggs, it's essential to strike a balance. While there's no single breed that excels in both categories, mid-sized breeds like Ameraucanas, naked necks, and Chanteclers are good options. Consider factors like rate of growth, carcass quality, and climate when making your choice.
Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds
Finding the perfect dual-purpose breed involves assessing various factors such as size, personality, and price. While every breed has its strengths, breeds like Ameraucanas, naked necks, and Chanteclers offer a good balance between meat and egg production. Choose a breed that suits your homestead's specific needs and climate.
Which Chickens Lay the Best Eggs?
Well-cared-for chickens with access to forage will provide better eggs than those found in supermarkets. While sex-links are known for their high egg production, other breeds can also be excellent laying hens. Consider mixing purebred chickens into your flock to diversify egg colors and sizes, but keep in mind that purebreds typically lay fewer eggs than sex-links.
Where to Buy Laying Hens
Sourcing your chickens is crucial, and your choice depends on your goals. Hatcheries usually focus on production characteristics, while exhibition breeders prioritize form and color. If you're in a hurry for eggs, consider purchasing started pullets, which are almost ready to lay. You can also explore local options or farm stores for chicks or laying hens.
Breeding Your Own Laying Hens
For those interested in natural reproduction, setters can be valuable. However, be cautious when selecting breeds that tend to go broody, as this can affect your egg production. Breeding your own laying hens requires research into specific breeds, and some, like Eastern European or Scandinavian breeds, can be profitable for hatching eggs or purebred chicks.
What About Bantams for Egg Laying?
Bantams, miniature versions of larger chicken breeds, can be an intriguing choice. While they lay smaller eggs, they require less space and feed. Some, like silkies and cochins, are excellent setters and can be sought after for hatching eggs.
Common Poultry Terms
Understanding common poultry terms can help you navigate the world of chicken farming. Definitions include pullets (young females), hens (mature females), cockerels (young males), cocks or roosters (mature males), straight run (mix of sexes), bantams (small breeds), and sex links (chickens with sex-linked plumage).
Selecting the right laying hens for your homestead is a crucial decision that depends on various factors, including your goals and preferences. Whether you prioritize egg production, meat, or a combination of both, there's a chicken breed suitable for your needs. Take your time to research, experiment, and find the perfect feathered companions to enhance your homestead and fill your egg cartons.