The Best Egg-Laying Chickens
Categories: On The Farm
This is a hybrid sex-link chicken, meaning it can be sexed at the time of hatching because females are born one color and males are born another. Also called a Black Sexlink, the Black Star was developed by crossing two other popular egg-laying chickens: Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. Black Stars start laying brown eggs around 5 months of age and will lay as many as five each week. They are hardy in most climates.
Black Stars have interesting plumage: The females are black with gold hackle and breast feathers, and the males are black with white barring. These are large birds and are considered by some to be dual-purpose egg-layer and meat birds.
Also called Red Sexlinks, Red Stars are also hybrid sex-link egg-layers. They start laying large, brown eggs at 22 weeks, and Murray McMurray Hatchery says this is its best egg-laying breed. You can expect more than 250 eggs per year from these hens. They are hardy in a range of weather conditions and are easy to raise. Red Star hens are reddish-brown with white throughout, and Red Star roosters are white.
Also called a Barred Rock, these egg-laying chickens a large, dual-purpose breed that usually lay more than 200 large, brown eggs each year. This breed was developed in New England and, until World War II, was the most popular breed in the U.S. It is a foundation breed to the commercial broiler chickens produced today. Plymouth Rocks do well in both free-range and enclosed living situations. In extreme cold, their combs could become frostbitten.
Orpingtons come from England and are usually called by their color: Buff Orpington, Black Orpington, Blue Orpington or White Orpington. Buff Orpingtons are the most popular of this large, dual-purpose heritage breed. They lay large or extra-large eggs, though at 175 to 200 eggs per year, they’re not as prolific as some breeds. What they lack in egg-laying abilities, they make up for in meat production. Because they are large, Orpingtons do better in cool climates than in hot.
Where To Get Chicks
You may be overwhelmed with sources of chicks. You can find them everywhere from Craigslist to feed stores to hatcheries and breeders. Purchase your chicks from a reputable, disease-free source that is close to your home. The less transport time your chicks experience, the less stressed they will be when they arrive. If your source is National Poultry Improvement Program certified, as all hatcheries should be, that's even better. Realize that anyone can sell chicks, and if you’re looking for reliable egg-laying hens, you're better off knowing your birds' lineage and this particular strain's history.
Bringing chicks to your farm does bring the opportunity for disease and bacteria introduction. Think about the health of your other farm animals and your neighbors' animals before taking on chickens from an unknown farm. If there's any chance you might breed chickens in the future, you should know the actual lineage of the birds you're bringing home, and often the breeders who deal primarily through local websites and penny shoppers might not keep track of this information. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the source of the birds you buy.