What is the best breed for laying hens?
Rosanna Bauman is one of three 2009 Kansas Rural Center Farmer Educators. (I'll post a bio and contact information for Rosanna and the other Farmer Educators soon!) As Rosanna does not use the internet, I'll be posting articles she writes on meat and egg production and marketing.-Mercedes
We have been asked this on numerous occasions, and our answer is–it depends on what you want.
At Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farm, we have raised nearly 10 different breeds of layers, and we plan on trying a new breed this year.
If you really want a chicken for the eggs, do not get a dual-purpose breed. They eat too much feed for the amount of eggs they lay. However, if you like to turn your spent layers into chicken n’ dumplings, a standard breed will have a decent carcass and lots of broth. Dual-purpose breeds are just that- dual purpose but not outstanding in either achievement. If you want a chicken for its meat, your feed would be better invested in a Cornish Cross broiler. (However, they are all muscle and no brains.)
By standard/dual-purpose breeds we mean Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Rhode Island, Black Australorp, etc. If you have hawk problems, the Barred Rock’s broken feather pattern will be harder for the predators to spot. For the record, we believe the Rhode Island Red’s reputation is well earned; they are the best layers of the standard breeds.
If you are serious about getting eggs from your hens, you need a commercial variety that will put its feed energy into eggs and not body weight. We have not been overly impressed that the red/gold/black sex-links are much improved over the standard breeds. Of the sex-links we have been impressed with the Production Reds and Gold Links. Sex-links are not a commercial breed.
So, what do we use currently? Basically, a brown egg laying Leghorn. The birds have a very small frame like the leghorns, and start right off laying large and jumbo eggs. We have used the Hiline breed for several years, we are in our third year with the Bovain Browns, and we plan to try the Amber Link this season. The Bovain seem to be less flighty and not have as much problem as Hilines with jumbo eggs in the pullets.
Chance is, you’ve never heard of these breeds. You won’t find them in any hatchery catalog because they only sell semi-loads to the big layer houses. We were driving a 12-hour trip to Iowa to get small numbers from the layer house owners (not the hatchery). We have run into some timing issues with that, so we have located a hatchery that will sell small lots to us. Small as in 3,000 chicks.
The good news: there are no roosters and they are a great price–about $1.10 each, including freight. We have placed an order for May with the hatchery in the good faith that there will be others who can benefit from these commercial layers at such a good price.
If you are interested in some of these, please call Yvonne Bauman at 785-448-2239. We really don’t want 3,000 hens!