Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Chickens: 12 of the Best Brown Egg-Layers

This post lists and describes 12 kinds of chickens that lay highly desirable brown eggs.

So you want brown eggs.

Either you have a farm, a farmette, or you’ve decided to get serious about urban gardening. Your next step is chickens for fresh eggs. And you want brown ones.

If you are going to invest in setting up chickens for egg-laying, then you want the most return for your investment of time and money. Grocery stores have learned that people are willing to pay twice as much for brown eggs over white ones. For you to have brown eggs, then, it is simply a choice of which kind of chicken you pick for your hen house.

Chickens that are fed kitchen waste, weeds or zucchinis from your garden, and grasses, are far healthier for you than factory produced eggs produced by caged, grain fed chickens. If you’re lucky enough to be on a property where they can range freely, that’s even better!

Chickens raised on grass and insects, as nature would have them raised, produce eggs with a deep golden-orange yolk color. That color is indicative of the rich vitamins that the yolk contains, as compared to pale yolks produced by grain fed chickens. (Even though commercially produced chickens have synthetic chemicals added to their feed to make the yolks appear darker!) Healthy pasture raised chicken yolks contain more Vitamin K2, a vitamin helpful in protecting us from cancers, osteoporosis, immune diseases, cardiac disease, influenza and other infectious diseases, and even Alzheimers.

Below is a list and photos of twelve of the best brown egg-laying hen varieties, along with brief descriptions of each. Some breeds produce larger brown eggs; others produce medium sized brown eggs more frequently. Some breeds are known to produce eggs better in cold weather than others.

Keep in mind that the number of eggs produced by your chickens can vary greatly and will be determined by the growing conditions which you’ve provided for them.

Best of luck!


Rhode Island Reds 

Everyone’s favorite because of great egg production, this is a popular breed that produces large brown eggs and can also be raised for meat. It is a cold and heat hardy egg producer. The Rhode Island Red, developed in the 1800s, is the state bird of Rhode Island. The hens weight about 6.5 pounds. This breed can lay about 275 eggs a year.

A similar breed but white in color, the Rhode Island White’s also lay brown eggs.



This chicken started out as a broiler. It is a less common very large brown egg layer that does well in all weather. The hen weighs 6.5 pounds. It is a dual purpose breed, useful for both egg production and meat.


Buff Orpington 

This is a large meat breed with the hens weighing 8 pounds. It is an adaptable breed, very cold hardy, and an average to above average brown egg layer.


Red Star or Red Sex Link 

This cold hardy and feed efficient breed is a very reliable brown egg layer at over 250 eggs per year. The hens weigh 4 to 5 pounds. The term sex link in chickens means that the color at hatching indicates which sex the chicken is because different colors at hatching tell them apart.


Australorp/Black Australorp 

This is another dual purpose, average sized, hardy brown egg laying breed. It was developed in the early 1900s in Australia. The hen weighs 6.5 pounds.



Slightly smaller and less common, this hen weighs in at 6 pounds. It is also a dual purpose breed hailing from Holland. This lays very large speckled brownish red eggs that customers love. It is cold hardy.



This old English breed lays a very light brown colored egg of average size. Hens weigh 7 pounds, are very cold hardy, and are good layers. They have lovely personalities and are also a dual purpose breed. Though they come in eight colors, the speckled variety shown above is most common in the U.S.


Plymouth Rock 

The Plymouth Rock was the most popular chicken breed in America at one time and has been raised on homesteads since the 1800s. It lays average-sized light brown to slightly pinkish colored eggs. Hens weigh 7.5 pounds. It is very cold hardy and adaptable and is a dual purpose breed.



Originating from Spain, this chicken lays a very dark smaller brown egg. It is very heat hardy and slower to mature. Hens weigh 4 pounds and the breed is less docile but good for free range.


New Hampshire/New Hampshire Red 

This is a good layer of brown eggs which are average in size. It is cold and heat hardy and the hens weigh 6.5 pounds. It is somewhat similar to the Rhode Island Red and today, a cross between the New Hampshire and the Rhode Island Red is also a popular choice as a brown egg layer.


Black Star or Black Sex Link 

Black Star hens are wonderful layers of large brown eggs. Black Stars are easy to raise and have a good feed conversion ratio. The term sex link in chickens means that the color at hatching indicates which sex the chicken is because different colors at hatching tell them apart.



This is a very cold hardy and more common chicken used to produce brown eggs. It is a dual purpose breed and hens weigh 6.5 pounds. It was developed in the late 1800s in New York and Wisconsin.


In addition to these twelve breeds of chickens which lay brown eggs are the Barnevelder, Brahma, Buckeye, Chantecler, Cochin, Dominique, Java, Jersey Giant, Langshan, Marans, and Naked Neck breeds.

Note that this post originally appeared on my former site, Big Picture Agriculture, July 2014.--K.M.