Among the best breed of egg laying chickens is the Buttercup chicken.
ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Learn about the best breed of egg laying chickens for MOTHER's Mini-coop.
Chickens have been domesticated for thousands of years and dozens of beautiful breeds have been developed. Some "dual-purpose" breeds like Rhode Island Reds or Barred Rocks lay a good number of eggs and also put on weight well for meat. But MOTHER'S mini-coop (page 38 in this issue) is designed specifically for egg production by foraging hens, so we asked our experts to name the breeds that are the best egg-layers and good foragers. As it turns out, the best breed of egg laying chickens recommendations are breeds that are smaller than better-known dual-purpose breeds, and these smaller egg-laying specialists — Buttercups, Brown Leghorns, Hamburgs and Anconas — will be more comfortable in the confined space of the mini-coop.
Butter Cups Chicken Breed
Developed centuries ago in Sicily, Buttercups are golden-colored, with unique cup-shaped combs and beautiful, dark-spangled (polka-dotted) feathers. According to Wright's Book of
Poultry (1910), Buttercups are "small eaters and great foragers." They lay eggs "of a rich and delicate flavour" and are especially docile, "due, doubtless, to their long and close association with the Sicilian peasants, in whose homes they wandered freely in and out."
Brown Leghorns Chicken Breed
Hardy and active Leghorns (pronounced "leggerns"), which originated near the city of Leghorn in Italy, are outstanding egg layers. Female Brown Leghorns are medium brown with delicate penciling, darker brown wings and salmon breasts. The lively chicks are striped like chipmunks.
Hamburgs Chicken Breed
Very snappy and alert, Hamburgs were once known in Holland as the Dutch Everyday Layers. They can be gold or silver, spangled (polka-dotted) or penciled (pin-striped). They are small eaters, good foragers and prolific layers.
Anconas Chicken Breed
Originally known as Black Leghorns, Anconas have lustrous black feathers, some tipped with white, giving a beautiful mottled appearance. The chicks are black and white. Very active foragers, Anconas are "as good as the best at winter laying" and easily trained in pens, according to Wright's Book of Poultry.
These beautiful illustrations of heritage breeds are reproduced courtesy of WATT Poultry Press. A four-page catalog of WATT's 8 x 12-inch color prints is available from: Denise Slager; WATT Poultry Press;Mount Morris, IL.
Mail-Order Chicken Hatcheries
Pine River, MN
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Marti Poultry Farm
Murray McMurray Hatchery
Webster City, IA
Roblyn Eyrie Farm
(Can't mail to the United States)