There are many chicken varieties, and all lay eggs, but only a handful are in the best egg-laying chicken breeds category. All female chickens will lay edible eggs with identical nutritional content, but some bird varieties have been bred especially for their egg-laying capabilities and thus are superior laying chickens.
Here are the top five breeds with the pros, cons, and what to expect.
Breed: Leghorn (White Variety). Egg Size: Above Average- Large. Average Lay: 280. Pros: This is one of the most prolific layers out there. In fact, it was a Leghorn that set the world egg laying record with 371 eggs in a year. They are a very hardy and heat tolerant bird, so if you live in an area where the summers tend to be a bit warm this is an excellent layer for you. Cons: These birds are not very friendly and tend to be very skittish around people. Their temperament is not one that encourages friendly visits to your flock. These are predominantly a commercial bird.
Breed: Rhode Island Red/ White. Egg Size: Above Average. Average Lay: 250-300. Pros: Another hugely prolific layer, the Rhode Island Red and White are also docile and sweet natured. We have always had at least one and they love to perch on my mother's shoulders as she goes around doing her yard work. These birds are also very hardy and robust and will keep up their laying standard in cold weather. Cons: Roosters tend to be aggressive.
Breed: Plymouth Rock. Egg Size: Above Average. Average Lay: 200. Pros: A good layer, this bird is sweet and docile. They lay large-ish eggs all year long and will lay properly through the winter. They are a very robust breed that matures slightly early. Their feathers are also excellent in fly fishing lures. Cons: Not an amazing layer, but faithful.
Breed: Orpington. Egg Size: Average- Above Average. Average Lay: 200. Pros: This large, fluffy bird is a good, steady layer that will lay all year round. While not the best, it is included in this list because it is faithful. These birds are very cold hardy, lay through the winter and begin laying early as they mature early. They are very docile. Cons: Because of their personality, these birds are often bullied by others in the flock. Our current bunch has two Buffs in it, and one is constantly bullied while the other is at the top of the pecking order, so it all depends on the bird.
Breed: New Hampshire. Egg Size: Average- Above Average. Average Lay: 200. Pros: Very calm and sweet, this early maturing bird will shower you with a fair number of eggs and a good amount of affection throughout the year. These hens are hardy in both heat and cold and will continue laying throughout the winter months. On a plus note, their feathers are excellent for use in fly fishing lures. Cons: Combs can be subject to frostbite. Hens can be aggressive towards others while establishing the pecking order.