Category Archives: chickens

Chickens: 12 of the Best Brown Egg-Layers

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. To do further comparisons, I recommend this PDF chart of chicken breeds along with their characteristics.

If you have anything to add from your personal experience of raising chickens that produce brown eggs that might be useful to others, please add your insights to the comments. Thankyou.

Iowa Community Cooperation in Building a Chicken House 1919

“Apparently, construction of the new chicken house was a neighborhood affair. I’d guess the women cooked meals for the men working on the project. Dad took this somewhere in Iowa, probably around 1919 to go with an article for Country Gentleman. I count at least 28 people and a dog.” —Don O’Brien. (Photo credit: dok1 on Flickr)

(Note that Thursday is Luddite Photo Day at B.P.A.)

3 Picks: France Farmer Suicides, Henlights, Indoor Cropping

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Male farmers in France are 20 percent more likely to take their own lives than the rest of the population: A new report says that financial pressures and social isolation are the leading causes. According to figures from France’s National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, revenue from farming fell by 23.6 percent between 2007 and 2008 and a further 35.3 percent between 2008 and 2009. Livestock farmers have been hit the worst.

2) Increasing Egg Production On Small Farms: A Solution To The International Food Crisis? By Abigail Wick.In Berlin on September 20-22, the 2013 Thought for Food Global Summit (TFF) convened thought leaders from 25 countries, including venture capitalists, politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and university students to address the international food crisis from a wide array of disciplines, with the aim of generating collaborative, actionable strategies to feed the planet. … The winning team, from the University of California at Davis, introduced Henlights. A small, solar-powered LED light designed to be hung in chicken coops, Henlight can be used to stimulate increased egg production during darker winter months, when egg production naturally declines. A technique already use in large-scale egg production, Henlight makes this practice affordable for small-scale and family farms.

3) Optimism About the Future of Indoor Food Production: By Tess Riley. Hydroponics and LED lights used in indoor greenhouses, though the systems are expensive to build, have the potential to greatly increase vegetable yields, and protect plants from unpredictable weather. The increasing use of renewables as heat and energy sources in these systems is the way forward.

BONUS: Photos from Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” on the 2013 harvest from around the world.

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Chicken Tractors in UK 1943

Modern Farming; Agriculture in Britain, 1943. Edward Raines, poultryman on a Hampshire farm, moves a poultry fold into line with the others in the field. Each of these chicken ‘sheds’ contains 25 birds. They are moved their length every day, providing fresh ground for the hens to feed on and also making sure that the chicken manure is spread across the whole field. According to the original caption: “the folds are portable and, with the aid of simple, wheeled moving-gear, are easily moved”. Photo: Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection.

(Note that Thursday is Luddite Photo Day at B.P.A.)