Category Archives: heritage breeds

Food and Agricultural Images This Week February 16, 2015

People explore exhibits on opening day of the World Ag Expo on February 10, 2015 in Tulare, California. As California moves into its fourth year of historic drought that caused farmers to leave hundreds of thousands of acres of cropland fallow last year, forced some well water-dependent communities to go dry, stressed wildlife and heightened political tensions surrounding water issues, farmers are attending the largest ever World Ag Expo. The expo is the biggest of its kind, attracting an estimated 100,000 visitors from 70 countries to view cutting-edge agricultural technology and equipment at 1,500 exhibits spread across a 2.6 million-square-foot of exhibit area. It is held in one of the most important food producing areas of the nation. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists inspect flowers for foreign pests or diseases in the LAN Cargo center at Miami International Airport February 10, 2015 in Miami, Florida. As Valentine’s Day approaches Miami International Airport sees their daily flower shipments quadruple to 22 million flowers per day. During the rest of the year MIA handles more than 90 percent of all flowers imported to the U.S. Most of the flowers come from South American growers. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Protesting farmers with their tractors are blocked by police in the outskirtes of Warsaw on February 11, 2015 . Hundreds of Polish farmers are driving their tractors toward Warsaw, where their leaders are negotiating government compensation for crops destroyed by wild boar and profits undercut by Russia’s import ban. (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

People walk past Bazas oxen prior to a presentation as part of a traditional festival, in the square outside the Cathedral in Bazas, southwestern France, on February 12, 2015. During the annual festivities, Bazas oxen, a type of ox which has existed since 1283, parade around town. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Workers at the Maridaidi Farm in Naivasha, prepare roses which will be exported to Europe for Valentine’s Day on February 12, 2015. Kenya is the major provider of quality cut flowers to the EU with a market share of about 40%. Flower farmers are upbeat ahead of the Valentine’s Day and are projecting a rosy picture for the sector, despite the recent losses incurred during the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) impasse. (Photo by SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Cows graze on a pasture near the Trans-Canada Highway north of Calgary, Alberta on February 13,2015. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed February 13, 2015 that a case of mad cow disease has been found in Alberta, the first case in Canada since 2011. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Dominique Macke, breeder of the French cow breed ‘Rouge Flamande’, walks with 4-year-old Filouse, the muse of the 2015 edition of the Paris International Agricultural Show, in Wemaers-Cappel, northern France, on February 13, 2015. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

French Agriculture minister and Government spokesperson Stephane Le Foll holds a sheep during a visit at a sheep and goat farm on February 13, 2015 in Sarolla-Carcopino, near Ajaccio, in the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. (Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images)

Farmers gather around tractors during a demonstration to protest against the hardening and complexity of rules brought by the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in front of the Departemental Direction of territories and sea in Arras, northern France, on February 13, 2015. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

A boy sells vegetables at a market of the town of Shebin Kanater in the area of Qalubiya, north of the Egyptian capital Cairo, on February 14, 2015. (Photo by MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

A salesman arranges a pile of bacon at the annual Bacon festival on February 14, 2015, in the village of Kacarevo, 40 kilometers north of Belgrade. Since 1987 the traditional tourist and commercial manifestation called Slaninijada attracts the best manufacturers of bacon and sausage from Serbia and many tourist from Serbia and abroad. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Chefs prepare more than 80.000 ‘Tacos de Cochinita Pibil’ -Mexican traditional marinated pork tacos- in Guadalajara, Mexico on February 15, 2015. A 2.5 km-long taco line imposed a new Guinness record. (Photo by HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

Cape Barren Geese

This is an interesting heritage goose breed.

Photo Flickr CC by Charles Strebor. Cape Barren Geese at Churchill Island Heritage Farm in Australia.

Cape Barren goose is a greyish Australian goose, Cereopsis novaehollandiae, having a black bill with a greenish cere

[Named after Cape Barren Island in the Bass Strait]