Hens providing beautiful eggs and loads of personality
These breeds of laying hens have what it takes to thrive in Western New York winters and are good choices for beginners. All of these girls tolerate confinement but love to free-range, do well in a mixed flock, and are known to be productive layers. Heart-warming fact: many of these breeds were in decline or nearly endangered but have enjoyed steadily increasing numbers as backyard chicken-raising has grown in recent years.
This small, rarer breed comes in a variety of color combinations that include blends of black, white, tan, and grey, with orange eyes and no comb on their heads. Temperaments vary; they are usually calm and docile, but don’t like to be handled as much as other breeds. They lay light blue eggs, hence their nickname “Easter egg chicken.”
A larger breed with a big red comb and soft black feathers with an iridescent green sheen, they are calm and friendly with an upright “proper” posture; a good choice as a 4H or exhibition bird. Their eggs are light brown and medium-sized.
Nicknamed “barnies,” these large birds feature compact, beautiful brown and black arrowhead-patterned feathers and a smaller red comb. Friendly, tolerant, and chatty in a low, quiet voice, they lay dark brown, sometimes speckled eggs reliably through the winter.
4. Buff Orpington
These round, plump, large chickens with a red comb and white feathers streaked with pale camel-colored accents are calm, cuddly, and tolerant, making them a good pick for families with small children. Their eggs are medium brown in color.
5. Rhode Island Red
One of the most popular backyard layers, this large breed has coarse, dark rust colored feathers and yellow legs. Individual personalities range from laid back to pushy but not aggressive. This breed produces medium to large light brown eggs.
6. White Leghorn
Best represented by the cartoon Foghorn Leghorn, these big, upright white-feathered birds sport the signature floppy bright red comb and wattle. Busy, active, and decent flyers, they will roost in trees but are a little too loud for urban coops. Leghorns lay white eggs that grow in size as the hen does.
These stout, heavy birds are most commonly adorned with soft gold or silver feathers laced with black; sturdy yellow legs; and a small pale red comb. They are calm and child-friendly, but noisy and dominant when challenged by other birds. Their eggs are medium-large and brown.
Read more about raising your own chickens in the article "First the chickens, then the eggs."