I'm thinking about getting a few brown egg layers. I've had just about every breed at one point, but now I only have cochins. Not good layers at all. I love the large heavy breeds, and must be calm. I'm leaning toward cuckoo marans, and barnevelders...whats your thoughts?
Just keep in mind bigger bodies = crappier feed conversion. They require more food just to maintain those big bodies, not to mention to produce an egg.
The best brown egg layers are going to be sexlinks. I've had Isa browns, black sexlinks - and LOVE them. The black sexlinks are all different amounts of gold on their necks/bodies too. Super pretty.
RIR, barred rocks, hampshires do pretty darn good.
The big dark egg breeds like you listed are either hatchery birds that lay well but have poor color to their eggs - or from breeders which usually don't lay that well (from what I've heard) but have great color to the eggs.
I have both Barnavelders and Marans. Mine came from private breeders. (Have some Buckeyes, and a new batch of TAMU Hi-lays that I got by accident to, but I'll just talk about the Barnavelders and Marans right now)
The Marans are pretty, good foragers, and steady layers of a medium-to-large, dark, dark brown eggs.
The Barnies are excellent foragers, lay large brown eggs that are darker than a RIR, but not as dark as a Maran. However, the Barnavelders impressed me by laying at full force through the worst drought we have ever had in recorded Texas history. Temps up to 110* for weeks at a time, and they laid 6 eggs a week per hen, like clockwork. Barnavelders are supposed to be cold tolerant and hardy, but as mine showed, they have excellent tolerance for all kinds of weather.
My huge, Barnavelder rooster has spurs nearly three inches long, but I have never seen him even hurt other roos with them, and he is sweet to his hens. I can pick him up and cuddle him, and all the reaction that I get is a disgusted look. "Don't you know that it is not *dignified* for a Cock of MY position, stature, and status to be picked up and *cuddled*? Have some respect!"
My Barnies are gentler and calmer than my Marans...but that is just my experience. The Barnies are larger, as well.
Another sex link fan here. And they are very calm, and hardy in cold weather. They lay 100% at their peak, and the rest of the time they lay minimum 85%. I have brown sex links, have not tried black yet, but I plan to for next year...
Thanks...looking at some Jersey Giants, Australorps, and Plymouth Rocks, mainly for the calm breed, and large eggs. Anyone have these?
Any but the Jerseys. They're big birds - but take FOREVER (FOREVER!) to mature, 'meh' layers, and are terrible 'dual purpose' birds. I know - you're thinking bigger=better, right? Nope. Mostly bone until they're fully grown, and then their legs are so tough you can't even take the thighs. In our 'heritage birds', when we butcher, we take the breasts and thighs (drumsticks too sinewy on 4-5 month old roos).
Terrible feed conversion. Only do Jerseys if you're not expecting productivity, or efficiency. I imagine some 'crappier' quality hatchery stock lay *fairly* well, but not impressive. Just IMO. Any of the true big birds (show type) probably are worse layers and are huge. Tons of feed cost to maintain that huge (mostly bone) frame.
I do like my australorps, decent birds, but I've only had a couple to be honest. The roos were gorgeous. The plymouth rocks are OK layers, from what I've heard from a friend. You'd have more sucess with laying ability from barred rocks or white rocks, which are more common and therefore selected for better production, IMO.
Australorps, barnevelders, cucko marans would be my pick but I think what lines in what breeds also matter. I'm not sure all the hatcheries out there get their chicks from places that are breeding for high egg production.
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red sex link hens are hard to beat . I have 6 austra whites , they are leghorn and austrolup cross and they are great layers. a calm bird as are the sex links. I have 5 marans and they are not as good at laying eggs. I got my marans from a hatchery and the eggs so far are not as dark as I thought they would be.
Only one maran is laying so perhaps I will get some darker eggs from the other 4. my chickens are 6 months old and just started to lay.
THANKS, THANKS...I appreciate the feedback. Good point about the large breeds (Jersey Giants), and feed consumption. You guys are helping me narrow it down to a just a few of my favorites. BTW...I honestly thought I was going to quit the entire chicken thing...cost of feed, and blah blah blah...but I'm kind of disappointed with the small and scarce amount of eggs from my beautiful Cochins. Out of 7 hens, I'm only getting maybe 2 eggs a day (medium size)....and I have 6 more young Cochins that should lay any day now. I'm trying to wait till spring, and see how I feel about this whole thing....think I'm gonna cave?? Really wanting the marans, and barnevelders...Sighhh
I had the sex links, and the copper marans. I sold them! The copper marans are sort of nervous, and ok in appearance. They did lay a dark egg, and started early. I had Welsummers, and didnt have much luck with health, and don't think they're pretty either, got them from Ideal.
What hatchery are you guy's liking? I have a friend that breeds a good variety, but I wanted to get all the breeds at the same time. So, I'm thinking of a hatchery. I only have ordered from Ideal in the past. Now I breed my own Cochins, and have been able to achieve a hardy, large size bird. Too bad their eggs don't compare.
I'v got a menadree of lots of heavy breeds most crossed up and home raised i'v always liked the black sex links .roadisland reds.new hampshires are a calm natured bird .I'll also the americonas with the green eggs
I really like my barnevelders and my delawares. Egg color for my barnevelders is average run of the mill brown color but the hens lay long and hard with no broodiness (overly broody hens drive me bonkers). I think the delawares might even lay more.
Like Mygoats I'm a huge fan of sunnyside hatchery - though I've only bought meat chickens from them. Great meat chickens!
So far, my sex-links cannot be beaten--they're almost keeping up with my two leghorns. I think each has taken maybe 1 or 2 days off since they started laying right at 18 weeks. They're a little more perky and pecky than my Australorp girl, who is the sweetest pullet I've ever owned (and, unfortunately, only 16 weeks right now, so I can't comment on her laying). But seriously . . . if you just want eggs, you're not interested in breeding, aren't really really set on heritage (which is sounds like you might be?), just get some sex-links. They're nice hens, and lay incredibly well. A little bold*, but nice.
*Yesterday we were doing batch one of our young roosters, and since the boys were in with the hens and pullets, I pulled everyone's feed first thing in the morning. By the time I went in to start handing roosters over the fence to my husband at about 2:30 pm, my sex-links were so hungry that one of them was jumping up and pecking my fingers. They're also the two hens in the group (2 leghorns, 2 red sex-links, 1 Ameracauna/Easter Egger, 2 Delawares, 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Gold-laced Wyandottes, 1 black sex-link, and 1 Australorp--the last 8 are all too young to lay) who will leap up to snatch treats directly out of the treat container if they think I'm not passing the treats out fast enough.
I have Jersey Giants. We (me and my neighbor) got 9 of them from a friend of hers. He said they were about 4 years old. I took 6 and the roo, and she kept 2 to go with the chickens she already had. The roo was a huge bird, nice as could be. I could catch him and hold him. He was awful thin though and just recently passed on. They are good foragers. I free range mine, and feed about 1/3 less than the neighbor who kept all hers locked up, and she had 3 more birds than I did. I just dump food in the run and fill it when it's empty. They would rather scratch and hunt in the yard than come eat the layer and scratch I put out, unless I'm coming with garden or kitchen scraps. I was getting between 2 and 5 eggs a day from 6 hens. Most eggs were a light brown, but I'd get one very long, almost white egg, and someone was laying an almost round very dark egg. Two of them went broody on me. One was before I lost the roo, but all the eggs were duds. 5 of the girls are nice, quiet, follow me around the yard. The last hen is wild as can be. She hates being cooped up and will pace and wear herself out looking for a way out. Now that the light is lessening each day, they have quit laying, and I'm debating getting a light for them. I do know that next year I will start replacing these girls with younger birds, but I have no idea what I want to get yet.
I live in Florida...come on down!!
I now have a banty that I made from a silkie...she's broody...she's ALWAYS broody. I'm itching to get her some fertile eggs. My Cochins are crazy broody too! I'm just trying to plan this right...for once. I want certain breeds I mentioned, and all at once. Make my life easier, but my brain is obcessed with getting new chicks..NOW!!!