Really it all depends on alot of factors, white or brown eggs, weathers in your area, ect. Leghorns lay really well and lay a white egg almost daily. But their not great to look at in my opinion. I prefer some color to my flock. Other good egg layers are Heritage Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Red star, Cuckoo Maran, and Delawares. Now there are TONS more breeds that lay at above average rates but you have to decide the specifics that your looking for. Some breeds are not cold hardy or heat hardy, some require artificial light in the winter to continue laying, do you want bantam breeds ( smaller breeds) or standard, do you want to stick with heritage or are you ok with modified breeds. Also how much room do you have. Some breeds are excellent foragers while other not so much. Some do excellent in pens others prefer free range.
Let me know what your looking for and I can help you narrow down a breed list. Good luck.
I like the Buffs, but I think my favorite breed to suggest for a beginner to try out are Black Autralorp's. Friendly, easy on feed (if you're going that route), good layers and cold/heat tolerant.
As, APYL says though, it really does depend on a lot of different factors.
well i'll jump on in & say this
my wife & i have 27 Orpingtons most are buffs but 9 are english orpingtons which get really big , i'm talking 15 lbs for a full grown rooster.
they can take the hot or cold , like to lay year round.
at this point we feed them breakfast & then we turn them loose in the yard. no need to mow the grass , they eat it as soon as it starts to get over a couple inches tall. if you have a little room orpingtons are tough to beat. now if you wish to keep them cooped up year round in a small area you may wish to look into other breeds.(bantys)
I'll third the Orpingtons as a good all-around breed. They are friendly, good foragers, good egg producers, and cold and heat hardy. If you have some type of specific situation there could be a better breed for it, depending.
Aurericanaus are also good, though mine are too...nice? As in bantams can chase them off food, scratch, etc.
I am partial to Rhode Island Reds, they lay consistantly, rarely ever get sick, do well in very cold conditions (their feathers are close and tight to their bodies, helps them keep more body heat in).
They are decently friendly enough, and not too peckish if either hand raised or have been taught their place. I am not enchanted by their looks, they are plain looking, although nice color, but I get them for their dependability on laying about 6 eggs a week per bird all year long, without fail.
It is my understanding that Barred Rocks are also a efficient of layers (this is one of the breeds Rhode Islands were bred from), and are quite chatty and easy going to boot. Not particularly flashy birds, again, plain, but good birds and good layers.
Now we get into bantys...we had two Rhode Island Red Bantys, Henny and Penny. They laid some pretty large banty eggs, 6 days a week, so they had retained their Rhode Island egg laying ability in their little banty bodies, and to boot were fierce little mothers to all the eggs laid by the other when there was a rooster fertilizing..their banty trait (bantys are known fantastic brood hens). They were personable for RIR's being bantys they were quite social with us.
We currently have a banty Americauna, cute little thing, sweet temperment, lays tiny blue eggs, and she likes to sit on others eggs too. Pretty bird with the classic Americauna looks (gold collar, gray lined feathers on bottom half of body).
I also have some Black Jersey Giants that are just 4 months old. I did not "hand raise" these, let them out after brooding them as chicks and they are going to be big, but right now seem to be flighty...ugh...big scaredy birds. Hard to tell, young hens can be flighty till they age a bit and realize you aren't going to kill them. Like I said, I brooded them in a brooder did not do much handling, they all usually come around to being ok. We got a rooster from this group, a Jersey Giant Rooster to breed, going to with one Jersey hen and one RIR (we'll see what I get from that). Increasing my flock, and maybe get myself another large breed to breed with him too.
Sorry, getting off topic a bit. As for the Jerseys, if you hand raise them they supposedly will be BIG babies, from what I have been told. Their nature is supposed to be docile (well if you are a 10 pound hen do you think you would have to worry about the others picking on you?).
I have had Wyandottes, and they are friendly, quite independent birds, love to wander, had one New Hampshire Red, good bird, talkative, sort of drove us nuts, but nice. Had full size americaunas, flighty birds, nice looking, but found them ornery to each other, we had a serious pecking and attacking problem within their ranks, we caught one hen standing on anothers neck, guess they have this gene, a "terminator gene" that can pop up....nice, we got rid of those. Had the Black Sexlinks, hens, with the red on the chest, nice birds, easy going, good layers, nice to look at too.
Last but not least, if you're looking for just a pet like bird, a cochin. Feather footed, our son brought us a banty feather footed cochin, little gray thing, would follow me around talking to me, and if I stood still long enough it would stand on my foot. Loved to be held, chirped happily when you held it. So terribly cute but got lonely when its companion (a little seabright) got taken by something that got into the barn at night, it was so sad, then stood there making a sad long "peeeep"....bantys are not good for country settings unless tightly kept, we made our son come get it to live with the other bantys they had. Full on cochins, to my understanding are just good for pets, not good layers at all.
My last suggestion to any beginners, look into all the hatchery sites. They have good info on what birds are best for what. You can even call them and talk to them about it all. If you ordered chicks directly from them, you have to buy at least 25 at a time, not a good idea for first timers, and not during cold months (most will die in shipment via USPS). Getting chicks at local feed stores is best.
This is where I purchased my Delawares, Australorps and Rocks and I am very pleased with the quality of birds that I received as well as great customer service. I called just after receiving my order of 48 peeps because I had a peep with a very bizarre behavior. Although they were perplexed as well, the woman I talked to took the time to discuss everything and then called me back within several hours after she went around and asked their experts. In the end we suspected (thank you husband!!) that the peep was having an inner ear problem. Inside two days it cleared up and the peep went back to being a peep.
I love the Delawares. Calm birds that roam, but not too far. Roosters are calm and pleasant and I now have sons from my first roosters and they too are pleasant birds (BIG). They are "lovers not fighters". I did like the Australorps, they laid well, very well, but those are the hens that went broody like a disease. Also every australorp rooster was just plain evil.
The Rocks are good, well feathered, lovely birds I would get those again. However, I purchased some Barred Rocks through my feed store and they aren't rocks, they are leg horns with barred feathers. Half of them won't even fully molt and walk around half naked, even in the winter. My Rocks from the Meyer Hatchery look and act like rocks, the others are just plain weird and anti-social.
Rhode Island Reds. Well, I may someday buy some from Heritage stock, the ones I've had came from the feed store. They are small, flighty and stupid birds. They lay well, but I have had some just up and die for no reason and not even looking ill. So beware where you buy them from!!
I also loved my Wyandottes. A truly dual purpose hen. Good all around layer and a very stocky meat bird to boot.
My Auraconas are interesting birds, no two look alike and the blue and green eggs are great!! However they are anti-social and not a "pet" chicken. I'm surprised that they haven't packed their bags and left, there for awhile I thought they would leave, since they all seemed to stray as far as any chicken I have ever owned. My son was walking on the railroad tracks when he spotted a hen up in the woods. We wandered through there and found a nest of old eggs that were (by our best estimate) about a quarter mile away from home, up and across the railroad tracks, through a thick grove of pine trees and across an ATV trail. In a patch of brambles we found green eggs. So I knew they were from the chickens, and not some other wild bird.
Some advise from an old hand to a newbie. Even if you never plan to butcher your chickens for meat be prepared to euthanize them. Have a plan in place because the day will come when something happens to a chicken and you have to put it out of its misery. It could be maimed by any kind of predator or injured on the road. In the beginning it isn't easy because you name them and they become part of your family and it can be heartbreaking. However it's a fact of life with chickens. Every animal out there except maybe a bunny wants to eat them, and they are awake when you are asleep and they will keep trying until they are successful. It helps to be mentally prepared
I got some of mine from Meyer hatchery too. Their minimum order is four, so you can start out with a very small flock if you want!
I got my Buff rooster there (over zealous, not too protective or helpful to the hens, but maybe he was just a dud) and three Columbian Wyandottes. The CW's laid great, but they were horrible bullies to my other girls! Gave them to a family member that just wanted a few layers. I am in the process of culling out my Buff's, but now worry about having to deal with the roo for my BA's, after what Roslyn said
Rosalyn is so right...they get picked off easily, especially if you have them out like we do. Free ranging egg layers are easy targets, we have coyotes out here that have ravaged our flock all in one week, took us down by four. Before that it was a resident hawk, and a few young pullets were out before they were supposed to be (found a hole big enough to squeeze thru and for some reason stepped out into the dark) and were gotten by a resident owl.
Here is my list of predators; hawks of all sort, turkey vultures, owls, coyotes, cougars (we see them here occassionally), local rampaging dogs and raccoons. Then the local wild cats will try to get the little ones (pullets). So it is an ongoing battle to keep them safe, and you have to distance yourself and realize you will lose some.
Hatcheries? I like Ideal Hatchery in TX, nice people, good about giving you credit for large chick losses in transit, good about helping decide a good breed for your area. However, any good reputable hatchery is ok, and always good when it is closer to you, so your chicks have a better chance to get to you without a lot of losses.
My first chickies are 3 weeks old today. I have two speck sussex, 2 australorps, 2 buff orps, 2 silver wyandottes and 1 columbian wyandotte.
I handle and interact with them alot. Right now, I'd say my Buff's are the friendliest, the columbian next, those 3 are always "on" me, the others are friendly just don't seem to be as mushy as those 3..
Got mine from MPC (meyer), very happy with them and would order from them again
I have two Black Australorpes that have been wonderful layers! One is especially good at giving me a brown egg every day. She misses one or two days a year but I figure she deserves a rest. lol I recently added some chicks so time will tell which of them are good layers.
Well, I rescued 5 Lohmann Brown free range laying hens at 70 weeks, (time for slaughter) they are still giving me 4 eggs a day regular as clockwork. One nhas moulted and back in production , it might follow like that at regular intervals. By the way the eggs weigh at 74 grammes , large.