Lets face it, we all want eggs from our chickens but there are a number of factors that affect the number of eggs a chicken lays. The breed characteristics are a starting point, some, such as show strains of Orpingtons lay as few as 80 eggs per year and others like for example a utility strain of Light Sussex closer to 220.
Hybrids (a combination of breeds) are bred for either meat or egg production and the latter such as ‘Bovan Goldline’ (the type of hens used in most battery systems) can lay up to 320 eggs per year.
Sadly not all strains of the same breed will lay the text-book number of eggs since there has been a large amount of selection for specific traits desirable in the showing circuit and sometimes egg production has actually been bred out of these strains. The age of the hen is another factor, most hens hit peak production in their first and second years of lay with the quantities decreasing by around 10% per year after this.
If eggs are a primary concern then you should consider breeds of hens that are prolific egg layers such as utility Rhode Island Reds, Light Sussex or Leghorns but do ensure you are buying a good laying strain. Serious breeders of utility strains will record egg numbers or at least have an idea of how good their strain is according to the breed. It is worth remembering that whilst hybrid varieties lay large amounts of eggs, many of them have been bred to lay these in their first 2 years as they are usually replaced at this age.
If you are not getting the number of eggs you would expect from your chickens that you are keeping, then you need to first check your bird’s diet (see our article on Feeding Chickens for more information) and check them over for illness. For example red mites will stop egg production very quickly. Have a look through our Poultry Diseases section but remember you should always consult the expertise of a qualified poultry vet for an opinion. We have a database of poultry friendly vets to help you find a suitable vet in your area.