The 5 Best Chicken Breeds That Lay Dark Brown Eggs

 

What’s The Best Chicken For Brown Eggs?  

One of the funniest

Chicken Breeds that lay dark brown eggs
Photo Credit sammydavisdog Flickr

things about having chickens that lay eggs are having multi-colored eggs. You’ve already learned which chickens lay Green, Olive, Pink and Blue egg laying chicken breeds.

Next, we are going to cover how to add some rich, deep, brown eggs to your basket.

Although many chickens lay a light brown or tan egg, only a few chickens will lay dark brown eggs. These eggs add beauty to the egg basket and value at a Farmers Market.

What Chickens Lay Dark Brown Eggs? Five chicken breeds lay a dark brown or a chocolate-colored egg. Those breeds are Barnevelder, Maran, Penedesenca, Welsummer, Empordanesa chicken breeds.

Barnevelder and Maran chickens lay a chocolate-colored egg. Penedesenca and Empordanesa chickens lay the darkest brown of any brown egg layers.

Welsummer chickens are unique because they are a dark brown color with darker speckles.

But, brown eggs aren’t the only amazing thing about these breeds. Some of them lay a high number of eggs and other breeds function as both a meat and an egg chicken.

Plus, find out which of the breeds are better at foraging and which ones do the best in smaller, confined spaces. This article will cover which of the breeds works best in hot climates and cold climates and which birds are quieter for close neighbors.

The best chicken breeds for dark brown eggs are:

Click to skip to a particular breed:

Barnevelder Chickens: Beautiful Chocolate Eggs

Barnevelder chickens were developed about 200 years ago in the village of Barneveld, Holland. At the time, brown eggs were prized. As a result, they were bred to lay large chocolate colored eggs. They used to lay very deep, dark chocolate eggs.

Since them, they have been bred for their beautiful feathered plumage and the coloring of the eggs has darkened to deep brown. The eggs may also be spotted.

Barnevelders originated as the result of breeding between local Dutch chickens and imported Asian chickens. Possible lineage includes Brahma, Cochin, or Croad Langshan.

Barnevelder Hen
Barnevelder Hen
Photo Credit: Ann Porteus

Barnevelder Chicken Uses  

Barnevelders are slow to mature and are raised as a dual-purpose bird. They will lay about 3 eggs a week. That equates to between 180-200 eggs a year. Hens continue to lay well in damp cold winters

The hens will grow to 5-6 lbs (2.5 kgs) and the roosters will get to 6-7 lbs 3 kgs).

Some hens are broody while others are not, depending on the exact lineage.

The eggs are large, dark brown to a light brown in color, depending on lineage.

Barnevelder Features

Barnevelders are an upright bird that comes in a variety of colors. They used to be partridge, but that color is thought to be extinct.

Today, they can be found in double laced silver, double laced blue, black white, silver blue and chamois. The necks have no color patterns, but the body has a lovely triangular tipped pattern over the base color.

The original coloring was a dark brown with a light brown patterning of arrows It has a U shaped back. The wings are high on the bird.

They have a single comb with five points, yellow legs, and four toes. They have red wattles.

Barnevelders were recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1921. They are also recognized in the Entente Europeenne d’Aviculture et de Cuniculture and The Poultry Club of Great Britain.

Barnevelder is a Dutch Heritage breed of chicken. They live for between 4-7 years so they aren’t considered an American Heritage chicken because of their shorter lifespan.

Caring For Your Barnevelder Chickens

They are gentle and may be picked on by other breeds. They are friendly and active birds.

Barnevelders are cleaner chickens and spend a good amount of time preening themselves and taking dust baths.  

They do very well in moist cold climates but don’t like the snow as well. They will often stay indoors instead of venture outside into the snow. They aren’t very heated hardy.

Barnevelders do ok in confinement. They don’t fly well because their wings are higher on their body so they do well in backyards. They are not a noisy chicken and even the roosters crow only a few times a day.

They are very rare in the United States. They are calm with children and the hens make great mothers! They are a great beginner chicken because of their hardiness, relatively quiet natures, and friendliness.

Climate Personality Use Size Eggs/ Yr Brooder Forages
Cold & Damp Active and Friendly Eggs & Meat M: 7 lbs

F: 6 lbs

180-200 Depends Yes
  • Chocolate brown eggs
  • Very gentle & active
  • Backyard friendly

Empordanesa Chicken: Elegant Deep Brown Eggs

Take a trip to Spain, just by enjoying your very one Empordanesa chickens. These Spanish bred chickens lay beautiful, very dark eggs.

This old breed has been around for a long time, cultivated among local Catalina farmers, but the first mention of it was in 1921. Professor M Rossell I Vila called it a patriotic duty to save the local Penedes chickens.

His publicity helped. The breed started to revive until the Spanish Civil War and World War I nearly wiped it out again.

In 1981, a Spanish Government program worked with local farmers to revive the few remaining chickens left. They were first imported to the U.S. in 2001. Only white Empordanesa chickens have been imported to the U.S.

There are three Catalina chicken breeds: the Empordanesa, the Penedesenca, and the Prat Lleonada, which lays pink eggs.

Empordanesa Chicken
Empordanesa Chicken Photo Credit: Huhnerwelt

Physical Characteristics Of Empordanesa Chickens

Empordanesa and Penedesencas are related, but there are distinct differences. Some people believe that a black colored Empordanesa is just called a Penedesenca, but that isn’t true.

In reality, there are more differences between these close cousins.

Empordanesa chickens have red ear lobes, instead of the white ones of their cousins. They have a carnation comb, name from the carnation flower-like comb on the head. It is also called a crown or Clavell comb. It starts as a single comb and as it moves toward the back of the head, several loves spread out to make it look like a crown.

They have bright yellow legs.

Empordanesa chickens come in several colors including the red, white and buff varieties.

Empordanesa chickens were accepted into the Spanish Standard in the mid-1900s. They are a heritage chicken to Spain.

Reasons To Raise Empordanesa Chickens

The greatest reason to own an Empordanesa hen is the amazing eggs! Empordanesa chickens lay a rich, deep brown egg. They lay one of the darkest chicken eggs in the world.

Hens will lay about 3 extra-large eggs a week, or 130-180 eggs a year. They slow down in the winter. This break gives them a chance to darken their eggs again as they become a deep color in the spring.

The eggs will lighten as the laying season progresses.

Dark brown eggs are popular in the market and sell for a higher premium in many places.

Roosters grow to 5-6 lbs (2-3 kgs) and hens will grow to 4-5 lbs (1.7-2.3 kgs).  

Mothers are a little forgetful and don’t get broody very often. If you want to raise Empordanesa chickens, you will need an incubator.

Caring For Your Empordanesa Chickens

Empordanesa chickens fly very well. They love a lot of space and won’t do very well in small spaces.

They should be allowed to free-range. They are excelled foragers and will be very cost-efficient because they need very little supplemental feed during the warm months.

They are very hardy birds and do extremely well in hot temperatures. They need more care in the winter and cold winter because their wattles are large and subject to frostbite.

Empordanesa chickens are at a lower risk of predator capture than other chicken breeds. They do a great job of taking care of themselves and escaping danger.

Empordanesa chickens are active, eager and busy chickens. They like to chatter so they aren’t a great bird for small backyards and close neighbors.

They also like to avoid people. They will get a little friendly, but will never be very bonded to their owners.

They are especially rare in the United States.  

Climate Personality Use Size Eggs/ Yr Brooder Forages
Hot Standoff Eggs M: 6.5

F: 5

Varies

160-180

Rarely Excellent
  • Self-sufficient foragers
  • Rich, dark brown eggs
  • Extra large eggs

Maran Chickens: French Chocolate Egg Layer

Marans chickens come from Maran, France. The town is a seaport and saw hundreds of years of trading. As a result, local chickens were bred with foreign birds and eventually, the Marans came about.

They have been particularly prized for their dark brown eggs.

Maran Chicken
Maran Chicken
Photo Credit: Ian Burt

Most Popular Reason For Owning A Maran Chicken

It was originally bred as a dual purpose bird because of its fine qualities on the dinner table. Additionally, Marans lay a variety of brown eggs. Some Marans hens will lay very dark chocolate eggs.

In France, a chicken isn’t considered a Maran unless it lays eggs that are at least a 4 in darkness on a scale of 1-9. The egg darkness varies over the summer going consistently lighter until the hens stop laying in the winter.

At the beginning of the spring, eggs will be darker again. This happens each laying cycle.

The French bread the Marans for egg-laying capacity and got them to about 200 eggs a year. In the USA, Marans usually only lay about 3 large, brown eggs a week, or up to 150-180 a year, depending on the strain.

Marans will take time off in the winter from laying eggs. They are broody.

Roosters generally grow to 8- 8.5 lbs (3.65 kgs) and hens grow to 6.5-7 lbs (3 kgs). Marans are fast-growing birds.

Maran Chicken Looks

Maren chickens have a lot of variety in looks and coloring. Each country has its own standard for “official” acceptance as a Marens chicken.

Marans dark eggs are the main reason they are highly prized. Black Copper Marans can have especially chocolaty brown eggs.

But, be aware, that the eggs darken with exposure to light. That means that photos of Marans eggs can be easily manipulated.

Marans come in many colors including white, Wheaton and black copper. They also come in birchen, blue, salmon, silver salmon, silver cuckoo, and golden cuckoo. They have a single comb.

Marans live for 6-8 years on average, but some Marans have lived for as many as 10-12 years. Marans were accepted into the American Poultry Standard in 2011 so they aren’t considered a heritage bird in the U.S.

But, they are a French heritage bird and have been in France for over 200 years!

Caring For Your Maren Chicken

They are hardy, disease-resistant chickens.

Marans are quiet and gentle birds so they do well as a backyard chicken, but they do like to talk a lot so they aren’t great for picky or close neighbors.

They are generally heat resistant. They are great foragers and love lots of space, but they also do well in confinement.

Marans are generally mild and calm birds. They don’t bully other chickens. They are also clean birds. They keep their roosting boxes and bedding clean.

Although they are hardy in the winter, they don’t do as well in the heat. They are rare in the USA.  

Climate Personality Use Size Eggs/ Yr Brooder Forages
Cold Gentile Eggs & Meat M: 8 lbs

F: 6.5 lbs

150-180 Yes Yes
  • Lays chocolate brown eggs
  • Cold Hardy
  • Great beginner bird

Penedesenca Chickens: Spanish Dark Eggs With A Love Of Heat

The Penedesenca chicken is a beautiful, Spanish chicken that lays some of the darkest brown eggs in the world.

The eggs are a deep, dark reddish-brown, also called terracotta.

Sadly this Catalonia chicken nearly went extinct due to the Spanish Civil War and WWII. They were thought to be extinct in the early 1980s.

In 1982 Antonio Jorda, a Spanish vet discovered the breed among small local farms. He worked to standardize the breed and to revive it. They increased the nearly-extinct population up to almost 300 birds.

The first Penedesenca chickens were imported to the United States in 2001. They are still a rare bird, even in Spain.  But, they are gaining popularity because of their rare qualities.

Penedesencas and Empordanesa chickens are related.

Features Of A Penedesenca Chicken

Penedesencas are lovely chickens. There are many unique things about them- you could say they are a rule breaker!

They aren’t considered a long-tailed chicken, but they do have long tail feathers that fan out.

They also have unique combs. Their combs start as a single comb and as it moves back, it breaks into several lobes that look like a crown. This type of comb is called a carnation comb, kings comb or a Clavell comb.

Rooster combs stand up, but hen combs can lay to one side, much like a flower tucked in their ear.

Penedesencas also have white earlobes but don’t lay white eggs. They are the only breed of white earlobed chickens that doesn’t.

They have bare, blue legs and four toes. Their body sports an upright body with a long curving back. Their eyes are black. They have large, red pendulous waddles.

Penedesenca chickens were admitted into the Spanish Standard in 1946 in the black variety.  They are not accepted as a breed in the American Poultry Association. There are several colors: wheaten, partridge, and crele also accepted in the Spanish Standard. The black variety is a dual purpose bird called Gall del Penedes.  Wheaten and Partridge lay the darkest eggs generally.

They live for six years.

Reasons To Own Penedesenca Chickens

The most popular reason people love Penedesenca chickens is because of the lovely dark brown eggs. But, that isn’t the only reason they are raised. They are also loved for their fine table meat.

In Spain, a Penedesenca rooster commands $50 at the market!

Roosters will grow to about 5-6.5 lbs (2.3-3 kgs). Hens grow to 3.7-5 lbs (1.7-2.3 kgs).

Hens lay 3-4 dark brown, medium eggs a week. That’s about 140-160 eggs a year. They stop laying in the winter, but when they lay again in the spring, the eggs are very dark. As summer progresses, the eggs will lighten in color.

Mothers are not usually broody.

Caring For Your Penedesenca Chickens

Penedesenca chickens are very active and they need a lot of space. They are wonderful foragers. They will find the majority of their food foraging and will usually only need additional food during the winter months.

They don’t do very well in the cold weather, but they do excel in the heat. They are possibly the best heat-resistant of all the chicken breeds.

Penedesenca chickens are very predator smart. They aren’t as likely to get picked off by a hawk or other predator. This might be because they are always suspicious of danger.

Even if you have treats, they act as if you are out to harm them. They almost always avoid human contact, but they can become more mellow with regular contact from a young age. They rarely get very tame.

Penedesencas are not tolerant of confinement.

They are very rare in the U.S. but there are some breeders that sell the breed.

Climate Personality Use Size Eggs/ Yr Brooder Forages
Hot Active, Distant Eggs & Meat M: 6.5 lbs

F: 5 lbs

140-160 No Active
  • Extremely Heat Hardy
  • Dual Purpose Bird
  • Extremely Dark Eggs

Welsummer Chickens: Lovely Brown, Speckled Eggs

You may not recognize the breed of Welsummer chickens, but you will recognize the most famous Welsummer, Cornelius, the Kellogg rooster.

They is one of the most useful, but underutilized chicken breeds in the world. One reason for this may be because Welsummer chickens are new to the poultry world.

They were bred in Holland, in the Dutch village of Welsum in the early 1900s. In 1921, they debuted at the Hagues World Poultry Congress where they were instantly valued and loved.

Welsummers were bred as a dual purpose, dark brown egg chicken. They were bred from local varieties, called landrace, and have some of the same ancestors as Barnevelder chickens.

Did you know?

Welsummers are a beloved chicken of the English. Prince Charles has kept a flock for many years.

Welsummer chicken
Welsummer chicken
Photo Credit: Josh Larios Flickr

Features Of Welsummer Chickens

Welsummer chickens feature beautiful shades of red and black. Hens and roosters have a different coloring that makes them sexable as chicks.

They have broad backs and a full breast. Their tail is long and full. They feature a single five-point comb.

Their feet and shanks are free of feathers and they have four toes.

Hens have beautiful shades of Dark brown to golden. The tail starts with a dark reddish-brown and moves into a red partridge pattern in the body with the neck turning more of a golden color.

The feathers have light brown patterning on them.

Roosters have a chestnut brown coloring with an iridescent green undercoat.

It’s easy to autosex them. Girls have a darker distinct pattern and a darker head. Males have broken fuzzier patterning.

The Dutch and British Standards accepted Welsummers in 1930.

They were accepted into the APA in 1991. Red Partridge is the official color of the American Poultry Association. It is sometimes called Red-breasted black. Unofficial colors include gold duckwing and silver duckwing.

Reasons To Own Welsummer Chickens

There are many reasons to own the chicken named the British “Best Utility Breed” award. Welsummers are a great meat bird and reach a decent size. Even more incredible, their dark brown eggs are speckled and lovely.

Roosters grow to 6-7 lbs (2.7-3.2 kgs), while hens grow 4.5-5.5 lbs (2-2.5 kgs).

Welsummer hens lay about 160-200 eggs a year. The crowning feature is that the eggs are a very dark speckled brown and large in size.

In fact, the terracotta coloring is so dark that it can wipe off when you clean it if you aren’t careful. Hens lay fewer eggs in the winter, but they lay for a solid 3 years before their production decreases.

Hens aren’t great mothers and rarely get broody.

Caring For Your Welsummer Chickens

Welsummer chickens are easy chickens to care for because they are very durable. They do good in confinement and are intelligent chickens.

They will be steady and won’t be bullied, but they aren’t pushy to other birds either. They usually end up in the middle to top of the pecking order.

Although they take smaller spaces well, they are noisy so they may not be the best option for anyone with close neighbors. They don’t fly well and also won’t escape backyards.

Welsummers are great foragers.

They are fairly friendly, but they won’t ever become a lap chicken.

They are heat hardy, but not as cold hardy. Their wattles are subject to frostbite and will need to be cared for in the winter.

Welsummers are docile, active and friendly. They are a great family chicken. They are very rare in the United States, but are very popular in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Climate Personality Use Size Eggs/ Yr Brooder Forages
Hot Active

Friendly

Meat & Eggs M: 7  lbs

F: 5.5 lbs

160-200 No Yes
  • Dark Brown Speckled Eggs
  • Dual Purpose chicken
  • Active & Friendly
Maran Chicken Eggs
Maran Chicken Eggs

Conclusion

To make it easier to choose a rare dark-laying hen, I’ve put together a lot of the things people look for so you can quickly see which breed is the best for you. Find the birds best for your climate and go from there. Be aware that you can often take a heat-tolerant chicken into a colder climate if you will take the extra care they need to provide a dry, draft-free shelter and protect them from frostbite. 

Likewise, a cold-tolerant chicken often does well in the heat if they have shade and plenty of water to keep them cool.

Hot Cold Tame Meat Eggs Cock

Size

Eggs Forage Newbie Backyard
Barnevelder X X X X 7 lbs 180 X Yes Yes
Empordanesa X X 6.5 lbs 160 X Yes-Loud
Maran X X X X 8 lbs 150 X Yes Yes
Penedesenca X X X 6.5 lbs 140 X Yes-Loud
Welsummer X X X X 7 lb 160 X Yes

No matter whether you live in the cold parts of Northern America, or the hot Mediterranean, have a backyard or a farm, if you are a newbie or experienced chicken raiser, there is a perfect brown egg layer for you.

You may have noticed that all of these dark-brown egg laying chicken breeds are fairly rare in the United States. They can be purchased from hatcheries and ordered, but you probably won’t find them at your local feed store or hatcheries.

Next, let’s talk about common brown egg layers. They don’t lay as dark of an egg as the five breeds in this article, but they will lay brown eggs and many of these breeds are easy to find anywhere in the world.

If you are ready to add some brown egg layers to your flock, check out Part 3 of our series.

Feature Image Credit: sammydavisdog Flickr

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