By Kimberly Willis, Robert T. Ludlow

If you want hens that lay a certain color of eggs, you can read breed descriptions or you can look at the color of the skin patch around the ear. Hens that have white skin around the ear generally lay white eggs.

It’s important to remember that all colors of eggs have exactly the same nutritional qualities and taste.

The white-egg layers in the following list are the most productive, although many others also exist. Although there are individual exceptions, white-egg layers tend to be more nervous and harder to tame than brown-egg layers. That may be why many home flocks consist of the latter. But if you want a lot of white eggs, the following birds are the best breeds to choose from:

  • White or Pearl Leghorn: This bird accounts for at least 90 percent of the world’s white-egg production. It’s lightweight and has a large, red, single comb. Leghorns also come in other colors that don’t lay as many eggs but are fine for home flocks. Leghorns tend to be nervous and don’t do as well in free-range or pastured situations as other breeds.

    California Whites are a hybrid of Leghorns and a Barred breed that are quieter than Pearl Leghorns. Other hybrids are also available.

  • Ancona: Anconas lay large white eggs. They’re black feathered, and some feathers have a white tip that gives the bird a “dotted” appearance. They’re similar in shape to the Leghorn. Anconas are flighty and wild acting. Originally from Italy, they’re becoming rare and harder to find.

  • Andulusian: The Andulusian chicken was once much rarer, but this breed has enjoyed an upswing in popularity in recent years. Originally developed in Spain, the bird is known for its beautiful blue-gray shade; the edges of the feathers are outlined in a darker gray.

    These chickens are good layers of medium to large white eggs. They are lightweight birds and like to fly, which can be a problem when confining them. Andulusians are a purebred breed of chicken, but the blue color doesn’t breed true: Offspring can be black or white with gray spots, called a splash. These colors are equally fine as layers — they just can’t be shown.

  • Hamburg: One of the oldest egg-laying breeds, Hamburgs are prolific layers of white eggs. They come in spangled and penciled gold or silver, or solid white or black. Hamburgs of all colors have slate-blue leg shanks and rose combs. They’re active birds and good foragers, but they’re not especially tame.

  • Minorca: Minorcas are large birds that lay lots of large to extra-large white eggs. They come in black, white, or buff (golden) colors. Minorcas can have single or rose combs. They’re active and good foragers, but they’re not easy to tame. The Minorca is another bird that’s becoming hard to find.