Egg Layers: Everything You Need To Know

All birds are egg layers. What bird is going to be best for you? To help you answer that question, this post will explain the pros and cons of each of the popular egg laying birds.

The most popular egg layers to have on the farm are chickens, ducks, quail, ostrich, and geese. All bird eggs are edible except for a couple species of wild bird that are toxic to humans called Ifrita and Wild Pitoui. Common wild bird eggs are fairly small. They can also be undesirable to raise because of how well they fly and how few eggs they lay. They do not provide much nourishment and there is not a high demand for them. The most popular egg layers are the most popular for a reason.

Let’s get into those reasons, starting with chickens.


Chickens are by far the most common choice for an egg layer. There is more information online and in books about raising chickens than any other bird. Even if this information wasn’t available, chickens are notoriously easy to raise. This makes them a very popular choice.

I own chickens and I can tell you from experience that after the first couple months, chickens are pretty much good to go. They know how to forage and they learn how to avoid predators as much as possible.

Chickens As Egg Layers

Chicken eggs are the classic egg. You can find them at any grocery store in white and brown. Chickens are capable of laying several other colors of eggs (see my post Building A Chicken Flock That Produces Colorful Eggs). They taste great, have a wide variety of uses in cooking, and they have a high nutritional value.

Most people who want to purchase eggs are in the market for chicken eggs. However, there are thousands of people raising chickens and selling chicken eggs. It is hard to distinguish yourself in the market.

Most chickens will lay an average of 2-4 eggs a week. They are reliable layers. The only time they slow down is in the winter, but they will lay even then. It will just be far less frequent.

Chickens And Self Reliance

Chickens need very little from humans. The only things they truly need are a safe place to sleep (a coop), food, and water. Ideally, they will have the ability to run around as well. This can be an indoor or outdoor area.

I personally have both. My chicken coop is a carport that I converted into a shed. They have roosting bars, a place to lay eggs, and automated feeding and watering system, and plenty of room to run around. The floor of the coop is covered in deep mulch. This prevents me from having to clean it out very often. Anything they deposit onto the deep mulch will get mixed around and it will turn into compost.

I also let them run around outside. They used to have an electrified fence, but I decided to let them go without it the past few months. That has worked out pretty well. If a predator finds them I put them back in the coop for a couple weeks until it loses interest and then I let them out again.

Related Posts:

Building A Chicken Flock That Produces Colorful Eggs

Chickens Or Store-Bought Eggs: Which Are Better?

Micro Farm Equipment: What Do You Really Need?

I only spend an average of 30 minutes taking care of chickens each day now that they are grown. When they were chicks, they required a little more work and time. They need a brooder to keep warm. A brooder is a container that you keep them in for the first 6 weeks of their lives (or until they start to develop adult feathers).

The floor of the container is covered in pine shavings (same concept as the deep mulch in the coop). They have small waterers and feed troughs that need to be changed/refilled at least once a day. The brooder also needs heat lamps. Baby chicks need very specific temperatures when they are small. They start at 95 degrees F the first week and then go down about 5 degrees F every week after (90 degrees F week 2, 85 degrees F week 3, and so on).

They can do some farm chores for you! Chickens naturally till soil by scratching. They also naturally provide fertilizer (chicken poop). I will run them on plots of soil to help prepare them for planting.

Chickens And Fun

Fun is a very important part of your farm and chickens are a ton of fun! They each develop their own personalities. Some will be stubborn and smart, some might be quiet and loving, and others might be flighty and cautious. They make fun (sometimes loud) noises and they can be really trusting and loving (some breeds more than others). I have really enjoyed having chickens on my farm.


Ducks are super cool and I would totally get some for my backyard if I didn’t have so many packs of dogs and wild unfed cats on my street. It’s a real issue. Ducks are fairly quiet, which makes them really great options for residential areas. They can fly better than chickens which makes them less susceptible to predators.

Ducks As Egg Layers

Duck eggs are one and a half to double the size of chicken eggs. Their eggs have a richer taste and the yolks are often darker and creamier than eggs laid by chickens.

There are several colors of duck egg shells just like chickens! They can come in the classic white and brown or you can get a breed of duck that lays blue, gray, or black eggs. The shell of a duck egg is also a lot thicker than the shell of a chicken egg.

The taste of duck eggs and chicken eggs are very similar. Many chefs actually prefer to use duck eggs in baking. Duck eggs have a stiffer white than chicken eggs which make the texture of cakes, cookies, and bread more enjoyable. They are also great in custards, curds, and homemade ice cream.\

Ducks lay slightly fewer eggs than chickens. Where a chicken will lay 250 to 300 eggs a year, a duck will lay 200 eggs a year.

Ducks And Self Reliance

Ducks are pretty self reliant. You don’t tend to see a lot of wild chickens because they need more care and protection from humans to survive. Ducks can be seen anywhere there’s water. They are better at escaping from predators because they can fly…sometimes. Some domestic duck breeds cannot fly. This can make them even more susceptible to predators than chickens.

Unfortunately, there are cons to flying ducks as well. Flying ducks are much harder to keep in one place. They may end up being neighborhood ducks rather than backyard ducks. Providing a small pond or kiddie pool can keep them coming back, but they may find another water source and decide to live there instead. It is possible to train them and bond with them. This will make it more likely that they will stay near you.

Ducks do need a water source. They also have a couple more dietary restrictions than chickens, making it harder to feed them completely off the land and food scraps.

Ducks And Fun

I don’t personally have ducks, but I have a couple friends that do and they adore their ducks. They love taking care of them and hanging out with them. They name them cute names and essentially treat them like pets.

According to duck owners: Ducks are a lot of fun! Ducks are very friendly, especially if you bond with them when their young. My personal opinion is that they’re also cuter than chickens.


Owning a guard goose is a popular choice for chicken owners, but what about owning geese for eggs? As with all the birds there are pros and cons.

Geese As Egg Layers

Goose eggs are massive. They are approximately 3 times the size of chicken eggs! Goose eggs can be used in any recipe that calls for eggs as long as you factor in the size. They taste noticeably richer and eggier than chicken eggs and they have a higher fat content.

Chefs like goose eggs for pasta. They can be a little difficult to work with because of how massive they are. The shells on goose eggs are also harder to break than chicken and duck eggs. This is because the shell is thicker.

Geese only lay about 40 eggs a year. This is obviously significantly less than most of the other egg layers on this list. You would need many more geese in your flock to ramp up production to what you need.

The good news is that geese are incredibly self reliant.

Geese And Self Reliance

Geese have a reputation for being aggressive. This aggression is extremally beneficial when they are raised on pasture! Most geese are pasture raised because it’s so easy. They need a shelter that is good enough to keep predators out at night, but it doesn’t need to be anything special. Geese, like ducks, don’t need to roost. They will sleep just fine on the ground.

They do need a water source. You don’t need a full pond. They will be fine with just a kiddie pool full of water (or a couple depending on how many you have).

Geese will accept you as a part of the flock if you raise them. This means they will not be aggressive towards you. In fact, they may be affectionate. However, they will still be aggressive to other people who did not raise them. If you have geese in your backyard and you have people over or a mailman…you may want to warn them about your geese.

Geese And Fun

Geese are very loyal and they can be affectionate. You will grow to love them. They require very little supervision, which means most of your interaction with them will be voluntary (the best kind of interaction)! They can be a aggressive to strangers, but over all they are a fun bird to own.


Quail may be the most popular egg layer aside from chickens. Owners of quail are very vocal about how fantastic quail are. Many feel they are better than chickens.

Quail As Egg Layers

Quail will lay approximately 300 eggs per year. These eggs are a lot smaller than any of the other eggs on this list (about 1/3 the size of chicken eggs), but they are highly nutritious and they taste about the same as chicken eggs. You will need to use several quail eggs in place of chicken eggs in recipes, so you may want a larger flock than you would have wanted if you chose chickens.

These birds start laying very soon after birth. It only takes a month or two for quails to start laying an egg every day. Chickens will take 5-6 months, ducks take 6-7 months, and geese take a long 9 months before they start to lay eggs.

Quail eggs are the most popular egg on this list aside from chicken eggs. This is great news for those of you who plan on selling your eggs! There is absolutely a market for quail eggs.

Quail And Self Reliance

I mentioned that you might want a larger flock of quail to get the volume of eggs that you want. This won’t be as much of a hassle because of how small quails are. Quail don’t need as much room as any of the other birds on this list. They are also cleaner than chickens.

Quail can fly distances a little longer than chickens. One thing to note is that when they get spooked, they fly straight upwards. This can be problematic if they are kept in an indoor space (such as a quail pen). If the height of the ceiling is between 1 and 12 feet they could break their own necks. Building it short will stop them before they generate enough force to hurt themselves and building it tall will let them fly as high as they need to. Quail also naturally roost at night, so if you go for a tall quail house you will need to build roosting bars

Quail are land birds, so they do not need a body of water to swim in. Chicken and quail are pretty similar in regards to self reliance. They are not the best at fighting of predators. They may be a little better at fleeing because of their instinct to fly upwards when surprised, but you should treat them the same as chickens as far as protecting them from predators.

Quail And Fun

Quails are very similar to chickens in this regard because you treat them about the same and they act fairly similar. However, there are certain things quails do better than chickens. They are both cleaner and quieter. The noise they do make is more like singing than the dinosaur screech sound that chickens make. My personal opinion is that it’s even more pleasant than duck quacking.


Ostrich is the most uncommon option for egg layers on this list. They are native to Africa and are often found in desert areas. They can tolerate temperatures between 86 and -22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ostriches As Egg Layers

I said earlier that geese laid massive eggs. If geese lay massive eggs, ostriches lay gargantuan eggs. The average size of an ostrich egg is about 3 pounds! They average 6 inches in length and 5 inches in diameter. They. Are. Huge. One egg is enough to feed a small family.

Ostrich eggs taste a little gamy according to some people. Others say they taste very similar to chicken eggs. The consistency of an ostrich egg is a little different. If they are scrambled in a pan, they are a little more gummy. The egg white will be a little rubbery when boiled. They are hard to work with because of their size. It takes a long time to get if fully cooked (think 1 and 1/2 hours for a hard boiled egg).

Ostrich eggs sell for a whopping $30 per egg. This is the reason I would raise them. They lay for about 30 years at a rate of 50 eggs per year. This would be the only reason I would raise ostriches.

Ostriches And Self Reliance

Out of all the birds on this list, ostriches are the best at avoiding predators. They can run ridiculously fast. That will likely not be an issue at all for you because most predators for ostriches like lions, cheetahs, and leopards do not live in areas heavily populated by humans in North America.

Ostriches need much more space than any other bird on this list. This makes sense because ostriches are the largest bird in the world. Each bird needs about 1-3 acers of land. They are omnivores and they actually can go a long time without water if they are allowed enough access to plants.

Raising ostriches for eggs can be very expensive. It may end up being more effort than it’s worth. Even at $30 and egg it may take a while to see any ROI.

Ostriches And Fun

I cannot really speak to this as I don’t raise ostriches, nor have I ever known anyone that has. I think that if you want to raise ostriches, you probably have a passion for ostriches (which is actually pretty cool…can we talk?). If an ostrich is raised around humans, it may do dances, let you ride on its back, and generally be pretty chill. However, it’s still a wild animal and you are in danger of it attacking at any moment. I would guess that the bad may outweigh the good.


There you have it! Ducks, quail, chickens, ostriches, and geese. My hope is that this post helps you figure out what kind of egg layer works best for you. This is a fairly short summary of each bird, so let me know in the comments if you’d like a full, more comprehensive post on any one of the birds I mentioned.

I wish you all joyful farming!

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