If you recently started raising chickens you are probably wondering, when does a chicken start laying eggs?
The short answer, most chickens will start laying eggs between five and six months old.
But at the same time, when a chicken will start laying eggs can be a really complicated question especially if you are trying to figure out why your hens are not laying any eggs.
If you started raising chickens solely for egg production you should understand all that goes into the eggs that your backyard flock with produce.
Do you know how many eggs to expect at peak production times and the variables that can affect those numbers? You also need to know how to tell which chickens started laying eggs and which ones need to be culled.
When does a chicken start laying eggs?
The Long Answer
The age at which a pullet (aka a teenager) will begin to lay eggs depends on a variety of factors. The timing of her first egg is called the “point of lay” and generally happens between five and six months old.
Now there are a lot of factors that play into “point of lay” including breed, health, light conditions, temperatures, diet, and stress.
A great example of how light can influence the point of lay with our chicks is how our May hatch started laying in late summer. That year we also got a batch of chicks in Aug. All of those late summer pullets did not start laying until this spring. So lighting and temperature can play a huge role in how soon your chicken starts laying eggs.
Now let's dive a little deeper into the factors that influence when a chicken starts laying eggs including, breed, light conditions, temperatures, diet, and stress.
The breed of chicken that you choose will determine when and how many eggs you will receive over the lifetime of the chicken. Commercial breeds like the White Leghorn are breed to produce the maximum amount of egg at over 260 per year. These also tend to be flighty and high strung and are typically not good choices for backyard chicken coops.
Many dual-purpose breeds, such as Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Delawares begin laying between 18-20 weeks and can lay well into their fifth year. These breed are all great options for small flocks.
Daylight has a huge impact on egg production. Typically, egg production is best when hens can get 14-16 hours of light per day. Lighting the coop during the shorter winter days is an option to keep egg production up.
The amount of daylight will impact when pullets start to lay eggs as well. If they become ready to lay in the middle of winter, you often may not see any egg production until spring comes and the days get longer.
Good nutrition is key to good egg production. Laying hens require a feed with 15-18% protein. Grains can be given as a treat but should not be used as feed filler because doing so dilutes the nutritional quality of the feed.
For an in depth explanation of chicken feed read this post.
If hens do not have a safe comfortable place to lay their eggs you will see a drop in egg production. Also excess stress from predators or weather events can cause dips in egg production.
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Physical Signs That Your Chicken Is Ready For Egg Production
There are quite a few physical changes that take place on the hen when she is preparing to start laying eggs. If you are looking for them you can actually see your chicken's body changing shape to accommodate all those eggs she will lay for you.
Comb and Wattles
When a hen is not laying, her comb and wattle are dull, dry, and shriveled looking. A laying hen has a large, smooth, bright red comb and full, plump wattle. When laying ends the wattle and comb will shrink back and become dull again.
You will have to pull her bum feathers up to check this one but it is an easy way to distinguish which hens are laying eggs and which ones are not. A non laying hen's vent is shrunken, dry, and round with a yellow coloring.
Once the hen begins to lay the vent enlarges and becomes more oval shaped. A laying hen has a smooth, wet vent that is almost white in color.
A hen's pubic bones are located on each side of her vent. A non-laying hen's pubic bones will be close together and feel thick.
When the hens are not laying they store fat between those bones. As you place your hand over the bones you will only be able to fit one finger in between them.
When a hen is actively laying those fat stores disappear and the pubic bones spread. The bones thin and become more flexible to allow an egg to easily pass. You will be able to place a least two fingers between the bones of laying hens.
Loss of Pigment
As birds produce eggs over time they lose the yellow pigment in their skin and beaks. The lightening of the hen's body will begin at the same time that egg production starts.
During egg production, the yellow pigment is being diverted from the skin stores to the egg yolks. The parts of the hen that will lose pigment due to egg production includes the vent, the eye ring, the beak and the shanks.
The is hen behavior that is a sure sign of egg production soon approaching. The hen will actually get into a squatting position when approached by a rooster for mating.
She squats down, spreads her wings to the sides for balance and lowers her tail for the rooster to do his thing on top of her. A hen will also display this squat when approached by people or when you extend your hand.
It is her showing that she is submissive.
The First Eggs
Once a chicken start laying eggs, her reproductive system requires a few days to fully gear up.
Her first eggs may be tiny and contain no yolk. They may be oddly shaped or have a soft, rubbery shell.
After about, two weeks after the pullet chicken starts laying eggs, her eggs should reach the normal size and shape for her breed.
After about eighteen months of laying, the hen will molt, or gradually drop her feathers, and she will develop a fresh coat of plumage.
Most hens stop laying during the molt. Sometimes a hen will signal the end of the first year of laying by producing a small egg, similar to her first pullet egg.
The first egg laid after the molt may likewise be small or otherwise odd. During the second year of laying, the hen’s eggs will be bigger than before, but she won’t lay quite as many as she did during the first year.
As the hen ages the pattern will continue, with tiny or misshapen eggs signaling the beginning or end of a molt and a new year of laying larger, but fewer, eggs. Each egg a hen lays is an exciting event, but never quite as exciting as finding a pullet’s first egg.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers the the most common questions we receive related to when will a chicken start laying eggs.
How long do laying hen lay eggs?
The length of time a chicken in your flock will lay eggs will vary a lot by breed but generally, you can expect a chicken to lay eggs for many years. Now she won't lay an egg every day for four years, so don't expect that. Once your hens reach their peak egg production the number of eggs they lay each year will slowly decline. Each year the chicken with lay fewer, but bigger eggs.
How many eggs does a chicken lay in a week?
This is completely dependent on breed. Some will lay 5-6 in a week where some will only lay 2-3 per week. That is why it is important to know how many eggs you want to be getting each week and plan your chicken number and breeds accordingly.
What time of day does a chicken lay an egg?
Chickens normally do a majority of their egg laying in the morning hours, but there are always a few hens who lay+their eggs whenever and where ever they want. Since it takes at least 26 hours for an egg to for the time will not be exactly the same every day.
How many eggs does a chicken lay in a day?
A chicken can only lay one egg per day and each chicken will have some days where she will not lay an egg at all. This is due to the process of egg formation inside the hen. It takes approximately 26 hours for an egg to fully form inside of the hen so the time will be different every day, then she may skip a day.
Is it painful for chickens to lay eggs?
There are no hard facts on this but laying an egg for chickens is nothing compared to a woman giving birth. Egg laying is a natural almost daily function of a hens life so it is not thought to be a painful process.
Some exceptions would be the abnormally large eggs, which often times have small blood spots in them. Also, when a hen is eggbound the provably experience increased levels of discomfort and pain.
How long does it take for a chicken to push out an egg?
It takes a minimum of 26 hours for an egg to form and work it way through a hens system, but the actually act of expelling the egg only takes seconds.
How long did you wait for your hens to begin laying eggs?