When Will My Hen Start Laying Eggs
So you have had your wonderful chickens for a few months now. They have lost all their fluff and now look like fully grown chickens. So when will they start paying rent?
When does a hen begin laying eggs?
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 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 pullets will begin laying.
A few physical changes that happen when a chicken begins laying eggs.
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.
A nonlaying 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 pullet starts laying, 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 starts laying, 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.
How long did you wait for your hens to begin laying eggs?