Unlocking the Mystery: When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?

If you’re new to raising chickens, you’re going to have a few questions about their behavior, how to care for them, and what you should feed them. One of those questions might include when you should expect them to start laying eggs.

Generally, chickens will come into lay at around 6 months of age. However, this will often depend on each particular chicken. Some chickens have been known to start laying at 4 months of age, while others may not start laying until they are 8 months old.

The Difference In Breeds

Apart from age, the breed of your chickens will also have a bearing on when they’re going to be ready to start laying eggs. Popular breeds of chickens that will start to lay early include:

  • Golden Comets
  • Leghorns
  • Sex Links
  • Australorps
  • Rhode Island Reds

These breeds have all been bred primarily for their egg-laying abilities.

Breeds that might start laying a little later or when they’re a little older include:

  • Orpingtons
  • Wyandottes
  • Barred Rocks
  • Easter Eggers

The Time Of Year Also Plays A Role

What time of year it is when you first get your chickens is also a major factor in determining when they will start laying eggs. For example, most young hens will start laying in the first year. However, if you happen to obtain your chickens in late summer or even in the fall and they reach maturity during winter, these may not start laying until spring arrives.

This all has to do with the number of daylight hours. In fact, it’s common during winter, when the days are short, that your hens will stop laying. Instead, your chickens are conserving their energy to help get them through the cold winter days and nights.

In saying that, it has been known for young hens to continue laying right through winter in their first year. But, these hens will most likely take any subsequent winters off from laying any eggs.

Signs To Look Out For That Signal Your Hens Are Ready To Start Laying

If you spend some time with your young chickens, you’ll be able to easily spot certain changes in both behaviors and appearance that will let you know that your hens are almost ready to start laying. These include:

Their Wattles And Combs Will Become Larger And Redder

This is a common process of the onset of maturity. As hens mature, their wattles and combs will start to become larger and more red in color. Be aware, though, that if a young chicken’s comb and wattle start to increase in size when it’s under 2 months of age, this chicken may actually be a rooster.

They Start To Explore The Nesting Box Area

Once your hens are almost ready to start laying, you’ll find that they become more interested in the nesting boxes. Some hens might even start to try the nesting box out for size and sit in it even though they are not quite ready to start laying just yet.

Useful tip: You can encourage your hens to lay their eggs in the nesting box rather than elsewhere in the coop by placing fake eggs in there. You could use either wooden eggs or even golf balls. The reason for this is that hens like laying their eggs in groups or clutches, as they’re more commonly known.

They Start Becoming Very Vocal

While everyone is familiar with a rooster crowing, you may not know that hens can be quite vocal too. And more so when they’re ready to start laying their eggs. So if you notice your hens squawking for hours on end and they seem to be getting louder and louder, it’s a good telltale sign that they’re about to start laying.

Their Appetite Increases

As you would imagine, egg production takes a fair amount of energy. For this reason, hens that are getting ready to start laying will start to eat more than usual. It’s at this time that you should consider changing their feed from starter pellets to layer pellets.

Layer pellets contain a little less protein than the starter pellets, but they also contain extra calcium. This additional calcium helps in the formation of eggshells. Even if you haven’t really noticed any of the other signs, you should gradually transition your hens to layer pellets once they’re around 4 and a half months old.

Or, if one or more of your hens starts laying before this time, ensure that you switch over to the layer pellets as quickly as you can. It’s also a good idea to give your hens an additional source of calcium, such as crushed eggshells or even oyster shells. This will ensure that your chickens receive all the calcium that they need to start producing healthy eggs.

Your Hens Will Start Squatting

If you’re constantly out and around your hens, you might start noticing this unusual behavior that you haven’t seen before. As you approach a hen, she will squat and put her wings out to the side of her body.

While you might think that she’s just asking for a pat, what she is actually doing is signaling to any roosters that may be nearby that she is ready for mating. Even if there are no roosters among your chickens, hens will still display this behavior when a human walks past, as it’s part of their nature.

Once you witness this squatting, you should expect the hen to start laying within the next week or two.

Be aware that the first few eggs that each hen lays will be a little irregular and small. It’s not uncommon for these first eggs to have soft shells and either no yolks or even double yolks. But don’t worry. After about a week or so, your hens will start laying regular eggs, and each hen should lay around one egg around once a day or at least once every couple of days.

Useful tip: If all of your hens are preferring to lay in just one nesting box and are not using the others, you can easily change this behavior. Just block off access to the preferred nesting box. This will encourage the hens to try out the other nesting boxes and figure out that these are just as good. Once this happens, you can give them access to the original nesting box again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it necessary to have a rooster for egg production?

No, it’s not necessary for you to have a rooster within your flock for egg production. The rooster’s main job is to fertilize the eggs, but this is not necessary if the eggs are not going to be used to hatch new chicks.

Do chickens lay eggs every day when they first start laying?

When hens first start laying, they should lay an egg almost every day.

Can a hen lay 2 eggs in 24 hours?

Hens will generally lay no more than one egg a day or one egg every couple of days. However, young hens that have just started laying may produce an egg that has two yolks.

Do hens need sunlight to lay eggs?

Sunlight, or rather, daylight, is necessary to stimulate a hen’s ovaries to produce the yolk that will start the egg formation process. In general, this requires around 16 hours of daylight.

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