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Ok, so you’ve gotten your coop and run ready, you’ve assembled your flock and now you are waiting (and waiting) for your hens to lay eggs for the first time. You just can’t wait to cook your first breakfast with farm fresh eggs! While there is no way to predict the exact day you will get your first egg, there are several signs and factors you can use to anticipate a general timeframe that she will start laying eggs.
When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
The average timeframe for egg laying is around 18 weeks or 5 – 6 months of age. There are some breeds, though, that can start as early as 16 weeks or 4 months. Breed type and season can also affect the timing of when they will start to lay eggs. Some smaller, slower producing breeds will sometimes go as long 8 months or so to start laying eggs regularly.
Feather type (standard, frizzle, etc), color, and markings, do not make a difference in the timing.
Here are the top 3 signs your hen is ready to lay eggs:
There are a several signs and factors you can look for to determine when you might get your first eggs. It is important to be prepared for your first eggs so that you can be providing your hens the nutrition and care that they need to support egg laying. (More on that below also).
How long until your chickens start laying eggs for the first time can be a pretty big range among different chicken breeds. That being said, if you know the specific breed of your chicken, age can be a helpful indicator on when your hen will be ready to lay her first egg.
As we mentioned earlier, Heavy egg productions breeds such as Rhode Island Reds, Sex links, Amberlinks, Australorps may start laying eggs relatively young (around 16 – 18 weeks). However, other breeds that are bred more for show and pets and mature slowly such as Silkies can take up to a year.
There are also, of course, some breeds who fall into the middle range like Easter Eggers. Easter Eggers chickens lay eggs in the 20 – 25 week age range. Which ends up being about 5 – 6 months. A few other breeds in the 6 month range (but that sometimes can climb into the higher 8 month range like Silkies) are large breeds like Orpingtons, Sussex and Wyandottes. As well as unique breeds like the Welsummer and Salmon Faverolle.
So, while you can’t use one single age across the board, if you know the norms for your particular breed it can certainly help you get a good ballpark on what age your chickens will start laying eggs.
Although a hen will not get a huge comb and wattles like a rooster, she will get bigger, redder ones right before she starts laying eggs.
Often times, a hen will not really have much of anything in the way of comb/wattles when she is a young pullet. These will be extremely pale pink.
However, as the time gets closer to when your chickens start laying eggs, your hen’s comb and wattles will get significantly larger and turn a deep red. This reddening and increase in size is an indication that she is maturing. Once fully mature, the eggs will start coming.
A hen who is close to point of lay will start “squatting” behavior. Squatting is pretty much what it sounds like, the hen will hunker down sort of spreading her wings a bit.
Often times you can trigger her to do so by putting your hand out over her. Hens do this to get into a mating position for a rooster. That means they won’t start squatting until they are close to maturity (egg laying age).
4) Behavior Changes
As your hen matures and gets closer to laying her first egg, you may also notice some behavior changes. She may start getting a little noiser, she may get more interested in your roosters, or more territorial with other hens.
She may even start eating more as her body has higher energy demands ramping up egg production. These are signs you can look for when doing your daily or weekly health checks,
5) Checking Out Nesting Boxes
Hens know instinctively (usually) that nesting boxes are where they should go when it’s egg time. This is if you’re nesting boxes make them feel safe and secure anyway.
So, as it gets closer to time to lay, your hens might start exploring the nesting boxes, checking them out and spending some time in them.
How to Prepare
Laying eggs is a big task and can take a lot of energy for you chickens. Therefore, you should make sure they have right things to keep them happy and healthy.
Around 16 – 18 weeks of age, you should switch your chickens from starter and grower feed to layer feed.
The additional calcium in the layer feed will ensure that your hen is able to properly form solid egg shells.
If you do not provide your hen that is starting to lay eggs with the proper nutrition, you may end up with soft shelled eggs (which can break easily) or even eggs without a shell at all! You can also provide free choice oyster shells that they can eat when they feel they need an additional boost of calcium.
Clean & Safe Nesting Boxes
Another thing you will want to ensure that you provide your hen that is ready to lay eggs is a safe, cozy nesting box area as well as some wooden or fake eggs.
We use these fake eggs. They help your hen to know where to go when she is ready to lay eggs for real 🙂
The fake eggs will encourage them to start laying eggs in their nesting boxes. They have an instinct to lay where they think other eggs are since that is then perceived as a safe spot.
Nesting boxes should be clean, slightly off the floor of the coop and in a dark place. Also, make sure they have straw or shavings in them. This will feel cozy for your chickens and also protect the eggs from breaking once laid.
Can I eat the first egg a chicken lays?
Yes, you can eat their first egg. The first egg, also called a pullet egg, is a normal egg but often times is significantly smaller than what their other eggs will be.
The frequency of egg laying depends greatly on the breed. They can average anywhere from 2 – 6 eggs per week.
Chickens’ egg production is at peak between 2 – 3 years of age. Heavy layers will tend to stop egg laying much earlier while lower producers can continue to lay eggs sporadically for many years after peak egg production.
How do I get my chickens to start laying eggs?
While you can’t force a chicken to start laying eggs, you can ensure it has the proper layer feed, clean and safe nesting boxes and is in top health so that she can be well prepared for egg production.
Why are my 6 month old chickens not laying eggs?
Well, first, they may just not be ready yet. But, if they are an early egg laying breed or if they aren’t laying well past 6 months there may be other factors at play.
Some things that can prevent or slow chickens from laying eggs are:
- Decreased light – if you have chickens that hit maturity during winter, for example, they may take significantly longer than the average time.
- Health issues such as lice and mites to name a few
- Sometimes chickens start laying eggs other than in their nesting boxes
When Will They Lay The Most Eggs?
Additionally, you should know that when your hen starts to lay their highest volume of eggs will come from laying age to around 2 – 3 years old. During this time, if you have several hens laying eggs you may want to think about how to freeze eggs so that they don’t go bad.
Now that you know the answer to: When Do Chickens Start to Lay Eggs? You may also be interested in knowing:
If your chicken is still laying eggs? Here are a few signs.