Eggs! This is what you’re expecting to see if you’re raising chickens, right?
But of course, it’s not something you can have right away.
Generally speaking, all hens can lay eggs without a rooster. However, they will not be fertilized, which means you cannot expect to have chicks.
In case you don’t know yet, fertilized eggs and unfertilized ones have only little differences. Both of them have almost the same flavor and nutrients.
If you want to have chicks, you should incubate the eggs for 21 days. But if you have a broody hen (hen that loves to sit on eggs), you may no longer need an incubator.
On the other hand, broody hens may cause trouble if you’re only after egg production.
But when can you expect your hen to lay eggs?
How will you know if they are coming soon?
How can you help your hen produce healthy eggs?
More importantly, what can you do to influence your hen to lay eggs?
These are only some questions that will be answered if you read further below.
So sit back and prepare your egg basket.
Table of Contents
- 1 When Do Hens Usually Start to Lay Eggs?
- 2 Important Factors That Influence Hens to Lay Eggs
- 3 How You Can Help Your Hens Lay More Eggs
- 3.1 Provide Proper Nutrition
- 3.2 Provide Sufficient Light
- 3.3 Make Sure That Your Hens Live in a Clean and Safe Environment
- 3.4 Make Sure Nesting Box is Comfortable
- 3.5 Put Fake Eggs
- 3.6 Try Free Ranging Your Hens
- 3.7 Don’t Allow Your Chickens to Eat Their Eggs
- 3.8 Help Them During Molting
- 3.9 Deal With Broody Hens
- 4 Signs That Your Hen is Already Ready to Lay Eggs
- 5 Conclusion
When Do Hens Usually Start to Lay Eggs?
There is no exact age as to when a hen will start to lay eggs, as there are lots of factors to be considered.
But on average, a healthy, young hen will lay her first egg when she is about 6 months old.
Some may take only 16 and 18 weeks, while others may take 28 to 32 weeks or 8 months.
The first laid egg is usually small and weighs around 25 grams only. In some cases, it has a soft shell, double yoke, or even has no yoke at all.
But don’t worry; this will improve as you hen continues to lay more eggs. You can also expect bigger eggs as the hen grows older.
Take note also that a hen usually lays one egg each day, and it usually takes 26 hours to create an egg. This is why it is very rare to have two eggs a day. In fact, you should not expect your hen to lay eggs every day.
In general, a well egg-laying hen can lay 5-6 eggs a week.
Important Factors That Influence Hens to Lay Eggs
As mentioned earlier, you should not expect your hen to lay eggs at once. Aside from the age of hens, here are some of the influential factors you should be aware of.
The breed may be considered the most important factor when it comes to egg production. However, some breeds are better egg-layers than others.
Hybrid chickens, such as Golden Comet are also great at laying fresh eggs. As a matter of fact, they can lay up to more than 280 eggs during the first year. But unfortunately, they become unpredictable in the following years.
There are different opinions on which breed are the best egg-layers. Nevertheless, heavy chicken breeds such as Orpingtons, Wyandottes, and Plymouth Rocks are always on the top list. For smaller breeds, Leghorns and Australrops are considered among the best ones.
On the other hand, Japanese Bantams are known not to lay a lot of eggs. They are likely to produce only between 50 and 200 eggs a year and will stop when they reach 4-6 months old.
Here are some of the best egg layers:
- Lohmann Brown Classic
- Rhode Island Red
- Golden Comet
- Plymouth Rock
- Jersey Giant
- La Bresse
Season of the Year
The season also plays a vital role in egg production.
First of all, hens love warm weather and need daylight to be healthy and productive. In fact, they need around 14 hours of daylight a day for them to lay eggs.
With that, don’t expect your hen to lay eggs during colder months especially winter.
Instead, wait for spring to come and until the middle of summer and you can expect egg production.
But still, the quantity depends on other factors which are explained below.
The social structure of chickens is called pecking order and is very important in flock dynamics.
In simple words, chickens inside a coop having rankings based on their dominance in nature.
If your coop has hens only, one of them is classified as the alpha hen. Most likely, she is the biggest, the oldest, and the most aggressive hen in the group.
So how is it related to laying eggs?
Younger hens or first-timers in laying eggs usually belong to the lower class of the hierarchy.
Having said that, they are likely to last ones to have access to food and water. In some cases, superior hens peck at them.
Needless to say, such scenarios can cause stress which greatly affects their laying ability.
How You Can Help Your Hens Lay More Eggs
Whether you own a huge poultry farm or a small backyard, there are lots of ways you can help your hens lay eggs.
Actually, most of these strategies are practical and you don’t need to be an expert.
Provide Proper Nutrition
Obviously, healthier chickens are more likely to lay eggs than the weaker ones.
The amount to feed hens depends on their breed, age, and size. A healthy, average-sized hen may eat 4-8 ounces of feed every day.
Hens don’t need a lot of protein to produce eggs.
What they are Vitamin D, phosphorus, and calcium so that their eggs will have strong shells. Ideally, they need about 2 grams to make an eggshell.
For additional calcium, put some mashed eggs including the shell which is the most part.
For treats, give them mealworms but not too much because they can be bad for the liver. Also, you may want to add green, leafy vegetables such as cabbage and dandelion leaves. You can also offer sour milk.
Likewise, you can also give them some scratch grains that can also help improve their egg production. As the name implies, they are small seeds that chickens find while they are scratching dirt.
This includes sunflower seeds, wheat, oats, and cracked or rolled corn. Note, however, that too much of them can result in being overweight. Don’t give it to them every day but rather only as an occasional treat.
But more importantly, don’t forget to give a good supply of clean water. Normally, a hen consumes up to one-quarter of a liter every day.
To avoid contamination, use an elevated waterer or have it covered. Waterers with nipple drinkers work better, though.
Provide Sufficient Light
As mentioned earlier, laying hens need around 14 hours of daylight a day. This is why they tend to lay more eggs during spring and early parts of summer.
To increase their laying ability, they need an ambient temperature of 52-79 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that can reduce egg production.
Hens can also adjust to cold temperatures. However, they will find it hard to do it if the coop temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, you should closely monitor the temperature of their coop.
However, colder months or winter seasons can be very challenging for egg production. Besides, it’s their best time to rest their bodies.
But if you want them to continue laying eggs, you can add artificial light. Just make sure it’s not too hot for them and is far from flammable materials.
Never use fluorescent bulbs since they are very fragile and do not work well during cold seasons.
Make Sure That Your Hens Live in a Clean and Safe Environment
Chickens love scratching on dirt, but it does mean you will no longer clean their environment.
Maintaining a clean and dry coop will not keep your eggs clean but can also prevent external parasites such as fleas, mites, ticks, and lice.
Likewise, internal parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms, and protozoa can also reduce the ability to lay more eggs.
As a preventive measure, you can administer some worm medications. However, most chemical wormers are dangerous if not used properly. Therefore, natural remedies like a scoop of garlic are better.
You should also prevent predators from entering the coop. Rats, snakes, and even cats will not only eat feeds but may also contaminate eggs and kill your chicken. Not to mention, loud noises can also distract hens from laying eggs.
You should provide adequate space for everyone. Overcrowded coop can lead to discomfort and even fighting for space. Having at least 1.5 square feet in area for each hen is reasonable enough. Adding perches will be of big help, too.
To solve potential pecking order problems, add or remove some of your chicken to change the cycle. To minimize tension, be careful when introducing new chickens.
Make Sure Nesting Box is Comfortable
Most hens tend to be picky in choosing where they will lay eggs. No wonder, they sometimes leave their nest if they feel uncomfortable and may lay eggs elsewhere.
Aside from the time being wasted searching for eggs, you may find them broken and scattered. And this can be a serious problem in your egg production.
Therefore, the best solution is to build a comfortable nest box. And yes, you can make one without spending a lot of money.
For heavy breeds like the Jersey Giant, the ideal dimension for a nest box is 14 inches by 14 inches and 12 inches deep, and around 20 inches above the ground.
For regular-sized chickens such as Plymouth Rocks, Sussex, and Leghorns, Sussex, a 12-inch box is good enough. Typically, four hens can house in one nesting box.
However, nest boxes don’t necessarily need to be square. You can also create a rectangular nest box, as long as your hen feels comfortable laying eggs.
For easy cleaning, use wood, plastic, or metal. They are also durable enough and will last long. Use can also repurpose materials such as milk crates and used pet carriers.
For the bedding, you can use wood shavings. They are great absorbent and have a pleasant smell. You can also use sawdust but they tend to be dusty. Just make sure you replace them at least every week or when they have accumulated dirt.
Keep in mind that nest boxes are only for laying eggs and not a place to sleep. Otherwise, they can easily get dirty.
Nevertheless, you can let them stay until the middle of the morning. Since they usually lay eggs in the early morning, doing this helps ensure that their egg-laying is almost done.
Aside from fake eggs, you can also encourage your hen to lay eggs on nest boxes by making sure that it is safe from predators.
Put Fake Eggs
As weird as it may sound, putting fake eggs on nests may help influence your hens to lay eggs.
This trick has been proven effective for generations and there’s no reason why it will not work today.
Once your pullets (young hen) are ready to lay eggs, a nest with fake eggs will somehow give them a hint that they should also “place” their eggs later.
If you don’t prefer buying fake or dummy eggs, you can use golf balls.
Try Free Ranging Your Hens
Free-range chickens may lay more eggs than those kept in cages. This is because they have more space and freedom to search for food, and they can exercise more.
However, they will burn more calories and may not be able to eat the right amount of food. If not monitored properly, they may also be prone to diseases and predators.
There is also no scientific study proving that free-range chickens are better egg-layers.
But if you think that your hen needs more activities, then free-ranging your hens is worth trying.
Don’t Allow Your Chickens to Eat Their Eggs
Believe it or not, some chickens eat their eggs. Just because the nest is empty, you might already think that your hen has stopped laying eggs.
There are a lot of reasons why chickens eat eggs. This includes having a low level of calcium, accidental discovery, and simply being bored.
If the coop is too small for them, there is a huge possibility of having broken eggs and chickens will eat them. This is also the reason why you should collect regularly.
Egg-eating can be a hard habit to break if you don’t act immediately.
Help Them During Molting
Molting happens when chickens start to lose their feathers.
But don’t get alarmed. It is a normal process for them and they grow new ones later. This renewal of feathers usually takes 3-4 weeks.
Chickens molt several times in their lifetime.
The first one usually happens to chicks when they are between 6 and 8 days old. The second time happens when they are about 8-12 weeks old, and their first adult molting usually occurs when they are 18 months old.
During molting, hens use a lot of energy and build nutrients. Hence, they are unlikely to lay eggs. And if they don’t, they still need a high-quality diet.
Feathers are known to be 85% protein. Therefore, you might want to feed them with mealworms, fish, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, and cooked eggs.
Yes, you read it right! Chicken loves to eat cooked eggs, and they contain up to 91% of protein.
Molting is also stressful for chickens. Avoid holding them from time to time because it can increase stress. More importantly, don’t force them to lay eggs.
Deal With Broody Hens
As mentioned in the introduction, a broody hen loves to sit on eggs. However, they usually do it all day long and will most likely not lay eggs.
So if you want to have more eggs, you have to deal with them as soon as possible.
Broodiness is brought about by a lot of factors. This includes hormonal change, type of breed, age of hens, and availability of eggs.
There are many ways to break brooding and you don’t have to hurt your hen.
You can transfer them to other nests to join other hens and block her nest so she can go back. You can also isolate her in a separate wire cage.
Most broody hens also tend to be lazy cleaning their bodies which makes them prone to parasites. This is another good reason why you should deal with them.
Signs That Your Hen is Already Ready to Lay Eggs
Aside from her age, there are some signs that your hen will show if she is already ready for the big day.
Look at her comb (or crown) and wattle (under her beak). Once they become redder and larger, it is a sign that she is now starting to be sexually active.
Check if her pelvic bones have already separated. Pick up your hen and carry her against your side using your harm. Her tail should be facing forward. While holding her feet, use your other hand to feel her rear side.
If you can feel that there are three distinct bones, check if the spacing between them is as wide as your 3 fingers. If they are, your hen is likely to be ready to lay eggs. you may also notice that the space between her pelvic and keel bones gets bigger.
Aside from the physical signs, hens that are ready to lay eggs also change their behavior.
Probably the best sign is when your hen starts to squat. You may notice it by reaching out your hand to her and touch her back. She may also slightly spread her wings.
Another obvious indication is when your hen starts to hang around near your nest box. In fact, she may sit on it and try to practice the best position for her to lay eggs. This is also the right time to put dummy eggs.
Once your hen is ready to lay eggs, you should be ready, too. As her master, you should know how to collect eggs and clean them. If there is a broken egg, remove it immediately and clean the nest box thoroughly. Replace the bedding if necessary. If you are into selling eggs, packaging is also very important. Label them with the date you collect them. So far, the best place to store them is in the refrigerator.