I was wondering if you had any baby chicks at home. If that’s the case, I know you’re itching for your first shipment of farm-fresh eggs to arrive. No store-bought egg can compare to one laid by a hen raised in your own backyard. But when do chickens start laying eggs? Read on to find out the telltale signs that your chickens are ready to start laying eggs.
In this article, we will discuss the typical age at which chickens begin laying eggs, the influence of breed, and a few telltale signs that eggs are on the way. Each chicken is unique, and there is no way to hasten their maturation, so take your time and enjoy adolescence while it lasts.
You may also want to read about the best chicken feed.
When do chickens start laying eggs?
On the whole, it takes hens about 6 months to “come into lay,” or begin laying eggs. Some hens begin laying eggs as young as 16–18 weeks of age, while others don’t begin until much later, at 28–32 weeks (closer to 8 months of age)! While we have had some early birds that really took off, as well as our fair share of late bloomers, we have generally found that our chickens begin laying eggs between the ages of 20 and 22 weeks.
Different chicken breeds
When do chickens start laying eggs, it depends on the breed. When eggs begin to appear also depends on the breed of chickens you have. Each chicken breed has its own typical age range for egg maturity, but some breeds start laying eggs earlier than others.
Some breeds of chicken, such as Leghorns, Golden Comets, Sex Links, Rhode Island Reds, and Australorps, were developed specifically for egg production, and their hens begin laying eggs at a younger age (as early as 17 or 18 weeks). However, larger chickens like Wyandottes, Orpingtons, and Barred Rocks typically need more time. It’s a breed characteristic that our female Easter Eggers are always the last to contribute their brightly colored eggs to the collection.
Time of year that chickens start laying
When do chickens start laying eggs, in spring? Most young chickens begin laying eggs in the first year of their lives. If you get your chicks in the summer or fall, and they mature in the shorter, darker days of fall or winter, they might not begin laying eggs until the following spring. Maturing hens typically stop laying eggs during the winter months when daylight hours are shorter. This allows the hens to conserve energy and nutrients in preparation for the harsh winter months.
You may also observe a change in the size and color of the combs and wattles of your chickens as their hormone levels fluctuate and they go into hibernation for the winter. Even in their first winter, it is not unusual for young hens to continue laying eggs. Then, after that, they will most likely take the following winter off. If you want your chickens to lay in winter, provide them with a good light with a timer.
How to tell that chickens will start laying
The combs and/or wattles of young chickens grow larger as they age. If the chicken starts doing this at a young age (before 8 weeks), it may be a rooster! Young female chickens take longer than males to develop combs and wattles. When her hormones begin to fluctuate and she is ready to begin laying eggs, her combs, wattles, and face will become a deeper red. Likewise, they will expand in size.
A hen will show increased curiosity about the nesting box in the weeks before she lays her first egg. Even if she isn’t quite ready to lay yet, she may start to experiment with it by sitting inside. When raising young chickens, it’s helpful to put fake eggs in their nesting boxes to train them to use those spaces for laying eggs instead of the coop floor or a secret spot in the yard. Chickens prefer to lay eggs in a group, or “clutch,” with other eggs. Specialty plastic eggs made to look like real wood, or, as we’ve done before, golf balls!
What about a “egg song” about a chicken? It’s funny to me that many cities prohibit roosters from crowing, because hens can be just as loud. (Although I’ve read that the tone of a rooster crow is more jarring and irritating than hen songs to most people.) Before and after laying an egg, our chickens make a lot of noise, singing and squawking. As a result, your young chickens may become more vocal before they begin laying eggs.
Within and without, a hen’s body undergoes many transformations as she prepares to begin laying eggs. Creating and laying eggs is an exhausting process. Consequently, as your chickens age, you might find that they consume more food than usual. To lay eggs, hens require a different diet than young chicks or pullets. Starter and grower feeds have more protein to fuel the rapid growth of young birds. There is a slight reduction in protein and an increase in calcium in layer feeds to ensure healthy eggshell development. Consequently, once your hens reach 18 weeks of age (or once you see the first egg), you should gradually switch them over to a layer feed.