How Old Do Chickens Need to Be to Lay Eggs?

When will your chickens start to lay eggs? The wait for the first eggs from your new hens may seem long, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not. When hens are about five to six months old they will start to lay eggs. Find out more about what to expect when you're egg-specting!

It's important to remember the start date (point of lay) for egg laying varies by breed and time of year. Every chicken is different. Heritage breeds take longer to begin laying than the new hybrid mixes that have been bred to lay lots of eggs and start the process quickly. If you raise chicks in the fall, they won't begin laying until the early days of spring as daylight hours start getting longer.

🌞 FYI 🌞 Egg laying is influenced by the amount of daylight available. Hens need at least 12 hours of daylight to lay. Fourteen to 16 hours of light is optimum.

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What Do I Feed Laying Hens?

Laying hens need extra calcium since about 40% of an eggshell is made of calcium. As your pullets (young hens) are growing, they should be fed a starter/grower feed. Do not feed them layer feed until they reach 16 to 18 weeks old. Layer feed can cause health problems and even death in immature chickens. When you first switch from starter/grower to layer feed, be sure to do it gradually to allow your bird's body to adjust to the new formulation.

If you have a mixed flock with adult and immature birds, you can feed everyone starter/grower feed until the hens mature. The starter/grower feed won't hurt the adult birds. You can supply calcium, such as oyster shells, separately to your mature layers.

How Many Eggs Will My Hen Lay?

Hens lay approximately 200 to 300 eggs annually based on the breed type. There is record of a Black Austrolorp laying 364 eggs in 365 days. She was busy!

Some of the best egg-laying breeds include Sussex, Leghorn, Easter Egger, Brahma and New Hampshire.

What Egg Color Will my Chickens Lay?

Rhode Island Reds, Black Austrolorps,and Golden Sex Links all lay brown eggs. White Leghorns lay white eggs. For different chicken egg colors like blue or green, there are some fascinating breeds to try. Ameraucanas, Araucanas and Cream Legbars all lay blue eggs. For green eggs, you can raise Easter Eggers (which can lay a rainbow of egg colors from bluish, green, pinkish or cream) or Olive Eggers and Favaucanas.  Light Sussex, Mottled Java and Faverolles all lay a pinkish-cream egg. Welsummers, Penedesencas, and Maran chickens all lay dark chocolate brown eggs.

How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs?

Peak egg production for backyard chickens generally occurs at two years of age and slowly declines thereafter. To make sure your hens are producing good quality eggs, it’s important to feed them a healthy diet and keep a constant supply of fresh water available. Older hens do need more calcium. A great supplement is to feed your chickens their own shells. Save the used shells, clean and microwave them for a few seconds. When they’re crispy, break them up and mix them with their feed. You can also add more calcium into your flock’s diet by purchasing a commercial feed with added calcium.

Purina published the following graphic that shows the decline in egg production over a hen's life. For the average backyard chicken keeper, there's no reason to cull chickens based on their egg-laying. Most people will find that over time they have a flock of mixed ages supplying an adequate amount of eggs for a family.

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