If you have a backyard flock and are wondering how long it takes for your younger hens to start laying their first egg, then this post is for you! This post outlines everything from the average age of the chicken, ways to encourage egg laying, as well as some of the tell-tale signs that come when a chicken first lays an egg.
What age do chickens start to lay eggs?
The average age that a young female chicken starts to lay an egg is around 6 months of age (or around 24 weeks of age). Some chicken breeds start laying around 18 weeks of age, but the average hen doesn’t start start laying until around the 24 week mark.
Every chicken and breed is different (just like humans!). Some may begin to lay eggs at an earlier age than others. You can’t rush the laying, but I do walk you through a few tips on how to start encouraging it.
How long does it take for a chicken to lay an egg?
It takes a chickens body roughly around 24 hours to produce. And then another 20-30 minutes for them to lay it.
For chickens to lay consistently, they need adequate daylight. On average 12-14 hours of daylight will help chickens to consistently produce eggs.
Because the winter months mean less daylight, your chicken will produce less eggs (or stop laying all together).
If a chicken were to reach their maturity (18-24 weeks of age) during the fall and winter months, chances are you wouldn’t receive your first egg until that following spring.
Egg Laying and Chicken Breeds
If you are interested in raising chickens for eggs, it’s important that you understand the research different breeds of chickens. There are many different breeds that are known for their excellent egg production.
If you are wanting rockstar egg layers then you should look into raising Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns and Australorps.
If you are wanting to add colorful eggs to your flock, then Easter Eggers are the chicken for you!
Other breeds such as Buff Orpingtons and Wyandottes can sometimes take a little longer to lay because they are some of the heavier breeds. They’re fantastic layers once they get going!
One of the most common misconceptions about chicken eggs is that a chicken will lay year round. If we can find them in the stores year round, wouldn’t that mean we can have them on our homesteads all year round?
When you purchase an egg at the grocery store, those chickens are “forced” into laying all year round from artificial lighting. A true pasture or homestead chicken takes the winter months off from laying.
Their bodies know best and this is a wonderful time for them to have a natural break from laying. Their bodies use their nutrients and energy during winter months to stay warm.
As the daylight hours begin to increase, you will start to see an increase in your egg production due to the long days. If you find that your chickens have stopped laying in the winter, this is why!
6 Signs that your chicken will start to lay eggs soon
If your chicken starts to wander in and out of the nesting boxes, this is always a great sign that an egg is near! Your chicken might even try sitting in a few nesting boxes.
You can lay a few artificial eggs into the nesting box to encourage her to lay eggs.
2. Enlarged and Reddened Combs and Wattles
The chicken comb is on the top of a chickens head. A chicken’s wattle is the little beard that hangs from her beak.
As the time gets closer for her to lay an egg, you’ll notice that the wattle and comb begin to enlarge and redden.
If you find that your chickens start to drop into a submissive squat when you pass by, this is a great sign that egg laying is near! The chicken drops into that squatting position because that is how a rooster would come to mount and breed her.
When it comes to raising your chickens, you need to understand that they eat different feeds and have different nutritional needs.
You’ll feed your chicks a special chick starter which is a crumble that contains high levels of protein.
As the time approaches for your chickens to lay, you can switch them to a layer feed. The layer feed has extra calcium in it to help with egg production.
A chicken needs a good amount of calcium in their diet to produce eggs with hard shells. Without adequate calcium, you risk having eggs with soft shells.
As the time nears for a chicken to start laying, you’ll notice their appetite increases. The chicken will begin to eat more than usual as their body prepares to form and lay an egg.
Once your chicken starts to lay egg, you can also supplement calcium with their own eggs. Read how to use crushed egg shells for calcium here.
The closer your chicken gets to laying an egg, the more sing-songy they’ll become. The chicken will start making loud squawking noises in preparation of the big day.
Once your chicken starts to lay eggs, you’ll also notice that many of them start making loud squawking noises before and after they lay an egg. Kind of like an egg alarm to let you know that their egg has been laid.
Some people like to call these noises that a hen makes an “egg song”.
A hen may appear a bit more nervous and skittish than usual. Before a hen lays an egg, they may be a bit nervous in appearance as they’re looking for the perfect spot to lay their egg.
Ways to encourage your chickens to lay naturally
We want to encourage our chickens to lay eggs naturally during the spring and summer months. Remember, egg production will slow down and typically stop during the dark hours of fall and winter because they exert a lot of energy staying warm.
If your spring or summer daylight hours are getting longer, there are a few ways you can help to encourage your chickens to lay naturally. I would suggest doing the following instead of trying to use supplemental light to begin laying.
Feed them extra protein
Feeding chickens a high protein diet in the form of extra feed, meal worms and sunflower seeds is an excellent way to encourage egg production. Their bodies have just came out of using up extra nutrients from winter months.
Feed them extra calcium
You can feed your chickens extra calcium through crushed eggshells (you can read how to do that here) and also dark leafy greens. Spinach and kale are great options.
The dark leafy greens will also provide you with beautiful dark egg yolk once they start laying.
You will also want to make sure they have a good complete layer feed which also provides calcium.
Give them a comfy spot to lay their egg
Make sure they have access to a nesting box or somewhere to lay an egg. Making sure it’s clean with bedding is also a great idea.
I love using these mats in the bottom of my nesting boxes. It makes poop clean up easy and provides a nice laying area for our hens.
Laying these ceramic eggs in their nesting box also encourages laying.
Let them free range as much as possible
If you have the area and protection, let your chickens out of the coop to free range. The fresh air, sunshine, grass and bugs help to encourage their bodies to start producing eggs.
Normal things that can happen when a chicken starts to lay
- A young chickens laying may be inconsistent for quite awhile.
- Not every chicken is a large egg producer. At their peak, most chickens lay an egg every day or every other day.
- The egg size will vary and change over time as they grow. You will have small eggs in the beginning and larger eggs over time.
When will your chicken start to lay bigger eggs?
When a hen lays her first eggs, those eggs are the smallest eggs that she will lay. By 40 weeks of age the size of the egg will have begun to increase.
When does a chicken stop laying eggs?
Most hens will be at their peak laying age and maximum egg production during 2-3 years of age. That first year of life is spent growing and reaching egg laying maturity.
When a hen reaches three years of age, their egg production will slowly decline over time. Mature hens will have roughly a 10% laying decline every year after they reach three years of age.