One of the primary reasons people want to keep chickens is so they can get their own supply of fresh eggs and so one of the first questions people ask when thinking about getting hens is: how often do chickens lay eggs? A fairly young, healthy hen, from a good laying breed will lay on average one egg every couple of days. However, the answer isn’t so straightforward and depends on a range of factors which we will discuss here.
Different breeds of chicken lay eggs at different rates
The first factor which determines egg laying productivity is the breed of chicken you have chosen. Different breeds lay at different rates. Indeed, egg farmers have spent decades developing hybrids to try and produce super-egg layers. In general though, all hens will lay eggs regularly, but I won’t give a figure here until I’ve discussed the other factors. Good layers, however, include White Leghorn, Nera, Goldline, Light Sussex, Rhode Island Reds, Marans, Speckledy and Amber breeds.
Egg laying frequency is partially determined by the age of the chicken
The age of a hen plays a significant role in the frequency of egg laying. Young chickens, or pullets, begin laying when they are around four to five months old. In the twelve months following the start of their egg laying, they will be at their most productive, some breeds laying almost daily. However, production then begins to tail off, year by year and very old birds can give up laying completely. Some people also think there is a connection between egg laying and longevity, so that those breeds which lay more frequently live shorter lives.
If egg production is important to you, then a few years down the line you might be left with the difficult choice of what to do with your older hens. You can opt to keep them in retirement and buy or rear some new egg layers, or if you’re less attached, there’s the option of retiring them to the kitchen.
Egg laying varies depending on the season
Another factor that can dramatically affect egg laying productivity is the time of year. The reason for this is that egg laying is directly influenced by the amount of light that hens have. As a result, in the summer months which have longer days, egg laying is most productive and in the winter when days are much shorter, hens lay much less frequently. This is one reason why battery hens and hens that live their lives in sheds have constant artificial lighting – in order to stimulate increased egg production. If you do keep hens, I don’t recommend lighting your coop to get more eggs, it’s much healthier for your hens to have a more natural egg laying cycle controlled by mother nature.
A chicken’s health affects its egg laying
A chicken that is not in tip-top condition is not going to be laying as frequently as it could. To get the most eggs you really need to take care of your hens: make sure they have a healthy diet, including oyster shell grit, and that you check them frequently for illnesses and parasites. Health and eggs laying are directly related and one sign of a really poorly hen is that it stops laying completely.
Chickens need the right diet to lay eggs frequently
A balanced healthy diet is essential in order for chickens to regularly lay eggs. One essential element they need is calcium to create the egg shell. The amount of calcium needed for a single egg shell is equal to about 50% of the calcium stored in their skeleton. Many hen keepers give their chickens calcium supplements to help with ensuring that they have enough of the mineral to maintain good health and egg laying production.This can some in the form of crushed oyster shell or as a liquid tonic.
Broody hens stop laying
The natural process for a chicken is to mate with the cockerel, lay eggs, then become broody and hatch them. Broodiness is a natural part of being a chicken and even if a cockerel is not present and the eggs are taken away every morning you’ll still find that some hens become broody from time to time. When this happens egg production stops and can continue to do so for quite a few weeks – if she’s allowed to sit and hatch eggs it could be three months before she lays again. To find out how to stop hens from being broody read this article at Poultry Keeper.
Moulting can signify a halt in egg production
As part of their natural cycle, chickens go through an annual rejuvenation process. After the intensive laying period during the summer when daylight is longer the chickens system is tired. As the autumn nights draw in their bodies begin to repair themselves. One sign of this is moulting their feathers and replacing them with new ones. Whilst this is happening externally, internally the reproductive organs also being to repair themselves so that they can lay healthy eggs with more frequency in the next cycle. When this happens there is usually a couple of weeks when egg laying will stop. Often this may affect your entire flock at the same time.
So, how often do chickens lay eggs? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer, but as you can see, there are lots of things that will influence egg laying frequency.