Eggs are one of the amazing benefits of having chickens – in addition to their great companionship and equistite bug eating skills. But if you’re new to chickens, or if you are trying to make sense of all the old wives’ tales out there, you might wonder things like when do chickens start laying eggs or how often do chickens lay eggs…and more.
Whenever someone stops by the farm, especially a new chicken person, I’m certainly asked these questions! And the truth is, it depends on a few factors:
- The season
- Their environment
By the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer idea of when your chickens will start laying, how many eggs you can expect your hens to lay, as well as things that can cause egg laying to stop. Plus many more interesting egg laying questions (some questions you didn’t even think of, but would love to know the answer to)!
When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
Factor #1: Breed and Age
Five to seven months old is the minimum age chickens tend to start laying eggs. But depending on the breed, your chicks may start laying as early as 5 months old, or not lay any eggs until they’re at least a year old.
In addition to age and breed, their reproductive systems might not be healthy. Therefore, their yield may be less at this age. Or, it might take longer for them to lay eggs. There are even some who never produce an egg in their lifetime.
Factor #2: Diet
Like humans, hens are unable to produce if they don’t have a proper diet. Lack of one thing or another can lead to their sluggishness and other health issues.
As chicks you will need to start them on a 18% chick starter. Without this, it might take them longer to start egg production because their bodies haven’t reached their healthiest state.
As mature layers you need to give them a high quality 16% layer feed so they get enough nutrients to start egg production.
Additional sources of essential minerals and vitamins are found in fresh veggies, fruits, dried insects, and raw peanuts (meaning unsalted and unroasted). You can also give them specifically formulated vitamins and minerals like these. Giving all of these to chickens ensures they have the broadest spectrum of nutrients required.
This is why we don’t recommend letting your chickens forage for their feed on a full-time basis. Yes, other bloggers out there recommend this free-range option, and you need to decide on the best choice for your chickens. However, if they go free-range, there might be chickens who don’t produce eggs as soon as you want them to.
Remember, what your chicks eat goes into the eggs. In an extreme example, some of my chickens went after dead mice that were killed by my cat a month before. Do you want eggs that feature a breakdown from these dead rodents and the worms that most likely grew in their remains?
In the end, that’s why we recommend sticking with the 18% chick starter and the 16% layer feeds. This ensures they’re getting a healthy diet filled with nutrients that we put in our own bodies. Take a look at the ingredients in these recommended feeds, these are ingredients you don’t find in average commercial feed.
Factor #3: Season
The time of year is also a factor in egg production. For instance, if you buy chicks in January, they might start egg production in July for two reasons. One, they have reached the minimum age. Two, it’s warm, and there’s 12 to 14 hours of free light in the form of sunshine. This is when chickens tend to give out the most eggs due to a hormonal response.
On the other hand, if you purchase chicks in August – at least in the northern hemisphere – and they reach 6 months in February, there’s a good chance they won’t lay eggs. Or, due to the lack of natural warmth and light, they won’t produce many. Therefore, you’ll need to wait until at least May for the chickens to actively lay eggs.
Factor #4: Environment
A final consideration we’ll discuss is their environment. Situations like heat stress, extreme cold and an influx of predators can minimize egg production. Extreme weather is also an issue, especially in the summer.
In early spring, with its cool nights and mild days, chickens lay a lot of eggs. However, by August, their production might go down because of the heat. Chickens have a body temperature of about 106 degrees. When it gets hot, they don’t have the same ability to cool themselves like humans do.
If your chicks turn 6 months old in August, they might not consistently produce eggs until October. Of course, that’s for areas that feature a significant cool down in the fall. For instance, in the Midwest, there tends to be an uptick in egg production from September to November. You might call it peak production time. It goes down for the rest of the winter.
In addition to climate, you want to look at the living situation of your chickens. If they’re in a coop with a lack of space, or they’re crammed in with a number of roosters, it can decrease their egg production. The same thing if predators or small vermin like mice can saunter in and out.
Unexpected critters can stress both adult and younger chickens, thus reducing their egg production. This is why you want to ensure they live in a coop that is as predator and vermin-free as possible.
If your chicken is in a molt, that can decrease or stop egg production as well.
How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs And How Many?
Okay, so now you know when to expect your chickens to start laying eggs. Now you are probably wondering how often they should be laying and how many eggs you should expect. These questions also depend on several factors.
Factor #1: Breed
Some chicken breeds are more inclined to lay eggs consistently (super egg-layers), while other breeds aren’t. Obviously, this will affect how often these chickens lay eggs. Two extreme examples to illustrate this point are Cornish Crosses and Production Reds. These are industrial breeds; Cornish Crosses are raised for meat, while Production Reds are bred for egg laying in factory farms.
Cornish Crosses don’t lay eggs very often – when we raised them as pets, they laid one egg a week or so. They’re too heavy with too many health problems to expect any real amount of eggs.
On the other hand, Production Reds are bred to lay eggs no matter what – we’ve had some that laid a nice brown egg every day (yes, 7 days a week). Most breeds are somewhere in the middle – they’ll lay between 4-6 eggs a week.
Here’s a breakdown of how often different popular chicken breeds lay eggs:
|Breed||Frequency (on average)||Lay in Winter?|
|How often do Silkie chickens lay eggs?||3-4 times a week||Not without extra lights|
|How often do Ameraucana chickens lay eggs?||4-5 times a week||Not without extra lights|
|How often do Bantam chickens lay eggs?||3-4 times a week||Not without extra lights|
|How often do Barred Plymouth Rock chickens lay eggs?||4-5 times a week||Yes, it’s possible|
|How often do Black Sex Link chickens lay eggs?||5-6 times a week||Yes, it’s possible|
|How often do broiler chickens lay eggs?||1-2 times a week||Not typically.|
|How often do Rhode Island Red chickens lay eggs?||5-6 times a week||Heritage bloodlines need extra lights, industrial bloodlines might not.|
|How often do Dominique chickens lay eggs?||4-5 times a week||Yes, it’s possible. Adding a light to the chicken coop is a good idea, though.|
|How often do free range chickens lay eggs?||4-5 times a week (if you can find them)||If they’re not cooped up regularly, probably not.|
|How often do Leghorn chickens lay eggs?||4-6 times a week||Yes, it’s possible|
|How often do Partridge Rock chickens lay eggs?||4-5 times a week||Yes, it’s possible|
Factor #2: Diet
Diet affects egg-laying ability, and it’s frequently people who aren’t feeding their flocks a good, high-protein diet who email me asking how often do chickens lay eggs. They are sometimes frustrated with their hens.
When a hen doesn’t have enough protein, nutrients, or calcium in her diet, it can cause her to stop laying eggs. After all, egg laying is about reproduction – if her body isn’t healthy, the first thing her body will do is stop anything except the bare necessities to live.
A diet that includes a 16% layer feed and a calcium supplement is ideal. You can free-feed your chickens, or offer 1-2 cups of grain per hen each day. These are the best chicken feeders we recommend that make it easy to feed hens without wasting a ton of food. It’s also a good idea to supplement her diet with table scraps or treats, such as mealworms.
Factor #3: Seasons
Chickens will lay less in winter than they do in the spring, summer, and fall. Partly this is caused by the shortage of daylight in the winter, and partly (particularly in very cold areas) it’s caused by her body reserving calories for warmth. It takes a lot of energy to lay an egg!
If she’s stopped laying from November – February, she’ll likely pick back up in March (in the Northern Hemisphere – this will be the opposite for our Aussie and Kiwi friends in the Southern Hemisphere).
Factor #4: Environment
Environmental stress can affect how often chickens lay eggs, so it’s always best to provide a quiet, predator-free chicken coop that’s not overcrowded. When a hen is stressed, the calories she eats are diverted towards supporting her body – and not to laying eggs. In some cases, when a hen is very stressed over predators, she might stop laying alltogether for a while.
Another reason hens stop laying is if their nesting boxes aren’t up to snuff. Chickens need to feel safe when laying eggs, and if they don’t, they might stop laying. A nesting box in a quiet, dark area that’s away from the rest of the flock (and especially roosters) is ideal. You can make your chicken nesting boxes out of anything that’s easy to clean.
It’s also a good idea to put sweet-smelling herbs in the nesting boxes – they’ll relax the hen and attract her to the nesting box (so she doesn’t lay elsewhere). Similarly, when chickens live in crowded conditions, or she lives with competing roosters who overly mate with them, it can spike their stress levels, and she’ll go off her eggs.
It’s best to build a coop with 10 square feet of space per bird, and with lots of roosting bars for them to rest on. It’s also important to keep out predators, rats, dogs, etc, so your flock feels safe. You can check out our top free chicken coop plans here.
Other Chicken Egg Laying FAQ
Why Have My Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs?
Chickens stop laying eggs for a variety of reasons: season, diet, and stress are some common factors. You also might think your hens have stopped laying eggs – but they’re actually hiding them! This is common with free-range chickens. You might have to look around to see if they’ve chosen a different place to lay, especially if you want fresh eggs.
If your hen is broody and is sitting on a clutch, she’ll also stop laying eggs until her chicks are hatched and able to fend for themselves (about 2-3 months).
Weather also can affect egg production – if a hen is heat stressed, she will stop laying. Similarly, if she’s dehydrated, her body will shut down (you can learn how to make a DIY automatic chicken waterer for $12 here – these are a LIFESAVER in the summer!)
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Do Chickens Lay Eggs Every Day?
Hens will naturally lay eggs, but not necessarily one each day. Most chickens require about 12-14 hours of daylight each day to produce eggs since egg laying is a hormonal response to sunlight. In addition, it can take about 24 hours for an egg to make it from the hen’s ovary, through her oviduct and encased in calcium, to her vent, so it can be finally laid.
There’s really no way to speed up this process – so it’s reasonable to expect your chickens to lay eggs every 24-26 hours. Most hens take a day or two off each week – and that’s completely natural.
How Many Eggs Does A Hen Lay In A Day?
Typically, one egg. Hens need 12-14 hours of daylight each day to produce eggs. So, a hen will lay 1 egg every day or every other day, as long as she gets 12-14 hours of light each day. In the winter, her production might decrease because the days are shorter.
How Many Eggs Does A Hen Lay In A Week?
So, How Many Eggs Per Week Does A Chicken Lay? The number of eggs per week a chicken lays depends largely on factors such as their breed, nutritional intake, and environmental conditions. Most chickens are known to lay 5 eggs a week or at least one every other day, for about 300 eggs per year.
It certainly helps if they have inviting laying boxes and sweet smelling herbs (both to smell good and fight parasites). It’s also important that they are getting enough protein, a hen’s health is the pathway to the best production. Be sure you are feeding high protein feed and toss them some healthy treats as well.
Do Chickens Lay Eggs At The Same Time Every Day?
Even though most hens don’t lay every day, it’s certainly possible that a hen could lay eggs at the same time. However, most of the time, she won’t. Hens lay eggs every 24-26 hours – so she might lay her eggs in the morning one week, and in the evening another week. It’s a crapshoot! Ultimately, hens just follow their own rhythm and lay when nature tells them to.
What Time Of Day Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
It seems like a lot of hens lay their eggs in the morning, but chickens lay eggs all throughout the day. In fact, you might see several hens fighting over the nesting box! They won’t lay their eggs at night though – they like to sleep and stay safe by roosting at night.
Is It Painful For Chickens To Lay Eggs?
There has been no clear evidence to support the claim that laying eggs hurts chickens. Of course, very large eggs laid by a very small hen might cause an issue such as egg binding or prolapsed vent, which is painful. But on average, it seems laying an egg isn’t the same as pushing out a baby every 24 hours. In fact, you’ll probably hear your hens singing “the egg song” after laying – it might just relieve them to finally pop out the egg!
Does A Chicken Need A Rooster To Lay An Egg?
No, a chicken doesn’t need a rooster to lay eggs – hens will produce their “butt nuggets” whether or not a rooster is present. This is because egg laying is a hormonal response to the amount of light – not whether she has a mate or not.
If you want fertilized eggs so you can hatch chicks, then you’ll need a rooster. You can read about the best incubators we recommend here. You can read all about how roosters fertilize eggs here (it’s worth the read).
What Size Should Eggs Be?
This depends on the breed and the age of the chicken. Bantams, for example, lay small eggs because they are small chickens. But eggs vary in size even with standard sized chickens. The eggs usually start out smaller and get larger as the chicken matures!
Is It Possible For A Chicken To Lay 2 Eggs A Day?
Yes, it is possible – if she lays “an egg within an egg.” This occurs when, for whatever reason, an egg that was released from the ovary doesn’t make it down the oviduct, and stays in her body for an additional length of time. Meanwhile, the ovary has released a second yolk, which is then also enveloped in calcium – along with the first egg. It’s important to remember, though, that this isn’t a typical thing – it’s really an abnormal egg.
How Many Eggs Do Chickens Lay A Year?
Determining how many eggs a chicken will lay in a year depends primarily on the breed, the nutrition provided, and the overall management of the flock. Most egg-laying breeds will lay about 300 eggs per year. Here’s a chart of the more popular breeds:
|Breed||Eggs per year (on average)|
|Silkie chickens||200-250 per year|
|Ameraucana chickens||250 – 280 per year|
|Barred Rock chickens||Approx. 300 per year|
|Bantam chickens||250 – 280 per year|
|Black Sex Link chickens||Approx. 300 per year|
|Rhode Island Red chickens||Approx. 300 per year|
|Dominique chickens||250 – 280 per year|
|Leghorn chickens||Approx. 300 per year|
How Many Eggs Are In A Chicken? Are Hens Born With All Their Eggs?
A hen is born with all the egg yolks she’ll ever have (the yolks are what’s actually released from her ovary – hens have two ovaries, but only one is functional). The amount of actual yolks in her ovaries varies from chicken to chicken – they’re individuals after all.
However, most hens lay consistently for the first 3 years of their lives. Since many breeds lay about 300 eggs a year, and they don’t start laying until they’re 6-8 months old, you can reasonably expect a hen to lay about 600-1,000 eggs during her lifetime.
Do Male Chickens Lay Eggs?
No – just female chickens. The male chickens, called roosters, fertilize the eggs and protect the hens and provide companionship.
How Often Do Chickens Lay Double Yolk Eggs?
While double-yolk eggs happen frequently and aren’t anything to worry about, there’s no telling when hens will lay eggs with two yolks. Some hens lay them consistently, and some hens will only do it once in their lives. You can read more about double-yolk eggs here.
How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs In The Wild?
Just like domestic breeds, wild chickens lay eggs every 24-26 hours – but this depends on the season, their health, and their diet.
How Often Do Chickens Have To Mate To Lay Eggs?
Hens will lay eggs regardless of whether they mate with a rooster or not. If you want to hatch chicks, however, you will need a rooster to fertilize the eggs. You can read about how chickens mate right here.
What Do Chickens Do With Unfertilized Eggs?
If the hen is “broody,” meaning she wants to hatch eggs, she’ll sit on them even if they’re not fertile. If the hen isn’t broody, she’ll just leave the eggs in her nesting spot and go on with her day. Sometimes, hens will eat their own eggs, especially if their diet isn’t already sufficient, or if they’re bored.
How often do chickens lay eggs that are unfertilized? Well, that depends on whether they run with a rooster or not! If they’re cooped with a rooster, you can bet her eggs are consistently fertile. If there’s no rooster, then all her eggs will be unfertilized.
Bonus Podcast Content
Don’t go just yet, we have some very practical information you don’t want to miss. Listen to this podcast and you’ll learn:
- The easy-peasy way to tell instantly if your hens are laying
- My favorite ways to use up all those wonderful eggs (your family will love these!)
- Old timey (but tried and true) ways to preserve eggs for leaner times
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.