When Do Chickens Start to Lay Eggs? Answering this can be quite complicated. Raising Backyard chickens is not only a fun hobby to keep, but can be very productive with its benefits. When done right, you can get a steady supply of fresh, high-quality eggs. Eggs laid by your backyard chickens are fresher than store-bought ones and are also tastier.
By the end, you should know how you can adequately raise your chickens so they can start laying eggs sooner. Let us begin by discussing how to choose your pullets.
Choosing The Right Pullets
It’s important to understand that your hens will lay eggs regardless of the presence of males. This is often misunderstood by many amateurs.
So, you don’t need male chickens at all, unless you want fertile eggs to hatch chicks. Choose chicks that are already identified as pullets from the get-go. Remember, males consume feed and will take up space so that they will reduce efficiency.
In buying pullets, you have two main options:
- Purchasing chicks that have been sexed and identified as pullets and raise them.
- Purchasing “ready-to-lay” pullets that are around 17 weeks old. This is typically the more expensive approach.
Delaying Pullet’s Sexual Maturity
The idea behind this technique is that we allow the pullets-your hens- to grow better physically before they lay eggs.
Day length triggers the early sexual maturity of the pullet. So, the idea is not to expose the chicks to light before they are at least three pounds in weight.
After they reached enough weight, ideally when they are exactly 17 weeks old, it’s time to start light stimulation:
- 13 hours at 17 weeks
- 14 hours at 18 weeks
- 15 hours at 19 weeks
- Increase the light for half an hour per day every week.
- When we reach 17 hours at 25 weeks, maintain this.
In general, you can get a 60-watt bulb for an area of 12-by-12 feet. Maintain 17 hours of light stimulation once the hens are laying eggs. Do not let the duration to decrease.
Best Chicken Breeds for Egg Production
Different chicken breeds have different abilities and production capacities in laying eggs. Below, we will discuss some of the best chicken breeds to choose from before you get your pullets:
Leghorns and primarily white leghorns are undoubtedly the best breeds for egg production.
They are recognizable by the floppy comb and can lay around 4 to 6 medium-sized white eggs every week.
Leghorns are a very active breed, and they love their freedom. They can be friendly, but in general, they don’t like too much attention.
Very adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of terrains and various weathers.
Delaware is a US-based super layer and one of the best chicken breeds for egg production.
They can average around 3-4 eggs every week, so it’s not bad, and the meat is also great.
Unfortunately, the Delaware breed has declined in numbers over the years. A calm, confident breed that loves to forage.
3. Rhode Island Reds
Rhode Island Reds is another US-based super breed, created in its namesake, Rhode Island.
In egg production, the Rhode Island Reds can lay between 3 and 5 large brown eggs every week.
Calm, friendly, and very curious breed. Very active but also tolerable and adaptable to various conditions.
Sussex is one of the best chicken breeds for laying eggs and is believed to be around for centuries.
They can lay between 3 and 6 large, brown eggs every week, so it is one of the most productive breeds.
Sussex is generally calm but curious, they are active, but they also don’t mind being handled. However, they can’t tolerate the heat very well.
When Will My Backyard Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
If your backyard chickens are grown well, they can start laying eggs when:
- The chicken is between 16 and 24 weeks in age
- You should see your pullets fully grown with new, clean feathers
- The pelvis bones should begin to separate. You can check this by cradling the hen carefully and hold its feet (so it cannot kick you). Place your hand gently and check whether the three prominent bones can be felt together. When this happens, it should be a couple of weeks or so until the hen will start laying eggs.
- Check the combs and wattles. They should be redder and more swollen than usual.
When you see these signs, give the hens enough privacy. Have the nest boxes in place in preparation for the first egg (very important). You can line them with various materials like straws to dried grass to ensure the eggs stay clean.
Why Your Chickens Don’t Lay When They Should?
We have established that chickens between 16 and 24 weeks. However, they are always cases when the backyard chickens simply won’t lay after 24 weeks or even 26 weeks.
So, what should we do in such cases?
First, embrace the fact that no pullets will be perfect. There is always the chance that they won’t produce eggs no matter what.
Some chickens may lay their eggs every single day, then simply stopped. In short, there’s no set rule for this, and often there’s no reason or cause at all.
The only thing we can do is to make sure to give them whole-grain food with at least 17% protein. Also, make sure they are always hydrated and, as stated before, maintain the duration of light.
Chicken Food To Ensure Steady Egg Production
So, what chicken food should we give our hens to ensure they are healthy and with steady egg production? Here are our recommendations:
First, invest in balanced chicken food to make sure your hens have a balanced diet. Make sure the chicken food has at least 16% of protein and enough vitamins and minerals. This will ensure both hens and egg production are healthy.
Might seem gory and cannibalistic at first. Yet, your hens can get essential calcium and other nutrients from their own eggshells.
Crush these eggshells and sprinkle the grit into the chicken feed.
Tasty mealworms are protein-rich, which can encourage the hens to lay eggs. Also, mealworms can help them to recover from the molting season, which can affect egg production.
As a result, mealworms are extremely important to improve egg quality and quantity.
Vitamins and Nutrients
You can add nutrients and vitamins to your chickens’ water supply to keep them healthy.
Also, apple cider vinegar can boost the hens’ immune system and can help eliminate parasites. Pests and parasites can attack your eggs and lower their qualities. Alternatively, you can also add garlic to your backyard chicken’s water supply.
How Many Chickens Should I Keep?
Chickens are social creatures and are prone to stress when they are lonely. So, it’s advised to at least keep three chickens in your coop, but ideally a minimum of six birds.
Maintaining this amount will also ensure you always have a steady supply of eggs. As we’ve discussed, a healthy hen, regardless of breeds, should lay about 2-3 eggs every three days.
It’s also important to note that hens are productive in only the first two years. After that, the production of chicken eggs will decline steadily. This is when you should plan to replace your flocks with younger backyard chickens.
Best Practices of Raising Backyard Chickens
- Make sure your local regulations allow you to keep backyard chickens in your neighborhood, and whether you will be limited to the number of chickens you can keep.
- Ensure you have enough space in your backyard for a henhouse or a full-sized chicken coop. The coop should be large enough so you can gather eggs comfortably
- Chickens need water and chicken food daily. Maintain a regular schedule and make sure you have enough budget for this.
- Hens will lay eggs through spring and summer and into the fall, as long as they have 12 to 14 hours of daylight. Expect to collect eggs daily, or even twice a day.
- All year-round, you’ll have to shovel manure. Again, check your local regulation for this.
- You’ll need a reliable chicken sitter at any time.
So, when will our backyard chicken start laying eggs? It should be between 16 to 24 weeks. However, there are cases when your hens simply won’t lay eggs even after 30 weeks.
Maintaining healthy fiber-rich and high enough protein in chicken food is very important in encouraging healthy egg production. Also, make sure to maintain enough duration with the light stimulation of at least 17 hours after the hen is 25 weeks old.
While there is a lot to like about raising chickens in your backyard, egg production is the main highlight here. With enough patience and careful treatment, you can have a steady egg supply for the whole year with just three to six hens in your chicken coop.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!