We received a batch of 15 chicks at the very beginning of June. This batch consisted of some Barred Rocks, some Orpingtons and seven Easter Eggers. As I write this, it is now November and for the record, we are still egg-less! No matter how many times I’ve checked the nesting boxes, the only thing I have found are the golf balls I put in there to give my new birds ‘the hint’. But, in their defense, I am a little early.
On average, domesticated hens will start laying eggs around the six month mark. There can be a little wiggle room on this, with some breeds starting earlier while others won’t start until later. Also worth noting is the time of year. As we received our birds later, they won’t be mature enough until early December. This is bad because the amount of daylight in our location is quite limited during the winter months. And, as daylight has a direct effect on egg production, it is quite possible that our hens won’t start laying until early spring.
It is because of this issue, with the shorter sunlight hours, that so many people are apt to get their chicks early. If we had gotten our birds around Easter, then we probably would have eggs by now. And once the chickens start laying, they will continue to lay, even through winter (albeit at a reduced rate).
What Age Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs?
Once a chicken’s egg motor gets started, it can really run. The Black Australorp, for example, can lay 250 eggs in a single year. But this rate of egg production does not stay consistent. For chickens, their most productive egg-laying period is, in fact, their first year of laying. After this, production declines a little for every subsequent year that they’re alive.
While a hen will continue to lay the occasional egg, even in the twilight of her life, prime egg production is considered to be the first two years of laying. After this, egg focused farmers will often replace the older hen with a younger bird. And seeing that it takes around 6 months for the average chicken to start laying, this means the bird is ‘retired’ at around two and a half years of age.
However, for people who are not production focused, but rather care for a flock of chickens simply because they enjoy it, then the older hen can continue to serve as an egg producer for a good length of time. In fact, should your bird be healthy and the conditions right, a hen can lay for 15+ years. That’s a lot of eggs!
What Time Of Day Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
While I have seen a number of publications saying that chickens primarily lay their eggs in the morning, my personal experience does not support this. And there is some science to argue on my behalf.
It is thought to take the average domesticated hen between 25 to 27 hours to produce and lay an egg. This means, if your hen laid an egg at 9am one morning, then you could (theoretically) expect another egg somewhere between 10am and noon. However, I must admit, I haven’t found this to be exactly accurate either.
One of our favorite hens was a girl we named ‘Bitch’n Betty’. She was as vocal as she was big. And I always knew when she was done in the nesting box as she would squawk loudly as if to tell the world what she had just accomplished.
At the beginning of spring, ‘Betty’ was sure to sing her egg-laying song first thing in the morning. However, by the end of summer, her song had shifted to the middle of the afternoon. Clearly, she was not laying an egg every 24 hours, but she wasn’t following the 25 to 27 hour rule either.
For our flocks, we have found that the chickens will lay eggs anywhere from early morning to the middle of the afternoon. Occasionally, a hen may lay in late afternoon, but this is unusual. It’s also worth noting that chickens do not lay eggs at night.
For the record, I have seen eggs on the floor of the coop when I let the birds out first thing in the morning – implying that something happened during the night. However, these have never been viable eggs – having some sort of deformity.
How Often Should I Collect My Chickens Eggs?
Collecting eggs is one of the most enjoyable aspects of raising chickens. It’s a premium morsel, made right in your backyard. What could be better?
So while it might be tempting to collect the eggs several times a day, most of us aren’t in a position to do this (it’s the whole job/obligation thing). That being said, it’s not a good idea to leave the eggs in the nesting box for an extended period of time.
In an absolute minimum, eggs should be collected once a day. Personally, I recommend collecting eggs twice a day; these times being mid-morning and then again in late afternoon. But some people’s work schedules don’t allow for this.
Another factor for consideration, is how many hens you have laying. Hens will quite often use the same nesting box. And the more eggs they lay, the more the eggs come in contact with each other. And the more the eggs bounce against each other, the more you are at risk of cracking a shell.
If your flock is small and you’re finding two or three eggs in each nesting box for the day, then you really don’t have to worry too much about staying on top of things. Simply collecting the eggs once will suite you fine. Just make sure that you don’t leave any eggs in the coop overnight.
However, waiting to collect, with more than three eggs in a single nesting box, is unwise. There are those who do it, however you should know that the risks involved grow with every additional egg. Personally for us, our goal is to have no more than three eggs in a nesting box at one time. This has proven to be a good practice for preventing the loss of eggs.
The Risks Of Not Collecting Eggs
While the benefits of having a steady egg-machine working in your backyard are pretty obvious, there can be a drawback. You can NOT skip collecting eggs.
Should you neglect the regular and appropriate collection of eggs, your flock will be at risk. Eggs that are continuously walked over, moved and dropped on, are certain to break. And that runny yolk will bring everything from large predators to tiny ants. Even snakes want to eat your eggs!
It’s worth saying that once a predator is rewarded with a meal, that said predator will return again and again, looking for food. This is why it is so critical to promptly clean any broken eggs out of the coop. The safety and well being of your flock depends on you being proactive.
Another problem with broken eggs is the chickens themselves. Chickens are omnivores and as such will have no problem gobbling down a broken egg. The loss of a single egg isn’t really an issue. The problem comes from a chicken realizing that they CAN eat eggs, as once they do, they will continue to do so.
Worse yet, chickens learn by observing other chickens. So once a bird figures this out, then it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the flock learns the same bad habit.
Every effort must be made to stop any egg-eating behavior on the part of your flock. For if you don’t, you may find that your egg-machines are no longer providing you with delicious eggs…only a steady supply of pests, vermin and heartache.