Many backyard chicken owners start out buying point-of-lay hens from a local supplier. It would be easy to assume that point-of-lay means they will lay eggs any day now, but this isn’t always true! So when do chickens start laying eggs? And how can you tell that this egg-citing moment is imminent?
Here’s how to know for sure. No matter what chicken breed you’re raising!
- When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
- What Are the Reasons My Chickens Aren't Laying Eggs?
- How to Help Hens Start to Lay Eggs
When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
The age at which a chicken starts to lay eggs can vary and depends on the time of year she was born. Most breeds of chicken start to lay eggs between four and five months of age, but only if this coincides with the time of year when daylight hours are long enough.
There’s a good reason for this! The hormones that trigger egg production form when daylight hours reach 14 -16 hours daily. So, for female chickens to start laying eggs, they must be old enough, and the days must be long enough. (There’s a Goldilocks-like egg-laying situation!)
We’ve experienced this phenomenon in our backyard flock enough times now to verify that it is true. We commonly restock with point-of-lay hens in the spring to ensure we’ve always got enough younger hens in the flock to maintain a constant supply of eggs. And, every year, without fail, they start to lay in late April, which happens to be when our daylight hours hit around 14 per day!
5 Key Signs That Chickens Are Ready to Lay Eggs
Once spring has arrived and your young hens are around 18 weeks old, you may notice signs that they are ready to start laying eggs. This timespan is a tremendously exciting occasion for a first-time chicken keeper, so we don’t blame you if you start obsessively checking the nest box several times a day!
It is a good idea to look out for signs that your chickens are ready to lay eggs, as this can help you identify any rogue hens that start to lay in places outside the nest box. This egg-wandering (laying in strange locations) is surprisingly common in inexperienced hens, but with some guidance, they quickly get the hang of it.
Five tell-tale signs that your hens might be ready to start laying are:
- Their combs and wattle become enlarged and turn a deeper red color.
- You will hear more vocalization. And some hens may even practice the egg song. (You’ll know when you listen to it firsthand!)
- The young hens will begin exploring the nesting boxes or seek the perfect spot to nest outside.
- You may notice a sudden rapid increase in food consumption – because producing an egg requires a lot of extra nutrients! Point-of-lay hens need chicken feed with increased protein levels and a good source of calcium.
- And finally, younger hens will squat when stroked if they are about to start laying eggs. The submissive squat is a sign that the hen has reached sexual maturity and is ready to be mated by a rooster. Although, rooster-mating is not necessary for egg laying.
There are other considerations when waiting for your hens to lay eggs.
They are as follows.
Do Chickens Lay Eggs Every Day When They First Start Laying?
When a female chick starts to lay eggs, she may have a few false starts, producing abnormally sized eggs at irregular intervals. But once she gets into the swing of things, she will quickly enter the most productive phase of her life! Young, healthy birds are at peak production levels for the first 18 months. That is why commercially reared layers are often only kept until they reach two years old.
This first laying cycle is the most productive a hen will ever have, and following this, the number of eggs she lays each year can decrease by as much as 15%. Commercial egg producers will cull older hens and replace them with more viable layers for maximum productivity. But we think ours deserve a long and happy retirement when their egg-laying days are over!
Egg-Production Efficiency of an 8-Year-Old Hen
We’re sharing an egg-laying productivity chart below. It represents an 8-year-old hen and a gradual decrease in egg-laying rate.
|Hen Age||Egg-Production Efficiency||Eggs Per Year|
|One year||100% Efficiency||240 Eggs|
|Two years||85% Efficiency||204 eggs|
|Three years||65% Efficiency||156 eggs|
|Four years||55% Efficiency||132 eggs|
|Five years||45% Efficiency||108 Eggs|
|Six years||40% Efficiency||96 Eggs|
|Seven years||35% Efficiency||84 eggs|
|Eight years||30% Efficiency||72 eggs|
Notice how the egg-laying rate degrades the most during the first few years. And then – the yearly egg quantity gradually slows throughout the hen’s life.
What Are the Reasons My Chickens Aren’t Laying Eggs?
If your younger hens are not laying eggs, they likely need additional time. Remember that they should be at least four months of age. And they need 14 hours of daylight or more per day. Unless both these conditions get met, they are unlikely to start laying.
For example, we hatched a clutch of chicks in the late summer months last year. By the time spring rolled around, they were well over six months old but had yet to lay a single egg. Until that is, the days started to get longer, at which point they all suddenly joined the morning nest-box queue!
Do All Chickens Start Laying at the Same Age?
The age at which a hen starts to lay can vary depending on the chicken breed. Some are guaranteed to start laying at 16-20 weeks of age, provided the days are long enough to trigger egg production. Early-maturing layers include Rhode Island Reds, Sex Links, Australorps, and Leghorns.
Larger and heavier breeds, such as Brahmas and Jersey Giants, are slower to mature and may not start laying until they are 20-24 weeks of age – or more. And if you’ve fallen in love with Silkies, expect to wait up to nine months for that first precious egg!
Chicken-Laying Age by Breed
|Chicken Breed||Egg-Laying Age|
|Ameraucana||20 to 24 weeks|
|Ancona||5 to 5 and a half months|
|Andalusian||5 to 6 months|
|Australorp||22 to 24 weeks|
|Boschveld||19 to 20 weeks|
|Brahma||6 to 7 months|
|California Gray||20 to 24 weeks|
|Cochin||8 to 9 months|
|Crevecoeur||7 to 10 months|
|Delaware||26 to 28 weeks|
|Dominique||20 to 24 weeks|
|Fayoumi||4 to 5 months|
|Holland||20 to 22 weeks|
|ISA Browns||22 weeks|
|Jersey Giant||Up to 12 months|
|Leghorn||24 to 30 weeks|
|Marans||24 to 26 weeks|
|Minorca||24 to 26 weeks|
|New Hampshire||5 to 7 months|
|Orloff||5 to 6 months|
|Pekin||26 to 28 weeks|
|Plymouth Rock||18 to 24 weeks|
|Rhode Island Red||18 to 20 Weeks|
|Salmon Faverolles||20 weeks|
|Sicilian Buttercup||6 to 7 months|
|Silkies||Up to 9 months|
|Sultan||9 to 10 months|
The above table represents the estimated laying age for multiple chicken breeds. Notice there’s a surprising delta in some breeds.
That said – most breeds will begin laying by nine to ten months. (Sultans, Silkies, Jersey Giants, and Crevecoeurs are some of the latest layers.)
Why Are My 2-Year-Old Chickens Not Laying?
It is common for hens to slow (or stop) laying when they are two years old, but there is a good reason for this pause in production. Hens are in peak production mode during the first 18 months after a hen starts to lay. It’s during this time hens often lay five or six eggs weekly.
However, towards the end of her second year of life, she will experience her first big molt. This period is very physically demanding even for a healthy chicken, and many hens will barely lay at all during this time, especially if it coincides with the winter months. Once the worst of the molt is over, your hens will start egg-laying again, but productivity will likely be lower than before.
Epic Eggs by Jennifer Sartell is an excellent source for homesteaders who love raising chickens and eating yummy eggs! But – this book isn’t an egg cookbook. Instead, Jennifer focuses on how to nurture hens that produce delicious, tasty eggs. The book also reveals egg anatomy, bird reproductive systems, and how eggs get their colors.
How to Help Hens Start to Lay Eggs
Once your hens have reached the right age and the spring days are long enough, egg production should soon kick in. However, we can do a few things to help this process along.
Comfy Nesting Boxes
Ensure your hens have a comfortable nesting box in a quiet, dark corner of her chicken coop. Hens like privacy to lay, so don’t disturb them if they sit in the chicken brooder box! Placing decoy eggs or golf balls in the nesting box can help encourage younger hens to lay in the right place.
Hen Laying Feed
Check that you are feeding your chickens a feed that is suitable for laying hens. A complete laying chicken feed will ensure they get enough nutrients to maintain their body weight while producing an egg several times a week. Supplement the diet with chicken grit to provide extra calcium.
Keep stress and conflict in the chicken flock to a minimum. Stressed and bullied hens do not lay well. Provide plenty of environmental enrichment and feeding stations, and ensure that younger hens get enough privacy to lay their eggs peacefully.
If you’re in a hurry to kickstart egg production, artificial light works to help stimulate your hens to start laying. Supplemental light should be used in the early mornings to extend daylight hours, gradually increasing it daily until you reach that all-important 14 hours per day.
Thanks so much for reading our guide about when chickens start laying eggs.
We learned that some early-laying chickens usually lay around 20 to 24 weeks. But others might take up to a year to begin laying regularly!
And – once they reach their peak, they decline relatively quickly.
What about you? Have you noticed the same?
- Do you raise backyard chickens? If so – how old are your hens when they start laying eggs?
- Have you noticed that Silkie chickens and Jersey Giants usually lay eggs much later than other breeds?
- What chicken breed do you think lays eggs the fastest?
- Have you ever had a chicken lay eggs into old age?
We’re chicken-raising and backyard egg fanatics. And – we love brainstorming this topic with fellow chicken raisers.
So – we hope to hear from you.
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!