If you’re taking a crack at operating an egg-laying business, you are probably eagerly waiting for the first time your young hens lay an egg. So, when do chickens lay eggs? It depends on their age and breed, but there are also physical and behavioral signs that your pullet—or young hen—will start to lay eggs soon.
Luckily, Freedom Ranger Hatchery is here to provide you with all the information you need and how to prepare for your first eggs. With over 15 years of experience in the egg-hatching and chicken-raising business, we know how you can tell when chickens are ready to lay eggs and the best ways to prepare for the arrival of fresh eggs.
How Do You Know When Chickens Are Ready to Lay Eggs?
If you’re reading this post, you’ve likely already discovered the best chickens for your flock, ordered your baby chicks online, and have been caring for those cute, fluffy animals for several weeks. Or maybe you’re just trying to prepare for next year, so you know what to expect and when to time everything—from your order to your first egg. Either way, here are some signs that your hen is ready to lay.
When Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
The first consideration to make when trying to determine when your chicken will lay eggs is the time of year. Typically, egg production in chickens occurs in the spring and summer months, slows down in the fall, and reduces significantly in the winter. This change is because the chicken’s internal clock tells the hen it’s time for a break and conserve energy to stay warm and healthy during the winter.
Age of the Hen
Another factor to consider when wondering when your chicken is ready to lay eggs is the hen’s age. The typically laying age of a hen is anywhere between 20 and 24 weeks. Production before 20 weeks in any hen is not advisable because the egg size will be small and remain small throughout the life of the hen.
A hen starts laying eggs when its body is ready, which depends on several factors, like the breed of the chicken, hormones, health, lighting, temperatures, stress, and diet. For example, a heritage-breed Rhode Island Red will lay eggs around 20 weeks, while Easter Eggers may lay anywhere from 20 to 28 weeks.
Physical Signs Your Chicken is Ready to Lay Eggs
Laying hens begin some physical changes to indicate they will soon be laying an egg. Chickens will be full-grown, with clean, full feathers. Their combs and wattles will swell and turn a deep red.
Chickens start laying eggs when their pelvis bones begin to separate, which you can tell by feeling with your fingers slightly below their vent on the right and left sides. If you can fit three to four fingers in that space, she’s ready to lay.
Look for Behavioral Clues from Your Hen
There are also behavioral clues to indicate your chickens will start laying eggs. They will have an increased interest in the nesting box and may even sit inside it to test it out before their first egg. You can put fake eggs or even golf balls in the nesting box to encourage them to use it for egg-laying.
Additionally, as the time gets closer for her to lay an egg, and shortly afterward, she’ll be more talkative and sing and squawk more frequently. Her appetite will also increase because she needs more energy to produce eggs.
The Submissive Squat
Once you notice your birds doing the submissive squat, you can expect their first egg within a week. The submissive squat is the term used to indicate that a hen is ready for a rooster to fertilize her eggs. She’ll stop, squat, and put her wings out slightly for balance, waiting for a rooster to tread her. Without a rooster around, she’ll perform the submissive squat when approached by a human, particularly if a hand is extended to pet her.
How to Prepare for a Hen Laying Eggs
Now that you know some excellent indicators for when chickens are ready to lay eggs, you need to prepare the hen’s environment to promote healthy egg production. From ensuring their nesting box is prepared to starting on layer feeds, it’s essential to be on alert for when the time comes for your chickens to lay eggs.
Nesting Box Preparation
You’ll want to be sure you have a nesting box prepared for your chickens. There should be one nesting box for every four layers you have. Line the nesting box with a nesting pad or liner and cover with straw or pine shavings.
Ensure the box is a quiet, dark place. Adding privacy curtains is a great way to accomplish this task. The area should be clean and free of pests, predators, and children—limit morning activity in this area.
Access to Clean, Fresh Water
Since eggs are 75% water, it’s essential that laying hens have access to clean, fresh water at all times. They need this hydration to produce eggs, as the whole egg-creation process is a lot of work for a chicken’s body.
Consider Artificial Light
Many folks in the egg-laying business use artificial light to stimulate egg production. How much light they need depends on their age and bodyweight at the start of the week. The chart below gives a good guidelines for how much line your hen needs.
Start Layer Feeds and Supplemental Calcium
Beginning at 18 weeks old or when chickens lay their first egg, you should start them on layer feeds. Layer feeds have less protein but more calcium to help create strong eggshells. You should also provide oyster shells in a separate dish from the food, so the chickens who need extra calcium can get it from the oysters.
For Happy, Healthy Chickens, Schedule Your Order Now from Freedom Ranger Hatchery!
Here at Freedom Ranger, we believe in traditional, sustainable, and environmentally friendly farming methods to produce high-quality chickens for your egg-laying business. So, whether it’s your first time raising free-range chickens and wanting to know when do chickens lay eggs, or it’s your 100th time, and you need baby chicks, we are your source for various types of chicken breeds. Not only will we ship to you on the day the chickens hatch, but we will also provide you with valuable information to raise your chickens.
Knowing when your chicken is ready to lay eggs is essential to any egg-laying business, and preparing for it helps ensure your hens’ eggs are fresh and healthy. Feel free to contact us with any questions about our egg layers, and schedule your order now to prepare for the spring egg season!