It is a question that we often receive and while it would be practical to provide a quick answer, we really cannot give an exact answer. What we do have certainty is that the egg-laying time will depend to a great extent on the breed of the hen and even on external factors such as care, feeding, and weather conditions. So how long do chickens lay eggs?
Hybrid hens have undergone many genetic selection studies that have resulted in birds laying outstanding amounts of eggs during the first 18 months to 2 years, however, production drops dramatically after that time.
On the other hand, hens of heritage breeds have been around for a long period of time and can be considered a base breed for the egg production industry. Heritage breeds are not always dual-purpose, but many are, for example, the Delaware and Cochinchina. Others, like the Leghorn, are an egg-laying-only breed.
Heritage breeds vs hybrids
Heritage breeds often live much longer and lay eggs to old age. As an example, we will use a heritage breed such as the Leghorn and a hybrid hen to compare:
- A hybrid hen will lay about 300 eggs per year for 2 to 3 years.
- A heritage breed like the Leghorn will lay around 280 eggs per year for 4-6 years.
- You should bear in mind that the hens’ first egg-laying year is the best. After this, each year, your egg production will decrease over time.
Hybrid hens lay abundant eggs for a couple of years, after that time spawning drops dramatically. However, heritage hens will lay slightly less annually, but will likely match or improve hen production over time because they will maintain a better lay for more years.
How long do hybrid hens lay eggs?
Among the best hybrid breeds for egg production, we have the Golden and Red Comet breeds. These birds are destined to produce eggs as quickly as possible with few nutritional requirements. They were bred to maximize production and minimize costs.
Hybrid chickens are used in the egg industry and are generally kept for approximately two years before being replaced. During those first two years, hybrid breeds will produce almost one egg per day (so the average laying is 300 per year), making them excellent laying hens. However, after that, the laying becomes so slow that they are not economically viable for the egg production market. These breeds can also produce during cold winter days (when young) without the addition of additional light. Since these hens are typically replaced after the age of two, some believe that they stop producing eggs after completing that cycle. However, that is not true, these birds will continue to produce eggs for a couple more years, but at a slower rate.
How long do heritage breeds lay eggs?
Heritage breeds such as Leghorn, Barred Rocks, or Rhode Island Reds generally reach optimal egg production in about two years and then decline about 10% each year. They will never produce eggs at the initial rate of hybrid breeds, but they can easily produce quite a considerable number of eggs during the first four to five years.
Before the arrival of hybrid birds, heritage breeds were those traditionally kept on small farms to provide the daily egg supply, and they were very well adapted to changing climatic conditions. They are excellent backyard birds, but generally egg laying decreases during the winter months unless a light is added to the house to maintain at least 14 hours of day length.
Many of the heritage breeds are also considered “dual-purpose” birds, which means they are intended for both egg production and table meat. Once the hens stop producing a reliable number of eggs, they are large enough to be used as table birds.
Chicken egg laying chronology
- Hens will begin to lay their first eggs around 18 weeks of age. By this age, a hen will have developed to be able to lay and do it consistently. It is at this stage that it is advisable to change your diet to complete feeding for layers.
- The first year of egg production is the best of the hens (highest quantity and quality of eggs).
- At around 30 weeks of age, you can expect your hens to be producing at their peak.
- You will probably notice that the first eggs a hen will lay are smaller and some even arrive without the shell. They should get bigger and stronger as time goes on.
- As the hen age, you will notice that the eggs that are produced will be smaller and the amount each hen lays begins to decrease.
- So if one of your hens produced 200 eggs in the first year, you can expect 160 eggs to be laid in the second year. Assuming conditions are equally optimal.
- During the third year of laying, your hen will produce around 70% (compared to the production of the first year). So in our example of 200 eggs in year one, for year three you would expect 140 eggs.
- In year 4, 60% can be expected compared to the number of eggs laid in the first year.
- You can look at the following chart to get a rough idea of how many eggs you can expect from your hens each year:
When they reach 7 years of age, hens will not produce eggs as regularly as in their first years of life. However, as we can see from the chart shown above, they will still want to give us some joy! Around the eighth and ninth years, a stage known as retirement begins, and this is where a hen will stop laying altogether.
Take into account that the life expectancy of chickens is between 8 and 10 years on average. So chickens can live for several years after they start to stop laying eggs. Hopefully, we have helped you answer the question of How long do chickens lay eggs?
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