The excitement of buying chicks is usually only overcome with the arrival of your hen’s first egg! Often this moment will be a joyous surprise, while for some owners, the longer it takes, the more anxious they will get and many will wonder: is there something wrong with my hen, are they sick, do they need a rooster, am I giving them the wrong food?
Most of the time these questions just create unnecessary nerves and frustration, when what your chickens need the most is your patience. While you wait for your hens to lay their first egg, you should be calm, patient, and affectionate; not nervous, anxious, and dominant. Here are some of the best things you can do for your chickens as they prepare to lay their first eggs.
At what age hens normally lay their first egg?
In general, most hens will start laying between 18 and 26 weeks (6 months). That said, some breeds that are not famous for being productive layers can take up to a year to produce their first egg.
We recommend switching to a complete laying hen feed at 18 weeks to provide your hens with the extra calcium they need to produce an egg on a daily basis.
Surprisingly, in some cases, there can be a long wait for some hens to go into egg “production mode”. Depending on the breeds you have, it will determine how fast they lay, and many small steps need to be taken before your hen starts laying, so let’s look at each step:
Laying hen feed
If you want your hens to lay healthy eggs, it is very important to maintain a good diet during the formative weeks of the bird’s life. Chickens that reach the point of laying need additional protein in their diet, as their bodies are not only preparing to lay eggs, but they are also continuing to develop!
However, all the basics still apply extra protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals. All of this can be found in the balanced feed for laying hens that you can buy at your local poultry food store. However, diversifying your diet with a few healthy treats is a smart way to ensure that you get some variety.
Basically, it all comes down to making your hen feel safe, loved, and protected. If your hens are nervous about predators or don’t know where their next meal will come from, then they are less likely to feel compelled to lie down.
What breeds of chickens lay eggs at the earliest age
Genetically, some of the newer breeds, such as the Golden Comets, have been specifically bred to lay many eggs. They can start laying their first egg from week 16! The downside to this is that they generally don’t live much longer than three years and production drops in the second year.
Other excellent laying hens are Black Australorp, Rhode Island, Delawares, and Plymouth Rock, they will lay their first egg generally around 18-20 weeks. They are excellent layers and can lay eggs until their fourth or fifth year, although not consistently.
However, there are some breeds, mainly the larger and heavier birds that can take up to 28 weeks before they produce their first egg.
Can diseases delay egg laying?
Parasite infestations such as lice, mites, and worms can cause a delay in your hens’ egg production.
Regular and practical health checks for your chickens should be done monthly, more often if you suspect a problem. You can take a stool sample to the vet for a flotation test for worms if you think you have a problem.
Certain diseases such as fowl pox, coccidiosis, and infectious bronchitis can significantly affect the bird. If they contract the disease between 18 and 26 weeks, this may be the cause of not laying their first egg. The disease will not only stop the laying of eggs / but also delay it.
So when will my hen lay her first egg?
To answer the original question, broadly speaking, most breeds will start to produce their first eggs between 18 and 24 weeks. If they don’t start so soon, don’t despair! There is some evidence that chickens that start laying eggs later live longer and lead more productive lives.
Never, ever try to force your chickens to lay ahead of schedule. This could lead to all kinds of reproductive problems.
Prepare nest boxes for your chickens
Build several comfortable, clean and cozy nest boxes for your chickens. In our hatchery, we build the nest boxes in the hen houses with access to the outside for the collection of eggs. We keep the boxes closed until the hens are 16 weeks old and then we have open access to remove the eggs.
A general rule of thumb for nest box size is one 12-inch square box for every four laying hens. The flock will take turns using the boxes. Line each nest box with a thick layer of straw, pine shavings, or other bedding to cushion the eggs. Keep nesting boxes off the floor in the darkest corner of the hen house with privacy for the hen.
Chicken coop lighting
Age is the first indicator of first laying, but daylight hours are also an important factor. An increase in the length of the day is a key factor in encouraging hens to lay eggs. To do their best work, laying hens prefer at least 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness.
If your hen reaches 18 weeks of age during fall or winter when daylight hours are getting shorter, then consider adding supplemental light to the hen house. It only takes about 25 watts of incandescent light per 100 square feet to encourage chickens to lay eggs. You can also use an equivalent wattage fluorescent or LED light for your herd. Without supplemental light, young hens can wait until the days get longer in the spring to lay their first egg.
My hen is over 24 weeks old and does not lay eggs
If your chicken has not started laying after 24 weeks, and she is past the point of maturity, it could be due to illness. But if you’ve ruled out everything else, consider giving your chickens a boost with a few fake eggs.
These are usually ceramic eggs that you can find in pet stores or online.
All you have to do is place them in the nest and let the hens do some research. This way you can encourage your hens to start wearing them. It may be a bit strange, but many expert poultry farmers claim that it works. Therefore, it may be worth a try.
Also, if you haven’t seen any eggs, and your hens are past 18 weeks, there’s a chance your hens have been eating your eggs. Ceramic eggs are also a great way to deter chickens from eating eggs. They will peck at the imposter eggs and eventually surrender when they cannot break the shell of the fake eggs.
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