One of the first questions every backyard chicken owner wants to know is when will my chickens start laying eggs? The general rule is sometime between 4 and 6 months of age (16-24 weeks).
We got our first batch of day old chicks on July 6th. I counted the weeks and we expected that sometime around Thanksgiving, our Rhode Island Reds should begin laying (everyone else in that image turned out to be a rooster). They would then be about 21 weeks old. They did not disappoint. We got our first egg a week later on December 2nd.
It took a few weeks before all three of them began laying. In the meantime, we occasionally saw a soft-shelled egg or two in the coop. This happens more often in the early stages of laying, but can apparently occur, sporadically, throughout a hen’s life.
After the 1st few soft shelled eggs, we haven’t seen any more from the Rhode Island Reds. On average, we get 2 eggs from those 3 hens each day.
In October, we purchased a group of 10 4-week old pullets (Barred Rock and Silver Laced Wyandotte) from someone on Craigslist. Again, I counted the weeks and expected them to begin laying sometime in mid-February when they would be 20-21 weeks old.
We saw a few soft-shelled eggs during the month of February so we knew they were getting close. This group took a couple weeks longer than our RIRs, which was likely due to the season (chickens lay less when there is less daylight), but we got our first pullet egg from this group on March 3rd. They were about 24 weeks old then. We believe it was from a Barred Rock because a couple of them look more mature than the other chicks do.
For each of the past 3 days we have had 4 eggs in the coop, so we believe another one of the younger pullets (the term used for a hen before it reaches sexuality maturity, aka begins laying) has begun laying. We can’t wait to catch them in the nesting box to see exactly which ones are.
If you don’t know your chickens’ hatch date and can’t calculate their age, another way to guess when a pullet will begin laying is the color in her face and comb and the comb’s size. It was a telltale sign for us. As the chickens matured and neared laying age, their faces and combs deepened in color and their combs grew. You could almost see the change daily.
Here are a couple examples:
Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule about how long it will take for your chickens to begin laying eggs, but we’ve found that the general rule of thumb of 16-24 weeks is true. Of course, we’d love it if they had started closer to 16 weeks, but we’re pleased as punch to see eggs in the nesting boxes each day. It’s such a good feeling knowing where our breakfast comes from!
As a side note: I don’t recommend purchasing chicks or chickens from someone you don’t know and trust. We had a hard time with the group we bought off Craigslist and lost 3 chicks within the first few days of bringing them home. It was very disappointing and going forward we will only purchase from a hatchery or trusted seller (or better yet, hatch our own!).
If you just got your backyard flock or are thinking about taking the plunge, be sure to check out our top tips for owning chickens here.
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