An adult hen will usually five to seven eggs a week. Chickens predominately lay eggs in the morning. You can check your nesting boxes each day for fresh eggs from your hens.
You do not need a rooster in order for your hens to lay eggs. A rooster is only needed if you want fertilized eggs to hatch or sell for others to hatch. If you plan on eating the eggs, just keeping hens will suffice.
Egg production in chickens is triggered by light. After receiving this natural cue, the chicken’s body will begin forming an egg. This begins with releasing the yolk from the ovary into the uterus, which fills with the protein-rich egg white. A membrane formed in the uterine wall develops into the shell. This fully-formed egg will be laid, and production of the next egg will begin within an hour or so.
Altogether, this process takes about 26 hours on average. Some chickens are faster and others slower. This means that a hen can lay at most one egg per day. If you maintain the right heat and lighting conditions throughout the winter, your chickens may continue to lay in the colder months, allowing you to collect eggs year-round.
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You may sometimes find multiple eggs in a nesting box. This is because hens will share a nesting box, sometimes laying sequentially and sometimes squeezing in together to lay at the same time. In either case, finding multiple eggs in a nesting box does not mean that your hen is laying multiple eggs. Hens do not have twins and generally cannot lay multiple eggs at once.
When to Check the Nesting Box for an Egg
If you have a nesting box available, your hens will usually use it for depositing an egg. An average chicken operating on a 26-hour egg production schedule should lay an egg within six hours of sunrise. Some chickens will lay later in the afternoon, and some may lay a bit earlier in the morning. On average, though, if you collect your eggs by mid-morning to early afternoon, you should get the best yield.
It’s a good idea to get a feeling for when your hens are laying their eggs so that you can collect the eggs early. Leaving an egg in the nesting box too long can lead to a chicken becoming broody or defensive of the egg. It can also lead to breakage and egg eating in some situations.
Hens do not lay eggs at night. Like humans, chickens sleep at night and are active during the day. However, they do wake up earlier in the morning and are often quite active just after sunrise. If you’re not an early riser, you may awaken to discover that your hens have already done all the work of leaving an egg for you.
When Do Chickens Lay the Most Eggs?
Chickens start laying eggs after about four or five months. The first year of a chicken’s life will usually be the best from an egg-laying perspective. Egg production tends to slack off after the first year. Most hens will be finished laying regularly within four years.
Some farmers choose to butcher hens after their egg production has slacked off. If you are raising your chickens as pets, the idea of killing a hen who has stopped laying may not be easy to stomach. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a chicken around for the duration of her natural lifespan. However, bear in mind that chickens can live for up to a decade, so you may end up feeding a non-productive hen for several years if you choose to go that route.
What Factors Affect Egg Production?
Chickens lay more eggs in the summer when days are long. You can extend your hen’s egg-laying season by providing artificial light in the hen house. If you live in a region with mild winters, you may have chickens that lay later in the season.
Another factor to consider is diet. Chicken eggs are made up primarily of protein, and a hen who doesn’t get ample protein will not lay as many eggs. The eggs may also be poorer quality. Feeding your hens high-quality commercial chicken feed supplemented with fresh food scraps and open range foraging will provide enough protein and nutrition for good egg laying.
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Chickens that are molting do not usually lay eggs. Most hens will molt on an annual basis or every other year. Molting usually happens in the fall or during times of stress. Molting is necessary to re-grow damaged feathers and keep a chicken warm and insulated. Because feathers are made up of protein, all of a hen’s natural resources go toward feathers rather than ovulation. Feeding a higher-than-normal level of protein during a molt can help speed it along and bring your hen back to laying soon.
What Color of Eggs Will My Chicken Lay?
Contrary to popular belief, the color of a chicken’s egg has no effect on how healthy the egg is. Shell colors are actually determined by the breed and genetics of an individual chicken. Common shell colors are brown and white. Some breeds, such as the Araucana, are sometimes called “Easter Egg Chickens” because they can lay eggs that are blue, green or even pink.
Any given hen will always lay eggs of the same general color, but variations in shade between eggs are normal. Don’t be alarmed if some eggs look a bit different than others.
You can usually guess what color eggs a chicken will lay by looking at the visible part of her ear. Hens with white earlobes will lay white eggs. Hens with red earlobes will lay colored eggs.
"People talk about fools counting chickens before they hatch. That's nothing. We name them."
-- Orson Scott Card, Alvin Journeyman