You really need to have a chicken nesting box to protect the mother and the chicks-to-be from anything that could cause them harm. By doing this, your bird will also be more relaxed so this will make the entire nesting process easier and smoother.
Since it never hurts to be prepared, you should always know when your chickens will start nesting. But we stopped to wonder — how many eggs does a chicken actually lay in a year? What makes this number increase or decrease? If you’re curious just like us, continue reading this article to find out.
A laying hen’s productivity depends on many factors, from which we point out the breed, feed, lifespan, and environment even though science estimates that the first two to three years of its life are usually the most productive. During this time period, the number of eggs a hen can lay can go up in the high hundreds.
A survey that is issued regularly by the Department of Agriculture in regards to commercial operations sets the most recent figure in the United States at roughly 276 eggs per year.
Something many people do not know is that all the eggs a hen will ever lay are right there, in its body, from the beginning, in an undeveloped form. While we may not be able to X-Ray the chicken and see this number at the start of its life, this is still something to consider.
A hen can only lay one egg in a day and will have some days when it is not laying at all. The reason for this is because its body does not begin to form a new egg until the previous one is already laid and it takes 26 hours for an egg to fully develop.
Therefore, the hen will lay later and later each day so eventually, it will lay too late in the day for its body to start the process anew. When this happens, it will automatically skip a day or more of laying before it begins the cycle again.
As a flock, hens do not begin to lay exactly at the same time nor do they continue laying for the same time. The typical process is that they come into production shortly after reaching adulthood, they peak, and then the production slowly goes down each year. Many flocks will produce at reasonable levels for three to four years, the egg size increasing with each year.
Unfortunately, some types of chickens have been commercially bred for egg production so their lifestyle and lifespan change dramatically. The commercial White Leghorn, for example, is the most used breed in large egg production complexes but you should not try to raise them in your home flock because they are very flighty.
Many hatcheries will also offer something called “sex-link crosses”, which are basically specific crosses made with the sole purpose of allowing the hatchery to identify the sex of the chicks at hatch based on feather color, so companies and producers are less likely to get an unwanted rooster.
Some people like having a flock composed of different types of chicken and some people even like receiving colored eggs from their birds. For example, Maran hens produce eggs with chocolate-colored shells and the Araucana breed from South America has light blue shells.
Starting from here, breeders have crossed this one with other types of chicken and got the “Easter Egger” hybrid, a hen that lays lightly-colored eggs ranging from blue to green and even pink.
When it comes to choosing one, young Leghorns, for example, can lay up to 300 eggs per year. Young Cochins, on the other hand, will only reach 100 while the Sumatras breed will give you 50 eggs at the most.
How Does Pullet and Light Management Affect Production?
The way you manage pullets will directly impact the number and the quality of the eggs they will later lay for you. If you somehow force them into production too early, they may suffer from prolapse problems and you will be the one who will mostly lose from this.
If you’re raising pullets from chicks, just approach this task as you would with any other type of chick, just don’t forget that light management is very important to them so make sure to provide a stable environment in this regard.
If you want to buy ready-to-lay pullets though, make sure to always ask how the breeder raised them with regard to light management and nutrition so you can better replicate those conditions.
Since chickens come into production as the days get longer, light is thus crucial when it comes to egg laying. Day-old chicks are typically kept on 23 to 24 hours of light per day for the first few days because you need to make sure they can find their sources of food and water. After that, you can slowly reduce the exposure they get to around 8 hours per day.
When they are ready for laying, the exposure should be somewhere in the 14-hour range and try to make a schedule out of it as stability is very important for their laying habits.
As we said, a survey in the United States found the average number of eggs laid by a chicken in one year to be at 276. Poultry hens in Australia, however, are typically expected to yield four to five eggs per week so an estimate of 200 a year. Canadian battery hens live under very high pressure, as the norm there is to lay for seven out of eight days and about 320 eggs per year.
Backyard chickens have a very different lifestyle than commercial ones so they can often lay well into old age. In 2013, for example, a British hen named Victoria managed to lay two eggs at the venerable age of 17.
The U.S. also had its fair share of “long-distance layers” in the first half of the 20th century, as the hen named Cornell Endurance died at the age of 12 after having laid a record number of 1,232 eggs. The runner-up was a bird named Cecilia which was gunning for the top spot but only reached 10 years of age.
Furthermore, don’t forget that some breeds are inherently not great winter layers, so they won’t be laying 52 weeks every year, no matter what you try to do.
Top 3 Ranking
Since we referred to the hybrid Easter Egger earlier, you should know that this type of breed is usually the best volume layer. They have been known to lay large amounts of eggs with small amounts of food so it’s basically a win-win. You can expect around 280 eggs per year from them which will be brown in color and medium-sized.
Rhode Island Red
This is a popular backyard chicken breed since they can be raised for either eggs or meat. Friendly and with a tough attitude, the Rhode Island Red will give you about 250 eggs a year, also brown and medium in size.
A more unique breed sporting a full white body and a thick red comb, the Leghorn will also give you a solid 250 eggs per year if you treat it right. Contrary to the other two, the eggs will be white, not brown, but still medium-sized.