Since chickens deserve to be comfortable just like anybody else, you might want to check it out here for the latest tendencies in chicken housing. Even if this bird comes into a lot of forms and breeds, a lot of people, especially farmers, are growing them for their eggs.
While that basically guarantees the chicken is going to have a long and happy life as long as it’s laying those eggs, there’s still a cycle that has to be completed. If you’re just starting out as a chicken farmer or are simply curious, continue reading this article to find out how old chickens have to be to lay eggs.
What To Do?
Growing chickens can be a fun and rewarding activity and the excitement of buying your first one can only be trumped by it laying the first egg. There is a lot of planning to do while they are still chicks learning their place in the world.
Since they will usually feather out by 12 weeks or so, that’s when you can consider the “child” phase over and safely move them into the grownups’ coop. Surprisingly, that does not necessarily mean the triggering of the egg “production mode” as in many breeds hens will wait quite some time before doing this.
Choosing your breed is ultimately the biggest factor that you have to take into consideration. The question you have to ask yourself at the beginning of this process is “Do I want a hen that will be prolific for a couple of years or do I want a hen that will produce less in the short run but live longer?”
The answer to this question is going to influence the amount of time it will take before your chickens start laying, especially nowadays when many of the birds are bred for industrial production and fast egg production.
There are many internal and external factors that can affect the laying capacity of a hen so let’s take a look at some of them so you can remember the next time:
It’s very important to get food that will get your hens laying and that food has to specifically be high in protein to help the chickens grow back their feathers. There are many such products on the market, a common one being the “Scratch and Peck Feeds – Naturally Free Organic Layer Feed”.
The formative weeks of a bird’s life are very important, just like our formative years are important for us. Cutting corners with feeding can lead to major problems, delayed egg production being the least of your concerns. A fat hen is equally bad so don’t go around offering too many treats as this makes them unhealthy and not very productive.
Consistency is also important, as any slight variations in their protein intake can result in delayed laying.
Fresh water is esential for a growing chick. This is a problem that is often ignored due to their size, but the truth is chicks can drink a large amount of water which they need to have non stop if you take into account the fact that they foul it all the time.
Since they are very active, they will be scratching up the litter or defecating in it all the time so the water needs to be constantly changed. Elevating it will help somewhat even if not all the time. As they get bigger, this tends to become less of an issue because you can suspend the drinkers and feeder higher and out of the reach of anything but their heads.
Your choice of a breed will also play a very important role in when exactly the eggs are laid. Some of the newer ones such as the Golden Comets have been specifically created for egg production so, with them, you might see some activity as early as 16 weeks in. The downside of this and the drama of production-chicken world is that they don’t really live very long due to overuse.
Breeds like Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, and Delawares’ are also early layers, somewhere between the 18 to 20 weeks mark. They are good chickens which can, with care, lay into their fourth or fifth year of life, even if inconsistently.
Be advised that if you own a larger chicken breed they can take up to 28 weeks before you will see a single egg from them.
Compared to the chickens bred for quick egg laying, heritage breeds have the advantage of living longer and being more tolerant of climate changes. Since they are not forced into growing, they will typically take longer to fully develop and will stop laying during the winter unless you add a light source.
Besides the obvious reason that you want them alive and well, the health of your birds is also important when it comes to laying. Parasite infestations such as worms and mites can cause serious problems and delays in egg production.
Save some time every month to do regular, hands-on health checks every time you feel the need to. If you think it’s necessary, take a sample of their excrements to the vet to check for worms with a float test. Certain diseases such as the feared coccidiosis or fowl pox can affect the chicken’s laying capacity even for their entire life if they contract it while young.
We know, this is quite the list of factors, but what can you do? The truth is that the amount of available daylight every day will influence your hen’s ability to lay. They typically need a lot of light to do the job, so even if one is ready to lay in, say, December, you may not actually see an egg until the days become longer and your patience thinner.
So When Do They Finally Lay?
Broadly speaking, the majority of chicken breeds will start the laying process between 16 to 20 weeks of life. However, don’t be scared if they don’t, since by now you’ve seen how complex a process this is and how much time and proper conditions they really need.
Furthermore, some studies have shown that hens which started laying later went on to live longer and more productive lives in the end. It’s imperative that you never try to force your chickens to lay sooner than they are expected to as this will lead to all sorts of health problems from which you stand to lose the most.
As you have seen, the breed of the chicken will ultimately influence when it will lay and there’s nothing you can do other than make peace with this information. We’ve tried to also show you some other factors which can play a role in this process, from chick development to the way you take care of your hens.
The key to this is patience! Most hens will indeed start laying when they are 20 weeks old, but some may take longer than that. Patience will get you through that tough waiting time and your satisfaction seeing the eggs will be that much sweeter.