How Old Are Chickens When They Start to Lay Eggs?

Are you waiting… and waiting… for your hens to start laying eggs? Do you want to know when it’s normal for them to start producing eggs? Then this post is for you!

Depending on which breeds you have, it will determine how quickly your hens lay. And many small steps need to be taken before your hens start laying too.

So, in this post, let’s look at each step.

Breeds

Different breeds start laying at different ages.

Some of the new hybrids have been bred to lay lots of eggs at an early age. Unfortunately, they usually don’t live longer than three years. Also, egg-laying typically drops off by the time they’re two years old.

And then there are some breeds (usually the larger chicken breeds) that can take up to 39 weeks before they produce an egg.

Here’s a table of my favorite egg-laying chickens and when they normally start laying eggs.

BreedTypically Starts Laying At…
Isa Brown
20 – 22 weeks
Lohmann Brown
18 weeks
Golden Comet
15 – 16 weeks
Rhode Island Red
18 – 24 weeks
Leghorn16 – 17 weeks
Sussex16 – 20 weeks
Australorp
20 – 24 weeks
Ameraucana
25 – 30 weeks
Plymouth Rock
16 – 20 weeks
Ancona21 – 22 weeks
Buff Orpington
19 – 24 weeks
Barnevelder28 weeks
Marans35 – 39 weeks
Hamburg17 – 22 weeks

Nutrition

If you want your hens to lay eggs, it is very important to maintain good nutrition throughout the first developmental stages of the chicks’ and pullets’ life. A poor diet can lead to health problems and delayed egg production.

But too many treats are just as bad for them! Overweight hens won’t be as productive.

Here’s how you should feed your chickens:

  • 0 to 6 Week Old (Chicks): Their diet should contain around 20-20% protein. You should feed your chicks starter to make sure they get the nutrition they need.
  • 6 to 20+ Week Old (Pullets): Their diet should contain around 14-16% protein. You should feed them pullet grower until they start laying.
  • 20 Week or Above (Layers): Once chickens start laying eggs, they require around 15-18% protein in their feed. You should feed your hens layer feed to aid them in their egg-laying.

Water

Clean, fresh water is often a necessity that is overlooked. For their size, chicks can drink a remarkable amount of water. But the main problem with chicks is that they dirty their water non-stop.

The quality of the water must be constantly monitored and changed frequently because, unfortunately, chicks will keep scratching the litter into the drinker and pooping in it.

It will help to lift the drinker slightly, but you should still change the water often. This becomes less of a problem once they get bigger because you can lift the drinkers and feeders higher above ground.

If you are a fan of nipple drinkers, they can be used with day-old chicks if you direct them in how to use them. But, just to be safe, I would still put in a small regular drinker for several days to make sure they get the water they need.

Health

Regular health checks should be carried out on a monthly basis because parasites lice, mites, and worms might prevent chickens from laying eggs.

Egg-laying may also be severely affected by diseases like fowlpox and coccidiosis. But if you have bought your chickens from a reliable place, these types of diseases shouldn’t be a problem for you (except maybe coccidiosis).

If they get sick while they’re still a pullet, they could have a hard time laying eggs for the rest of their lives.

Daylight

The production of eggs in hens is greatly affected by the season and the number of daylight hours. Hens need about 12 to 14 hours of light every day to lay an egg, which they usually don’t get in winter.

The number of daylight hours could also delay when pullets will start laying eggs. For example, if a pullet is old enough to lay eggs in December, it might not actually produce an egg until the days start to get longer.

Access to the Nesting Boxes

Even though pullets really want to lay eggs, the older hens might bully the pullets by keeping them away from the nesting boxes.

An easy solution for this bullying is making new, temporary nest boxes for the pullets. You can use any kind of wooden, plastic, or cardboard boxes. Just add some straw or something like a nesting pad, and the pullets are all set.

Things like an old wooden box, cardboard box, cat carrier with some straw/nesting material can make very nice impromptu nesting boxes.

The structure of the flock changes a little once the pullets start to routinely lay eggs. The older hens will usually start accepting the pullets more.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that hens can ignore the nesting boxes and find some other weird places to lay their eggs. So you might have to do a little egg hunting.

Summary

So, to answer the original question, the majority of breeds will start to lay around 16-20 weeks. But if they don’t start that soon, be patient.

Please don’t try to force your hens to lay before they are naturally ready. This will only lead to reproductive problems, such as vent prolapse.