If you are considering backyard chickens, then you will likely want to know what you can expect in terms of eggs. How often can you expect them and will your hens lay eggs throughout their lifetime? I decided to do some research into the topic to help set my own expectations from my flock. I would like to share what I have been able to find with you here today.
So, how long do chickens lay eggs? A healthy hen will not stop laying eggs as they age, but they do begin to produce fewer eggs as they age. However, an average hen will lay eggs consistently for 5-7 years of its life. A healthy hen should begin laying eggs at 18 weeks of age, producing one egg per day from there onward.
If your chickens stop laying, there may be a specific reason that needs investigating.
Besides, chickens may stop laying eggs for other reasons than age alone.
And you’re going to want to.
Collecting eggs from your backyard chickens is a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
It’s also good to know that your chickens are healthy and that you are providing them with all that they need to do so.
Let us now take a closer look at the topic and associated questions so that you as an owner, can understand exactly what to expect from your birds when it comes to eggs.
How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
Chickens begin to lay eggs at around 18 weeks of age. At this time, a hen will have developed the necessary ways to be able to lay and do so consistently.
It is at this time which you should change their diet to a complete layer feed.
It is also within their early life in which hens will be able to produce their highest quality and quantity of eggs.
At around the 30-week-year-old mark, you can expect your hens to be producing at their peak.
You’ll also likely notice that the first eggs that a hen will lay are smaller. They should be laid larger as time goes by.
It is as your chicken ages, that you should notice that its eggs reach an average size, and the number of eggs that each hen lays begins to drop.
At around the 2 years of age mark, a hen is expected to lay around 80% of the eggs in which they lay in their first year.
Therefore, if one of your hens was to lay 200 eggs within their first year, you can expect 160 eggs to be laid in the second year. Assuming conditions are equally optimal.
During the third year of laying, your hen will be producing around 70% (when compared to the first year’s production).
So in our example of 200 eggs in year one, by year three you would expect 140 eggs.
At year 4, 60% can be expected in comparison to the number of eggs laid in the first year.
You can observe the following table to get a rough idea as to the number of eggs you can expect from your hens every year:
|Year of Production
|Egg Production Yield
|100% (~200 Eggs per Year)
|80% (~160 Eggs per Year)
|70% (~140 Eggs per Year)
|60% (~120 Eggs per Year)
|50% (~100 Eggs per Year)
|45% (~90 Eggs per Year)
|35% (~70 Eggs per Year)
At around the 7-year-old mark, your hens will not be producing as regularly as they were in their earlier years of life.
However, as we can see above, they still will be laying! There is a period known as retirement, and this is where a hen will stop laying altogether.
A chicken’s life expectancy is between 8-10 years on average. So, chickens can live for a number of years after they begin to stop laying eggs.
How Often Does A Chicken Lay An Egg?
A healthy hen, fed optimally and kept in a clean and spacious environment can lay anywhere between 200-250 eggs per year.
So, this is every 1.46 days on average.
A healthy hen will create an egg in around 24 hours – and they will also have a natural break each year from laying to molt.
This usually occurs during the winter months as days are shorter with less light.
For this reason and with these factors in mind, you can hope to expect 1 egg per hen per day for the majority of the year.
Consider that an egg production rate of 80-90% is fruitful and you should be pleased with this kind of supply.
If you are wondering what the best breeds of hens for laying eggs are, these are:
|Type of Eggs Produced
|White Leghorn Hybrids
|Plymouth Barred Rocks
|Rhode Island Reds
When it comes to egg production, you need to consider that there are a number of factors that contribute to successful laying.
- Breed of the chicken,
- Environment – Coop Condition/Space,
- Quality of Nutrition,
- Parasitic Load
- Security of Coop
Also, you should take into account that for most hens, their egg production will naturally slow in the fall and winter.
Some owners resort to using supplemental and artificial lighting (for up to 16 hours per day) to keep egg production at its peak.
However, there is some controversy as to whether this is healthy and humane to do.
Ultimately, the decision is going to be down to you as the owner.
How Can You Tell If Your Hen Isn’t Laying?
If you own a flock that consists of multiple birds of different ages, it can be a challenge to identify those birds that are laying from the ones that are not.
Therefore, it is good to be aware of the tell-tale signs a chicken is not laying eggs.
Here are the main ones to be aware of:
- The hens combs and wattles have faded. This is in direct contrast to a laying hen which will have very pigmented combs and wattles.
- The hens legs have extra and additional pigment. The legs of hens in which are laying well will have paler/bleached legs.
- A hens feathers look pristine or immaculate. Be aware that egg laying hens will have broken feathers or bald patches. This is because their bodies prioritize egg laying opposed to other requirements like their plummage.
These signs can typically be observed in older birds.
However, if you own a younger bird who is not laying, there could be other factors involved which are preventing successful laying.
These are the most common which can give you a place to look and investigate:
- Hen(s) is/are too young, or, too old
- Wrong season; it could be wintertime
- Your hen(s) is/are molting
- Your hen(s) is/are too broody
- Your hen(s) have contract itnernal parasites
- Your hen(s) is/are suffering from an illness.
- Your hen(s) is/are stressed.
- Your hen(s) is/are not eating a sufficient diet – it could be too low in Calcium.
Another possibility is that your hen(s) are laying. However, you may not be finding their eggs or they may have gone by the time you have arrived.
The most common possibilities here are:
- Your hen(s) is/are eating their own eggs.
- Your hen(s) is/are laying their eggs elsewhere in the coop – not in their nesting box
- Predators, or rodents, are accessing the coop and stealing the eggs.
What To Feed Egg Laying Hens
Perhaps the standout factor for ensuring your hens lay eggs throughout the year is an optimal diet. An optimal layer feed will meet most if not all of their nutritional needs and requirements.
The Kalmbach Feeds Organic Layer Feed from Amazon is a great example of a complete feed with all the required nutrients that also contains pre-biotics, pro-biotics, and enzymes to ensure your chickens can acquire all the nutrients from within the food.
This is the type of food you need to be feeding – doing so will also result in superior eggs which are higher in Vitamin D and Omega Fatty Acids.
A laying hen will need to consume around 0.25 pounds (1/2 cup) of a nutrient-rich feed every day. This should equate to 90% of their diet.
The other 10% of the diet can be made up of treats (1-2 tablespoons). Only a few small treats should be provided each day.
If you observe that your hens are not laying a sufficient number of eggs in the warmer, lighter months, then you should first check that they are consuming enough laying feed.
From there, you can look at some of the other factors referenced above.
That being said, so long as you are providing a healthy and optimal layer feed to your hens, and assuming they are the right age and it is an egg-laying season, you should expect 1 egg per hen per day.
The average healthy chicken produces and lays an impressive amount of eggs per year.
So long as the right conditions are met, you can expect an egg per day for the majority of a hen’s life.
That being said, a chicken will not lay an egg every day for its entire life.
Starting at 18 weeks, peaking at 2 years, and declining by 10% for each year thereafter.
Nonetheless, with a small flock of chickens, you can still expect several thousand eggs per year.
When keeping chickens, there is a lot you need to consider to keep them healthy. You also need to take into account external factors like the weather, seasons, and light/dark cycles.
Depending on why egg-laying slows, may dictate whether there are things you can do to try and increase production once more.
Either way, ensuring your birds have a high-quality laying feed is the best thing you can do.
Chickens may stop laying eggs for several different reasons. However, the main reasons that a hen can layer a few eggs include: not enough access to light, an inadequate coop environment, poor nutrition, stress, molt, or age. While some of these factors are a natural response and there is little you can do, others can be rectified with some changes and optimizations (such as to their diet and environment). Making such changes can see a return to normal egg-laying.
If your chickens have stopped laying eggs then first and foremost you need to identify why. Some factors may be out of your control, such as the bird’s age. However, if you observe that egg-laying slows down due to stress, poor nutrition, or stress caused by the coop – then you can look to introduce measures to improve egg-laying production. Providing higher quality feed, cleaning out nest boxes, ensuring there are sufficient open areas, providing calcium supplementation, improving the security of the coop, providing better access to fresh water, and controlling parasites are some of the most effective areas to focus on.
Looking to learn more about egg-laying in chickens? If so, my following guides may be of interest:
- How Long Does It Take For Chicken Eggs To Hatch?
- How Long Do Chickens Molt And Not Lay Eggs?
- Does It Hurt A Chicken To Lay An Egg?
- How Many Eggs Does A Chicken Lay In A Week?
- Can Chickens Lay 2 Eggs A Day?
- Do Male Chickens Lay Eggs?
- Why Do Chickens Peck Holes In Their Eggs?
- What Is A Fart Egg?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.