The Cottage Smallholder

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How many eggs does a chicken lay an hour, a day, a year?

first egg of the yearIf only there was a standard answer.

We often are asked this question. Danny reckons that it’s school children researching a project. I suspect that it’s grown up chicken owners that are gradually being driven crazy by the fact that their point of lay chickens, bought six months ago, have never ever laid an egg.

I’ve been there. We bought six hens, expected six eggs a day, promised eggs to our nieghburs. Five months later we collected our first egg.

Apart from our nifty little plastic hen that sits on the table at Easter and obligingly crouches to lay a small chocolate egg each time you press her back, real hens lay on a cycle of roughly a day at best. These are the hens that are bred to be layers. Our Pekin bantams are not great layers but, like Mrs Boss they go broody easily and can be great mothers if you want to breed. If you don’t want to breed and just want your hen to lay eggs this can be a nightmare. You can find out how to get over the problem of a broody hen here.

Perhaps it’s because we grew up on fairy stories that we expect all our hens to lay at least an egg a day. A golden egg would be good too, every now and then. Our hens tend to go off lay from October to January. It’s a very long break. This year it began to seem like an extended famine. Both my patience and the arm that lifts the lid of the nesting box were easing towards repetitive strain injury. This morning I nearly didn’t bother to look – the empty nests are so disheartening.

But, ever the optimist, I took a peek. Carol had laid a long brown speckled egg. I plucked it gently from the nest and rushed back to the house to announce the good news.

The first egg of the year is always a delight, almost as good as a golden egg and far more tasty.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Su and Fred

    Good to hear that you are finally getting some eggs!

    The red comb does mean that they are up for laying. When the comb goes pink they are going broody.

    The other hens will lay. Patience. It’s maddening but our hens have taught me that.

  2. su and fred

    we are now getting an egg a day and have 5 in total!!! the kids love looking for the eggs when they get home from school as the hen lays in the afternoon……
    we are told by a local hen expert that the hens start laying once they get their full red comb on their heads…..we are eagerly awaiting eggs from our other 3 hens….

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat 


    The first egg of the year is so precious! All our hens are 3 or 4 years old now so egg laying is not a priority for them as they are easing towards retirement. Loads of people that we know, knock their chickens on the head at 2 years old (the end of a good egg laying career). We are fond of our chickens but as the years roll by they lay less eggs. 


    Hi Magic Cochin 


    I loved reading about your monitoring. What a shame about Fergie – perhaps she contributes in her own special way to the lives of the laying hens! I agree with you, hens are far more complex than we think. 


    Thanks for the fascinating link. Much appreciated. 


    Hi Moonroot, 


    I think that you are right, extreme temperature changes put hens off lay. When I spotted a heavy frost this morning I knew that there would be no eggs. 


    I do hope that Bella rides your blip and continues to lay for Wales 


    Hi Robert 


    Thank you so much for sharing your methods and ideas. At the moment Danny likes to let our chickens rest in the winter months – he can still enjoy the excellent eggs from the village shop. Presumably these hens have reading lights in their hen houses! 


    If our local winter source dries up he will be hotfooting down to our run, timer in hand. In fact I might well try this out next winter. 


    Thank you so much for the suggestion. 

    Hi rhall, 

    Wonderful to read about your chickens and your grandson finding a warm egg. An amazing experience for anyone. 

    45 acres – I’d love that!. 

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing. 

    Hi Rach, 

    Chickens are a joy. They are cosy but they have their own dramas. Yesterday I spotted Carol jumping on another chicken and then viciously pecking her. A nasty, unprovoked attack. When I roared, more out of shock than anger, Carol leapt off. 

    Like most other groups, hens practice one-upmanship and it can be nasty sometimes. Despite this it would be a wrench to let my hens go. 

  4. Congratulations on the end of the winter egg-drought! I will have chickens in the garden one day, for now though it’s great to hear about everyone elses.

  5. When we bought our 45 acre hay/cattle ranch here in Oregon, our younger son bought baby chicks and cleaned out an old shed/stall and created a safe chicken coop. The chickens didn’t lay for 6 or 7 months – when it started my husband became enamored of fresh omelets he actually makes himself, convinced these eggs taste so much better. Our grandchildren adore these chickens. One of them loves to pick them up. Only yesterday a grandson was there to pick up a newly laid very warm egg! He was thrilled the layer moved over for him. And there were two other eggs under her too. We used to get 5 a day, usually get 2-3 this time of year. We have 3 Rhode Island reds and 2 black Osterlorps – I have for sure misspelled that.

  6. Fi, your lovely post today make me realise how much I miss our hens! You really can’t beat ‘home grown’ eggs! If only we had more space . . . .

  7. Hi Fiona,

    My parents have had chickens for almost as long as I remember…actually, I remember incorrectly, because they were my chickens initially – a money-making venture when I was at school, in fact!

    As I understand it, chickens’ laying habits are regulated (amongst other factors) by day length; so one can increase the chances of eggs laid during the winter by providing longer days – an electric lamp on a timer in the hen house does this well!

    In summer, our chickens don’t tend to put themselves to bed until at least 10 at night, and are up and around in the morning by 6; so giving them an extra couple of hours of light at either end of the day in winter may encourage them to be more regular with laying.

    Just a thought!

    All the best,


  8. moonroot

    Bella, our Cream Legbar, began laying again a fortnight ago after the midwinter off-lay period. Unfortunately, after nearly a week of eggs, she took a break and hasn’t laid since. I’m wondering of all the rain we had recently affected her. Hopefully now it’s been dry for a few days (and occasionally, believe it or not, even sunny), I’m hoping she’ll resume production.

  9. magic cochin

    Congrats to Carol! To our amazement our hens have continued to produce eggs right through the winter. A few more days off, but now production is being stepped up to one a day! The day after a hen’s “day off” an egg is often found under the perches, she had no time to get across to the nest boxes!

    When I got my first hens I monitored their laying patterns for a while – they each had an individual pattern, Vivienne : 12 egg days / 1 day off; Victoria : 4 egg days / 1 day off; Nina 1 egg day / weeks off! and Fergie never laid!!!!!

    When an egg is laid the production process for the next is triggered – there’s a lot more to a hen than meets the eye!!!


  10. Oh Well done to Carol!!!! Hope you have many more to come.

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