The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How many eggs does a chicken lay each year?

soft bolied eggThis desperate string of words comes up a lot on search terms that have led people to our site, particularly at this time of year.

People buy pullets in the summer and expect an egg a day from all of them, immediately. We made the same mistake. Our first six months of keeping hens was just husbandry without the egg tithes. We couldn’t understand it. They had a big run, good food, fresh water every day. They also had The Ritz (a hen house version) to roost in and a quiet, snug hay filled nesting box in which to relax and lay eggs. Every day, after they arrived, I checked the nesting box. I was amazed that I didn’t get repetitive strain injury, as I checked at lunchtime and in the evening as well.

We bought our first six bantams in August 2003. Not a single hen had any interest in the nesting box, it was left totally undisturbed. When I lifted the hatch and spotted the first egg in January 2004 I rushed back to the cottage and considered ringing The Times. Danny was suspicious. He examined the egg carefully and announced,
“It’s the first one. It may not be quite right. Throw it away.”

I boiled it gently and enjoyed the freshest egg that I had ever tasted.

The wait for eggs can be a long one. If you bought your hens this summer and still have no eggs you are likely not to have eggs until January. You are probably doing nothing wrong. Possibly the hens that you bought were immature. Carol hatched on April 23 2004 she laid her first egg early in January 2005. She is a Maran, a laying breed. This does not mean that she will lay 365 days a year. She came into lay in January about a month after December 21st when the days start to get longer. She lays an egg a day until the end of August. The egg laying gradually tails off to a stop around now. She is moulting a bit and will now rest until January. And why not? Even hens need holidays.

Carol is over three years old. A younger hen would probably keep on laying until October. That’s why loads of people knock the two year old hens on the head and replace them with pullets. Younger birds, when they start to lay, are more proficient in their egg laying. And their egg laying window is longer, with a higher yield throughout the egg laying season. Until now, Carol has rewarded us with an egg a day when she is in egg laying mode. Next year it could be an egg every other day.

Carol, like all our chickens, is a pet. She will live with us until the end. All our hens have stopped laying for this year apart from one four year old bantam. She is laying for England. Small, sweet eggs that are stashed in the larder and soft boiled for breakfast on days when we need the extra voompf that only an ultra fresh egg can give.


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61 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lollaa,

    Thank you for dropping by

  2. lollaa hawbenaker

    thank you mija

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Anne,

    Lucky you. Unless the guinea fowl start laying, I knw that we’ll have to wait until the new year!

  4. anne waller

    hi,
    at last! i think egg laying has re-started. having berrated my girls online, they finally came up with 4 eggs yesterday…….believe me, no one was more surprised than me. hopefully this is a sign of things to come and not just a ‘one off’.i was really missing the egg collecting part of chicken keeping – there is something so satisfying about a bowl full of fresh eggs. time to bake a cake………….

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Anne,

    Yes I would put it down to moulting and the shorter days. Introducing new stock always seems to throw things awry for a bit.

    My flock are sunning themselves on the Day Centre roof.

  6. anne waller

    thanx for the reply,
    my girls are certainly never without food so i’ll have to put the egg deficit down to moulting and the time of year! i have just introduced some new point of lays so that may have put the old girls backs up a bit. i’m happy to wait and see. they are soooo loving this late autumn sunshine. the dust bath is well visited and the resulting dust-clouds are covering the garden. happy sunny days.

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi clatterpark,

    I think that some breeds of hen are more prone to lay double yolkers. We’ve never had a double yolker from our chickens.

    No I don’t think that if you give your chickens too much to eat they stop laying eggs. Our hens have a grain fountain, they eat what they need. They are not overweight and lay eggs. If they are short of food, they will stop laying.

  8. clatterpark

    hello anyone who is reading,
    i am a new member and think this whole site is fantastic. so sensible and informative.
    a friend at work told me that she had bought eggs from a supermarket (cannot recall which one) that were marketed as ‘double yokers’ – and they were!
    a whole display of them apparently. i wonder how they know? do they candle the eggs in some mass-produced way?
    i have only once had a double from my girls. the older ones usually just lay eggs with thin shells for a while and then stop altogether.

    on a different subject. is it true that if you give your chickens too much to eat they stop laying eggs? i find it difficult to control their feeding because they free range for part of the day.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Veritee,

    Thanks for taking the time to leave this explanation of double yolk eggs. Useful and interesting.

  10. In answer to Deb and her double yolks!

    While most literature on the subject says that double yolks are laid by young hens or is an inherited trait
    In my experience of over 22 years of keeping hens, double yolk eggs are only laid usually by older hens and only occasionally by young hens “ I think this is an abnormality that happens at either end of a hens reproductive life due to the process going slightly wrong.
    I find more often as hens get older they lay less frequently and their eggs get bigger and eventually the occasional double yolk is laid.

    But I think for some hens it is hereditary as I had one who only laid them.
    All I can suggest is the egg box from Waitrose by coincidence was packed with eggs only from one hen who had a tendency to lay double yolks
    I always am pleased to find a double yolk “ it seems like an extra gift from the hen to me

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