The Cottage Smallholder

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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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  1. I have been given 14 hens from a chicken farm, they were about to be killed off as they have passed their peak. I get from 4 -9 eggs a day.
    The norm being 5/6 a day. Is this normal for this time of year??

    We have had them since May this year.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Brian

    My hens lay in the morning and afternoon. It all depends on their laying cycle.

    Hi Julie

    Yes it is normal to find eggs as late as 5pm. Most eggs are laid before noon but all hens differ.

    Six hens will not lay six eggs a day unless they are hybrid layers and at the height of their laying potential. Even these hens will have a rest and go off lay during the winter months unless you force them to lay by providing extra light to ‘lengthen’ their day.

    In time you will get to know the rhythm of your hens’ laying pattern and will be able to tell if things are not ‘normal’ for them.

  3. Julie North

    What is normal when it comes to chickens? I love my girls, Hetty, Specky, Becky, Alexandra, Sophie and Jane each different with there own individual charactors. As for times of laying can they tell the time? Mine can lay an egg as late as 5pm. Somedays I get 4 and others 1. Today I got an egg from Jane which was so small and round it could be a marble!

  4. I just got my first chickens. One of them is pullet Rhode Island Red. She has laid 2 eggs in three days. She lays them late in the afternoons. Is this normal? Everything I have read says they should stop laying by noon. My other birds are at various stages of development. Still too early for them to start laying. I have nothing else to base this on. Is my Florida chicken on California time?

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Garrett

    This sometimes happens to Carol our chicken. The egg is just a bit too big for the vent. The cut seems to repair quite quickly and we’ve had no problems as yet.

    Keep an eye on her to check that the cut doesn’t become infected.

  6. garrett

    Hi, one of my pullets laid her first yeterday, but she has blood on the eggs (not much) and a small cut on the outside of her vent. Is this normal?

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Heather

    We had the same problem with our flock when we first got them. Our ‘point of lay’ chickens arrived as young hens in August and we got our first egg in January.

    You don’t mention where you are in the world. If you are in the northern hemisphere you are lucky as you will expecting another five months or so of warmer, sunnier months and longer days.

    I’m no expert but I reckon that most hens will not lay before 8 months. Some of our flock took a year to mature. But as we are approaching summer you might be lucky and they might mature earlier.

    When the first egg is laid it almost makes up for the long wait!

  8. Heather

    I have just gotten myself 3 wonderful Bevan Goldlines who are all 17 weeks old. Can anyone out there please let me know at what age I can expect eggs. Annie, Betsy & Connie don’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that I would like eggs.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Crystal,

    Isn’t it great that you can let your hens run free range without trouble from your dogs!

    Your own home laid eggs just can’t be beaten by the shop ones, no wonder your kids argue over who gets to eat them.

    Thanks for leaving a comment!

  10. Hi,
    I just wanted to say that this was our first year in poultry. My son showed them in 4-H. We started with 6 and they have all passed away. We now have more than 25. My hens just started laying in Nov. That was the greatest joy. My kids still argue every morning on who will get the eggs. Mine are free range with all but 1 out of 8 dogs liking them. I have been lucky because some of my dogs came at the age of 1 yr or older. OK, happy egg laying to all.

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