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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61 Comments

  1. neil Sheffield

    i have 3 old maran`s what i rescued from peniston market. they were is a shocking state i paid 1.50 each. the best 1.50 i ever spent. aftyer a bit of.t.l.c they are so perfect the year 2007-2008 i had an egg each day for 8 months. i could`nt belive my look i have just rescued a cock maran from a asian who was trying to fight him he has setteld down with the 3 marans so i am hope to have some chicks soon wish me look

  2. Mama Jane finally hatched 2 chicks, what a hectic weekend we have had, one is fit and healthy but the other has a gammy right leg. We set the alarm to check on them every 3 hours through the night. It has almost died twice when it got wedged down a little crack. It was hardly breathing but we put it back under Jane and 3 hours later it is chiping and fluffy again. However we have decided to bring it in and rear it in a box with light bulb etc. We are not sure if the leg will right it self or that it will be able to adapt. It does eat and drink. What would you do? My boyfriend said it would be kinder to put it to sleep, but it does not look in any stress, I feel we should give it a chance!

  3. Thanks for your message fn, well i dont think my pekin are cock’s. they have bushy little back sides, lol… some mornings we do get a bit of chirping going on, something like Burk Burk buk buk buk, burk buk buk buk buk….. and they set the rest off… its a bit strange because i hope i dont have a cock in with the hens, ( i dont think i do :o( )
    They are really doing well and all very tame and love 8am feed time….

    Just a bit worried that the 2 older lemons are still pecking the 2 younger ones 3weeks on???

  4. I Have 5 Chickens 4 Lemon Pekin and 1 LegHorn
    My Leghorn Betty started laying 8 days ago and i have had a egg “EVERYDAY” since, she is a Good Layer but very Timid and the day i brought her home she escaped and nested on the roof of the house all night, and went missing for 3days, lol.
    then we found her and put her in her new coop and she is happy wrecking my grass and laying every morning.

    But i wonder when my Lemons will start to lay as they are now almost 6month old,?? Any ideas?

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Julie

    I’d give her at least 4-5 days extra. Hatching can spread over a few days.

    If you can’t wait you could try candling the eggs. I do hope that you have some hatchlings soon.

  6. Well Jane has been sat on her eggs bought from Ebay for 22 days now and no sign of any cracks yet. Out of the 6 one was cracked on arrival and she tossed 2 out, one with a half formed chick and the other not furtilised. She leaves the nest box once aday and we have put water and food in there for her. The other girls are now laying again all seems normal there.

    How long do we wait before we decide they are not going to hatch if they have not hatched in the next few days?

    I am checking at least 4 times at day for the last few days!

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Julie

    Apologies for not getting back to you.

    Eggs laying for all hen apart from true laying breeds starts to spiral down as they days get shorter. This is normal. You can pump up the laying by introducing artificial light. This will increase egg production but shorten lives.

    Mrs Boss is a great mum. She teaches her chicks how to eat and drink and keep out of harm™s way However, not all hens behave like this. If you have chicks you need to check that they are eating and drinking. Even with Mrs B , I check this.

    If Jane is broody you need to move her away from the rest of the flock as she will put them off lay. Just a separate pen within the run – it could be an old rabbit hutch. Try and make a separate run for the chicks when they hatch. They may survive running with the rest of the flock (this is highly unlikely) but their survival rate will escalate if they have a separate apartment and run.

    Hi Anna

    Although laying diminishes as the days get shorter this is unusual. What breed is your flock? If they are a laying breed attend to possible worms and lice. Also make sure that everything is clean. The nesting boxes, run and chickens.

    Do they have a place out of the bad weather where they can bath? We have a box in the run where they used to bath in balmier summers. I™ve spotted that they all bath in a hollow in the floor of the chicken house. This is dusted with mite powder every week now.

    Hi Andy

    We have had four Pekins during the last five years. The two pretty blues died within the first two years. I reckon that these are particularly delicate.

    The Pekin breed are not great egg layers. At best ours have given us 2-3 eggs a week in their prime. Good, sweet eggs, when they arrive. Pekins are more interested in hatching rather than laying eggs. We bought our Pekins on POL in early August one year. We probably got our first egg in March the next year when all hens (whatever the breed).are firing on all cylinders in the U.K.

    You can get bantam laying breeds. If you have the space it might be worth getting two or three of these.

    Re cockerels. By now you would know if you have cockerels. Extended tail feathers, wattles and a chirpy, early wake up call.

  8. How can i tell if my Lemon Pekin are Hen’s??

  9. Hi Guy’s,

    I have 4 Lemon Pekin, 2 of them young but two of them are 5.5months old and still no sign of a egg?????????????????? Any Ideas???

    I have a Leghorn which i bought 2weeks ago and she has given me a SMALL white egg maybe another one soon….

  10. Hi Anna,

    I cannot believe I am finally able to offer advice. Don’t panic there are various reasons which affect their laying, especially the young Chickens. Could be due to the days beginning to get shorter, you could have a broody hen which up-sets the rest, they could be molting or just like our girls taking a break. We had no eggs for 2 weeks and was not expecting anymore until early spring however Becky has started laying once agin and they are bigger than ever. We also have a broody hen Jane who is currently sitting on eggs bought from Ebay. Quite frankly these girls are a law unto themselves. Make sure you give them lots of fresh water everyday also!

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