We get asked this question from time to time, so we thought that this would be an excellent time to talk about the chick and laying season imminent now.
How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
The short answer is – it depends on the breed, the hen’s age, and the season.
Some breeds lay furiously, yet others consider it a bore and lay very infrequently.
First, we will look at why different breeds lay different amounts of eggs. Then we will ‘short profile’ some species to give you an idea of what to expect.
How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
The large majority of breeds that you can buy today are geared towards being productive eggs and meat.
This means that most birds you get from the feed store or catalog will give a steady supply of eggs for 1-2 years. After this time, they are considered ‘spent,’ and industrial concerns will send them to slaughter.
Chickens’ egg-laying capabilities can be divided mainly into heritage and production– what’s the difference?
Production Chickens Egg Laying
As the name implies, these birds are raised to produce large eggs over a short period.
Certain other qualities of the bird were sacrificed – such as broodiness. After two years, they will continue to lay, but the amount will be significantly less.
Heritage Chickens Egg Laying
Heritage hens are slower to start laying eggs and will not produce eggs as profusely as production hens. They tend to spread around the same amount of eggs overall, but over a more extended period: 3-5 years.
The amount of time it takes for an egg to travel down the reproductive tract and be laid is a reasonably consistent 25-27 hour period.
However, the frequency of laying can vary tremendously from breed to breed. For example, a Rhode Island Red production hen may lay five eggs per week, but a Sultan chicken may lay one egg per week.
4 Star Egg Layers
Let us introduce you to our selected breeds without further delay – we have given them ‘star ratings,’ but perhaps a Michelin rating would be more appropriate!
Instantly recognizable by the floppy comb, this breed comes in several colors: white.
Unfortunately, it is the most abused hen in the industrial setting because of its’ laying ability. Leghorns can lay between 4-6 medium white eggs per week.
Initially, they were raised for dual purposes, but the meat is no longer considered worthwhile eating.
Leghorns are active foragers and enjoy their freedom. They can be friendly but dislike being handled too much!
Leghorns are always alert and able to fly well, they may roost in a tree if startled by something. They can tolerate a wide range of weather and terrain – a very adaptable bird.
Rhode Island Reds
The powerhouse layer born and bred in the US! The Rhode Island Red was created in Rhode Island – where it has a monument to its success.
The Rhode Island Red is a relatively common chicken for excellent reasons – it can lay 3-5 large brown eggs per week, and the meat is also suitable for stews, etc.
Although originally raised as a dual purpose hen, from the 1940s onward, they raised many of the strains for egg-laying alone.
This had the effect of splitting the breed into ‘production’ Reds and ‘heritage’ Reds.
They are calm, friendly and curious, and will often follow you around the yard to ‘help.’ They enjoy being active, although they will tolerate confinement.
A docile and somewhat talkative bird can be pushy with other flock members. They are tolerant of various conditions and can thrive even in adversity.
This ancient fowl was reputed to have been around even in the time of the Roman invasion of Britain!
The Sussex became the quintessential English table bird for many years, and the flavor of its’ meat was said to be unsurpassed.
As a dual purpose hen, the Sussex can lay between 3-6 large, light brown eggs per week depending on the particular strain of the bird. They are rarely broody.
Sussex are calm, docile, and curious birds – they love to forage and don’t mind being handled. They have heavy, soft feathering and come in several varieties – speckled, Coronation, light, buff, etc.
Tolerant of an extensive range of weather, this hen is winter hardy, but they don’t thrive in the heat.
The Delaware hen is another super layer from the US. It was not an old breed in the 1940s when it was the prime bird in broiler houses.
It was soon surpassed by the Cornish cross, which grew much faster than Delaware.
Sadly Delaware has seen a steady decline in numbers which is sad since it’s a great layer averaging 3-4 eggs per week, and the meat is said to be very flavorful.
Delaware is a calm, confident bird, always alert, and loves to forage. They are pretty friendly, although they cannot be considered a ‘cuddly’ chicken – there are always exceptions.
The plumage is silver/white with some black barring on the tail and neck feathers. They are pretty cold-hardy but do not do well in the heat.
3 Star Egg Layers
Welsummers’ originated in the Netherlands in a small town called Welsum. It is not a particularly old breed, coming into existence in the early 1900s. It is a mix of several different species taking the best from them.
The Welsummer is a dual-purpose breed. As an egg layer, it will give you three large speckled, terracotta-colored eggs a week! They seldom go broody and are said to be terrible moms.
Welsummer’s are good foragers who like to roam in the pasture, but they tolerate confinement reasonably well.
They are friendly, easy to handle birds. They do like the company of humans but cannot be said to be lap chickens.
The coloring of the Welsummer is a standard red partridge with gold/red highlights.
The Barnevelder was one of the forebears of the Welsummer – also from the Netherlands. The breed is a bit older; since the mid-1800s and was initially bred for dual purposes.
The original stock was undoubtedly a large table bird with the roosters weighing around 10lb and the hens at 7-8lb.
They put out a respectable 3-4 large dark brown eggs per week as egg layers. Some folks say the eggs are chocolate in appearance, but I have never seen an egg that dark.
They are docile and friendly and tend a bit towards laziness. They will forage but not as well as other hens.
A low-maintenance hen that can tend towards obesity if fed too many treats!
The Plymouth Rock or Barred rock was the outstanding chicken in the US until World War 2 era. You found it in just about every backyard and poultry concern in the US.
It’s a calm, docile and intelligent bird that is easy to manage, is a good sitter, and makes a good mother.
Raised as a dual purpose bird, the egg-laying is a steady 4 large brown eggs per week. The hens will weigh in around the 7-8lb mark, making a good-sized table bird.
The Rock is tolerant of various temperatures from cold to moderately hot. A great addition to any flock.
2 Star Egg Layers
Since Victorian times, the Java hen has been the base for countless ‘new breeds.’ It was created in the US from several Asiatic breeds around the mid-1800s.
It is considered the second-oldest US breed – the first being the Dominique. It was made as a dual-purpose bird, and the size reflects that. The roosters weigh 9½ lb and the ladies 7½ lb.
They will lay 3 medium-large brown eggs in the egg department per week.
They were listed as critical by the Livestock Conservancy until reasonably recently. Backyard keepers, such as us, became interested in this breed, and the bird has consequently moved to the lesser ‘watch’ status.
The breed is slow-growing, so it does not fit well with the modern poultry industry. The Java is friendly, docile, calm, and tolerates confinement well.
The Houdan is an old and noble French breed known in the area before the 1700s.
It was initially raised as a dual-purpose breed, its delicate white meat being a delicacy. Egg laying is not quite so outstanding. 2-3 small white eggs per week are all you can expect from this charming bird.
The Houdan is probably better known in the US as an ornamental breed sporting a crest, muff, and beard.
It also has a V-shaped comb and 5 toes – an unusual bird, to be sure!
The Houdan has a sweet and docile disposition and is easily handled. It does not tolerate the cold very well but enjoys warmth.
1 Star Egg Layers
Someone forgot to tell this little bird that chickens lay eggs! Sultans are beautiful and elegant chickens but lousy at laying eggs.
One small white egg per week is all you will get. However, if you are into ornamental birds, the Sultan could be your new best friend.
It seems that the Sultan is a bird that has every design feature given to chickens! It has a crested head, V-shaped comb, beard, and muffs. Legs and feet are feathered, and they have 5 toes. Tails are long but not flowing like some Japanese breeds.
They are small birds, weighing 4lb or so (there is also a bantam variety). They are described as calm, docile, and friendly.
How Often do Chickens Lay Eggs Summary
There are, of course, many other breeds to choose from, but we have tried to give you a selection of hens that lay from good to poor so that you can see the variability of the egg-laying.
It’s always important to ask the seller how many eggs you can expect and how long they will lay – both in each year and expected lifetime.
If you are not interested in eggs but want some unusual or ornamental birds, there are several to choose from.
The Sultan is just one of the chickens that lay very infrequently – Cubalaya, Phoenix, and Yokohama are all infrequent layers but require special housing.
We hope this was helpful to you in showing how widely chicken breeds can vary and that there is a chicken breed that will suit you no matter what you ask of it!
Let us know your favorite chicken breeds in the comments section below…
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