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How To Tell Which Hens Are Laying Eggs

how to tell which hen is laying eggs

You have hens laying eggs, but minimal eggs – why is that? What’s happening?

It could be environmental, nutritional, seasonal, or just a particular breed of bird.
Sometimes you aren’t even sure which hens are laying – or not.

Today we are going to look at how you can check to see which of your hens are laying and not laying eggs.

I mean you could just sit all day and watch your hens but we’ve got some quick ways to check instead.

The two main ways to check which hens are laying are a physical examination and nest trapping.

Let’s start with physical examinations…

How to Tell If Pullets Are Laying Eggs

Pullets younger than sixteen weeks are not yet ready to lay. The point of lay (POL) can vary greatly from breed to breed.

A sex link pullet is likely to start laying around sixteen weeks while Orpingtons, Marans, and several other breeds may not start laying until twenty weeks or so- some even longer.

So be sure to find out the usual POL for your breeds.

How can you tell when a pullet is approaching her POL?

  • Her comb and wattles will get larger and redder
  • She may be restless and move from nest to nest looking for the ‘right spot’
  • A rooster will start to show her some attention
  • She will start squatting when you attempt to touch her
  • Your hen will seek out dark, quiet areas

She will be active, with bright, alert eyes. Your hen doesn’t understand what’s happening so she may be extra talkative and distracted right before she lays.

Her first eggs may be in odd places, so keep a lookout for them.

You can encourage her to lay in the nest box by using fake eggs or golf balls.

Her initial eggs may be a bit oddly shaped, erratic in timing, but once she gets the hang of it, she will be a good layer for you.

She will not be up to ‘full speed’ until around thirty weeks or so.
hens laying eggs

If this is your first batch of hens, you may need to confine them to the coop for a couple of weeks to get them used to lie in the nest boxes.

If they are additions to an existing flock, they should get the idea pretty quickly, although if you have a dominant, older hen guarding the boxes, you may need to add some more boxes in a different place for the new girls.

How To Tell If Older Hens Are Laying Eggs

Hens older than one year should continue laying for at least another six months to a couple of years, depending on the breed.

You can tell if she is still laying by a quick physical examination and observation.

Her Feathers

In observing your hen, she will likely have some worn feathers, especially if there is a rooster around. Feathers on her back may be broken or rumpled.

This should tell you that the calcium in her body is being diverted to egg-making, not feather-making. Her comb and wattles should appear red- if they are dull and shrunken, this hen is likely not laying.

The physical exam should give you a little more information. Pick her up gently and tuck her through your arm facing backward (the hen not you).

Check The Vent

Now you can get a clear look at her vent. A laying hen will have a clean, pink, moist vent about an inch in diameter for large breeds. If the vent is small, dry, and pale – she’s not laying.

Next is feeling for the space between the pubic bones and the vent then the keel and the vent. The pubic bones of a hen lie on either side of the vent at about 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock.

You should feel two pointy bones on either side at a distance of about three finger breadths apart. If the gap is smaller, she is most likely not laying.

The distance between the vent and the keel bone should be around four finger breadths.

The position of fingers should be 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock.
Chicks and Broody Hen

Secret Stash

If all signs point towards your hens’ laying but you have few eggs make sure she doesn’t have a secret stash somewhere. If they are free-range watch them carefully to see if any disappear for a while and then return to the flock.

Without a doubt some birds are more secretive about their eggs than others, considering it a challenge to hide them from you!

More than a few keepers have thought they had lost a hen only to have them return with chicks in tow.

Legs, Beak & Face

When your hens start laying again after they molt, take notice of their legs, beaks, and face. A hen that is laying well will start to lose some of the colorings in all of these areas.

Areas that were initially yellow or quite highly colored such as legs and face, will slowly bleach out to look much paler.

If your hen still looks spiffy halfway through the season, she’s not laying for you!

Trap Nesting to Check if a Hen is Laying Eggs


Trap nesting is usually done with breeding hens but can be used to check and see who is laying.

If you have a large number of hens and limited nest boxes, you may have to spend some time checking regularly to see who has laid.

The trap nest is a device that can be fitted to the front of a standard nest-box fairly easily. Once the hen enters the nest, the gate shuts behind her, trapping her.

Hens should not be left in the traps for excessive periods of time, especially in warm weather. If she does lay and becomes bored, she may well eat her egg – not something you want to happen.

Also, if the weather is particularly warm she can dehydrate quickly.

If left to her own devices, your hen will become bored, scared, and will most likely attempt to escape.

I don’t recommend trap nesting because hens can accidentally break their eggs, and out of boredom begin eating them. This is a bad habit that’s hard to break, and unfortunately, it’s quite “contagious.”

Additionally, trap nesting can scare hens so badly that they may not want to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes for fear of entrapment.

If you need to separate your hens to determine who is laying, I recommend simply relocating the hen(s) in question for a while.

At first, she may be upset due to the separation, but eventually, her egg factory will start running, and you will know whether she’s a layer or not.

Egg Color Detection of Determining Which Hen is Laying Eggs

This method of determining which hen is laying eggs depends solely on your knowledge of your chickens (and the breeds they represent).

If you have blue egg layers, it’s easy to tell which is laying. Most hens also have trademarks to their eggs…it can be size, color, the location they prefer to lay, or anything else you may have observed.

If you know your hens well, you may know which eggs belong to who. Keep in mind, however, that egg color may lighten or darken with age so be careful in your assumptions if you go this route.

One Last Word on Egg Laying, the Hen Factors

With egg-laying though you must remember that certain breeds lay more than others.

If you have what is considered ‘ornamental’ breeds the egg output may be significantly less than a utility breed.

What are ‘ornamentals’?
Silver Laced Wyandotte
Breeds such as Barbu D’Uccle, Campines, Sultans, and Sebrights are considered ornamental.

Although they do lay eggs, they are not renowned for the output of eggs.

It’s great to have a selection of different breeds but check carefully to see who lays well and who doesn’t.

On a personal note – I keep D’Uccles’ and although they aren’t as prolific as a utility hen, they do a respectable job of laying, but it took them several months to start up.

Lastly, remember the laying cycle – it runs around twenty-five/six hours to make one egg. The time of lay will get later each day until she ‘drops’ a day.

Hens Laying Eggs Summary

You now have at least three different ways to check which of your hens are laying.

Once you’ve figured out which hens aren’t laying you can start figuring out why.

Sometimes you need to be a detective to find out why your ladies aren’t laying!

You may have to go through each and every likely scenario before you discover why. If it is simply because your hen is old, there really isn’t much to be done about it except buy some new pullets if your zoning allows.

Many of the other reasons for a decrease in laying can be put right quickly and get the girls back on track.

While chickens can’t verbally communicate with us, things such as not laying are a signal to you that something is wrong or bothering them and you need to fix it.

Let me know in the comments below, how do you check which of your hens are laying eggs?

READ NEXT: Do I Need a Rooster for Hens to Lay Eggs?


How To Tell Which Hens Are Laying Eggs

Which Hens Are Laying Eggs

31 thoughts on “How To Tell Which Hens Are Laying Eggs

  1. Thanks for the information Claire. One of my girls laying later in the day, but don’t know which one. Will take your advice
    Cheers x

  2. Hello, I don’t know what to do concerning my hens sitting on their eggs, they won’t sit at all even after laying. Please what should I do to encourage them to incubate their eggs, thank you

    1. Hi Jeff,
      You can’t force a hen to turn broody, you just have to let nature take its course…

    1. Last May and June, we ordered two sets of birds. First set was 10 black australorp pullets and one roo, and 10 buff orpington pullets and one roo. This was to be our breeding stock for future meat birds. The second shipment was 20 straight run.

      I waited and waited for eggs and never got them. I also never saw a single roo. I kept questioning it and double guessing. Come this past April I started seeing a few eggs, then it stopped.

      Twenty straight run, all hens. And my two roos I ordered? None. Approximately 42 hens and I get a max of 24 eggs a day.

      That math doesn’t add up.

  3. Great article. I’m a new chicken mom. So I try to read all I can get my hands on. This article is very informative. Thanks!

  4. Our three hens have laid consistently (an egg each daily) for almost twelve months. That’s over 1,000 eggs between them, I marvel at their productivity. And they haven’t moulted (except very slightly), and seem very healthy. I don’t know the breed(s), we bought them from a local (French)breeder at market, and he had a variety in crates, all mixed up. Is this unusual?

  5. Thankyou for your time you spend to help others have healthy chickens. only good comes out of helping others

  6. Thank you for the good information. I am not sure though what is meant by “comb and wattles”.

    1. Hi Nuri,
      The comb is the red ‘crown’ on top of their head and the wattle is the red thing underneath their chin 🙂

  7. I’ve bought 4 chicks last October, one turned out to be a rooster (ugh). My barred rock and Orpington started laying a couple of weeks ago but the Australorp has not. She has had diarrhea since she was a chick. It has cleared up tho. I even brought her to the vet when she was about 4 months old, all he said was that she might not make it once she starts laying eggs(56$ later)–He ruled out coccidiosis. So now I wait and hope she either lays golden eggs or no eggs at all so she’ll stay alive. She is acting like the other once and looks healthy and fluffy. I love her…
    Have a great day, DS

  8. Hi,I have a large light Sussex hen. Her vent area and below look very red and no feathers there? She has benn very quiet of late? I have checked for red mite,but nothing there. I have cleaned the area as quite dirty. I would appreciate any ideas? Thanks

  9. I have a hen named Miss Clara, so your name shouldn’t be too difficult to remember. she’s an Ameraucana and is quite beautiful.. Friendly too, “well if you bribe her”!

  10. We had 4 Gold Stars who each laid an egg every day for 3 years and then an egg every other day for another 2 years. We now have 10 Reds that each laid an egg a day for 1.5 years. About a month ago they had a problem with very thin shelled eggs that would break as soon as they were laid. We fixed that problem but now they are only laying around 4 eggs daily.
    Please help.

  11. I really enjoy all the information I have received. I’m a chicken grandma lol. The sweet feathered babies belong to my son & daughter, but I would like to learn more about them also. Thank you once again. ?☺

  12. I have 160 hens and only get 90 eggs did everything I could even more protein. I use alfalfa pellets . And got 120 eggs went down I live in southern Mexico what is wrong I done everything you say and don’t know what to do anymore.i have a mixer of hens reds,blacks,gray,s,yellows,blk and white ,tans it’s not cold o too hot here little windy about 25 miles the hottest is about 95 f.what do you think there happy have roosters to they will be a year old in April

    1. Mari, run me through your feeding routine and more importantly, your water routine. How many nesting boxes are there?

    2. Thank you for your information Claire, it is very helpful. I have two chickens which were given to me. I think they are around 4 years old Rocky Roads- cross between a Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red. One chicken lays an egg each day and the other hasn’t laid for over a month. She laid a lash egg which was quite disgusting but not laid one again since. She appears fine in herself and free ranges daily. She isn’t moulting and both have had medicated pellets with worming treatment. Should I get some antibiotics for her if she has an infection or will it clear up by itself?
      Many thanks,

      1. Its been a month, you should move towards antibiotics and see if it clears an infection, considering a lash egg and no eggs since.

  13. I am a middle school teacher who has just inherited 9 hens and a rooster. Once school starts up again in the fall I plan on leaving a bucket out in my classroom after lunch to collect food scraps for my feathered friends. I am amazed at how much food gets thrown out and goes to waste by my students–but no longer in my classroom!

  14. I have an americana hen how was hatched April 2. It is now Nov . her comb and waddles are still not very developed. She this normal.Will she lay eventually?

  15. Hi,
    I have 5 pullets and had been getting 5 eggs a day for the first week or two after they started laying. This has dropped to 3 or 4 eggs a day recently, suggesting one isn’t laying. Is it normal for one to stop laying for a short period when they’re young?

  16. To know if my old hen are still laying eggs, I identify by visiting their nest boxes regularly for at least three days, when lam convinced she is laying l mark her comb by black color. After enough time (days) I isolate the non laying girls and sell them.

  17. I had 2 Easter eggers lay on February 8-9 In their nesting box. Nothing since that day. They occasionally free range. We have kept them in a large area over the past few days. Still no eggs. 18% protein laying pellets with scratch feed mixed in. 2 sources of water. Almost 2 months since last known egg lay. Any suggestions??

  18. I have a lot of hens. No roosters. I have an old group that is two years old and their laying has greatly decreased. Im assuming age is the main reason. I’ve been trying to keep track of who goes in to lay, but it’s extremely difficult. Out of 12 hens in that coop I generally get 3-4 eggs. Should I do more research or just get new chicks in the spring? Thanks!

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