The excitement of buying chicks is usually only surpassed by the arrival of that first egg!
While you are caring for them as chicks, there is much to do and think about. It isn’t until they become ungainly ‘teenagers’, eating us out of house and home, that our thoughts turn to the question- when will they lay?
You have steered them carefully through the brooder stage, they have feathered out by 12 weeks or so and have been moved into the grownups’ coop- so now what?
Surprisingly, there can be quite a wait for some hens to get into egg ‘production mode’.
Depending on which breeds you have will determine how soon they lay and, lots of small steps need undertaking before your hen will start to lay, so let’s look at each step by step:
Feed That Gets Your Hens Laying
Best Feed To Get Your Hens Laying
Scratch and Peck Feeds – Naturally Free Organic Layer Feed
- High in protein to help chickens’ grow back their feathers.
- This feed is organic and non-GMO.
- This is by far one of my hens’ favorite layers feed.
Nutrition can have a huge effect on the egg laying machinery.
If you want your hens to lay eggs, it is very important to maintain good nutrition through the formative weeks of the birds’ life.
Cutting corners with supplementation, can lead to problems other than delayed egg production too, many of them growth related. Equally as bad for them is too many treats, fat hens are unhealthy and won’t be as productive as you would like.
You should feed your chicks starter feed for the first 6 weeks of life. Chick starter has 20-22% protein for rapid development of feathers and bones.
Young pullets require slightly less protein, 14-16% from 6 to 20 weeks, or until the bird starts laying.
Layers are 20 weeks or above and require 15-18% protein in their feed.
Any slight variations in their protein can result in delayed onset of laying. Ensuring that the feed you buy is fresh is important since many vitamins lose their effectiveness over time. That great deal on 4 bags of feed may not be so great if it’s old feed.
The Importance of Water
Best Standard Waterer for Hens
Galvanized Double Wall Founts
- Made from galvanized steel making it very durable and rust proof
- Heavy Duty making it much harder to flip over
- Steel construction making it compatible with heater bases
Clean, fresh water, is an often overlooked necessity. Chicks can drink a surprising amount of water for their size, but the main problem with chicks is that they foul their water almost nonstop!
Between scratching up the litter into the drinker and pooping in it, the quality of the water needs to be constantly monitored and changed often. You can buy plastic, elevation stands which will help to keep feed and water fresher or you can even make your own wire stand.
Elevating the drinker slightly will help, but you will still be changing the water frequently. Once they get bigger, this becomes less of a problem as you can suspend the drinkers and feeders higher.
If you are a fan of nipple drinkers the good news is they can be used with day old chicks apparently. All you need to do is show them how and where and they quickly get the hang of it.
As a precaution, I would still put in a small regular drinker for a couple of days to ensure hydration is adequate.
Different Breeds Start Laying at Different Ages
Which breed of chicken you chose will also come into play.
Genetically, some of the newer breeds, such as the Golden Comets, have been bred specifically to lay lots of eggs. They may begin laying as early as 16 weeks! The downside of this is that they usually don’t live much longer than three years and production drops off in the second year.
Rhode Island Reds, Delawares’ and Barred rocks are also early to lay- usually around 18-20 weeks. They are good, proven layers and can lay into their fourth or fifth year, although not consistently.
However, there are some breeds, mainly the larger, heavier fowl that can take up to 28 weeks before they produce an egg.
Illnesses Can Delay Egg Laying
Parasite infestations such as lice, mites and worms can cause a delay in egg production.
Regular, hands on health checks for your birds should be done monthly, more frequently if you suspect a problem. You can take a poop sample to the veterinarian for a float test for worms if you think you have a problem.
Certain diseases such as fowl pox, coccidiosis and infectious bronchitis can affect the bird significantly. If they contract the illness while still a pullet, it’s possible that they will lay poorly for the rest of their days.
If you have bought your birds from a reputable source this really should not be a problem for you, except for the ever present possibility of coccidiosis.
Not only does illness stop/delay them laying but so does the daylight.
What time of year are they coming to point of lay? The amount of available daylight will affect how quickly they start to lay. If a pullet is ready to lay in December, she may not actually produce an egg until the days start to lengthen.
Access to the Nesting Boxes
THE BEST NESTING BOX FOR CHICKENS
LittleGiant Nesting Box
- Quality Materials
- Easy Cleaning
- Wall Mounts and Included Perch
In a previous article we talked about stress in hens. The younger pullets who want to desperately lay an egg for you may be kept away from the nest boxes by the older hens!
The simple remedy for this is to make some temporary nest boxes for the new girls.
Things like an old wooden box, cardboard box, cat carrier with some straw/nesting material can make very nice impromptu nesting boxes.
Once the pullets get the hang of it, things will relax a bit. I have noticed with my flock that once a pullet starts to lay regularly, the flock dynamic changes a little. The older hens are slightly more accepting of the now laying pullets.
If you think you should have more eggs than you can find, check around the area for likely nesting spots. Hens have been known to find some strange places to lay in! Compost bins, under bushes even on seldom used shelves!
When Will They Start to Lay?
So, to answer the original question- broadly speaking the majority of breeds will start to lay around 16-20 weeks. If they don’t start quite that soon, don’t despair! There is some evidence that hens that start to lay later, live longer and have more productive lives.
Never, ever try to force your hens to lay sooner than they are designed for. This will lead to all sorts of reproductive problems such as vent prolapse, which can make the hen prone to illness.
I have a few Mille Fleur D’Uccle bantams because they are so adorable. It took six months for the first egg to appear! Another month went by and a second egg appeared!
Naturally I assumed they were going to be poor, sporadic layers. Over the last two to three months the four little ladies have produced 3-4 eggs daily.
What’s the moral of the story? Never assume that a hen goes immediately into full production mode.
If your chickens haven’t started laying, and she’s well past the point of maturity, it could be due to illness. But if you’ve ruled everything else out, consider giving your hens a nudge with a few fake eggs.
These are usually ceramic eggs that you can find in ag stores or online.
All you do is place them in the nesting box, and let the chickens do some investigating. Pullets that are not kept with older hens may take a little longer to lay, but if you show them the way, it can encourage them to start laying. It might be a tad strange, or even a little woo woo, but some swear by it.
So it may be worth trying.
Also, if you haven’t seen any eggs, and your hens should have been laying for quite a while, there’s a possibility your ladies have been eating their eggs. Ceramic eggs are also a great way to deter your chickens from egg eating.
They’ll peck at the imposter eggs, and eventually give up when they can’t break the shell of the fake eggs.
The breed of chicken you have will ultimately determine when she will lay- there is nothing to be done about that.
As we have seen, other things can affect the health and development of the chick and can result in a delay in egg production. It is up to us as keepers of the flock, to ensure we have done our part to maintain and promote the health of our flock.
Most hens will start to lay at 20 weeks old, but some take longer- the key is Patience! And lots of it! It can be hard waiting, especially not knowing when the first egg will come, but it is worth the wait.
Do you have stories to share? How old were your chicks when they started to lay eggs?
Read 7 Things You Must Prepare Before Your Chicks Arrive
Disclosure: We may earn affiliate commissions at no cost to you from the links on this page. This did not affect our assessment of products. Find full disclosure here.
69 thoughts on “When Will My Chicken Start Laying Eggs?”
It was really fascinating presentation of your knowledge on the field. Thanks alot
Thank you so much 🙂
my hens are 14 weeks and I got my first egg July 2nd. I bought them 2 days old on March 17 th. They are golden sexlink. This is sure fun.
How long do chickens lay starter eggs. The hens have been laying these for two weeks.
I would expect this for a few more weeks until their egg laying equipment has ‘warmed up’.
What is a starter egg?
Starter eggs are the small eggs which hens lay when they first com into lay 🙂
Thank you so much for all your information on chickens. I have read all your posts. Joann
This is so much helpful…
Mine are 19th weeks now and have not yet started laying…
I trust i have to be patient…
I have 2 smooth sizzle bantams and they are 5-6 months and not a single egg yet :/ I’m hoping to see at least one soon!
I have my fingers crossed for you too Brooke!
Hi my RIR Hen has just started laying two days in a row but now on third day nothing. Is this common? Do they usually lay same time of day?
Sorry I’m a first time owner?
Congratulations on your first fresh eggs!
Yes this is perfectly normal- her laying will be sporadic when she first starts to lay.
Also, yes her lay time will stay very consistent.
We have about 4 barred rock hens and 4 austrolorp hens, and 4 roosters. They are 6 months old now. No eggs. We have been feeding them 5 way(that’s what our co-op calls it). Should we be feeding them something else now that they are “of age”? They are cooped with a pretty large run area. Thanks
Yes you can feed point-of-lay hens “layers pellets”.
Layers pellets generally contain around 18% protein so it will certainly help them,
I have three Buff Orpington’s, one that started laying right at 20 weeks, one started at closer to 26 weeks, and one still isn’t laying and is 8 months old almost! No health problems, everything is clean and well maintained, and I think she may get pushed around a bit by the other two but nothing drastic. Not even any pecking going on. Her combs aren’t as dark as the other two either. Is this normal and I just need to keep being patient with her? Maybe she is going to be a great layer and live to a ripe old age? Thanks for your advice!!
8 months is a long time, especially for a buff. Are you certain she isn’t laying and they are laying 2 eggs a day between the 3 of them?
Hi. this is very helpful to beginners like me. almost at point of despair. my chicks are in 20th week and no sign of an egg except that noise they make as though they are laying. feeding them on pullet developer feed as instructed by vet officer. will keep waiting.
Keep the faith Merab!
Great info – Claire, thanks!! I’ve got my first 4 Red Star hens. My Source tells me they should start laying in January. We live in Arizona – isn’t there also a requirement of certain amount of sunlight needed for them to start laying? I thought I read 14 hours of sunlight?
As a general rule that’s right Debra 🙂
I would expect them to start laying consistently in early-mid Spring!
I’ve had “My Girls” for about 7 weeks now and one of them just staying to lay eggs! What a thrill it is! I am sure the others will follow suit–whenever they are ready. Meanwhile, I officially have “bragging rights”!!!!
Great to hear Janelle 🙂
I just love “My Girls”! I have only had them for a couple months and really set them up in a safe, clean facility. I even got my cat to protect them rather than eat them!! And now that they are producing eggs, we are all doing a “chicken dance”!!!
I have a mixed flock that are almost 19 weeks. One of my Silkies laid an egg yesterday and another today. She’s the only one so far! I was shocked and excited to see those eggs!!!
mine are seven weeks old so I’m looking for remedies for them to be healthy and Lay healtheir Eggs.
My girls are six months i get five eggs a week one a day for 3 days take break for 1 day then again eggs love my girls i can get one in morning then one in afternoon
Hi Claire! I’m totally new to this. My question is, I’ve heard and read about “oyster shells” or “fake eggs.” Can you tell me what the significance of the oyster shell is all about and do I really need it. My RIR chicks are only 2 weeks old. I’m trying to make sure I have everything in order before I put them in the coop. Thanks
Oyster shells are the easiest way to make sure your hens have enough calcium in their diet. This calcium helps the hen to make egg shells 🙂
Good luck with your chicks,
I’ve heard to feed the girls egg shells so they get enough calcium…?
Yes this is commonly done. Just make sure to bake the shells first 🙂
Fake eggs (or ping pong balls) can encourage hens to lay
Hi….. we have just got 4 girls from the local Agri shop here in Spain and the 3 day we had a miniature egg, not much bigger that a pigeons egg… 🙂 and since then we have had two more about the same size….. is this normal on the first eggs?
Sounds perfectly normal to me Graham 🙂
How long after rir are mature they start laying my rooster started crowing the other day and the are all the same age?
It can be anywhere from 20 weeks old onwards…
I have Organic food for my girls at all time. Started with starter and switched to layer at 16 weeks. Every evening I also feed them kale mixed with cottage cheese and sometimes mix in some table scraps as well. I hand feed them this “dinner” every day. Am I doing good or harm with this daily meal? They are approaching 18 weeks and no eggs yet. They appear very healthy, have a great sheen and bright eyes.
I have 11 – 23 weeks old girls. Black sexlinks, a Buff, a black astralorp, 4 ISA Browns, 2 gold americaunas 1 silver americauna,
None of them are laying ? ??? Happy healthy nice coop great run.
Mixture of feather fixer crumbles and layer pellets for extra protein in the HOT Tennessee summer.
Just a bit of patience 🙂 Any week now and they should be laying!
We started with chicks a year ago. Our first hatch was not to successful as we only had 6 chicks from 18 eggs, three bullets and three rosters. The next year, we used our chicks eggs. We gathered 22 eggs in 9 days and immediately incubated them. We had 16 out of 22 hatch. We lost two in the shell. They are now 20 weeks old and a couple have started to lay. Gorgeous Red Stars and Americanas. Its very exciting. Brown eggs and green eggs. The first three are still laying practically every day.
Our girls are just starting to lay eggs. How long do I have to wait to eat them? They are small now but we can see they are getting bigger. But are they good to eat now? We have blue and brown and white eggs. Thank you.
They are perfectly fine to eat now 🙂
Mine will be 17 weeks by 31st August,2017 and they are yet to lay.
My boy bought so RIR and has had them almost 2 weeks. They have adapted well and are sitting in their boxes. They man told me they were about 6 1/2 when we talked and that one of them had laid he thought, then when I talked to him next time he said they were 6 months old. they look like mature pullets, since i havent seen any eggs. But how can we tell what age or how long. I just feel bad for my son, he was so excited about his new project.
You can read our article here which should help 🙂
I let my chickens out to run free in morning and they come in on their own. Should they be cofined in pen area where their coop is as they are close to age to start laying?
I would continue to let them free range Shirley. You can encourage them to lay in the nesting boxes by using rubber eggs 🙂
I keep having low production with my birds.
All protocol have been taken from light to water but still yet my egg production still goes down.
What do you think might be the cause.
Our article on why your hens have stopped laying will help 🙂
If you are still struggling after this, then please send me an email.
Hi, I’m a first time RIR owner. I have 3 girls about 5 1/2 months old, I just started giving them laying pellets, how soon do I need to wait before i see them laying eggs?
Typically RIRs should start laying at around 24 weeks. So pretty much any day now 🙂
Has anyone here used purina oyster strong feed for there chickens?
I have 500 is a browns .they clocked 19 wks yesterday and non have startedbto lay.I’m worried pls
I have an New Hampshire Red who layed o e egg when I first brought her home. Then I had to treat everyone for Coccidiosis. I even treated for worms to be safe. It’s been a month now an my other 2 hens are laying everyday an she’s not layed one egg. Is she ok?
Are they isolated to the coop/run or are they free range?
Just new to this is it ok to wet the ground when it’s hot where thay walk not the pen
We have silkies 2 male and 1 female
She layed 5 eggs and now there are only 3
She has been sitting on them for a number of days now and has not eaten or drank
Is this normal for a brooding hen
How long will she sit on her eggs without moving.
read all about broody hens here: https://www.thehappychickencoop.com/what-exactly-is-a-broody-hen-and-how-to-stop-it/
I want raise broilers give me advice pls
My brown layers started laying normal sized eggs at 20 weeks which is increasing in quantity on daily basis
I have six hens all the same age, 4 of them are laying every day now and have been for almost 6 weeks now. I have two that are not laying at all should I be worried? They are all RIR.
Check out this info to see if she matches any of these possibilities.
Am new in the system but according to the source where I get my layers it’s 21week and not laying ur advice.
I have an assortment of chicks, all are 4 months old. 6 of the new chicks were introduced to two older girls once they were old enough to stand up for themselves. All are good now, sharing a large dog run with two separate coops opening to the run. We built the new coop for the new chicks and wanted to keep the old coop for the older girls. They all go back and forth to each coop. They all are given pellets but are also given scraps, meal worms, scratch and grass turf that I scoop up from the yard and place in their run. Needless to say, these girls are pretty spoiled. None of the chicks are laying eggs but I understand that they may not be old enough and the days are shorter right now. My question is: The girls love going into the coop that has a light and a warmer, this is where the laying boxes are. In the other coop, it’s not as warm and their are laying boxes at the lower level. Do I need to change anything to anticipate their laying? Thank you so much for any suggestions.
My girls are in their 20th week and no sign of egg drop. I have learned that body weight is a requirement and my birds weigh 1500 grams. Is it right weight for egg laying?
I have buff orpington hen and she is 7 months old,but she is not lying egg yet, is their is any problem in that or not, kindly tell about that…. waiting for reply.
We have road island reds and there 8 months and still have not layed any eggs . I need suggestions on what to do.
I’ve 2 Polish 23weeks and one Warren also 23weeks.
The 2Polish are sisters from the same hatch. One has been laying for 3weeks solid except 2days when I put straw in the nest box and she suddenly stopped. I removed the straw and she started laying the same day.
The other Polish shows no sign what so ever of laying she’s also very much lighter than her sister. I wonder if this has anything to do with it?
The Warren is starting to squat and putting her wings out when I stroke her back so hopefully it won’t be long before she starts laying.
They are all freerange very spoilt ladies.
My two Copper Black Marans are now around 25 weeks old and their combs are still small and immature.
Yes, we’re going into winter in the UK, but all my other ladies are laying like billy-o.
Anyone else had this issue with Marans?
Thank you 🐔