How Old Does A Chicken Have To Be To Lay Eggs?
Have you jumped on the bandwagon with the farm to table movement and bought chickens? You have the perfect coop, plenty of room for them to roam, and you are ready to start reaping the rewards. Unfortunately, it takes time and patience before you will collect those “golden” eggs.
I am a chicken farmer, and I have learned the hard way that these little birds have a mind of their own. When it comes to raising chickens, you need plenty of patience and knowledge. With a bit of due diligence, you will be going to your coop and collecting fresh eggs before you know it.
Raising these birds is no different than any other pet. They need proper nutrition, medical care, love, and monitoring. If you are new to the world of birds, then one of the most asked questions is when do chickens start laying eggs? After all, isn’t that why you started this whole journey, to begin with?
The Egg Timeline
When I first started into chicken farming, I can’t remember how many people I asked, “How old does a chicken have to be to lay eggs?” There is no definitive time frame on when or if your bird will lay eggs. The first thing you must get through is the brooder stage. They are babies at this point and need lots of attention.
At about 12 weeks of age, they will sprout their feathers and will be considered “teenagers.” Once they have feathers, they are ready to be moved into a pin where they can mature into adulthood.
The average bird will lay by the time they reach six months of age. However, some birds will lay sooner, and others will lay later. Many factors go into this equation.
Think of them as children. Some hit puberty way younger than others. It all comes down to the breed of bird, their health, and genetics. As you become accustomed to your chickens, their needs, and all the things that you must do to help production, then you will have a better understanding of the timeline.
Nutrition and Chicken Feed to Help Hens Start Laying
One of the most important factors in egg laying is nutrition. It’s the foundation for optimal health. I learned the hard way that you can’t skimp on good food or try to cut corners. Protein is essential in these birds’ diet.
Before a bird starts laying eggs, their diet needs to consist of around 15 percent protein. However, after they begin laying, they need to get closer to 18 percent of protein in their diet. A bird that is beyond the age of 20 weeks needs more than the younger pullets.
Don’t be taken by sales prices or discount wholesale buyouts. The food needs to be fresh. If you have feed sitting for weeks or months, it can have harsh digestive consequences. The fresher the food, the more eggs they will produce, and it will be better quality too.
You can overfeed your chickens and thwart laying. An obese chicken won’t yield as many eggs if any at all. A one-pound difference means a lot when you are a small bird. Also, many people try to keep these animals as pets, and the marketplace is full of treats for rewards.
Be leery of giving them too many treats as this can contribute to being overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight is beneficial to the laying process. I learned this the hard way. Most chickens don’t weigh more than three to five pounds.
The Importance of Providing Water
There are many things to consider on the journey to getting a good yield from your chickens, and water is an important element. What would happen to your body if you didn’t get enough water?
You would quickly dehydrate, and your body would shut down. The same thing happens to your birds. They need water to survive and thrive. You have two options when it comes to getting H20 into your birds.
First, you can opt for the nipple feeders. These have an advantage because they don’t get the water as dirty as the water founts. Chickens are notorious for making their water murky in a short period. It may be easier to use the nipple variety, though they are a pain to refill.
If you want to use the water founts, then you must make sure they are always full. You would be quite surprised to see how much water one bird drinks each day. Don’t be surprised if you need to change them a couple of times daily as chickens are very messy with their feed.
We’ve talked about water and proper nutrition, but there is another factor that is a big contributor to your egg yield. Genetics plays a significant role. When you want a healthy amount of eggs each year, then you should look to breeds that are known for their high production rates.
For instance, the Golden Laced Wyandotte can lay up to 200 eggs each year. Additionally, they start laying when they are about 18 weeks of age, which is younger than most.
If you are looking to make an income from your eggs, then you should consider the Isa Brown. These cuties can lay up to 300 eggs annually, and they start producing at around 16 weeks. They are a very versatile chicken that is climate resistant, so they are a good choice for many.
The Rhodes Island Red will yield anywhere from 150-200 eggs each year. They do better in a free-range environment and are well known for their laying abilities. They are very adaptable to all types of weather patterns, so they are perfect for those who live in colder areas.
If you need more than 300 eggs from one bird each year, then you need to look towards the Red Stars. They can lay as early as ten weeks. They are one of the few birds that can lay to full capacity even during bad weather.
As you can see, there are many breeds of birds, and each one has different laying potentials. You can put a White Cornish Cross in your coop, and they won’t lay any eggs. The Gold Laced Wyandotte only lay about five per month.
So, it’s essential to make sure you are buying the proper bird for your needs. If you just want eggs for your family, a few Gold Laced Wyandotte birds would work. However, if you are looking to make money and want production, then opt for a Red Star and other similar varieties.
In my ten years of raising chickens, I have learned that it’s a trial and error process. Some feeds work better than others, and sometimes the weather plays a significant role in the yield. The thing I learned most is patience.
These birds have down times, sickness can hit the pen, and if they are scared or experiencing any upset, then they won’t lay. As a chicken farmer, you must be proactive in helping them be happy and healthy to get the best yield possible.
Don’t be afraid to ask other farmers or the local feed story either. I must have driven those guys crazy in the first year. However, it’s a learning process we all go through. Once you learn, you will soon be sharing your knowledge with others who are interested in your new found passion.
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