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Can Chickens Lay More Than One Egg a Day?
How your chicken makes eggs
In order to understand how many eggs to expect from a chicken, it is useful to understand the chicken’s reproductive cycle. According to this article from PennState Extension, this cycle begins within 30 minutes after the last egg was laid. At this point, a new yolk forms in the hen’s ovary. Once the yolk is large enough, the egg can be fertilized. This initiates the process of growing the egg which takes a little more than 24 hours. During this period only one egg is produced.
At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “I’m certain I’ve heard someone say that their hen lays more than one egg!” While there may be rare hens that have this ability (and why not, if there are people with six fingers on one hand) they are certainly not the norm. There are several more likely answers though.
It can be pretty easy to miss an egg, especially if you’re checking early in the morning before you’ve had a cup of coffee to perk you up. (I’ve been known to do this once or twice.) It’s also possible that you hen has an odd laying cycle. If she dropped an egg late at night and then later in the morning the next time, it may seem like she dropped two eggs in a few hours when in reality we just missed her window.
This news might seem a little disappointing if you were having dreams of owning just one or two hens and having cartons upon cartons of fresh eggs to share with friends or neighbors. If we take a look at it from the chicken’s perspective though, we can understand why laying one egg at a time is better for your bird.
According to Dr. Jacquie Jacob from the University of Kentucky, the way hens lay eggs is part of their nature as a prey species. Chickens lay once per day over a period of consecutive days. Because the eggs contain all the nutrients needed to feed the chicks for a few days after hatching, spacing the eggs out means that if a hen had to leave the nest to avoid a predator, she could come back a few days later and at least some of her young would still be healthy.
The eggs a hen lays in a group is called a clutch. Once the hen lays her clutch, she takes a little break to prepare for motherhood. This system of laying eggs in clutches is important to understand how many eggs a hen can produce in a year.
Why a chicken might not be laying eggs
When a hen lays all the eggs in a clutch, she needs a little break before she can start producing eggs again. If you have chickens, you might notice that your chicken does not always lay an egg every day, and this is part of the reason. A chicken’s reproductive cycle is also very dependent on light.
Most hens require a certain number of hours of light each day to produce their egg. Under normal circumstances, hens ovulate before 3 pm each day, as long as they are experiencing a normal daylight cycle. Not getting enough sunlight could reduce your bird’s fertility. Happiness and nutrition are also key to making sure your chicken consistently produces eggs.
Breeds that lay the most eggs
Some breeds of chicken can lay more eggs in a clutch meaning that they spend less time each year recovering and more time producing. These breeds tend to have smaller bodies, so they tend to be egg producers only instead of being used for eggs and poultry.
Breeds like the ISA Brown chicken are known for both high production (a whopping 300 eggs per year) and for being very docile. This breed is particularly popular with families and backyard farmers, as the hens tend to be calm and quiet.
Another popular high-production breed is the Rhode Island Red. This chicken’s size makes it a good dual-purpose bird. The Red can lay 250 eggs in a year, which is very impressive.
If you’ve seen the old cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn, then you are already familiar with the Leghorn breed. The Leghorn is known for its pure white body and bright red comb, an iconic look. This distinctive white bird lays about 250 eggs in a year.
There are several other breeds that can lay 200 or more eggs in a year, and it can be a tough choice if you are shopping around. It is a great idea to consider what you need. If you plan to have your chicken coop in the backyard, a quiet or friendlier breed is a great choice. It is also helpful to consider how long you would like your chicken to produce eggs for, which brings me to my next point.
Hens produce less as they age
It is a natural part of the aging process for a hen to produce fewer eggs as she ages. According to the folks over at The Happy Chicken Coop hens typically produce the most eggs for the first 18 months to two years. At that point, commercial farmers typically cull their chickens and replace them with younger birds.
Producing more eggs over a shorter period of time will put more strain on a chicken’s body. The exertion of constant production combined with genetic problems from breeding chickens for egg production only has an effect. This means that high yield hens like the ISA Brown are going to have shorter lives and more health problems, especially after they hit that two year mark.
If your goal is to have hens that will lay more consistently and for longer, it may be a good idea to look into a lower yield breed. Heritage hens, in particular, are known to be productive for five to seven years.
Although your chickens won’t be laying several eggs per day, if you make sure that they are happy and healthy you will likely find that they still produce well. Understanding your hen’s reproductive cycle and breed goes a long way in being happy tender of chickens. I hope you feel better informed and ready to start your own coop. Happy farming!