Raising chickens for eggs requires lots of extra care for your chickens. This article will tell you how you can get the most from your hens and choose the right breed of chicken to get.
When getting chickens for eggs you want to get a breed that will produce a good amount of eggs. If you are interested in white egg layers, you could try Pearl Leghorns, Hamburgs, or Anconas. If you are interested in brown egg layers, you could try Golden Comets, Isa Browns, or Rhode Island Reds. And of course there are the colored egg layers like Easter Eggers and Araucanas. Of course there are still many breeds to consider. Also when choosing your breed, you want to take into consideration how many eggs you or your family eats, if your planning on selling your eggs, and how long you intend to keep your chickens. Each breed's laying pattern is different, so it's best to do a lot of research before choosing your breed.
It takes more than 24 hours for a hen to produce a single egg. When raising laying hens from chicks, their eggs may be irregular when they start laying. Your hens will eventually settle into a laying routine, and soon their eggs will appear to look more normal. Your hens' egg production will highly increase in late spring and early summer, but in winter, egg production will slow down or even stop for a bit. A hen has all the eggs she will ever use as soon as she comes out of her shell; therefore, no rooster is needed when keeping hens for eggs. Hens typically will begin laying when they are 18-24 weeks old in good laying breeds.
Most hens will lay regularly for about two years if they are not highly influenced by high levels of stress, bad weather, or other factors that can affect egg laying. There are many things that can affect your laying hens, such as your chickens aging, genetics, and when your chickens molt. These are things we cannot control and will have to do the best we can to manage our chickens when these affects take place. But there are things we can control or help when egg laying is influenced, such as when our flock faces high levels of stress or extreme temperature.
To avoid stress, be aware of your chickens' pecking order. By bringing in new pullets into an older flock, they will feel a lot of stress. If you are adding young pullets into a flock, try to get them together when the pullets are 15 weeks old so they can establish a pecking order before your hens begin laying. Try not to add or take away chickens from your flock too much. When hens age, their egg production will slow down and will eventually cease, with an irregular egg here and there. When this happens, you have to decide whether you're going to continue to keep them as pets, or to sell them or give them away as pets.
Encourage young pullets to lay by getting their nest boxes set up by the time they reach 18 weeks old. They should have all there essentials available so their surroundings are calm and comfortable including, fresh food and water, clean and dry surroundings, nest boxes and roosts, and even an area to take a sand bath in! They also need enough room to roam about and socialize with others in their flock. You should also teach any young children how to act when around the chickens so as not to cause stress for them. Hens will usually begin to lay a few hours after the sun comes up, try to collect eggs soon after they have been laid so they don't spoil, break, or even get eaten by your chickens.
To learn more about laying hens or just about caring for chickens, check out the book, Raising Chickens For Dummies. Co-written by Robert T. Ludlow, owner and manager of BYC!