How old are chickens when they start laying eggs?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by katanne555, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. katanne555

    katanne555 Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 29, 2013
    I have 4 pullets, 3 white rocks and 1 white leghorn, that are a little over 4 months old. I was wondering how old chickens usually start laying at? And that if I should expect the first eggs to be really small or soft shelled? Any help would be much appreciated, thank you :)
  2. brokenhobble

    brokenhobble Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 25, 2014
    I've had young chickens lay about 5 months but all my research usually says 6 months, not uncommon to find broken eggs or super soft shells, sometime even under where they roost you will find them, sometimes the egg shell will be like paper. I had a couple about the size of quail eggs the first time or so, they grow and get harder. if they did lay on the roost like I was saying don't worry they will figure out to go to the nest box. hope this helps...
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    When do chickens start laying? When they do. I’ve had pullets start at 16 weeks. I’ve had pullets start at nine months. There is no magic number for this.

    Part of that is determined by when her mother and grandmothers started. Heredity plays a part. Breed plays a part too, but breed is not always that important.

    Part depends on the time of year. It’s normal for hens to lay when the days get longer and stop when the days get shorter, so pullets coming of age in the spring or summer are more likely to start younger than pullets hatched later in the year. That doesn’t always work though. A few years back I had some nine month old pullets start laying the first week of December, the shortest days of the year.

    Diet can play a part. Pullets fed a higher protein diet tend to start laying a little earlier than pullets that eat a lower protein diet. She’ll lay a larger egg too. My caution here is that a pullet that starts laying really young is not as mature and grown up as one that starts laying a week or two later. If you combine her immaturity with her laying a larger egg, she is a little more likely to have medical problems. I’d suggest limiting protein to a max of 20%. Personally I use less.

    Say if you got 10 dual-purpose pullets from a hatchery and they hatch late winter or in the spring, I’d expect the first to start to lay maybe 18 to 20 weeks. By 22 to 23 weeks I’d expect maybe half of them to have started. By the time they are 27 weeks old I’d expect practically all of them to be laying. With your breeds, if you got your chicks from a hatchery, I’d expect them to follow this trend, but you have to have enough chickens for the averages to mean much. Four is not really a lot. Yours could be all over the place.

    If you get exotic decorative chickens, they could easily be a lot later. I got the ones that took nine months to start from a breeder, not a hatchery.

    A pullet’s eggs are small to start with. That’s to help protect her immature body. As she ages they will gradually get larger. After she goes through an adult molt and starts laying again, you’ll see a nice jump in size.

    It’s not that unusual for a pullet to lay a weird egg when she starts. That could be a soft-shelled or even no-shelled egg, a tiny egg, one that is all yolk, one that is all whites, a double-yolker, or just weird in many other ways. The first few eggs can sort of catch them by surprise too. They may drop it from the roosts or just somewhere in the coop or run. There are a lot of complicated parts in her internal egg laying factory and sometimes it takes a few eggs to debug the program and get all the glitches out. This might take two weeks for some. As complicated as the process is, the amazing thing is that a whole lot of them get it right from the very start.
  4. Spangled

    Spangled Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 12, 2012
    Serenity Valley
    I completely agree with the other posters. Additionally, it seems to me that when I have bought or hatched certain breeds/types in March or early April (maybe like White Rocks, Barred Rocks, New Hampshires, Australorps, Austra Whites, Campines, Delawares, dual purpose sex links/crosses) (that have been bred for egg laying), that I usually start getting eggs at 21 weeks. Not every one of them starts at 21 weeks, but enough to notice that it's a trend (in the upper tier of states in US for me).

    Day length is critical. So is whether or not the days are getting longer or shorter as the pullet's egg-laying apparatus is maturing plays a part. The pullet's egg laying apparatus can't mature without a certain amount of light and is also dependent on the length of day compared to the previous day's length. (Yes, they actually can tell ... or rather their bodies respond to days getting longer/shorter.)

    Getting chicks* hatched that will be 6 months old by the equinox (first day of Autumn) usually guarantees that the pullets will lay before October 1 and lay for most of the winter their first winter. Chicks hatched in June may not lay until clear the next spring. Old-timers in the egg-selling business used to not hatch eggs in June (or later) because they ended up feeding those chickens all winter for very few or no eggs.

    Chicken breeds/types that haven't been worked with for egg production in the past by old time hatcheries and breeding companies don't seem to lay before 21 weeks. Some of the ones that lay later for me are ones that have been bred solely for show or that haven't been used as a production breed in the past or lately. Some Marans come to mind. Some green egg laying types/crosses. Polish. Some that I bought from breeders whose main concern was type not egg production. Silkies.

    However, every chicken is different and we all live in different parts of the world. So our experiences will be different.

    *chicks from egg laying breeds/types listed above in parentheses and similar -- no hard and fast rules of which types of chickens are on this list.

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