When Will I Get My First Egg?
Chickens will usually start laying their first eggs around 15-20 weeks. If you haven't yet found your first egg, you're likely experiencing a bit of "egg-ticipation." Hens are nearly full grown and, depending on breed and individual bird, the first egg is just around the corner.
When pullets are nearing their first lay, their behavior changes. Signs it's time to prepare for eggs, include:
- Spending more time with the rooster
- Crouching for breeding
- Investigating the nesting area
Preparing nesting boxes: If you covered or blocked off nest boxes for pullets, you can now remove the coverings and allow hens to explore the boxes.
Provide one 1-foot square nest box for every four or five hens, raised off the floor in the darkest corner of the coop. The flock will take turns using the boxes. Line each box with a thick layer of straw or other bedding to cushion the eggs and keep them clean and unbroken.
Be sure all nest areas have a uniform environment. Once a hen begins laying, it's her tendency to lay in the same spot moving forward. If hens decide one nest is preferable to others, they may all try to use it, causing stress, which can lead to egg breakage or egg eating.
When hens show signs of laying, keep them in the coop for short periods of time. Place golf balls or decoy eggs in the nesting boxes to help hens understand how to use the boxes.
Pick a layer feed: Before the first egg arrives, continue feeding a complete starter-grower feed. Feeding layer feed too early can cause kidney damage to young birds. Plan ahead, and select a layer feed in advance for a smooth transition when the first egg arrives around week 18.
As compared to starter-grower, a layer feed has less protein and more calcium. This added calcium is important for egg production.
Welcome to adulthood: The first egg typically arrives between week 18-22 (4-5 months of age) but can vary based on breed, environment and nutrition. A rooster is not necessary for egg production.
When birds reach 18 weeks old or when the first egg arrives, begin the transition to a layer feed. We've found the more similar the two feeds are, the smoother the transition goes. A typical transition from one feed to the next should take about a week.
If birds have not started laying by weeks 18-20, you can still switch to a complete layer feed that includes the Oyster Strong system. The extra calcium in layer feed can help jump-start egg production.
The first eggs a hen lays may be irregular - possibly small, with soft shells, no yolks or double yolks. After a week or so, egg production should become more consistent. A hen will reach peak egg performance at about 30 weeks of age.