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How Do Chickens Lay Eggs? What You Need To Know!

Oliver Jones

With the growing popularity of backyard chickens, you might have some questions about how chickens lay eggs. How long do eggs develop in chickens? Do you need a rooster around for hens to lay eggs?

These sound like pretty basic questions, but unless you grew up on a farm or studied chicken reproduction, you may not know much about egg-laying.

That’s OK, we’ve got you covered! Whether you’re interested in getting your backyard flock or are simply curious, we’ll cover the basics of how chickens lay eggs.

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Do You Need a Rooster for Hens to Lay Eggs?

Female chickens will lay eggs whether a male chicken is around or not. When there is no rooster, hens will lay infertile eggs. When there is a rooster, the eggs might be fertile.

The eggs will form chicks if they remain in the nest with mom. Eggs should be collected every day and kept cool if you don’t want baby chicks around.

rooster and hen in garden
Image Credit: MODMOD, Shutterstock

How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs?

A hen can lay one egg per day, but there might be some days when no egg is produced. This is because it takes around 26 hours for the hen to form a new egg after the previous egg is laid. A new egg can start forming as soon as 30 minutes after an egg is laid.

Since there are 24 hours in a day, a hen can get a little “behind schedule” for the next egg. A hen may skip a day or two and then get back on the daily schedule again.

red hen laying eggs
Imae Credit: Spech, Shutterstock

How Do Eggs Develop Inside a Chicken?

As we’ve seen, eggs develop quickly in chickens. What is the development process like?

A female chicken has an organ called an ovary. The ovary is made up of clusters called follicles. These follicles are the yolks in fully formed eggs. A follicle will grow in the ovary and then travel down a tubelike structure called an oviduct.

In the oviduct, the egg white (albumen) is formed. Then the egg will develop two soft shell membranes and one hard shell. The formed egg leaves the chicken’s body through the oviduct when it is laid.

How Soon Does a Chicken Lay Eggs?

How long does it take for a female chick to mature to the point when she can start laying eggs?

A chicken can generally start laying eggs between 18 and 22 weeks of age. The age varies depending on things like the breed of chicken and the number of daylight hours during the chick’s development.

Rhode island chicken
Image Credit: Piqsels

When Does a Chicken Stop Laying Eggs?

A hen’s egg-laying productivity changes over its lifetime. Their egg-producing is usually highest during their first year of laying.

The number of eggs will decrease in the second year of laying and then decrease more with each subsequent year.

A hen can still lay some eggs at 6 or 7 years of age, but few will produce eggs after 7. A chicken’s life expectancy is between 8 and 10 years of age, so they will live a few years after they stop laying.

chicken hen
Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay

Why Won’t a Chicken Lay Eggs?

Even when a chicken is in its prime egg-producing years, there will be times when it will stop laying eggs. While frustrating for people new to chicken keeping, breaks in egg production are normal.

There are several reasons why a hen might stop laying eggs.

  • Time of year: shorter days with fewer daylight hours can cause a chicken to stop laying. This often coincides with seasonal molting.
  • Molting feathers: chickens lose and then regrow their feathers, usually in the fall. During this time the body’s energy goes into feather production, not egg production.
  • Broodiness: most hens will instinctively want to sit on their eggs and hatch chicks. When this happens, they will stop laying new eggs.
  • The health of the flock: sometimes a whole flock of chickens will pick up a disease and egg production will cease while they are sick.
  • Diet: good nutrition is essential to healthy egg production and a diet lacking proper nutrition can lead to egg laying problems.
  • Stress: Environmental stressors can cause a chicken to stop laying. Stressors include things like poor living conditions, exposure to predators, and overheating.
Plymouth rock chicken
Image Credit: K Steve Cope, Shutterstock

Why are Eggs Different Colors?

Why do different types of chickens lay different colors of eggs?

Egg color is genetic and determined by a chicken’s breed. All eggs start as white, but some shells pick up pigments during development in the oviduct.

Shell color does not change the taste or nutritional quality of eggs.

Can Flocks Influence Egg Laying?

Flock dynamics can influence a chicken’s egg-laying. There’s a reason the term “pecking order” is used to describe social hierarchy in chicken flocks and other groups of animals (and people).

Chickens will peck each other’s feathers to establish dominance in a flock. Sadly, pecking can spread as a group activity and lead to more harmful behaviors, sometimes even cannibalism.

A chicken on the low end of the pecking order can be too stressed or injured to lay eggs.

chicken droves
Image Credit: RitaE, Pixabay

Negative flock dynamics can be caused by many things, including:

  • Overcrowding
  • Not enough food and water
  • Mixing of different ages, sizes, and breeds of chickens
  • Not enough safe nesting boxes
  • High temperatures

Maintaining a good environment for even a small flock of backyard chickens is important for egg laying and the overall well-being of your chickens.

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Conclusion

An egg develops inside the chickens’ ovary from where it leaves the chicken through the oviduct to be laid. There is no secret method to get chickens to lay more often other than to keep your chickens healthy. Whether this is your first time owning these birds or you are an experienced breeder, you now know exactly how chickens lay their eggs!


Featured Image Credit: PhotoSongserm, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.