If you have hens in your backyard, you may catch yourself rushing outside first thing in the morning in hopes of finding a newly laid egg. When you’re lucky enough to find a new hidden treasure laid by your hen, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit pleased with all your hen’s hard work and dedication. When there isn’t an egg waiting on you, disappointment sets in and you find yourself secretly whispering encouraging words to your girl.
Don’t let the lack of an egg disappoint you, though. There are a lot of reasons you may not find an egg in your hen’s box. But one of the biggest reasons my have to do with the time of day when you go outside to check. Hens don’t produce eggs on a set schedule, but they aren’t completely off the rails, either. So, what time of the day do chickens lay eggs? It varies and depends on a few factors.
What Time of the Day Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
While hens can’t be put on an exact schedule, most will lay eggs in the daytime. If you prefer closer estimates, they’ll lay roughly 6 hours after sunrise. The real question here, though, is why? It is thanks to a hen’s reproductive system being controlled by exposure to light also known as photoperiod. Have you ever wondered why hens molt in the winter? It’s because the days are shorter and they aren’t exposed to as much sunlight so they stop laying for a few months without the aid of artificial light in the hen house.
To properly produce eggs, hens need at least 14 hours of sunlight. Most will produce at a max rate when receiving 16 hours of light a day. Like most creatures, a hen’s reproductive cycle begins with ovulation. She will release an egg yolk, or ovum, that then travels the length of her oviduct. This is where the eggshell, egg white, and egg membrane form around the yolk. Then she pushes the egg out of her cloaca which is the only opening for all her functions. This process takes around 26 hours in total to be complete.
While light is the biggest determining factor as to when a hen is going to lay an egg, there are several others you should be aware of. This will help you better determine when your hen may start laying eggs or when to go in search of eggs for collecting.
As we said, hens will only lay eggs in the daylight. The ovulation process normally starts an hour after a hen produces an egg. If your chicken began the process early, her eggs will arrive earlier in the day. If she is somewhat of a late bloomer, her eggs won’t arrive until later in the afternoon. When a hen lays late, however, it isn’t unusual for her to skip laying the following day. This is due to the lateness of the day and the lack of sunlight to promote ovulation.
Breeds and Genetics
Each breed of chicken varies in some way. If your laying hen is from a breed that produces brown eggs, most likely, they will lay eggs earlier in the morning. If your hen produces white or tinted eggs, you may discover hens of those breeds lay later in the day.
At What Age Do Hens Start Laying?
Different breeds of hens will begin laying eggs at different ages. Some, like Golden Comets and Leghorns, lay their first eggs at 16 weeks or 4 months of age. Most other breeds of hens start producing eggs at around 24 weeks or 6 months of age. Luckily, when it’s time for your hens to begin producing eggs, you’ll see a few signs to give you a heads up. Here are a few things you can look for.
Most of these changes are easy to notice for those who keep a watchful eye on their hens. When you see them arise, you should keep a close eye on the hen box as eggs are sure to be coming soon.
While you can see light, from the sun or artificial, is the biggest factor determining what time of the day chickens lay eggs, it isn’t an exact science. Yes, most hens prefer laying their eggs during the day, within 6 hours of sunrise, but things can change. If a chicken’s ovulation cycle falls off schedule, she may wait a few days to lay another egg. Don’t panic. Eventually, if she is a morning-laying breed, you’ll find her back to her normal production cycle and producing lovely eggs for the both of you.
Featured Image Credit: Ohmybaby, Shutterstock