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When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs? (5 Signs to Look For)

Nicole Cosgrove

You’ve finally bought some spring chickens, and the anticipation of receiving your first batch of fresh eggs is almost too much to bear. We don’t blame you for being a bit antsy! Fresh eggs from your home-raised chickens have the most decadent flavor and are truly superior to grocery store eggs.

If you can’t stop wondering when your chickens are going to lay eggs, you’ll be happy to know that there are some signs to look out for so that you have a better idea of when they’re going to arrive. Each chicken is different, and even though you’re excited, there’s no possible way to rush them. Be patient and enjoy watching your chickens mature so that there is an even deeper appreciation for them when that magical morning finally happens.chicken divider2

What Age do Chicken Lay Eggs?

It sometimes feels like an eternity, but most young female chickens start laying eggs around 6 months old. Of course, some mature faster and start around four months, while others take their sweet time and only start after being 8 months old. There’s nothing wrong with any of these timelines. Chances are, they’ll all start laying eggs sooner rather than later, and you’ll have so many eggs that you don’t know what to do with them all.

Do Some Breeds Lay Eggs Faster than Others?

A chicken’s age isn’t the only factor that could affect how fast your chickens start laying eggs. Some chicken breeds lay eggs sooner than others and each breed has its schedule for egg development. Those who were bred solely for egg production often start by four months of age. Other breeds, like Wyandottes or Orpingtons, take a little bit longer.

When Do Chickens Lay Eggs?

Young chickens usually lay eggs sometime within their first year of life. If you didn’t get the chicks until late summer, though, this could delay their egg production, and they won’t start until early spring.

The reduced daylight from winter usually tells mature hens that it’s time to take a break from laying eggs so that they can conserve their energy and nutrients during the harsh weather. However, young chickens might continue to lay eggs throughout the entire winter season for their first one. After that, they’ll probably follow suit and skip the hard work the following winter.

Chicken laying eggs in a nest
Image Credit: Andy M, Pixabay

Preparing for Egg Laying

It’s always better to be prepared and give your chickens a comfortable environment to lay their eggs in than to have them laying them on the ground. If you suspect your chickens might be laying eggs soon, start by cleaning out their nesting boxes and making sure there is plenty of straw for them to nest in. Keep the boxes off the floor of the coop and in a dark place. The more relaxed and calm they feel, the easier it is for them to start the process. Keep up with these tasks and don’t let the boxes or coop get too dirty. Your girls deserve a safe, clean place since they are doing a lot of hard work for you.chicken divider2

5 Signs from a Chicken that’s About to Lay Eggs

Are there any warning signs that your chickens are going to finally start the egg-laying process? Here are some ways to tell that your chicken might be ready to give you a healthy supply of eggs:

1. Enlarged Combs and Wattles

Chicken beak close up
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

The combs are the red, fleshy part of the chicken that sits on top of their heads while the wattles hang below their beaks. These parts of the bird because increasingly large and red as they age. If it happens at a young age, it could indicate that your chicken is a rooster. The young females develop their combs and wattles slowly, and they change from light pink to vibrant red as their hormones shift. If these chicken parts are swollen and red, that means it’s almost showtime.


2. Your Chickens Start Exploring the Nesting Boxes

chicken in nesting box
Image Credit: Pixabay

Young chicks don’t show much of an interest in the nesting boxes. It’s only after they mature that they start to test out different boxes, sit in them, and hang around that area more in general.

Some chickens like to lay their eggs on the coop floor or hide them in grassy patches in the yard. To encourage them to lay directly in their nesting boxes, place false eggs inside each nest. Lots of chickens prefer laying eggs next to other ones. Fake wood eggs and even golf balls make excellent props.


3. The Chickens get Louder

Maran chicken
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

People think of a crowing rooster as an annoyance, but they obviously haven’t heard the songs of a chicken. Chickens tend to squawk for hours on end before they lay an egg so if it starts to feel a bit noisier at home, chances are you’ve got some gals who are preparing to lay.


4. The Chickens Eat More

chicken eating seeds
Image Credit: schubbel, Shutterstock

Our bodies go through numerous changes, both inside and out, when pregnant. Chickens aren’t so different from us. Growing and laying anything takes a lot of energy, and it makes you work up an appetite.

Maturing chickens are going through a major transformation and laying hens have vastly different nutritional needs than young birds on starter feeds. Layer feeds have let protein and added calcium to help the eggshells form. Slowly transition your young chickens over to this feed after they reach 18 weeks of age or whenever their first eggs arrive.

Another way to help give your chickens some extra nutrition is to add crushed oyster shells or eggshells to their food.


5. They Assume the Position

chickens_Peter Turner Photography, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Peter Turner Photography, Shutterstock

One of the biggest indicators that your chickens are about to lay eggs is if they start performing a squatting behavior. If you slowly put your hand out to touch your chicken, she might stop and squat down with her wings at her sides. If she does this, she is signalizing that she is ready to be mounted by a rooster to fertilize the egg. Most people don’t have a rooster around, so give her a good pat on the back and she’ll continue on her way.chicken divider2

What To Do When the First Eggs Arrive

Do you remember what it felt like when you walked out to find your first egg? Or are you still waiting for that magical moment to come? At some point, you’ll get to experience the excitement of finding your first egg in the coop. Don’t be too disappointed if the eggs are on the smaller side. Young chickens have smaller eggs than hens who are fully mature. It won’t be too much longer before you have a basket full of beautiful, colorful eggs that you sourced straight from your backyard.

Thanking Your Chickens

Laying eggs is exhausting work and your chickens deserve to be thanked for it. Giving them some tasty and nutritional treats is one of the best ways to show them that they’re appreciated. Remember that not every human food is safe for chicken consumption, and their diet should consist of less than 10% of treats.

Here are some of a chicken's favorite things to snack on
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Oatmeal
  • Mealworms
chicken divider2

Conclusion

We know it’s exciting to buy young chickens and await the arrival of the first egg. Even though you want it to happen quickly, you can’t rush your birds. They know when it’s time to lay their eggs, and they’ll signal to you when something is about to happen. Even if they don’t show any major signs, continue to check in their boxes every day and encourage them in any way you can.


Featured Image Credit: Sidorov Ruslan, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.