The productivity of any livestock you keep off-grid depends on how well you look after it.
For example, to get high-quality eggs from your chicken, you should provide all favorable conditions to the bird.
Unfortunately, many people do not know what matters when raising chicken for eggs.
In this article, we will discuss what do chickens need to lay eggs. You need to know the appropriate age of the bird and all other things required for high productivity.
We will learn factors that affect egg-laying hens and how to go about it. Keep reading to find out more.
- When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
- What Do Chickens Need To Lay Eggs?
- Other Factors Affecting Egg-Laying Hens
- How To Tell When A Hen Starts Laying
- When Should I Harvest Eggs?
When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
The age of chickens at which they start laying eggs is a subject of the breed, environment, and feeding programs.
You can expect your birds to begin laying eggs at 20 weeks on average. However, some can start as early as 16 weeks or as late as 30 weeks.
Breeds that are likely to give you eggs early include Leghorns, Golden Comets, Sex Links, Rhode Island Reds, and Australorps, Wyandottes, Orpingtons, and Barred Rocks are known to take longer to start laying.
Birds can also take unusually longer to start producing if their maturity period coincides with the harsh winter weather.
Once a hen starts laying, it will give you at least one egg every 36 hours until it reaches a brooding stage.
The hen stops laying and sits on the eggs for 21 days to hatch new chicks. It will start the cycle again after raising babies.
Some chicken breeds do not sit on the eggs. You can expect such to continue laying throughout their productive age.
Chickens are more productive during their first year of production. Some can lay up to 255 eggs a year.
Expect that to drop by about 80% in the subsequent years. As hens age, they will produce fewer and fewer eggs per year until they stop after attaining between 7-8 years of age.
What Do Chickens Need To Lay Eggs?
To get your chickens to lay eggs as early as possible, you have to keep them free of pests and diseases.
A feeding program is also crucial in encouraging egg production. However, you cannot make a hen lay eggs prematurely. They will do it when it is time for them to do so if you create favorable conditions.
You can make hens lay healthy eggs and do it regularly by mixing an appropriate food ration for layers and constructing nesting boxes in their coop. The coop also needs to be well lit.
Provide Enough Nutrition: It is Key To Get Chickens To Lay Eggs
Egg production requires that you supply the bird with calcium-rich nutrients and adequate clean drinking water throughout the day.
Inadequacies might lead to the formation of small eggs or the production of deformed eggs. You will mostly find soft-shelled eggs if calcium is lacking in the diet.
If you keep chickens for egg production, you need to transition the feeds to layer mash when 18 weeks old.
You can buy an already formulated feed for layers. But as a backyard poultry farmer, that might not be cost-effective. The best way is to learn how to make your chicken feeds.
You can also supplement the feeds with fresh fruits, vegetables, worms, and other healthy treats. You get high yields and quality eggs when you maintain this feeding plan.
When preparing feeds for layers, include about 16% protein and between 3.25 and 4.5% calcium. That will egg in the yolk and shell formation.
Eggshells take about 20 hours to form. So, you need to steadily supply calcium-rich feeds. Have a routine on when to reload the feeders to avoid stressing the birds.
Water is part of an egg. Without it, egg production will be compromised, and birds lay fewer eggs.
A backyard chicken kept through the free-range method needs about half a liter of water per day. This quantity can sometimes go up in hot weather conditions.
As a rule of thumb, always provide a steady supply of water to the chicken. Let the hens drink as much as they possibly need, ensuring that the drinkers are always clean.
Avoiding giving contaminated water to your hens to keep diseases at bay and make them happy throughout their lives.
Prepare Nesting Boxes In The Chicken Coop
Hens will not just drop their eggs anywhere. They need a well-lit coop with comfortable nesting boxes to feel encouraged to lay eggs.
That is the second factor you should consider after putting the layers on an appropriate food ration.
Your hens can still lay eggs without nesting boxes, but you will run losses as many will be broken on the floor.
That same act can also encourage egg-eating habits in the flock, further lowering your harvest. Try as much as possible to have decent nesting boxes for your layers.
A standard nesting box needs to be a 12×12 inch square. This measurement can slightly vary depending on the size of the breed.
For instance, bantams are relatively small and will feel comfortable in a 10×10 inch square box. Large breeds need about 14×14 inch boxes.
Nesting boxes should be clean and placed in a relatively quiet and darkest part of the coop. Hens require a bit of privacy when laying.
If the boxes are ready on time. You will see some birds testing out. To encourage that, you can place a stimulus in the box. This is usually a false egg.
Precision Pet 7029286 Single Nesting Box
The Bedding Inside The Nesting
Nesting boxes need soft lining to make hens feel more comfortable when sitting in them. Usually, dry grass slashed from the lawn can do.
Regardless of the material chosen for bedding, you need to regularly clean or change them to avoid parasite infestations.
If hens sit on eggs, change the bedding as soon as the chicks walk out of the nest. And for that purpose, you need at least one rooster for every five hens in the flock.
Precision Pet by Petmate Excelsior Nesting Pads Chicken Bedding
Consider chicken coop or nest light
While light is needed in the kitchen coop to encourage egg production, the nesting section needs to be a little bit dark.
A dark, quiet, and distraction-free nest is the number one choice for hens to lay. They will even feel more encouraged to drop their eggs there when there are other eggs in the nest already.
Egg formation in hens is triggered by daylight. The more exposed the hens are to light, the more they are encouraged to produce eggs.
That is why egg production drops in the winter when the daylight is less than the recommended 12 hours. However, the lights should be off at night to encourage them to sleep.
If you want your hens to continue laying through winter and autumn, provide artificial light. Warm yellow, orange, or reddish color is preferred.
The bulb should be between 20-40 watts, depending on the size of the chicken coop.
Benefits of creating a nest for chickens
- Nesting boxes make egg collection easier
- Encourages egg laying since hens feel comfortable in the nests
- Nesting boxes are more reliable
- Discourages egg-eating habit among the flock
- Enhances collection of clean eggs and discourages breakages
Other Factors Affecting Egg-Laying Hens
We have other factors that can affect egg production in layers. If you notice a drop in egg production or birds will not lay eggs at all, then know that something is wrong. Check if it is attributed to the following factors:
Chicken Is Molting
This is the stage when hens lose their old feathers and grow new ones. It usually happens once a year and is more prevalent in some breeds.
Nothing is wrong if you do not notice it in your birds because some are less likely to molt.
During molting, hens stop laying eggs. Instead, they use the time to build nutrient reserves for the upcoming productive days.
Hens are more likely to molt in winter than any other time of the year. Remember, hens stop laying eggs in winter because of a few hours of daylight.
Birds can be stressed by parasites, diseases, weather conditions, lack of food and water, and other factors.
You need to investigate the cause of a drop in egg production and take appropriate actions. If it is related to food or water, do the necessary.
You need to keep the kitchen coop clean and parasite-free. But if there are infestations already, dust them.
For diseases, you might need a vet to administer the appropriate medication. But you need to first isolate the bird when waiting for the professional.
Birds will also feel threatened if they are exposed to predators. That can cause much stress that interferes with the egg formation cycle.
Much of their energy is shifted to concentrating on the predator and not egg production.
Also, introducing a new bird can stress the entire flock. Chickens need time to adapt to each other. Meanwhile, egg production will be hurt.
Size Of Coop Is Too Small
Egg production in birds will drop if they are congested in the coop. It is upon you, the farmer, to keep the size of the flock within a manageable range depending on the floor space you have.
The size of the coop depends on the bird-keeping method adopted. In a free-range where birds have the freedom to forage outside, you need about 2-3 square feet of floor area per bird.
If chicken remains indoors all day long, 5-10 square feet of the floor area per bird is recommended.
How To Tell When A Hen Starts Laying
An experienced poultry keeper will obviously know when hens are about to start laying. But to a novice, that can be a daunting task.
Observe a change in the behavior and body characteristics of your birds. Usually, pullets will exhibit the following at the point of lay:
- Pullets look full-grown with clean, new feathers.
- Swollen combs and wattles, which may turn into a deep red color.
- Pullets will start inspecting the nests, sometimes sitting on them even if they have nothing to drop in there.
- Pullets become more active and produce a louder sound
- Pullets start to eat more
- Pullets start to submissively squat for the roosters or even when roosters are not there.
When Should I Harvest Eggs?
You are encouraged to collect eggs from the boxes twice a day, morning and evening. Some hens lay during the day and some at night, hence the need for the routine.
Failing to collect your egg on time can encourage odd behavior we mentioned, such as egg eating. It is a loss for you if eggs break or are eaten by other chickens in the flock.
How do I encourage my chickens to lay eggs?
You can do that by preparing nesting boxes on time, transitioning to feeds formulated for layers, and providing enough light in the kitchen coop.
Also, ensure you remove any form of stress to the birds by providing favorable conditions.
Do hens lay eggs without a rooster?
Yes, hens do not require roosters to lay eggs. However, if you want fertilized eggs for hatching into chicks, you need a rooster. The egg production cycle is not affected by the presence or absence of a cock.
What foods are poisonous to chickens?
Chicken can feed on almost anything, especially the backyard ones that can forage for food.
However, you should avoid avocados, chocolate or candy, citrus, green potato skin, dry beans, junk food, moldy or rotten food. These can potentially harm your birds.
Is it OK for chickens to eat popcorn?
Yes, but it should be unsalted or without any additives. It is the best treatment for them. However, avoid other junk foods such as chips, cheese puffs, pretzels, etc.
The quantity and quality of eggs from your backyard chicken depend on food, water, environment, and health of the bird.
This article provided the information you should apply to have good eggs and maximum production from your birds.
If you want to know more about raising a chicken, you can go here.
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