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Chickens

When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs? 5 Tell-Tale Signs It’s Soon!

Do you have young spring chickens at home? If so, I bet you’re eagerly waiting for those fresh eggs to arrive…. and I don’t blame you! Home-raised backyard chicken eggs can’t be beat. If you’re wondering when your chickens will start laying eggs, read along to learn the signs that signal eggs are on the way. We’ll talk about the average age that chickens start to lay eggs, how breed plays a role, and a few tell-tale signs that eggs are on the way. Keep in mind that every chicken is different, and there is nothing you can do to rush them to grow up – so just be patient and enjoy the teenage years while they last.


What age do chickens usually start laying eggs?


On average, young female chickens start laying eggs or “come into lay” around 6 months of age. Some chickens may start laying eggs as early as 16 to 18 weeks old, while others may take upwards of 28 to 32 weeks (closer to 8 months old)! Over the years, we have had some extra-early overachievers along with our fair share of late bloomers, but found that around 20 to 22 weeks was the most common age for our chickens to start laying eggs.


Four young pullet Hens are roosting on a wooden saw horse perch. Each one is different in color, one is black and copper, one is bright orange to tan, another is black and white, and the last one is light brown with some black. There combs and battles are nearly non existent at their young age.
Some of our girls when they were sweet 16 (weeks) – and still looking too young to start laying eggs quite yet!


Chicken breeds and egg-laying


In addition to age, the particular breed of your chickens will also influence when eggs start to arrive. Certain breeds of chickens are known to start laying eggs earlier than others, and each breed has their own average age range for egg development.

Chickens that have historically been bred for the purpose of egg production often start laying eggs sooner (as early as 17 or 18 weeks old), including Leghorns, Golden Comets, Sex Links, Rhode Island Reds, and Australorps. On the other hand, heavier breeds like Wyandottes, Orpingtons, and Barred Rocks are known to take a bit longer. Our Easter Egger ladies are always last to add their colorful eggs to the basket, which is a known trait for their breed. 

See our “Top 18 Backyard Chicken Breeds” article to learn more about different breeds, including heat and cold-hardiness, general demeanor, egg color and laying frequency.


Time of year and egg-laying


The majority of young chickens will start laying eggs the first year that you have them. Yet if you happen to get your chicks later in the year (summer or fall) and they come into maturity during darker, colder days of fall or winter, they may wait until the following spring to start laying eggs! Reduced daylight hours in the wintertime usually signals mature hens to take a natural break from laying eggs, conserving their energy and nutrients to brace for the cold winter ahead. During a winter cessation of laying, you’ll also notice the chicken’s combs and wattles become smaller and pale again, swinging with their hormones. However, it isn’t uncommon for young chickens to continue laying eggs right through their first winter! Then, they’ll probably take a break the following winter after that.

Curious to learn more about caring for chickens in cold weather, including tips for winterizing their coop? Check out this article all about winter chicken care. Please note that we don’t suggest lighting the coop to “force” chickens to continue to lay eggs through winter. Their bodies know best, and need a natural break.


5 SIGNS A CHICKEN WILL START LAYING EGGS SOON


1) Enlarged Reddening Combs and Wattles


As a young chicken matures, their combs and/or wattles become increasingly large. If this happens very early on (under 8 weeks old) it could be a sign that the chicken is a young rooster! On the other hand, young female chickens develop their combs and wattles more slowly. As her hormones shift and she gets ready to start laying eggs, her combs, wattles, and face will change from light pink to brighter red in color. They will also swell and become larger.


A two part image collage of a Barred Rock hen. The first image shows the hen before she is mature enough to lay eggs. Her comb and wattle are pale in color and small in size. She is standing on a chair with a chicken coop in the background. The second image shows the same hen a few weeks later after she started laying eggs. Her comb and wattle have grown larger and they are deep red in color. She is standing on a perch underneath a lemon tree.
On the left: Zoey, our current barred rock at exactly 6 months old. She hadn’t started to lay yet, but was getting close. On the right: Zoey, about 3 weeks later, right after she laid her first egg. Look how much more bright red and enlarged her comb and wattles got in less than a month!


2) Start Exploring the Nesting Box Area


In the weeks leading up to the first egg, a young hen will usually start to show more interest in the nesting box area than ever before. She may even begin to test it out and sit inside, even if she isn’t quite ready to lay yet. One great way to encourage young chickens to lay eggs in their designated nesting boxes (as opposed to on the coop floor, or hiding them in the yard!) is to place false eggs inside the nest box. Chickens tend to like laying eggs in a clutch, where other eggs are. You could use specialty fake wood eggs, or what we’ve done in the past, golf balls!


The inside of a chicken coop nest box is shown from above. There are two boxes separated by a piece of plywood in the middle, each box has a nest pad and hay material for nesting. In one box there is three eggs, one green, one blue, and one brown. In the other box there is a black and tan Easter Egger chicken that has yet to lay an egg but is inspecting the nest boxes in anticipation of the day it will first lay.
Hennifer, an Easter Egger, was the last girl to start laying of the others her same age. Here she is starting to explore the nesting boxes and take interest in the other eggs. She laid her first egg a few days later!


3) She May Get Louder


Have you heard a chicken “egg song” yet? I find it funny that crowing roosters are banned in many urban areas, because hens can be damn vocal too! (Though I’ve read there is something more jarring and irritating about the tone of a rooster crow than hen songs to most people). Our chickens sing and squawk for hours before and after they lay an egg. So, before your young chickens start laying eggs, they may become increasingly talkative too.


4) Increased Appetite


As a young hen gears up to start laying eggs, her body will go through numerous changes – inside and out. The process of forming and laying eggs takes a lot of energy! So, you may notice your maturing chickens begin to eat more than usual. Laying hens have different nutritional needs than younger pullets or chicks. Younger birds eat “starter” and “grower” feeds that contain higher levels of protein to support their rapid growth. Layer feeds have slightly less protein, and a little extra calcium for proper eggshell formation. Therefore, gradually transition your chickens to a layer feed when they reach 18 weeks of age – or when the first egg arrives, whichever occurs first.

I also suggest putting out a source of free-choice calcium (such as crushed oyster shells or eggshells) either as soon as one hen starts laying eggs, or when you begin to notice the other tell-tale signs that eggs are coming soon. Check out this article to learn more about providing essential calcium for laying hens.


5) The Submissive Squat


Of all the signs that a chicken will start laying eggs soon, squatting behavior is the most telling in my opinion! As you walk by your young hen or reach out a hand to pet her, she may stop, squat, and put her wings out slightly to her sides. We lovingly call this “the submissive squat”.

Give the girl a good pet on the back, but keep in mind the biological reason for her squatting behavior isn’t about cuddling with humans! She is signaling that she is ready and willing to be mounted by a rooster to fertilize her forthcoming eggs. If there is no rooster around, she’ll submit to her human instead. Now, not every chicken will undoubtedly squat, but all of the girls in our flock did  – and started laying eggs within a week or two thereafter!


An orange and black Easter Egger chicken is squatting and being pet along her back by an outstretched arm. The submissive squat is a sure fire sign that the chicken will start laying eggs soon.
Peach, one of our old Easter Egger girls (no longer with us) – showing us her best submissive squat.


A hand is holding a dark brown egg in front of a Black Copper Marans chicken who just started laying eggs. Her comb and wattle is dark red, she has copper specks mixed into her black feathers along her neck.
Luna (Black Copper Marans) says… that came out of where?


The moment you’ve been waiting for: the first eggs have arrived!


When chickens start laying eggs, their first eggs will be significantly smaller than what they’ll regularly lay as fully mature hens. Before you know it, you’ll have baskets full of beautiful large fresh eggs – right from your backyard.

In all, I hope this article helped to clue you in on the signs to watch for as your chickens get ready to lay. Be sure to thank your ladies for their hard work! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for an article about how to store or wash fresh eggs – coming soon. Please feel free to ask any questions, or spread the love by sharing or pinning this article!


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3 Comments

  • Charlie n Robyn

    This is a Great Article for people who want Chickens,Eggs, and how to properly manage them for a good brood,and Happy,Healthy chickens.

  • Carol

    Awesome article! We got 4 Easter Eggers about 10 weeks ago, excited for eggs whenever they get around to it but mostly happy to have little garden mates!

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Carol – I agree! Easter eggers are some of our favorites, and our chickens are are beloved pets and buddies first and foremost – the eggs are just a bonus! Enjoy your new friends, sounds like you already are.

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