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Chickens,  Eggs & Laying,  Raising Chicks

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. Be sure to check out the video of Phoebe laying an egg at the end of this post!

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.

Learn 5 ways to tell the difference between young male and female chicks here.

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.


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.

We love having this reliable autodoor on our chicken coop, which lets the girls in and out of their protected run each morning and night.

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! Next, check out this article about best practices for storing and washing fresh backyard chicken eggs. Please feel free to ask any questions, or spread the love by sharing or pinning this article!

Just for fun, here is a video of our girl Phoebe laying an egg:

DeannaCat signature keep on growing


  • Joan Joan scotchmer

    My silkies don’t go in coop at dark like rest of chickens do.I have to put them in every night why? What can I do we have fox& racoon glory I don’t dare not shut them in how do I get them to?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Joan, how many chickens are in your flock and how many of them are silkies that are staying outside? Do the silkies roost somewhere before you put them into the coop? If they are bullied or the coop is too small are a couple reasons they may not be going inside. Is there adequate roosting inside the coop for all of your chickens? Any more info you can provide will help.

  • Keith

    Our chickens began laying eggs, about 2 weeks ago. They were 20 weeks old. Almost immediately, the rooster began to mount them. I know that hens, once mated with the rooster, takes about 7-10 days, to become fertile. However, is there a minimum amount of time after the young hens began laying eggs, for the eggs to become hatchable or is it a free for all, from day one? 😎

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Keith, once your chickens start laying eggs they can be hatched if the egg was fertilized. Good luck and hopefully you don’t end up with too many chickens!

      • Cindy

        Hello my 3 hens are 13 weeks old and I have a rooster which I didn’t want , I’ve read remove the eggs daily so the hen doesn’t hatch them is that correct I don’t want peeps and do t know what to do with my roo

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hi Cindy, collecting the eggs on a daily basis will help keep your hens from going broody where they will sit on the eggs in hopes that they will hatch. For your rooster, I would look into people in your area with larger properties that may want a rooster, posting something on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Next Door may a good start. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Rebecca

    Hello, I found this article very interesting – I didn’t know about the squat! We bought three chickens last month, and when they arrived they were perfect, laying eggs (in rotation day by day, we could tell by the colour of the eggs) and going to roost every night. Skip to three weeks later and they’ve stopped laying and all refuse to go to roost unless I usher them in. We’ve checked for mites, we have no predators around us, I’ve tried keeping them in the run until lunchtime to encourage laying in the boxes – in case they were laying in the hedges but nada, and we have checked all the hedges! Why would they suddenly stop laying? Any help really appreciated!

    (We use layers pellets, clean weekly, etc)

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Rebecca, while I can’t say for sure why the chickens aren’t roosting, your chickens may be starting to molt? That is the process of them getting rid of old feathers and growing new ones to replace the old. They stop laying during this time and it will usually last through the winter into spring. Chickens need a certain amount of sunlight to lay eggs which usually correlates to certain times of the year, as in, Spring through Summer is usually their most productive time. Are you giving your hens a free choice calcium supplement such as oyster shells for them to eat, they need extra calcium to lay eggs with hard shells. We recently moved to a new location and all of our chickens decided to stop laying eggs and molt even though it is only August and they usually wait until at least September or later. Here are a few of our other chicken related articles if you are interested: Help, My Chicken is Molting! What to Expect & How to Care for Molting Chickens, Feeding Chickens Eggshells or Oyster Shells for Essential Calcium & Health, and Chickens Eating Eggs? 9 Ways to Prevent or Stop It. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Coreen Wright

    Your’s is the first website that mentioned the squatting behavior.
    As fun as it is to have them “bow down” I assumed that action had something to do with mating behavior.

  • Jessica

    Thanks for this article! I read it a couple of weeks ago and then last week my big young Buff Orpington (she has big red comb and wattle too!) started doing the submissive squat for me and she was singing a lot! Yesterday, she was really loud and kept walking back into the coop and looking at the nesting boxes. She sat in the one that had 3 fake eggs and low and behold she laid her first egg! I was so egg cited! the egg was delish too! I hope she inspires her sisters to do the same!

  • Meg

    Thank you. I am very encouraged. I believe my only hatchling Easter Egger chick has just laid her first egg at 29 weeks of age. She hatched on day 24. A late bloomer all the way around.

  • Kam50

    Great article. One of our chickens laid their first egg today. We aren’t sure which one, but it was found in a bird bath hole. I showed them the nesting boxes again. When we put in the nesting boxes we added a wooden egg in two of the three boxes. We quickly looked up first chicken egg and found your Web site.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Kam, it may take your chickens a little coaxing to start using their nest boxes but the wooden eggs will usually do the trick. Thanks for reading and good luck.

  • 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.

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hey Mustapha, just let nature take its course, 16 weeks is the absolute earliest chickens will lay eggs. On average, our chickens laid between 18 and 22 weeks. Though Golden Comet is an earlier layer so I would assume it should be anytime now. Good luck!

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