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As backyard chickens become more and more popular, a question I hear a lot is “how many eggs do you get?” or “how many eggs will my backyard chicken lay?” The answer is: “it depends.”
I know, I know, not very exciting. Most people greet this answer with an annoyed sigh. So let me elaborate.
How Many Eggs Will My Backyard Chicken Lay?
The short answer is = on average, each chicken will lay between 150 and 250 per year.
The long answer is = it takes the average chicken 16 hours of sunlight for a single egg to be released. Once it has been released from her ovary, it takes between 25-26 hours to be laid.
Naturally, babies are born in the Spring. Your hen wants any potential offspring to be born at a time when the weather is warm, the bugs and grasses are plentiful, and she has the best chance of raising her offspring to maturity.
One hen can lay up to 250 eggs a year, and can produce for up to 7 years. That’s 1750 eggs!! (Let’s nerd-out here for a minute). That’s 145.8 dozens…and at $4 a dozen, each hen can earn you $583 in eggs alone! If you have a rooster, and can hatch a clutch of chicks, the numbers just keep going! If I wasn’t excited about chickens before, I certainly am now!
Getting started with chickens? Check out my post on the Top 12 Heritage Chicken Breeds where I break down the best breeds for your area, and the better layers versus meat birds.
What Can Affect Egg Production?
Egg Layer’s Diet
Laying hens need some specific dietary ingredients to ensure optimal egg production. Specifically, they need a feed that is at least 16% protein, 3% calcium, and .5% phosphorus. Vitamin D, and sodium are also vitally important for egg production. Without the right amount of protein and calcium, especially, hens will slow down their egg production to protect their own health.
Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, will always protect the mama hen. When predators (or potential predators) are nearby, the last thing a mama hen needs is a tasty eggs laying around, or to be caught incubating an egg, or – worse – a young chick. This is why the stress hormones that get released when a chicken feels under threat will slow down her egg production.
In addition to stress from predators, think of other sources of stress. External parasites like mites cause stress. Lack of water or food for even just a few hours causes stress. Moulting will also cause a hen to stop laying momentarily. If predators aren’t an issue, begin looking for other causes of stress.
Certain breeds are better layers than others. Buff Orpingtons, for example, are a personal favorite as they will often produce well into the Winter months. Generally speaking, those breeds that were bred for, or created in the colder climates, are better suited for shorter winter days and will produce well into the Winter.
Diseases That Affect Egg Production
Certain diseases can also directly affect egg production. In addition to the stress of an illness, fowl pox, coccidiosis, infectious bronchitis, infectious coryza, avian encephalomyelitis, Newcastle disease, avian flu, fowl cholera and mycoplasma gallisepticum, all can interfere with egg production. If your normally healthy flock begins to slow their production, and none of the other factors are in play, keep an eye out for these common diseases.
Depending on breed, the average chicken will begin to lay eggs around 5 months of age. However, egg production will diminish to about 65% after the first year of production. At around 6 or 7 years, a hen’s egg production will slow down even more. Hens don’t simply wake up one day and stop producing eggs, their regularity slows down as they get older.
How to Increase Egg Production
If your hens have slowed down their egg production due to the shortening day length, you can simulate a longer day by adding artificial light to your coop. I like these lights LED lights because they run off of a solar panel (my coop is super far from the house), dimmable, and they have a remote control. I haven’t figured out how to hook up a timer yet, but I’m sure someone smarter than me will figure it out.
Add a few extra hours of daylight in the morning before the sun rises because suddenly turning off the artificial light at night can cause the chickens to go into a panic and hurt themselves. Figure out when you need to start the artificial day to give your chickens a full 14 hours of light if you want them to keep them producing throughout the winter.
What about you? What tips and tricks have you heard to increase your hens’ production?