Being honest, eggs are a big reason why you have chickens in the first place. Without eggs, they are just big birds that walk around. But waiting for those first eggs can be a bit perplexing… so hopefully your initial egg laying questions are answered below…
Chickens generally lay between 20-24 weeks old assuming they have been fed a balanced diet and have there is lots of daylight – a lot of breeds don’t lay over the colder months due to moulting and reduced daylight hours. The slower growing breeds. like Sussex and Wyandottes, also lay later than other breeds (closer to eight months of age). You can tell if your girls are close to laying as their comb (sticky-up bit above their beak between their eyes), wattles (dangly bit under their chin) and skin around the face will be a bright, fire-engine red colour.
Often your first egg (and the ones afterwards) won’t be laid in the nesting box… some girls need the encouragement of some plastic eggs or golf balls to show them where to lay and some can take a while to catch on… dear things that they are 🙂 It’s also not unusual to find them in a variety of places, as I think it comes as a surprise to the newly laying girl too!
Chickens celebrate the new arrival of each egg by strutting around announcing their accomplishment to the world… so if you hear some unprecedented noise, maybe you have an egg somewhere!
Why isn’t my new chicken laying yet?
Chickens need a variety of things to produce eggs, including good health, a balanced diet and ample daylight. Chickens fed only leftovers (including bread and pasta) or one or two types of grain will not have all the nutrients they need to lay successfully. Purebreed chickens also need around 14 hours of light to lay also – this fact is often lost as knowledge of commercial hybrid chickens ability to lay year around increases (even during winter which, of course, has shorter daylight hours).
Chickens bought at Point of Lay (approx. 22-26 weeks) will often need around at least two weeks to settle into their new surroundings and start laying, or if bought towards the end of summer/autumn may not start laying until the next spring. This is normal, and there is a school of thought that this is advantageous to the chickens involved because it gives their reproductive systems time to mature before they start laying.
Chickens who have only begun laying often begin with smaller eggs that you would expect. As they mature and their reproductive systems get into the swing of things (assuming their health and diet are good) their egg size will increase and stabilise.
There is a huge variety of reasons as to why chickens will occasionally lay an egg which will have you looking at it, asking “Huh?”. Instead of listing them all, this website which has put together ‘20 Common Egg Shell Quality Problems‘. Hopefully you will find your answer here 🙂
My chicken is laying really soft-shelled eggs? Why and how can I fix this?
As soon as soft shelled eggs are mentioned, the first suggestion is shell grit. Shell grit is a great source of calcium bu it is often a lack of Vitamin D that causes this, due to the lack of access to sunshine in overcast autumn/winter days. Vitamin D and E are essential for calcium metabolism and absorption. The best way to rectify this issue is with an AllFarm Tough Egg Peck Block or Solaminavit Liquid Vitamins sprayed on food over the course of a week.
I caught/suspect my chicken is eating it’s own eggs. How do I stop this?
Egg eating can start with one chicken and that one chicken can very quickly teach the others that eggs are a constant supply of great food. This means, of course, that there are less eggs for you and your family.
Egg eating can sometimes be indicative of nutrient deficiences in their diets so increasing the quality of their food or adding a liquid vitamin to their drinking water can correct this deficency as the behaviour might stop. The other low level intervention that could help is providing your chickens with a more stimulating environment, as egg eating can be as a result of boredom. Both these suggestions need to be acted upon as fast as you can to deter egg eating, as it can be a very persistent issue.
There is a very prevelant myth around that putting mustard or chilli in an egg from a small hole will stop them from eating their own (or others) eggs. This is untrue as chickens do not have heat receptors on their tongues so it will not adjust or cease this problematic behaviour. A recent Suburban Chicken-keeper on our Facebook page shared that her chickens completely consumed her hot chilli plants from her vegetable patch (including seeds!!!) without any adverse effects.
There are only two ways to definitively stop chickens from eating their eggs. The first is to provide your chickens with a roll-away nesting box, so the eggs roll away out of reach of the chickens soon after laying. This can be an expensive option if you have to buy a ready-made rollaway nesting box but there are plans on the internet to make your own if you are handy.
The second is to rehome the chicken and replace with a non-eating chicken to keep up egg numbers, or to send them to Heaven. Sorry, but chicken keeping isn’t always pretty…
My chicken has lost a lot of feathers and has stopped laying eggs. Are they sick?
As the weather cools, all chickens will moult their feathers and regrow new ones. Chickens can, and do, look scrawny and bedraggled during this, but given time and good food, will come good after a period of time. When chickens are moulting, they will either dramatically decrease or even stop laying eggs. This is normal, as they put their energy into growing new feathers instead of laying…
Chickens need protein to grow new feathers, and if you are wanting to give your girls a boost you can give them a mash with high protein ingredients, or just cat food (not dog food – it has the wrong type of protein). To read more about this, search Google for ‘moulting’ and ‘cat food’ – there is a lot of information available to read.