If you purchased or hatched chicks for the first time this spring you may be wondering when your chickens will start laying. One of the things that will drive any chicken owner crazy is waiting for your first egg. BUT how do you know when your chicken will start laying? The general rule of thumb is that chickens will start laying around 6 months old (22-28 weeks) is the norm, but there are some precocious breeds that start earlier. Even if your chickens start laying in the normal range that still leaves 1-2 months of uncertainty, *le sigh*. While, we can’t predict with perfect accuracy when your chicken will start laying here are some signs that you may get an egg in a week or two, which, for my inpatient heart is a step in the right direction.
Signs Your Chicken Will Start Laying Her First Egg
How Much Time Since Hatch?
Remember below are just estimates of when these different breeds of chickens will start laying. However, it does help to know if you have a late or early egg laying breed.
- Buff Orpington: 24 Weeks
- Barred Plymouth Rock: 20 Weeks
- Easter Eggers: 20 Weeks
- Cochin: 30 Weeks
- Brahma: 30 Weeks
- Favorelle: 23 Weeks
- Silkie: 32 Weeks
- Polish: 26 Weeks
- Sussex: 22 Weeks
Your Chicken Should Be Fully Grown
After knowing about when your chicken breed might start laying, the first way to tell that your chicken might be ready to lay an egg is the way your chicken looks! Most chickens need to be fully grown to lay an egg. Seems like a no-brainer, except with my first flock I wasn’t sure what ‘fully grown’ looked like. Pullets may look as though they are grown with large sizes and lots of beautiful feathers. To tell if a hen is fully grown you will need to inspect the comb and wattles. These should be dark red (or blue, or black, or whatever color your chicken breed has). The comb and wattles need to be fully pigmented and swollen to final size. The chickens will have all their adult feathers and finally lost their terrifying teenage look. Unless you were our speckled Sussex. She started laying waaaay before she was done with wattles and feathers… If I hadn’t seen her laying myself I still wouldn’t believe our pullet was capable of laying while looking so teenagery still.
When your chicken is ready to lay her first egg she will often do a funny little squat when you come up to her. Before our pullets began to lay even the tame ones would kind of sidle away and dart around when we would approach to pet them. Then suddenly, a few of them would stop and drop when we went to pet them. A quick brush of the hand and they’ll fan their rumps in the air. Not to be chicken graphic, but this is what they would also do for a rooster. If you want to be a little less gross think about how a cat will stick its butt in the air when you pet them at the base of their tale… Same concept.
Being in the Nesting Boxes
Another good way to know when your chickens will start laying is to note who suddenly started showing interest in the nesting boxes. We had a new flock this year and made sure to fill up the nesting boxes around 20 weeks with straw. They hens took a look at the boxes and then promptly ignored them.
Side note: If you have a small coop beware, they can get in the habit of hanging out in the nesting boxes due to lack of room. This makes for gross nesting boxes and problems later.
Anyway, a couple of weeks after I filled the nesting boxes with straw, I noticed the Barred Plymouth Rock rooting around in the box. Sure enough, she was the first to lay. Our larger Welsummer was in the coop a lot checking the nesting boxes out recently and I caught her laying this week!
There are a couple other ways that aren’t quite as easy to tell if your chicken is going to start laying. But they still they are generally true for a lot of chickens.
Start Making a Bock-Bock Noise
Don’t you just love my scientific description of chicken noises :)? I’m pretty sure my three year old can do a better impression of a chicken. That being said, chickens that are about to start laying will often be noisier. They will develop an egg laying bock-bock noise. It is hard to describe for first time chicken owners, but once you get accustomed to the sound you will know when they start practicing that noise. There are some breeds that a quieter than others like our cochins and brahmas but most chickens get pretty verbal around laying time.
Chickens Become More Tame/Stand Ground
Some chickens are just not going to be squatters as mentioned above, but they all seems to settle down a bit when they are going to start laying eggs.. Generally speaking, chickens will also just lose some of their flightiness around laying time. Unless you are our Polish… That thing is always crazy. Chickens that are about to lay will just start to get more secure in their surroundings. Our layers will hold their ground when I open up the nesting boxes, even when they aren’t actively laying. They will come more when we called and just generally settle down and act like a mature, sensible chicken (again, minus our Polish). I have always assumed it was because they start to cement their adult pecking order and see us as the heads of the flock. Also, think about when you were a teenager (Crazy)… versus when you are an adult (
sensible… Okay, less crazy).
All the above are pretty good signs to know when your chicken will start to lay, but also remember each chicken is an individual. We have two Welsummers that hatched at the same time. One had crop issues as a chick (we thought we might lose her at one point) and ended up smaller than the other Welsummer. She still hasn’t started laying and the other has been laying for over a week now.
Early Laying Breeds
Finally, if you just can’t wait to get some eggs consider raising breeds start young. Here is a quick list of young egg layers, that also happen to be good egg producing chickens.
- Easter Eggers
- Orpingtons (though in our case our Oprington was sloooow to lay)
We would love to hear when your different breeds started egg laying. If we get enough comments then we can work on honing down our averages!