Are you wondering when your hens will start to lay? The excitement is building, but you are not sure what will happen? I can relate.
It’s important to know when your chickens will start to lay eggs regularly. In our experience with over 30+ chickens at one point, I’ve found the following tips to look for.
It all happened one morning when I was at the computer typing away my coupon deals early morning at 5 a.m. I grew up in the city without chickens.
I thought that only Roosters were the ones to make noise. I was so startled by WHAT I heard coming from our chicken coop; I slammed down my laptop, put on my boots, and flung open the chicken coop door to see what was going on. Oh, the mistakes we made in the beginning. 🙂
An egg. The hen was laying an egg. So let’s chat a minute about what to look for and COMPLETELY normal things. If you don’t have chickens already, let me tell you, they are a loud, chatty bunch. It’s normal.
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The Color Comb
If you pay close enough attention, her comb may become larger and redder in color. So it's a good idea always to keep an eye on your hens' comb because it can tell you a lot about their health.
For example, a pale comb in the summer can be several things one heat exhaustion. By the way, our summer is this year a few of the ladies are lighter. Molting is another perfectly normal thing that can cause the comb to be lighter.
Things that cause concern for a lighter comb- mites, lice, worms.
The Nesting Box
Right before your hen starts laying eggs, she will be checking out her nesting box. If you have carried a child, you know all about the nesting instinct. Well, your chickens go through something similar. You can get very creative in how you make your own nesting box. Just a couple of pieces of plywood will work.
We have two separate coops for our chickens because we lived in the city before we moved out here and had our 6 chickens and coop; then we got chicken crazy and at one point had over 30 birds and made a chicken coop in our super old crooked barn! Frugalness at its finest!
On our city chicken coop, there are two nesting boxes off the side. You lift a separate piece of wood on the top to reach in and grab the eggs.
We tried the 5-gallon buckets all stacked up, but the chickens didn't like it. I didn't either. The poop all over it was not cool.
So we used what we already had. There was a cabinet-type shelf in the bottom of our old barn that we turned into a nesting area. It now has 7 nesting boxes for the ladies. The best part it was free!
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When your chickens are near a week or so in laying their first egg, they will start to squat down. Of course, this is the instinct for the Rooster to climb on too, well, you know to do his business.
They will continue to squat for you even after laying. I have found that my hens are lower in the pecking order squat when they hear my name. My older hens have stopped doing this, but in their first year, they squatted all the time when my kids or I would approach them.
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Oh, if you think getting hens and not a rooster is a good idea because they are quiet, think again. These ladies can get quite loud. They are very noisy the first time they are getting ready to lay an egg. Think of it like the first time you gave birth, if you have.
If you hear a bunch of squawking, they are probably so close to laying. However, years later, some hens are still very loud right before they lay an egg.
Things to Look For When They Start Laying
Easter Egg Hunt
If your nesting boxes aren't just right for your girls, you may be on an Easter egg hunt each day. Our first set of chickens, my husband, built a really nice backyard chicken coop. The nesting boxes are fabulous both for the hens and for us to easily reach the eggs out.
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Our first set of chickens, my husband, built a really nice backyard chicken coop. The nesting boxes are fabulous both for the hens and for us to easily reach the eggs out.
In the second batch of chickens, we saw the five-gallon buckets stacked. Our chickens did not like these. I didn't either. The poop all on top of each bucket was not fun to get off. Once our chickens found a spot in the hay behind some old pallets, I knew something wasn't right. So we made wider nesting boxes that the chickens took to right away.
Before that, we had chickens going in an old trash can down in the barn. One laid one on the back deck. Now they all go in their nesting box, for the most part! If you have your chickens pastured raised, you will run into this, but you should find they will go in their nesting box if you keep them contained.
Use an old golf ball to keep in the nesting box. We still have a golf ball in ours. Don't buy the fake egg at Tractor supply; save your money, be frugal. Be practical.
Be prepared that they may still lay an egg in an undesirable spot initially, but if you offer enough bedding in the box and a box they can move and feel private in, they will start laying on their own in that nesting box.
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I am nowhere near a chicken pro here but through our 30 hens, we have had a number of shell-less eggs in the beginning.
Once they are past the first days of laying if you notice your hens are laying shell-less eggs it could be a lack of calcium. This can easily be fixed by providing your hens oyster shells or the frugal way cooked cracked egg shells. We do this a few times in the winter. We will save up the eggshells from the week crush them with a rolling pin and bake for 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees. Then I sprinkle over their pellets.
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The size of your hens first egg will be small. The egg will gradually get larger depending on your breed. We have 16 Rhode Island Reds that their eggs started out as a medium size for a while and now they are large to extra large.