Egg Laying Q & A

1) When do chickens lay eggs? - It varies by breed, but usually around 6 months old is when the eggs start appearing.

2) Do you need a rooster?- No rooster is required. Yes, chickens lay eggs without any fertilization activities. Obviously, those eggs will not hatch if incubated.

3) How many eggs does a chicken lay.- It varies a little by breed. In general, you get "almost" an egg a day, depending on light conditions. Chicken's lay more eggs in the spring in summer (more daylight) than winter. Professional farmers will use artificial light in the winter (i.e. light bulbs in the henhouse) to "even out" production. I am too lazy to do this... so egg production will drop in the winter

4) Where do chickens lay eggs?- When they first start the seem to lay them on the floor of the henhouse. Eventually, they "get the idea" and lay them in the nest boxes. About 5 chickens will "share" a nest box. They lay communal piles of eggs, and when there is enough eggs... this somehow triggers a hen to go "broody". This means she suddenly finds the need to sit on the eggs and protect them... when before she couldn't care less (Chickens don't pay any attention to the eggs they lay if they are not "broody" and hence don't care if you take them). "Broodiness" is an undesirable trait in many breeds as when a hen is "broody" she is not laying eggs and instead shifts to "mother duty". Obviously, professional egg farmers don't need this (replacement hens are hatched artificially in incubators).

5) Egg abnormalities - I occasionally get an egg with no shell (it is just in a membrane), or an egg with no yolk, or an egg with two yolks, and very large eggs, or very tiny eggs... All this is relatively normal and is more prevalent when hens are young. As they age there egg production "normalizes" and incidence of these oddities decreases. Also eggs with a spot of blood in them do occur this is not a "chicken embryo" or anything like this (old wive's tale) it is just a defect in the egg during formation, perfectly safe to eat (gross, maybe, but safe).

6) Ummm, where do the eggs come out of a chicken? Okay this is a touchy subject and if you are easily "grossed out" don't bother to continue. However, due to the number of people that sheepishly ask me and all the misconceptions out there, there seems to be a secret need for this information (that fact that you are still reading is proof enough); let me enlighten you. Chicken anatomy is not the same as people. I hope it is well known that people have different aperatures for different tasks in the pelvic region. Not true with chickens. For lack of a better term, chickens have only one "hole" called a "vent." They use this for all the things you can imagine need to happen. Chickens do not urinate. Instead urine is processed into uric acid and is excreted with feces. The "white part" of bird crap is the "urine" and the "dark spot" is the feces. This all needs to come out the vent. The good news is that there is a "valve" that separates the intestines from the egg chute (see diagram, right). The eggs still occasionally get some crap on them. Ummm, sorry chicken bathroom habits aren't great and they will crap in the nests. In the factory farms, this probably happens much more than in my operation (due to the fact I don't cage my birds and they spend most of the time outside) but this gets all washed off before you get them. If this topic trouble you, sorry, but the farm is often not a pretty place. Either become a vegetarian or come to accept this sort of thing.

7) Egg Colors- There are generally, white, brown, and blue-green eggs. All of them have about the same nutritional value ,cholesterol and look the same inside. Leghorn breeds lay white eggs, Most other breeds lay brown, and Araucana breeds lay blue-green eggs.

8) Do Chickens lay eggs in the Winter? Chickens will lay eggs year 'round. However they do slow down considerably in the winter. However it has little to do with the cold. Egg laying is dependent on hours of lighting. The more light, the more eggs. This has to do with increasing daylight in the spring to trigger more eggs. Some folks put a light in the coop in the winter to "trick" the birds into laying more eggs. The only other thing that considerably affects egg laying is their annual molt.

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