When Will My Hen Start Laying?

Honda gettin' busy!

Honda gettin’ busy!

I can honestly say that this part just about drove me nuts!  Well…I guess I should rephrase this: Swiffer just about drove me nuts.

As I wrote in a previous post, I raised Honda & Swiffer from chicks back in mid-March 2012.  Knowing that they were sex-links, I was prepared to have FULL egg production (14 eggs/wk) by mid-July.  Without a word of a lie, Honda laid her first egg on the 18th day of July in the 18th week of her life.

I remember we were up at the cottage that week in July and the hens were residing in a portable “chicken ark” that I made.

Portable chicken ark.

Portable chicken ark.

As I walked past the run, I noticed an “egg” shape that was nestled amongst some rocks beside the ark. “No…It couldn’t be” I thought.  I quickly opened the gate and went right towards the shape.  There, on the ground amidst those rocks, was the first offering from one of my hens.  At this point, I didn’t know who to congratulate and I was a bit concerned that the egg was not laid in the nest box.  I figured that the hens needed a bit of direction so I got a few plastic eggs (the ones that we use for our Easter egg hunt every year) from inside the cottage.  The only trouble was that these eggs were bright yellow, purple and green.  I think I chose yellow because I liked that color better than the rest and proceeded to put two “fakers” in the nest box.

The following morning I let the hens out into their run and then settled back to see who was the “egg layer”.   Shortly after, Honda went up into the Ark and disappeared for a ½ hour.  After her decent down the plank, I opened the hatch door and there, sandwiched between two plastic yellow eggs was a warm brown egg!

I’m not embarrassed to say that I was beaming with pride and congratulated Honda on her success.  I then glanced over at Swiffer and told her “Your turn”.  I guess my words of encouragement weren’t inspirational enough and Swiffer just continued to scratch & peck the ground.

Honda's first 4 eggs!

Honda’s first 4 eggs!

For the following week, my daily routine (some might say obsession) consisted of checking the nest box 5 or 6 times per day and ONLY collecting Honda’s “contribution” to the family table. The hens we now restricted to the run and no longer allowed unsupervised free ranging.  You see, I wanted to rule out the probability that Swiffer wasn’t laying her eggs in the bush when they were out roaming the property.

After 1 week of this routine, I was certain that Swiffer was NOT laying.  I couldn’t understand.  She was a sex-link hen and scheduled to begin laying between 18-20 weeks.   She also exhibited the signs of maturity which included bright red wattles and comb and did the “chicken squat” when I would go to pick her up. Incidentally, the chicken squat goes like this….the hen immediately squats, slightly spreads her wings and COMPLETELY freezes in position.  I’ve been told that this is what a hen does when a rooster spontaneously decides that it is time for a little action. There is no foreplay or a gentle request for a rendezvous behind the shed.  It’s more like jump on her back, grab her neck feathers with your beak so that you can hold on and….well…you get the picture.

Swiffer's bright red comb & wattles.

Swiffer’s bright red comb & wattles.

The other tell-tale sign that a pullet is ready for laying is that her vent is moist.  No….you don’t have to touch it!  Just have a look at it!  Besides, you need to get over this.  You should be looking at your hens’ vent on a regular basis because this is one of the obvious places for mites to lay their eggs. (More on this in a another post)

Inspecting the vent.

Inspecting the vent.

Anyway……, Swiffer exhibited the tell-tale signs of sexual maturity but still…no eggs.  This went on for the ENTIRE months of August and September.  Needless to say, my obsession became galactic.  I scoured the Internet looking for answers and found the same recurring threads which stated that a laying hen will probably NEVER lay an egg if she has NOT by 28 weeks of age.  I even contacted the hatchery where she was born and the owner told me that I got the 1 in 10,000 hen that WILL not lay.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  After all the work and research into making the run & coop and learning about proper care, I HAVE A FLOCK THAT IS ONLY OPERATING AT 50% PRODUCTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  All that work and I’m only getting 7 eggs/week.  It was time ………..to get rid of Swiffer!!!!!!!!!!!

This ain't gonna' be enough!

This ain’t gonna’ be enough!

As I said in an earlier post, I did not get hens for pets.  I raised them for egg production!  My wife still doesn’t believe me but it IS the egg that I am after.  Anyways……during the first week in October (week 30) I was making arrangements to replace Swiffer with another sex-link hen that was at point of lay.  My wife, who has this uncanny “psychic” ability, told me to wait until we returned from the cottage to celebrate Thanksgiving before I made any rash decisions.

I agreed that I would give Swiffer 1 MORE WEEK and then it was the end of her road at City Boy Hens!

I made an arrangement with John (the neighbour) to look after the hens while we went to the cottage for the Thanksgiving long weekend. Upon our return to the city, John came out to see me before I was even up the driveway with the van.  He told me that something was terribly wrong with the hens because there were 2 soft-shelled eggs laid that morning. John, not knowing that this happens quite often when a hens BEGINS production, thought that the hens were dying.  I smiled proudly, screamed out a silent “yes” and assured John that all was well.   It turns out that Swiffer decided to begin production at the end of WEEK 30…….12 weeks AFTER Honda began in July…….and 84 eggs BEHIND in the count!

A very much ALIVE SWiffer!

A very much ALIVE Swiffer!

I guess the point in telling you all of this is if I listened to the hatchery or followed through with the advice from the feed store or the Internet, I would have killed Swiffer and realized that I made a mistake when I cleaned her out.  During that process, I would have discovered tons of tiny yellow clusters which were her ovaries.  It’s those ovaries that turn into eggs.

I’m glad I listened to me wife and waited for our “slow learner” to mature……..So…I guess what I am trying to say is….. just chill.  I know it is easier said than done.  Do your part and ensure that your hens have adequate fresh water, a good layer feed and the other recommendations I have made in other posts.  The rest is up to them.  Good Luck!!

Full production almost EVERY day!

Full production almost EVERY day!


30 thoughts on “When Will My Hen Start Laying?

  1. Good for Swiffer! She must have known she was going to be in the soup pot if she didn’t get busy laying eggs! Congratulations.

  2. My Dotty was nine months old when she started, Pepper was eight months old and Treacle and Bluebell were seven months old. Some information I found said that the later in the year they are hatched the older they will be when they start laying. It doesn’t matter though as they have all their eggs in them at the start so will go on for longer. I thought Dotty was never going to start but like your Swiffer she got there in the end.

  3. Oh good on you Swiffer! One of my girls (after a dog attack in March and subsequent moult) started laying again this past week! That s four months off. Lucky i am patient and she is a beautiful isa brown. It sure is nice to see her with a red wattle and comb again.

  4. Oh, I am so glad you posted this. We have 4 hens at 23 weeks and 2 at 19 weeks. Right now, only 3 of the 23 week old hens are laying. We are loving that we are getting eggs, but anxious about the other hens. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Just found your blog because we too are impatient and I was looking for information! This is our first foray into chickens, and we have 6 hens. One has been laying for three weeks and the others are not. Every time I go to the grocery store, it pains me to buy eggs when I have all these layers at home! 🙂 Sounds like we just need to wait them out. Thank you for the information!

  6. I just got my very first egg yesterday! It even had a double yolk which my mother tells me is a sign of good luck. I got a second this morning! This truly is like Christmas in July! Thanks for your blog. I’ve never commented before, but I have been reading since I started my flock this past spring! Wonderful information! This is so much fun!

  7. Thanks for the great info as mine are 28 weeks and not laying either. So I’m gonna give about 1 more to 2 more months and hope my out come is like yours.

  8. Thanks for your helpful post. Just stumbled upon it like many others wondering if my hens were ever going to lay. I have noticed two of my three girls doing the squat thing the last couple of days so hopefully soon eggs may come

  9. I truly never read or write on the computer but your article grabbed me and then as I have worked with many kinds of birds from finchs to osteragh (sexed 3 for a neighbor once, and helped another women learn how to get her new hatchlings to eat) And never ate an egg until I raised my own flock. I liked your article and in 40 years of doing it. There are many more neat experiece in the other kinds of fowal and good eating too. good job and good luck.

  10. Really enjoyed your website, and the story about your slow-to-mature hen. I too have a “slow layer” OR she’s laying a pale colored egg! She’s an Astrolope, and I’m expecting a brown egg. Maybe I should coop her up and see if she is laying, but she runs free during the day with the other older girls. PS. Your coop is beautifully crafted. Love the arched entry nest box!

    • Hi Joyce,
      Thanks for the kind comments. Give your hen a bit of time or see if you can actually watch her go into a nest box and try to identify if it is actually her egg. Either way, if you are getting eggs it is a good day.

  11. Such a good story! I bought two pullets two months ago, one has been laying daily for almost three weeks but the second has not laid a single egg! I was wondering what I should do, but it seems I should just give her a little more time to get started 🙂

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