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Egg FAQs

How many years do hens lay eggs?

A hen’s egg-laying life is limited by the number of eggs that particular bird was born to lay. Like all animals, they have a set number of potential eggs in their bodies at birth. You cannot make a bird lay more eggs than nature intended. Most breeds get through their quota after three years. Their egg-laying life can be speeded up by year-round UV light - but that will merely shorten the bird’s egg-laying life, not increase its lifetime yield.

Faverolles - expect four eggs a week from this breed

How many eggs do chickens lay each year?

This varies from less than 150 to over 300, depending on the breed and the conditions in which she lives. As a handy, rough guideline, multiply the number of egg-laying hens you have by 0.75 - that’s how many eggs you can expect each day, on average.

A hen’s laying is influenced by light. She needs vitamin D in order to produce eggs (which is why laying is greatly reduced in the winter). A UV light in a coop simulates all-year-round summer; but this will reduce her egg-laying life. A hen only has the capacity for a certain number of eggs in her lifetime, and if she is made to lay all year, she will only lay for two seasons (rather than three or four).

Egg-laying decreases each year by about 20%, so a hen that manages 300 in her first year will only produce 240 in her second.

Once the first egg has appeared (and the first few are often unusual – very small, double-yolkers, or soft-shelled), hens will lay consistently until they go through their first annual molt at about one year old. They will usually start laying again once they have grown their new feathers, although some breeds molt in the autumn and may not start laying again until spring.

What are the best egg-laying chickens?

The best layers are Anconas, Australorps, Favaucanas, and Rhode Island Reds, which can produce more than 300 eggs a year. Decorative varieties such as the popular Silkies will still lay good eggs, but only 150 or so. Varieties such as this have been bred for shows and beauty – or sheer novelty value – rather than prodigious laying. When you’re choosing which type to get, it’s a balance between good looks and loads of eggs. Having said that, the best layers are pretty good lookers too, hence their huge popularity. There are also many breeds that have been developed for meat, and these will not lay as frequently as birds bred for egg-laying. (See Breeds for Egg Laying in the About Chickens section of this guide for a full list).

When is the best time to breed chickens?

As long as your chickens are laying, you can hatch and incubate chicks all year round. However, traditionally the most popular time to breed your own chickens is February to May. This is because your flock will arguably be strongest and healthiest in the Spring and so you will get the best eggs. The chickens that you breed in the Spring will start to lay eggs for you in the Fall (24 weeks after they hatch).

Plymouth Rock or Dominique
A Plymouth Rock (aka Dominique) hen

Are brown eggs better than white eggs?

Color makes no difference to the taste or nutritional quality of an egg. The predominance of one particular color in shops is all to do with aesthetics and the perception of what customers want rather than the quality of the eggs’ contents.

Do home-laid eggs taste better than shop-bought ones?

Usually, yes. But this is all to do with quality feeding. Hens with access to open ground for scratching and foraging, along with a good pellet mix, will lay eggs with maximum flavour and rich orange-yellow yolks. They will also have maximum omega-3 fatty acids.

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