So, you have a brooder full of adorable, chirping, fluffy, yellow baby chicks (or you're planning to get a brooder full), and as you keep them warm and watch them grow, you might wonder just how long until they grow up and begin to lay eggs for themselves? Besides the enjoyment of keeping hens as pets, the goal of many small-scale chicken owners is to obtain fresh eggs throughout the year. Happily, you shouldn't have to wait too long.

Hen laying eggs in her nest.

A laying hen's career

Female chickens grow quickly, and it won't be long before you see those little yellow chicks begin to grow their real feathers and become hens, or—as they're known for their first year of life—pullets. Somewhere around 18 weeks old, your pullets will begin to lay their first eggs. These early eggs may not weigh as much as they will later. Also, the egg production numbers might not be consistent to begin with, but the quantity of eggs will continue to increase until it peaks when your hens are about 25 weeks old.1

How long do chickens lay eggs?

Once they become active layers, many hens will continue to produce eggs regularly for three to four years or more, and somewhat more sporadically after that. Some hens will produce eggs into their teens. "Layer" breeds may produce several eggs per week. As the hens age, you'll likely see a gradual decrease in egg quantity over time.

Keep them fed

In order to keep your hens healthy while they're laying eggs, solid nutrition is important. You'll find "layer feeds" available that are pre-mixed and deliver the nutrition that egg-producing hens need,including plenty of protein (both the egg white and the yolk contain a lot of protein3) and calcium. Calcium is essential for laying hens because eggshells are mostly calcium carbonate, and your hens must obtain some of this calcium from their diet to produce shells. Since the extra calcium is only for egg-producing chickens, don't give this feed to non-laying hens. Be sure to keep your younger pullets who are not yet laying eggs separate from flock members that are laying eggs and need to eat this type of feed.Water is also very important for laying hens, so be sure to have fresh water available for your chickens at all times.

Do you need a rooster?

There is a bit of confusion regarding the need to have a rooster around your hens to obtain eggs. While a cool-looking rooster can be fun to have around and required if you intend to raise chicks from your eggs, the fact is that a rooster isn't necessary if you simply want eggs for eating. Your hens will continue to produce unfertilized eggs, whether there is a rooster present or not. Keeping a hens-only flock is helpful if you're trying to raise chickens in a neighborhood or semi-urban setting. While the sound of a rooster crowing may be music to your ears, your neighbors may not feel the same. Sometimes local ordinances will prohibit roosters while still allowing you to raise chickens for egg purposes5

  1. Murray McMurray Hatchery. "Frequently Asked Questions." https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/faqhowlongdoesi.html
  2. Silver Lake Farms. "How Old Do Chickens Have To Be To Lay Eggs?" https://silverlakefarms.com/how-old-do-chickens-have-to-be-to-lay-eggs/
  3. Bjarnadottir, Adda. "How Much Protein in an Egg?" Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-in-egg
  4. Jacob, Jacquie. "Raising Chickens for Egg Production." Poultry Extension. https://poultry.extension.org/articles/poultry-management/raising-chickens-for-egg-production/
  5. Arcuri, Lauren. "Do Hens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster?" The Spruce. https://www.thespruce.com/do-hens-lay-eggs-without-rooster-3016749