Healthy hens will begin laying eggs at about 18 to 20 weeks of age.
Here are some quick facts and tips about egg production and gathering.
- It is not necessary for a rooster to be present for egg laying to begin, but without a rooster, all eggs will be unfertilized.
- Hens will be at peak production at about 30 weeks.
- 80 percent to 90 percent is considered excellent egg production (100 percent = 1 egg per hen, per day), but breed, housing, weather, management, parasite load and nutrition can all affect the rate of lay of your hens.
- Eggs for hatching should be stored at 55ºF and 70 to 75 percent humidity.
- Eggs for eating should be refrigerated.
- Eggs are laid with a protective coating, which helps keep bacteria out. It is best if this is not disturbed. Excessive washing can force bacteria through pores in the shell and into the egg, greatly reducing its chance for successful incubation and hatching. If washing is necessary, be gentle and quick, using water only. Be sure to use water that is warmer than the egg. Dry and cool the eggs as quickly as possible.
- Eggs should be gathered three times daily, and even more often in hot weather.
- Frequent egg gathering serves two purposes. First, it helps keep the eggs cleaner by reducing exposure to environmental bacteria and potentially eliminating the need for washing. Second, it lessens the opportunity for hens to learn the bad habit of egg eating. This is when a hen finds a broken egg, tastes it, likes it and begins searching for other broken eggs, and then learns how to break them herself. Frequent egg gathering is your primary weapon against this behavioral problem.