Backyard Hens and the Long Wait for Eggs
If you have started raising backyard hens for the first time, you may be well on your way to finding eggs in your backyard. Or you may be stalking the nest box, impatiently waiting to see an egg in there. Chicks grow incredibly fast and look fully grown long before their insides are finished developing. This can be frustrating to a new chicken owner, because fresh eggs are most likely the most important reason for raising backyard hens! When you hear from friends that they are already finding fresh eggs in the nest box at their coop, you will be tempted to try to speed things up. But really, there is nothing you can do, except wait and let nature run its course. Your pullets are maturing and getting ready for the next few years of egg laying.
What are the best things to do to help?
The following three things are the best practices for helping your pullets become strong egg laying backyard hens.
- You have been feeding your pullets a good quality chick grower food, supplementing as much as possible with some safe free ranging time, or providing some fresh herbs and greens, in the coop.
- You have switched them to a quality layer ration at around 20 weeks of age.
- You have provided a clean, safe environment, minimizing stress as much as possible.
How Old Will the Pullet Be When She Lays an Egg
Most hens will start laying eggs around 18 to 30 weeks of age. Yes, that is a huge range but breeds vary and the heavier weight breeds can take longer to mature. One egg will be laid every 23 to 27 hours with the average being every 25 hours.
How the Egg Becomes an Egg
The yolk is deposited on the follicle and then makes a few stops on its way through the reproductive tract. The first stop is at the top of the funnel like opening of the reproductive tract which is where fertilization would take place if you have a rooster. No rooster is necessary for egg production, though.
The yolk stops for the addition of the albumin, (the white part of the egg) and slightly further along the membranes are added. When the egg reaches the uterus, it is ready for more albumin and then the shell begins to form. This stop is the longest on the journey. The uterus is also where the color of the egg shell is added. Finally, a sealant, called the cuticle coating is added. The cuticle prevents the egg from drying out and helps keep bacteria from entering through the porous shell.
Finally, the egg is released through the vent, a shared opening for both waste product and eggs. Now you can go make breakfast!
Try to be patient with your young backyard hens. They have a lot going on inside while they are eating up the chicken food and basking in the dust bath. Soon you will have a regular supply of fresh eggs, right outside your back door.
Janet writes about many homestead and livestock related topics on her blog Timber Creek Farm. Her new book, Chickens From Scratch, is available now through the Timber Creek Farm website or from Amazon.com