Whether you’re working toward greater self-sufficiency or just want the health benefits of farm-fresh, free range eggs, it takes some planning to get a happy, healthy coop of chickens that will provide enough eggs for your family. One of the first steps to the process is deciding how many chickens you’ll need. And for many people, the number of eggs you hope to collect is the major influencer in this decision. The answer to the question, “how many eggs does a chicken lay each day?” depends on a lot of factors. In this post we’ll break down the considerations that go into figuring out how many eggs you can expect to collect from your flock on a regular basis, and how to increase that number as much as possible.
Fortunately, if you’re looking to maximize your egg production, there are quite a few different ways to do this. Breed of chicken, age, health, feed, and amount of daylight are some of the main factors that go into the number of eggs you can expect bring into your kitchen each day. Let’s dig in to the specifics so you can get going on your flock!
How Many Eggs Does a Chicken Lay Each Day?
Because it takes approximately 24-26 hours for a chicken to form and egg, hens cannot lay an egg every single day. One egg per day most days is common – or 5-6 eggs per week – although this depends on a number of factors. Age, season, breed, health of the bird, and the amount of daylight all play a factor in how many eggs a chicken will lay.
It is possible for hens to lay two eggs under certain circumstances, but it’s not very common. Other times, a double yolk egg can be produced (two yolks in one egg). This happens when more than one yolk is released during one ovulation cycle. This is most common in younger hens. And don’t worry – although they’re not common, the double yoked eggs are safe to eat!
Farm Fresh Eggs Vs. Store Bought Eggs – What’s the Difference?
What’s all the hype about farm fresh eggs anyway? Well, if you’re curious about this topic, you’re probably already sold on fresh eggs versus store-bought eggs. But here are just a few reasons why having backyard chickens and your own farm fresh eggs may be well worth it compared to store bought.
First of all, you can’t beat the taste of fresh eggs! They have a richer flavor that makes store-bought eggs taste almost watery comparatively. And it’s not surprising that they do. Check out this picture of the way farm fresh eggs (left) look when cracked versus store-bought eggs (right):
The rich color comes mainly from carotenoids, which are colorful pigments (yellow, orange, and red) that a healthy hen is able to consume in outdoor spaces. These carotenoids mainly come from grasses and other greens.
Farm-fresh eggs are packed with all sorts of vitamins and minerals that cage-kept chickens sadly are not able to get. The sunshine, foraging options, and exercise that backyard flocks are able to enjoy means that their eggs are full of nutrients such as vitamins A, E, and D, calcium, and lutein. Plus, when you raise your own chickens, you know exactly what they’ve been eating, and you can be sure that they haven’t received any antibiotics during their lifetime.
Lastly, because farm fresh eggs are collected the day they are laid, they have a much longer shelf life than store-bought eggs. When you go to the store and pick up a carton of eggs, it’s often full of eggs that are a few weeks old and have traveled miles to reach your grocery store. On the other hand, fresh eggs can last up to three months in the refrigerator.
What Chicken Breeds Produce the Most Eggs?
If you’re looking to maximize your egg harvest and enjoy a steady supply of fresh eggs, you’ll of course want to choose the breed that best fits the needs of your family. Some of the best breeds of chickens for high egg production include:
- White leghorn
- Rhode Island Reds
- Plymouth Rock/Plymouth Barred Rock
- Isa Brown
- Buff Orpingtons
- Easter Eggers
1. White Leghorn
Although Leghorns come in a variety of colors, white is the most popular. These well-recognized birds are an excellent choice if you’re looking for maximum egg production, as they can lay around 250-300 eggs (or more!) per year! They produce white eggs and are intelligent, active birds that are great at foraging. They can be somewhat noisy compared to other birds, and aren’t super social with humans. So, if you’re looking for a friendly backyard pet in a neighborhood lot, Leghorns might not be for you.
2. Rhode Island Reds
Rhode Island Reds are quick producers and can start laying as soon as 16 weeks. They produce light brown eggs at a rate of 200-300 per year, which equals out to about 5-6 eggs per week. These curious and exploratory birds have a range of personalities – you never quite know what you’ll get!
3. Plymouth Rock
Another one of the top laying hen options, Plymouth Rocks can not only produce around 200 eggs per year, but they also are super durable birds that can continue producing for a decade! Their peak production time is around year 3 of their life, but these birds will keep on giving for many years to come.
These gentle, slightly exotic-looking birds are super docile and great with families and children. They’re climate-hearty and produce around 250 eggs per year on average.
5. Isa Brown
Isa Browns are another very popular and friendly laying breed. They’re excellent backyard birds for children and families. These amazing birds can start producing as soon as 16 weeks, and the average Isa Brown hen lays over 300 eggs per year, making them better layers in terms of numbers than many other breeds.
6. Buff Orpingtons
These cold-hardy, dual-purpose birds are very friendly and can produce 200-280 eggs each year. They are known to be broody, wanting to sit on their eggs longer than other breeds.
7. Easter Eggers
These birds are known for laying colorful eggs, such as at a rate of up to 300 per year. These somewhat flighty birds are best known for laying blue eggs, green eggs, and sometimes even pink.
While there are a variety of different breeds that can produce a significant amount of eggs, these are some of the most popular egg-laying breeds for those looking to get started with a backyard flock of good layers.
Meat birds vs. layers vs. dual purpose
As you do your research on the best breed of chickens for your homestead, you may run into the term “dual-purpose chickens”. While different chicken breeds all have their own strengths and weaknesses, most are meant for either egg production or meat production. However, there are certain breeds, such as Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, Orpingtons, Leghorns, and Plymouth Rocks, that can be utilized for both eggs and meat. These are often referred to as dual-purpose chickens.
Other Factors That Impact the Amount of Eggs Produced
The breed of chickens that you choose for your flock has some impact on the amount of eggs you’ll get. However, this is just one important factor to consider when you’re trying to maximize your egg production. Here are some other considerations to take into account.
Chickens tend to lay fewer eggs in the winter months than they do during the spring, fall, and especially summer months. This is mainly because they are greatly affected by the number of hours of light that they get each day. The long, summer days with 16 hours of light aid the hens stimulate the chickens to lay more eggs. As the daylight hours shorten, production is reduced, or they may stop laying eggs altogether. Some chicken-keepers provide artificial light to encourage egg production during the shorter daylight hours when there’s less natural light available.
Besides the hours of daylight, there are other factors that cause egg production to increase and decrease depending on the time of year. These include extreme temperatures, during which chickens expend more calories on regulating their temperature, and a lack of fresh greens, seeds, and insects to use for nutrition.
Age is another major factor that influences the amount of eggs that the average hen will lay. The average chicken will start laying eggs at around 18 weeks old, or about 4 months of age. These young chickens will reach their peak production at around 30 weeks, but stay at a high productivity level into the second year of life. Production tends to decrease sometime during year 3. Old age in your flock can significantly decrease your egg production, so if you’re noticing this problem, you may want to start integrating some younger birds into your flock.
Molting is the process of losing old feathers and re-growing new feathers. Chickens go through this process each year, usually in the fall, and it can take anywhere from 8-12 weeks. However, chickens generally won’t molt during their first year of life.
Because of their nutritional needs, you’ll notice egg counts often go down to zero so that the chickens can preserve their nutrient stores and use these extra nutrients in the molting process.
Layers need a balanced diet with the right amount of protein in order to produce the maximum amount of eggs. Most layer feeds are around 16% protein. However, if your chickens are getting too many treats, such as table scraps or scratch grains, this can throw off their daily protein levels. Although many backyard chicken owners love to use up the kitchen scraps (and hey, it’s a great thing to do!), it’s important to not do this excessively.
If you notice egg production is low and you’ve been feeding lots of treats, first try cutting down on the treats. If needed, you can also increase the protein of their feed. Sometimes this is necessary in the winter months.
And speaking of feed, you might also consider adding oyster shell to your hens’ feed options! This helps to fortify their eggs with calcium. If you notice soft shells, oyster shells can help remedy this issue and give your chickens the nutrients they need to produce stronger shells. Another method is to wash, dry, and crush your eggshells and offer them to your chickens instead of using store-bought oyster shells.
Health problems are another factor that can reduce egg production. When chickens are sick, their energy will naturally go toward healing and recovery rather than producing eggs. Common sicknesses in chickens include parasites, Marek’s Disease, avian influenza, and stress (from predators, harassment from other birds, new pens, and extreme temperatures especially).
How Can I Increase My Chickens’ Egg Production?
While there are certain factors that are out of your control, here are a few ways that you may be able to increase the number of eggs your chickens lay:
- Increase the amount of light in winter months by adding artificial light
- Feed a balanced diet with adequate protein (average layer feed is around 16%)
- Reduce sickness by providing high-quality feed, clean water, and adequate space and shelter
- Provide a clean coop and fresh air whenever possible
- Integrate younger birds into your flock
- Supplement with oyster shells for extra calcium
FAQ About Laying Hens
How can I keep my eggs fresh as long as possible?
Unwashed eggs can keep for 2-4 weeks at room temperature. In the refrigerator, they’ll stay good for up to three months.
Washing the eggs removes the protective layer called the bloom. If your eggs are washed, you’ll need to refrigerate them. Wash eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
Can a chicken lay eggs without a rooster?
For sure. Although many people think that hens need a rooster in order to lay eggs, this is not true. Hens can lay unfertilized eggs with or without a rooster. Having a rooster around shouldn’t affect the taste or quality of the eggs. No rooster simply means that the eggs won’t hatch into chicks.
How many square feet do my chickens need?
To raise healthy female chickens, you should have around 4 square feet of coop space and around 8 square feet of outdoor space per bird.
Enjoy Raising Your Chickens!
It’s definitely an exciting feeling finding that first egg from your young hens. Having your own, farm-fresh eggs is a great way to ensure a healthy food supply for your family and know exactly what’s in the food you’re eating.
Of course, the number of chickens you’ll need will largely be determined by the number of eggs you want to collect on a regular basis.
How many eggs does your family eat in an average week?