Having fresh eggs for meals or for baking can be a rewarding part of raising your own chickens. But what is a realistic expectation for how many eggs your chickens will produce each day?
The laying cycle of a chicken flock usually covers a span of 12 months. Egg production begins when the young hens (pullets) reach about 18 - 22 weeks of age depending on the breed and season. Flock production rises sharply and reaches a peak of about 90% 6 - 8 weeks later. This period of peak production lasts about 10 weeks, after which a hen's egg production slowly begins to decline. Production declines to about 65% after 12 months.
* 90% production - 9 eggs in 10 days for a single hen or 9 eggs from 10 birds daily
* 65% production - 6 to 7 eggs in 10 days for a single hen or 6 to 7 eggs from 10 birds daily.
Chickens can live for many years and continue to lay eggs for many of these years. However, after two or three years many hens significantly decline in productivity. This varies greatly from bird to bird.
Maximizing Egg Production
There are many factors that can adversely affect egg production. Egg production can be affected by such factors as feed consumption (quality and quantity), water intake, intensity and duration of light, parasite infestation, disease, and numerous management and environmental factors.
Laying chickens require a completely balanced diet to sustain maximum egg production over time. Inadequate nutrition can cause hens to stop laying. Inadequate levels of energy, protein or calcium can cause a drop in egg production. If hens are out of feed for several hours, a decline in egg production will probably occur.
Water is often taken for granted, and yet it is probably the most essential nutrient. Access to water is important, and a lack of water for several hours will probably cause a decline in egg production. Hens are more sensitive to a lack of water than a lack of feed.
Hens need about 14 hours of day length to maintain egg production. The decreasing day length during the Fall and shorter day lengths in the Winter would be expected to cause a severe decline, or even cessation, in egg production unless supplemental light is provided. Hens exposed to only natural light would be expected to stop laying in the winter and then resume egg production in the spring.
High environmental temperatures pose severe problems for all types of poultry. Egg production is adversely affected under conditions of severe heat stress.
There are a variety of other problems which can cause an apparent drop in egg production. Other factors can include predators and snakes consuming eggs, egg eating by hens in the flock, excessive egg breakage, and free-ranging hens hiding their eggs instead of laying them in the nests.
(By Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Livestock Educator)