When welcoming your first hens, it is common to feel impatient to harvest your first egg. But do you know from what age a hen starts to lay eggs? Is it the same for all breeds of chickens or are there differences?
When can we expect the first egg?
The age at which a hen lays her first egg varies according to the species to which it belongs, or more precisely, according to its category: light, medium or heavy.
Breeds of hens considered light are those that weigh between 2 kg and 2.5 kg in adulthood, such as red hens, Leghorn or Padua. In these, we can wait for the first egg around the age of 5-6 months.
In medium breeds, that is, those that weigh between 2.5 and 3 kg in adulthood, such as Sussexes, Marans or Wyandottes, the first egg appears later, around the age of 7-8 months.
In heavy breeds, those that weigh more than 3 kg in adulthood, such as the Brahma or the Orpington, the first egg may arrive. around the age of 5-6 months. These hens being especially sought after for their flesh, they are less good layers.
With a little experience, it is easy to know when a hen is about to lay eggs. Its crest is a little bigger and a little redder than usual. She lies down on her nest and begins to cackle.
Your hen has reached the age of the first egg but nothing comes
You may have taken the precaution of acquiring a laying hen ready to lay. If it is common for the hens to lay an egg in the transport box, you may however be concerned because yours did not or is slow to lay once installed in your home.
It may first happen that the purchased hen is not quite the age announced by the seller and that she is a little younger. You will therefore have to wait a few weeks for it to reach sexual maturity.
Also remember that a hen does not lay eggs all year round. Many hens take a break in winter. But those of the Faverolles breed do not stop.
It may seem obvious but it is also good to remember thata hen is not a laying machine but a sensitive animal. You must therefore be patient and warm in your welcome so that she has time to take her marks. Transportation disturbs them. It will take them a few days to a few weeks to adapt: it depends on their temperament. During this time, you will come to see them regularly so that your hens get used to you. You will be able to create small rituals by calling them by name, making the same sound every time you approach to feed them, etc. Your hens will gradually relax as you approach.
What food promotes egg laying?
The basis is to feed your chickens in the most balanced way possible. A hen consumes 120 to 250 g of food per day. This includes what she finds on the grassy course available to her, but also the food you distribute to her. Adjust the doses well to avoid leftovers. These attract pests and form nests for bacteria. Do not forget either the clear water at will. You must renew it every day, or even twice a day in case of strong heat.
Crushed cereals will be their treat, mixed, to guarantee a diversified supply: wheat, corn, barley … A little gravel and sand incorporated in the feed help to grind the seeds well. Hens certainly find a large part of it in the soil, but a little supplement does not harm them. The life of a hen is marked by many moments of physiological stress: moulting, growth, fight against the cold … So do not hesitate to provide them with suitable food supplements during these different periods.
The production of the eggshell requires calcium. If you use ready-made foods, they contain it. But you can also give them shellfish, mussels and oysters depending on the season. You do not distribute them as they are but calcine them beforehand, before breaking them into small pieces and incorporating them into the daily cereal ration.
It also goes without saying that hens in good health will lay all the better. The hygiene of the hen house should be impeccable and you should treat them against parasites. Access to the outdoors is essential: this must ensure them at least 8 hours of walking per day. Hens also need to feel safe.
What can stop a hen from laying eggs?
The absence of laying may mean that the hen has an anatomical defect that prevents it from doing so.
It can also be sick. Careful examination of your pet can tell you if it is or not. Interference is generally the first hypothesis to be verified. Some parasites feed on the hen’s blood and trigger anemia. They are mainly found on the belly and under the wings which are the first areas to inspect, taking care to lift the feathers. Some diseases, even treated, can also irreversibly damage the lining of the oviduct, permanently preventing spawning.
Finally, there is the egg-laying sickness : the hen retains an egg, it is stuck inside its body, between the cloaca and the uterus. Usually, this ailment is accompanied by other signs such as loss of appetite, lethargic state, unusual gait, drooping wings, low rump. You can feel the egg by palpating its abdomen. To help him, give him a hot bath which will have the virtue of relaxing his muscles. Coat its cesspool with paraffin and set it up in a quiet place, away from other hens and in the dark, which will appease it. Give yourself a few hours to see if this action is working. If not, go to the vet for an x-ray of the abdomen.