Everything You Need to Know About the Chicken Egg Production Cycle

The chicken egg production cycle is especially important for backyard chicken keepers to know. Learn when to expect your hens to start and stop laying eggs, typical backyard chicken lifespan, and more.

Lifespan of a Laying Backyard Hen

Backyard chickens have an average lifespan of around 6-8 years. You can expect them to produce eggs for anywhere from 3-4 years. As with all hens, egg production, size, & shell quality will decrease year over year.

If you’d like to keep your backyard flock producing regularly, consider retiring your older ladies and adding new pullets every 2-3 years.

When do Hens Begin to Lay Eggs?

This is partially dependent on breed, so every hen will be a little different. Generally, though, most hens will start laying around 18-22 weeks old. It should be noted that this is only possible with adequate nutrition, housing, & space.

Do Hens Lay Eggs in the Winter?

Egg production naturally goes down in Winter. This is because a hen’s ovulation is stimulated by the length of the day, and Winter days are usually shorter than Summer days.

You can work around this drop in production by providing 14-16 hours of artificial light with a 60-watt incandescent bulb. Be sure to provide this extra light in the morning & late afternoon, but let the hens continue to roost naturally with the sunset. They still may not lay as much as they do in the Summer & Spring months, but you will get more eggs using artificial light in the Winter.

Are Eggs Laid Every Single Day?

According to the University of Wisconsin,

“Ovulation (release of the yolk from the ovary) occurs every 24 – 26 hours regardless of fertilization (so a rooster is not needed). A hen ovulates a new yolk after the previous egg was laid. It takes 26 hours for an egg to fully form (white and shell added), so a hen will lay an egg later and later each day. Eventually the hen will lay too late in a day for ovulation to be signaled. She will then skip a day or more before laying another egg.”

University of Wisconsin, Livestock Extension

How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs? Do Hens Lay Eggs Forever?

Sadly, no. Most hens start to decrease their egg production after 2-3 years, stopping completely after 3-4 years. There are definitely exceptions to that rule, but that is generally the timeline you should expect.