Our pullets must read the
blog, because they started laying soon after I posted that their
brother was fertile.
They were about 19 weeks old when the first little pullet egg showed up
in the coop, and I’ve seen an egg every day or two from each of them
If you’re waiting with
baited breath for your young hens to begin laying, you should be aware
that a couple of different factors can affect age at first lay.
Chicken varieties vary quite a bit in how fast they mature, with
egg-laying hybrids like Golden Comets sometimes popping out their
first egg at 16 weeks. (That said, the Golden Comets we raised
from chicks in 2008 didn’t lay until they were 19 weeks old, just like
this year’s Australorps.)
Perhaps even more
important than breed of chicken is time of year. As the days get
shorter in the fall, mature hens often stop laying, and late-started
pullets may not even start producing until spring. Last year, we
had to turn
on lights in the chicken coop to get our
late-April-hatched pullets to pick up the egg-laying pace. I
suspect that this year’s pullets (hatched at the beginning of March)
will avoid that problem, and that their relatively early lay is also
due to experiencing so many long days early in their lives.
Assuming you don’t miss the
boat and have to wait until spring, your hens should definitely be
laying by the time they’re 26 weeks old. The first eggs are often
small, but with big yolks inside — I generally use two pullet eggs in
the place of one adult egg when cooking.
Don’t expect to be able
to hatch out chicks from these pullet eggs, though. I took a look
at a few yolks as I was preparing our morning omelet and noticed that
the blastoderm in the pullet eggs had an unfertilized look.
Salatin reports that if pullet eggs do hatch, they tend to yield up
small chicks that are less likely to survive.
By the way, these hens
who are just starting to produce are known as “point-of-lay
pullets”. This is a great thing to look for if you want to start
a laying flock the easiest possible way. There’s no fiddling with
baby chicks or agonizing over whether your hens are too old to be
productive, just lots of nutritious, homegrown eggs to feed your family.
with clean water so they can churn out eggs.