Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
I’m not sure what kind of production to expect from my hens annually. How many eggs can a chicken lay per year?
Your flock’s egg output will depend on many factors, including which breed you’re raising, the age of your hens, the quality of their feed, whether you provide supplemental lighting in winter, and how much protection you supply from extreme heat and cold.
If you choose an industrial hybrid breed and set your birds up in conditions that prompt intense production, each hen could lay as many as 300 eggs in her first year. Industrial birds are genetically programmed to lay so many eggs that they are spent after just two years, though, so most homesteaders don’t adopt this approach.
Home flocks tend to supply fewer eggs than chickens in an industrial setup. The staff at the Livestock Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving heritage breeds, reports that egg generation in backyard flocks ranges from 120 to 250 eggs per hen annually. Some breeds lay far more eggs than others.
To maximize your flock’s production, you should remove older hens that are no longer laying or that are laying at a very reduced rate, and replace them with younger birds.
Originally, wild chickens laid eggs primarily in springtime for reproduction, but over centuries, humans have selected for birds that lay the most eggs year-round. Many breeds are still sensitive to day length and will naturally lay fewer eggs during the shorter days of winter.
Some people opt for artificial lighting to push their birds to continue laying through the colder months. If you allow your hens to rest in winter, they’ll likely live longer. Keep in mind that you’ll still be feeding them regardless of how much they’re laying, so your net annual cost per egg will be higher if you let the birds have a winter break.
Photo by Fotolia/vbaleha: Your decisions, as well as the age and breed of your birds, can affect your hens’ egg production.
Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one of North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on Google+.