Backyard Layer FAQs: Laying, Buying, Best Breeds for Children
Q: When will my chickens start laying?
A: Chickens typically start laying around 20-24 weeks. Hyline birds such as Isa Browns will be around 18 weeks. Going into winter they may take longer.
Q: How many eggs does a chicken lay?
A: This varies greatly depending on the bloodlines of your chicken. A typical backyard purebred chicken will lay 150 eggs a year. More than this would be eggcellent. Please ignore articles that say that an Australorp will lay over 300 years a year for you. This may have been the case in Egg Laying Competition days around 1920 to 1950, but most have long lost their egg machine characteristics. A hybrid layer will lay closer to 300 in her first year, but may only lay consistently for 2 years or so. They are born with the same number of eggs, however they exhaust most of their egg laying in their early years.
Q: How long do chickens lay for?
A: It depends on the breed and how well you feed and care for them. 3-4 years of consistent egg laying is a common benchmark. They will continue to lay after this, but not often. Australasian Poultry's Megg Miller has a 9 year old hen that has laid over 930 eggs in that time!
BUYING YOUR CHICKENS
Q: How old should my chickens be when I buy them?
A: You have a choice. With point of lay birds you will get eggs quicker, within a couple of weeks. Younger birds (from 6 weeks) are easier to tame with regular handling, but unless they are sex-linked it is more difficult to ensure that they are pullets and not roosters! Day-old chicks and birds up to 5 weeks need a heat source and an entirely different setup!
Q: What time of year should I buy chickens?
A: This depends on their age, and the breed. If you are looking for purebreds for laying, look for chickens that hatched in the spring. These pullets should commence laying in autumn; six months later. This way, you will have a better chance of keeping them laying continuously for at least 12 months without moulting. With hybrid birds, they are hatched throughout the year.
BEST CHICKENS FOR CHILDREN
Q: What is the best breed of chicken for children?
A: Most chickens do not enjoy being cuddled by children! If you want tame chickens that are easy to handle, buy them as young birds (from six weeks) and spend 2-3 minutes each evening gently picking them up and handling them. The hybrid Isa Browns are very docile, and are typically my preference for people whom are new to chickens. However, they are more prone to medical conditions such as prolapse after the age of two, and therefore may not live as long as purebreds. Roosters can be aggressive so are not suitable around small children.
If you have any other questions regarding layer FAQs, check out my Chicken Dictionary.