A few laying hens can provide ample eggs for the average family – plenty for breakfast, baking and even the occasional quiche. Even if your family doesn’t eat many eggs each week currently, you may find that that changes when you are raising laying hens and have a fresh, steady egg supply from your own little flock. Hens and chicks are a picturesque image, but if keep in mind that if you plan to eat all your eggs, you won’t see that familial scene in your own barnyard.
Want to see what our favorite birds loook like? Check out the Top 5 Laying Chickens page for photos and descriptions of the best layers — and why we picked them.
It is often difficult to find laying hens for sale simply because once people put the effort into raising chicks they are loath to part with their best laying hens. If you don’t want to raise chicks, or want eggs more quickly than the months it takes chicks to mature, it’s best to buy pullets, which are young hens, less than a year old, within a few weeks of laying or have just begun laying. You may find older hens for sale, but they likely won’t lay well and may be best for the stew pot. (See “how can you tell if a hen is old” to learn more.)
When you do find young egg laying hens for sale, the cost will generally be about $8 to $15 each depending on your location and availability. When you first transition the hens to their new home, they may stop laying for a few days or even longer. Thus it is best to buy pullets that have not yet started laying in order to minimize interruptions in their laying cycle.
While all hens lay eggs, there are several top egg-producing chicken breeds to consider when purchasing your laying hens. There is no particular breed that makes the best egg laying chickens for beginners, but some may be more appealing to you based on coloring, egg color, size and other aspects. When choosing breeds of egg laying chickens, don’t be afraid to pick a variety that you like based on its looks—in the end, the chickens you choose are often a matter of preference in addition to practical concerns such as laying statistics.
After acquiring or raising your laying hens, ensure that they have clean, cozy laying boxes in which to nest. Bedding or straw should be put into the boxes and changed when overly soiled. When a hen lays her first egg she might not even realize what’s happening and lay it as she walks along. After a few times, she catches on and will begin to lay in a more regular fashion. You can encourage her by putting a false egg (such as one made of marble or glass) in her nesting area. She will think it must be a safe place to lay an egg, and soon your laying hens will be trained to deposit their eggs in the same spot. But keep an eye out, as some renegade hens like to lay outside the nesting boxes or away from prying eyes – and hands.
Collect new eggs daily to prevent loss due to cracking or even eating by over-zealous or curious chickens. And in case you’ve ever wondered, check out our page about what’s inside a chicken’s egg for piictures and diagrams.