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What to Expect When You're Expecting (Eggs from your Backyard Chickens)

The prospect of getting your first eggs from your chickens is exciting. Here's what to expect when you're "eggs"pecting.

It seems like only yesterday that you either hatched your chicks or they arrived from the feed store or in a box through the mail. But it's been almost 4 months and they're getting bigger.

So you might be starting to wonder when you can expect some eggs.

You might wonder what you need to do to prepare for the big day - when you peek into your nesting box and see that first egg from your backyard chickens!

I've been collecting eggs from our backyard chickens for more than ten years AND did it as a kid for years as well, and I can tell you that the magic never wears off!

Every day is like Easter, especially if you have breeds that lay colored eggs. But every egg is a miracle regardless of color.

So when will your pullets start laying and what can you do to help them lay nutritious eggs with nice hard shells? Read on...

What to Expect When You're Expecting (Eggs from your Backyard Chickens)

Chicks, referred to as 'pullets' until they are a year old, will generally begin laying anywhere after week 18 - and usually by week 26 or so.

Some may start as early as week 16, but it's rare.

So What are the Signs you'll be "eggs"pecting soon?

The Submissive Squat 

Just before they start laying, your pullets will start squatting when you approach them. This is a submissive posture they take, usually for a rooster or dominant hen, or you as the alpha hen.

You can expect eggs very soon after they start squatting.

What you Should Do |
 Nothing, this is very normal. You can take advantage of it though and pet your chickens when they do this at your feet!

Checking out the Nesting Areas

You also may notice your soon-to-be-layers checking out the nesting boxes. They might even hop in and get comfortable, trying them on for size, so to speak.

What you Should Do | 
Put some fake eggs in the boxes to show them where they should lay their eggs. Wooden or ceramic eggs, golf balls, plastic Easter eggs or even stones will help entice them to use the boxes.

Be sure your boxes stay full of soft nesting material. Straw, pine shavings, these aspen nesting pads (which I LOVE!) or even cloth or old towels are all good choices. A piece of rubber shelf liner cut to size in the bottom of the box can help prevent broken eggs in case the nesting material is pushed aside.

Munching on the Calcium Supplement

About the same time, you might notice your soon-to-be layers start nibbling on the crushed oyster shell supplement that you should have put out a few weeks before they're due to start laying.

What you Should Do | Once they start laying, you will want to start crushing up their egg shells to feed back to them. You can use this instead of the oyster shell.

The additional calcium should always be fed free-choice in a separate dish (not mixed into the feed) so each can eat as much or as little as they need.

This is also the time you should switch to the layer feed which has a higher calcium level than the grower feed. Laying hens needs lots of calcium to lay eggs with strong eggshells. While layer feed won't 'make' them lay, it does provide them all the nutrients they need to lay healthy eggs with strong shells.

So How Many Eggs Will a Chicken Lay?

No chicken lays an egg every day, although a world record-laying hen, an Australorp, did lay 364 eggs in 365 days, but the norm for most breeds is somewhere in the 200-300 eggs/year range so there is no need to worry if your hens skip a day or two here or there.

Normally you should expect 4-6 eggs per hen per week, depending on the breed and time of year.

Many factors can affect egg production, so you want to provide your hens good-quality layer feed, a calcium supplement, fresh water and a clean, safe place to spend their days and nights for maximum production.

After she lays her egg, the hen will sing her 'egg song'. She seems to either be letting everyone know of her accomplishment or (which I believe) she is making a commotion to lure any potential predators away from the nest. Either way, be prepared for lots of celebratory cackling soon from the coop!

With just a few simple preparations, you should be enjoying fresh backyard eggs any day now. And trust me, the magical feeling never goes away.

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