By Dr. J. C. Hermes
Extension Poultry Specialist, Oregon State University
Egg production is a remarkable thing. A pullet (young female chicken) begins laying eggs at 18 to 20 weeks of age. She reaches peak production at about 35 weeks, with a production rate greater than 90 percent (that’s 9 eggs in 10 days for a single hen or 9 eggs from 10 birds daily). This period of peak production lasts about 10 weeks, after which her egg production slowly begins to decline.
A high-producing hen’s annual egg production is more than 10 times her body weight. The average commercial Single Comb White Leghorn hen lays about 265 eggs per year, with backyard breeds laying fewer. In most cases, the more exotic the breed, the poorer the egg production.
Hens stop laying eggs for a variety of reasons. External or internal stimuli affect hormone levels, which change the condition of the ovary and oviduct, the organs responsible for egg production. The result of these changes is the reduction or cessation of egg production. The most common stimuli that affect egg production are decreasing day length, disease, broodiness, poor nutrition, and stress. However, even under ideal conditions, every hen’s egg production eventually slows down and stops.
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