How Many Eggs Does a Hen Lay?
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A hen will lay an average of one egg per day once they reach maturity. Although first domesticated in Asia, chickens are a core livestock animal in most cultures globally. Even in communities where their meat is not regularly consumed, chicken eggs are a staple food in the diet of most cultures. This is partly due to their versatility with hen eggs being eaten either as the main ingredient or as an important component ingredient in a wide range of dishes. Unfortunately, such ubiquity means there is an incredible demand for this product. Some hens have more freedom in free-range environments, while others are kept in battery cages. However, they are becoming a more common companion animal for individuals who can take advantage of their egg laying ability.
At AnimalWised, we ask how many eggs does a hen lay? This question can be answered by looking at how many eggs a hen lays per day, month, week or even year. We also look at how a hen is reared and housed will affect egg production.
How many eggs does a hen lay a day?
A hen is an adult female chicken which reaches maturity at approximately five months of age. As soon as she reaches this point, she is able to lay eggs. What we consider to be chicken eggs are usually unfertilized gametes of the female. These are in the form of a yolk and albumen contained within a hardened shell. Only if the hen has mated with a rooster can an egg be fertilized and a chick be developed.
Healthy hens will lay an egg almost every day. During these 24 hour periods, the sun will complete one cycle where it provides and then removes light from the environment. This light has an effect on the hen's reproductive cycle, although the extent of this effect is not fully understood. This has led some farmers to try to change lighting to increase egg production, but there is potential for this to threaten the hen's wellbeing.
A healthy hen is one which not only shows no sign of illness, but which has been well fed and maintained. Proper nutrition is essential for the hen to be able to lay eggs daily. This is not only for the egg to be laid, but also to ensure it is well formed and without any anomalies such as a soft shell.
Daily egg production in chickens is common in sexually mature hens during their peak reproductive period. However, this period does not remain constant throughout their lives. As the hen ages, egg production and frequency decreases. There are other factors which determine how many eggs a hen will lay in a day. Breed is an important influence, as is the time of year, especially during the molting season.
You can learn more about how chickens lay eggs, mating between sexes and how chicks are born with our guide to how chickens reproduce.
How many eggs does a hen lay per week?
If we have said that the usual thing for an adult, healthy and well-fed hen is that she is capable of laying one egg a day. While this infers she will lay a total of 7 eggs er week, the average is affected the factors we have already detailed. This makes the average number of eggs a hen will lay during a given week to be between 4-6 eggs.
The egg is the ovum of the hen, so laying takes place without the need for the hen to live with a rooster. The difference that a rooster would have is that the eggs could be fertilized. If this occurs, then it is possible for the egg to be fertilized. When this occurs, the embryo within the eggshell will start to develop and we will not have the same yolk and albumen we expect in an unfertilized egg.
It is safe to eat fertilized eggs. In some countries, various delicacies are made with this type of hen egg. However, they will not have the same properties due to the presence of a developing embryo.
Learn more about this issue with our article on the differences between roosters and hens.
How many eggs does a hen lay per month?
Now that we have explained egg production per day, we know that a hen lays an average of one egg per day. Due to the number of days in each month, we might determine that a hen lays between 28-31 eggs per month. However, there are other factors at play. For this reason, the real average of eggs laid per month by a hen is usually between 15-25 eggs, although it will likely be higher during the peak laying period.
The reason for this discrepancy in egg production is due to interruptions in their cycle. These interruptions can be due to environmental conditions, particularly the amount of sunlight available to the animal. In general, egg production is reduced during the coldest months of the year. With less sunlight, chickens will lay less eggs during darker days of the year.
With this in mind, we can say that egg production will be concentrated during the spring and summer months in the northern hemisphere. Outside of this period, there will not be enough light for egg production. Despite a need for light, it should be noted that egg production can also be hindered during prolonged periods of intense heat.
How many eggs does a hen lay per year?
As egg laying slows during the colder seasons, we should know that hens will not lay 365 eggs per year. This is despite a hen averaging an egg laid per day during optimal conditions. As we have stated, egg laying in the northern hemisphere is focused during spring and summer. This consists of about 6 months out of the year. This will depend a lot on the weather.
With these data taken into consideration and the determining factors on egg production, we can say the average egg yield of a hen is 250-300 eggs per year. The upper limit of this average will likely only occur during annual periods where the conditions are optimal. It is very important to remember that these conditions are not only climactic, but the level of care the hens receive is also of vital importance.
Egg production in free-range chickens
Another important factor in terms of egg production is whether the hen is free range. Hens and chickens are raised in environments of varying quality. Some chicken farms provide conditions which are so poor, they can be considered abuse of the animal. This is the case with battery-farmed chickens which are often kept in cramped, overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. These conditions are often created to increase egg production.
Free-range chickens are those which are allowed a certain amount of time in an outdoor space. In this space, they can carry out their normal chicken behaviors such as scratching, pecking and foraging. This access should be granted during the daylight hours. They will also need to have access to shelter during the night, as well as during periods of inclement weather.
This appropriate management will best ensure the health and well-being of the chicken, allowing them to avoid disease and other issues which can affect egg production. However, this does not mean that free-range chickens will necessarily lay more eggs than battery-farmed or caged hens on average. It does mean their viability usually lasts longer and they will have less exposure to issues such as stress which can result in fewer eggs being laid.
Learn more about how to best care for domestic chickens with our article on what food is forbidden for chickens.
If you want to read similar articles to How Many Eggs Does a Hen Lay?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
1. Baxter, M., & Bédécarrats, G. Y. (2019). Evaluation of the Impact of Light Source on Reproductive Parameters in Laying Hens Housed in Individual Cages. The journal of poultry science, 56(2), 148–158. https://doi.org/10.2141/jpsa.0180054