Hens lay eggs according to age and the length of daylight hours. Much also depends on whether the hen goes broody, or sits on eggs with the intention of hatching chicks. Broody hens lay a clutch of eggs during a period of one to two weeks, sitting on them for three weeks afterward until chicks emerge.
Pullets -- female chickens in their first year of life -- start laying eggs about the age of 5 months. These initial eggs are smaller than those produced by older birds. Hens lay eggs whether or not a rooster is present, although without a rooster the eggs are unfertilized. Young hens usually will lay an egg daily when light is sufficient, with the average about 270 eggs annually. As hens age, production drops, so hens older the age of 2 years might lay an egg just once or twice a week.
In order for hens to lay, they need at least 14 hours of daylight. Hens who laid an egg daily in spring and summer start slowing down as autumn approaches, possibly ceasing to lay at all in the winter months. Under natural conditions, these hens won't lay again until spring. However, you can use artificial lighting in the hen house to fool their bodies into thinking it's time to produce eggs. Put the lights on a timer, so that the extra hours occur in the otherwise dark predawn.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.