What I've Learned about Backyard Egg Production

We started raising hens to save money on eggs and know that our eggs were healthy. We didn't get hens so we could have pretty blue or green eggs. Or so we could have pets (although, as it turns out, we are fond of our hens). So getting great egg production out of our chickens is a high priority for me. Over the years, I've learned a thing or two about said egg production. Including:

1. It's important to choose breeds based on productivity. The hens you select to raise should lay, on average, an egg a day. I know it's tempting to choose some hens based on their looks, or the color of eggs they lay, but if productivity and saving money are important to you, these should be secondary concerns. (Check out this chicken breed chart to determine which breeds are the best layers.)

2. Hens aren't egg laying machines. They won't lay at all until they are mature enough. Then they will stop laying while molting, and their egg production naturally slows or stops during winter.
Courtesy Raketenpilot and Wikimedia Commons.

3. Adding winter light to the coop increases productivity.
But it has it's down sides...namely, the risk of fire and the reduction of the hen's egg laying life. That's right; hens will only lay so many eggs during their lifetime. And while the average hen lays well through her second year of life, if you force her body to produce eggs in the winter, her productive years will be reduced.

4. Choosing breeds that lay better in the winter is a good idea. This is why I originally chose Australorps. But again, hens that naturally lay more in winter will slow down their laying before the two year mark. (For more on good winter layers, click here.)

So as a homesteader, you need to choose what's most important to you. Do you want more eggs in a shorter amount of time? Or do you want the hens to lay well for a little longer period of time, allowing them to follow their bodies' natural no-laying periods?

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