Hybrid chickens will come into lay between 18 - 22 weeks of age. This is called POL, Point of Lay. Pure breed chickens may start a little later that this. An easy way to identify that a chicken is at or reaching this stage is that she has a good sized, red comb which is soft and warm to the touch. Laying hens will also have erect tails. A more technical way is to pick her up and feel for pelvic bones which should be about 5cms or the width of three fingers apart. Her vent should be soft and moist and her abdomen soft and pliable. You can also test the distance from the breast bone and the pelvic bones, which should be four fingers.
Hens may take a day or so searching out a suitable nesting spot. She may visit several sites before choosing one. If a cockerel is present he may suggest and prepare sites himself. The hen may prepare her nest be moving hay or straw with her beak and hollow out the spot. She may sit for a while and then announce that she has laid when infact she hasn’t.
An eggs is formed in about 25 hours. The yolk of the egg is formed in the ovary and when released travels down the oviduct where albumin is added. The eggs is moved down by peristalsis where is receives the shell membrane. It stays in the uterus for about 20 hours where more albumin and calcium is added. The eggs is laid with the small end coming out first. The hen will do this whist standing. The eggshell is porous (perforated with tiny holes) therefore handling eggs with unwashed hands may transmit bacteria into the egg.
A pure breed hen will lay 20 or so eggs, this is called a clutch and then she will stop laying for several days. Available daylight plays an important role in egg production. In January and February a hen will lay every two or three days. In April and May they will lay every day, with one day off a week…her day of rest!!!. In August and September, as the days become shorter and she comes into moult she will lay less and less.