Most hens lay between 200-250 eggs annually, with the best layers averaging 250-280 eggs per year. Optimal laying breeds include Plymouth Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red, which lay up to 300 eggs annually. All hens are the most productive during the first three years of their life.
Laying the First Egg
Typically, hens lay their first egg between 18-30 weeks old. The first few eggs are often smaller, have a thin, papery shell, and no yolk. As the hen matures, the egg size will even out.
Hens temporarily stop laying around eighteen months for their first molting but resume laying shortly after that.
Each year, egg production will go down. While production will decline steadily (a ten-year-old hen will only lay 20% the number of eggs she laid in her first year of life), the average life expectancy of a chicken is 8-10 years.
What Happens When Hens Lay Eggs?
Egg laying is not a quiet affair! Hens have an initial nesting call when they first start laying, which is when the flock rooster starts squawking. Typically, once one hen begins laying, others join her. After laying, a hen makes her laying cackle, consisting of short, sharp chatter, signaling the egg is ready for picking.
What Happens if an Egg isn't Picked?
If an egg isn't picked, it could get broken, and chickens will eat the egg. Alternatively, a hen may begin brooding and become protective of the egg. Once a chicken starts brooding, you won't be able to pick the egg, and the hen will stop laying while she hatches her nest.
We harvest eggs at least twice daily to ensure hens don't begin brooding. This also ensures that eggs are refrigerated within a few hours of laying.
Do Eggs Need to be Refrigerated Immediately?
Farm fresh eggs don't need to be refrigerated because they are covered in bloom to stay clean. Bloom seals pores in the egg to reduce moisture loss and minimize infection risk. However, eggs are no longer safe at room temperature once washed, which is why commercial eggs must always be refrigerated.
Our Mountain High Farm eggs are refrigerated after picking to minimize risk and extend the freshness of the eggs. Once chilled, eggs must stay refrigerated, or they could sweat when returned to room temperature, exposing the egg to potential bacteria.