When is a pullet ready to lay eggs?

Red hens free ranging on grass

What is a point of lay (POL) or a started pullet?

A started pullet or Point Of Lay Pullet is a term used to describe a young hen that is at least 19 weeks old and about to start laying eggs. It is more of a commercial term used to describe hybrids that are put into laying sheds.

These birds are usually fully grown and the combs and wattles are beginning to redden and develop. The term Point Of Lay is a little vague because it is  breed and rearing condition dependant.

When will my pullets begin to lay their first eggs?

As long as your pullets have been well fed and looked after they will begin to lay eggs sometimes between the age of 19 and 24 weeks of age. Pullets raised later in the year when days are shorter will take longer to come into lay.

Hybrid chickens begin to lay eggs between 20 and 22 weeks of age and heritage breeds will start producing eggs from 28 weeks of age. Eggs will be small to begin with but will get larger in time.

Below: Every chicken keeper wants to know when they will get a nest full of eggs.

It depends on the time of year as well as chickens that mature in the shortening days of fall might not start laying until the following season.

How do you know when a pullet is about to lay?

Chickens have some characteristic behaviours that begin to show before laying their first eggs.

The signs that a chicken is going to start laying eggs include:

  • Squatting in the nests. Hens that are about to lay eggs often enter the nests and settle for a few minutes before getting out again.
  • Combs and wattles getting bigger and redder. Young female chickens develop more slowly and as she matures and the hormone levels rise, her comb, wattles, and face will change from light pinkish red to brighter, deep red colour. They will also grow in size.
  • The pelvic bones separate as the bird matures to allow eggs to pass. If you hold your hen carefully and put your hand between it's legs, you can feel 3 distinct bones with a three finger gap in between. If all you feel is a solid bone with no gaps, the hen is not ready to lay for a few more weeks.
  • Crouching when you approach. Young pullets often crouch for their keepers as they would do for a cockerel trying to mount them.
  • Cockerels getting interested in the hens is a sign they are about to begin to start producing eggs.
  • Increased feeding. As a pullets egg producing systems get going she will need to eat almost twice as much and your feed bill will go up.
  • There are a few other ways to tell if a chicken is laying eggs, they hang around the nest for a hour or so in the mornings rather than wandering off to free range and you may well hear the egg song from laying hens, although not all sing when they lay.

When do chickens start laying eggs by breed?

The exact age a chicken will start laying eggs is breed dependant to some extent.

Breed or typeAge of first eggs
Red sex linked hybrid20 weeks
 Heritage breeds28 weeks
 Silkies40 weeks
 Bantams26 weeks
 Rhode Island reds22 weeks
Broiler fowl22 weeks
Jersey Giants36 weeks
 Barnevelders20 weeks
Orpingtons36 weeks

Hens raised in the shortening days of Fall may take 6  or 8 weeks longer to come into lay because they are so dependant on day length.