Chickens lay eggs

(MEDFORD OR 97504)


Chickens lay eggs: How old do they have to be before they lay eggs?

What temp do they need to be when they are babies? Is it best to get them in pairs? Do they have 4h projects?

These are great questions, Benjamin!

a) and average age for chickens to begin laying is about 6 months old. Some breeds grow and mature more quickly than others.

b) Week old chicks should be kept at 90 –95 degrees. Keep the brooder thermometer at their level near the light to be sure. Each week the temperature can be lowered 5 to 10 degrees.

They will let you know if they are too cold by peeping loudly and getting weak. By a 6 weeks of age they can handle 70 degrees and will be much bigger with more adult looking feathers.

They aren’t ready to go out side unless you have a heat lamp for them there.

c) Yes, getting pairs is better than just one. Chickens naturally like being around other chickens their age.

Older ones can beat up on younger ones, so it’s best to start with the total number you want at the beginning.

D) I’m sure there are 4H groups in your area. I used to live in Oregon and had a good friend that showed chickens he raised when he was a boy.

Have fun with your chicks and take good care of them! Thanks for writing.

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Salmonella Infected Eggs

by Wai-Pan Chan
(Castro Valley, CA, USA)

How does a salmonella infected chicken produce salmonella infected eggs?
Does the chicken's immune system work against salmonella?
How does salmonella survive inside the chicken? How does it get into the chicken? How does it get into the chicken's reproductive system?

These are all very good questions. First off, there are many different strands of salmonella. Let's start with how they infect chickens in the first place.

This bacteria lives on feces and is beleived to predominately have began with mice and certain insects. So when you have mice that leave fecal matter, you have insects that crawl on it, then you have chickens that peck at said insects or feces. So as a chicken owner your first line of defense is cleanliness within the coop.

Now for the egg question. When a hen contracts the bacteria it usually lives within their intestines, which means that their fecal matter is infected. This causes the continued spread to the other birds. With certain strands of the virus though, it can become blood born, which means that it does not only stay in the intestines, but is spread throughout the body with the bloodstream. In these cases, the reproductive system, including eggs are infected. That means that eggs you eat, or new chicks will carry the bacteria.

Many commercial chickens that you get from the store contain salmonella bacteria. Most of the time, birds are mildly sick when they contain the bacteria. That is why there is such strict standards that need to be adhered to with chicken that you buy in the store, such as cooking to a temperature of 165 degrees internally, washing your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat, etc.

I'm not a disease expert, but these are in general the things that I have learned through scientific articles. I hope this answers you questions.

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Red is sick

by Elsa
(San Diego CA)

Red is sick: I have six hens one of them has a very soft lump near her rear end she walks like penguin. She is about 2 years old.

This sounds like a condition called “egg yolk peritonitis”. This is not contagious, but an internal infection caused by an egg yolk passing into the wrong part of her body and causing problems.

This is a common problem in “production bred” hens and often happens at this age. Sadly, some of the most common laying breeds have been designed for short productive lives.

In order to get the most out of a hen in the shortest amount of time, genetic programming, through selective breeding, has created chickens that “lay out” (meaning: laid all the eggs they can) at 2 – 3 years of age, and general health declines at that time too.

It can be possible to treat the infection, but it’s highly likely she will not recover her good health again.

We receive quite a few questions about hens with this condition and I just had my first experience with a production bred hen in my flock.

I’ve kept chickens of different varieties for many years, and never seen the condition before.

I prefer Heritage breeds which live longer, productive and healthy lives, so just hadn’t seen this before.

If she is a “Production Red” this is most likely the problem. The only solution I know of is to avoid production bred hens and purchase chicks or adults from Heritage blood lines.

This will allow you to enjoy your chickens and their eggs longer, 5 – 7 years, before having to replace your flock.

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How many chickens do I need for eggs?

by Demiaeon
(Suburbs )

How many chickens do I need for eggs? My husband and I were thinking we would like to raise a chicken for eggs, but I don't know very much about it.

We live in a suburban house with a backyard, so I think there's plenty of room.

There's only two of us though (we don't need eggs for a large family or anything), so I thought just one chicken would be enough.

But everything I read online describes care instructions for four or more chickens. I've read that four chickens can produce about two dozen eggs per week! We don't need NEARLY that many.

Am I missing something? Is it possible to just have one chicken for eggs, or do they need friends for some reason?

Thank you for any information you might be able to provide about this - and for any tips on raising a chicken for the first time!


You have numerous options when it comes to getting chicken(s) for eggs. Most people recommend getting more than one because chickens are very social creatures.

They will do better with a buddy. The cost is not going to be that much more whether you have one or three. I would recommend getting at least two and probably three.

What kind of chickens you get will also determine your frequency and size of egg.

Check out our chicken breeds and poultry breeds pages for information about egg size and color for each breed.

If you go with a bantam chicken, which lays a small egg it may be about the right amount for you and your husband.

If you go with a standard size chicken you may have too many eggs, but your neighbors and friends will love you for it!

The first step would be to invest in a place to keep them. A chicken tractor like the one on our chicken tractor pages should be perfect for your backyard.

It is portable and will even help to fertilize and beautify your lawn as you move it around.

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Double yolk egg

by Ronald Stanberry
(United States)

What happens when you hatch a double yolk egg?
My partner was trying for a two headed chick but all we hatched was a three legged chick.

I told him to quit "Frankstiening" Chicks and just hatch the ones we can sell. The 3 legged chick we are giving to Oklahoma State University.

This chicken being a pet may be stressed due to your absence. I have worked a lot with exotic pet birds that can get very upset with changes in their routine and begin self mutilating their feathers.

There is this possibility that your chicken just misses you. There are other reasons, like the possibility of parasites creating skin irritations, or other general unwellness. Chickens do groom their feathers daily and remove dead feathers due to be replaced.

I’m not familiar with the cycle of seasons where you live in the US, but a spring molt is not unusual, especially if the temperatures are warming up.

I’m not sure what you can do about this from Italy. If you are deeply concerned about this chicken’s wellness, possibly your housekeeper could take her to the vet, to help set your mind at ease, get an accurate diagnosis and recommendation for any needed treatment.

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Lines in my eggs

by Bob Duncan
(Butler PA)

Lines in my eggs: I have several different breeds of chickens in my small flock. I had one over weight chicken died in the heat.

She laid eggs with lines in the shells. Now some of my other chickens are starting to do so. The shell seems to be of the correct thickness but more than one seems to be doing it.

Lines in the eggs can be caused by small fractures created while the eggs move through the oviduct.

During the shell coating process, fractures are sealed over with calcium and minerals. If you have a rooster with your hens, his weight when mounting them to breed, may cause these irregularities in shell textures.

I doubt that lines in the shells of the hen that died had anything to do with her death. But it’s very good to be observant of things like this.

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Chicken eggs

by Larry

How long can chicken eggs stay out before they need to be refrigerated?

The sooner they are refrigerated the fresher they will stay. If your chickens are hiding eggs and laying in places other than their nests, it could be days before you find them. When I find eggs I’m uncertain about, I put them in a bowl of water.

Fresh eggs will sink and less fresh eggs will float. As eggs age they lose water content and the air pocket inside becomes bigger, so they float.

Collecting eggs, washing or rinsing them, each day, by the time the chickens go to roost, is the best practice.

The warmer the weather, the less fresh they will be by the end of the day and the quicker they will spoil if left unrefrigerated.

Hens will often lay many eggs before they decide to sit and incubate them. This can take a week or more and the first eggs are still good, able to be hatched and good to eat.

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Chicken with swollen stomach

by Mick

Chicken with swollen stomach: The bird is a Hybrid layer (red Hen) and is about 2 years old. It is fed layers pellets and is with 8 others.

All are free range and have been together for almost 2 years. The symptoms are there for almost 2 weeks The bird is not moving much just sitting.

She is not roosting at night. Her feathers are OK but she has a very swollen stomach.

There is a disorder that happens with production hens that could be the problem. Their egg follicles stray into the abdomen, intead of the oviduct, and cause an infection called: Egg Yolk Peritonitis.

This causes fluids to build and is usually accompanied by failure to lay and failure to thrive.

Sadly, short of surgery, which may not cure the problem, there will be no relief for her. Most likely she will be unable to get herself to food and water.

You can baby her and try to help, but without costly medical treatment, you will probably just be prolonging her suffering.

I’m guessing at this, based on the clues you’ve given me here. For the best diagnosis you would want to have her checked over by a veterinarian.

This is not a contagious disease, but a physical problem that arises as some hens reach the end of their good production and health.

Often this problem occurs at about 2 years of age.

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Lethargic Ex-Battery Chicken

by Ali

Lethargic ex-battery chicken: We have an ex-battery chicken - think approx 2yrs old who over last week or so has been off color.

Seems to be sitting much more than usual and sleepy, eating and drinking but less than usual - not sure if laying but think not, feathers look good - no signs of lice/mites seen, droppings are okay -some more watery last week, eyes look bright and comb not changed, she does seem to be waddling a bit when walking and slower than usual.

Have 2 other hens - all got together 1yr ago and they seem fine.

She may have a problem called Egg Peritonitis. This is an internal infection caused by egg follicles traveling into the abdomen instead of the oviduct.

The only solution is surgery and possibly repeated draining of excess fluids building up inside her.

Other than expensive medical intervention and possibly “spaying” her to prevent this from happening again, she will get worse and most likely die.

There may be some help with antibiotics, but no guarantees. This is a common problem with chicken breeds used in factory type egg production. 2 – 3 years is often their maximum healthy life expectancy.

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Walk like penguin

by Elsa
(San Diego CA)

Walk like penguin: I have a Rhode Island she walks like penguin and has swollen soft belly. She is two years old.

This sounds like she has developed “egg yolk peritonitis” and internal infection caused by one or more of her egg yolk follicles failing to move into the oviduct normally.

This becomes an infection and the immune system responds with the fluids that swell her belly. She is probably a Production Red, meaning she has come to the end of her productive life.

Production bred hens average 2 – 3 years of productive healthy life. You can treat this infection with antibiotics, which can help, but a surgical draining of the fluids would probably be necessary.

It’s probably the build up of fluids filling her abdomen causing her “penguin” walk. Veterinary treatment is usually costly and not able to solve this problem long term.

If this is the problem, even with the best medical care, she may not be able to return to good health.

The articles I’ve read about this problem recommend putting a hen in this condition out of her misery. So sorry to bear this news.

There is the possibility her condition is different, only veterinary diagnosis, after hands on exam could tell you for sure.

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Chicken swollen abdomen

by Ingrid

Chicken swollen abdomen: What would cause our hen's abdomen to swell, have diarrhea and her feathers to fade? She is also fatigued.

Feathers will fade as they age and are exposed to the sun. A chicken in poor health may not be able to molt and grow new feathers when needed.

The swelling in her abdomen could be a problem called Egg Yolk Peritonitis. The most common symptom of this is water retention in the abdomen caused by an infection.

This can affect production bred hens at about 2 year of age. Sadly it’s caused by malfunctions in her body’s production of eggs, which can be fatal.

The egg follicles released by her ovaries may not be entering the oviduct and straying into the abdomen, causing the infection.

Antibiotics may help, but a hen in this condition is often at the end of her healthy laying life, and the problem may just repeat.

If Egg Yolk Peritonitis is the problem, surgery would be needed to correct it, probably costing hundreds of dollars.

I can’t be sure this is the problem, but from what you have said, it very well could be.

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