The hen's age. Some hybrid pullets can start laying as early as 17 weeks, while some heritage breeds can take more than 26 weeks to mature and start laying. Our Olive Egger and Easter Egger didn’t start laying until about 9 months, although they may have started earlier if we have provided alternate lighting through the winter.
The season. The peak season for laying is during the summer. During the fall and winter egg production can drastically decrease and even stop due to a lack of light and/or molting. It’s important to remember that while some breeds continue to lay naturally over the winter, others may need to be tricked into laying.
No. You're hens will produce eggs whether or not you have a rooster. The only time you need a rooster is if you are looking for fertilized eggs in the hopes getting baby chicks.
Molting is a natural and necessary process by which your hens will lose their old, broken and worn out feathers for new plumage. Some of the most common triggers for this are a reduction in daylight hours, stress caused by lack of water, malnutrition or extreme heat and hatching a clutch of eggs.
It is important to remember that feathers are 80-85% protein and eggs are around 13% protein. As a result, your hen’s body has to make a choice to put the protein toward molting or laying. There is simply not enough for both. The end result is that you will see either a significant reduction in egg productivity or, more commonly, a full hiatus from egg laying until the feathers are fully replaced.
Chicks are the cheapest to buy at $2.00-5.00/each, but remember that chicks require special care and equipment. There is also no guarantee on the sex of the chick and you will have to wait anywhere from 4-8 months for eggs. Some hatcheries will offer chick’s that are vaccinated against Mereck’s disease at additional cost. Although Mereck’s is a contagious and fatal disease, there is disagreement as to whether isolated backyard flocks need this vaccination. This is a decision that you have to make for yourself.
Ready-to-lay Pullets are the teenagers of the chicken world.. They tend to vary from in price from $5.00-$40.00, depending on breed. With these birds, eggs will generally arrive within a month and you have a far a better chance avoiding roosters.
Laying Hens can cost anywhere from $5.00-$50.00 depending on age and breed. They are wonderful in that they are laying when you get them, but they will, therefore, have a shorter laying time for you overall. On the up side, you pretty much have a guarantee of no roosters.