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Q: How long do hens lay eggs ?

A:

Chickens usually don't simply "stop" laying eggs when they get to a certain age, but they will lay fewer as they get older. That said, most laying breeds will lay more or less productively in backyard terms for five or seven years. (We know of one ancient Buff Orpington cross who still lays an egg occasionally at 17 years old!)

There are a number of reasons your chickens might not be laying, so if you suspect there's something more to it than age, have a look at this list of other possible reasons your chickens aren't laying.

Debunking the 2-year myth

You might have heard that chickens stop laying after two years, and that's because egg farms usually only keep their layers for one to two years, not because they STOP laying, but because those girls might lay a couple fewer eggs a week. But for you, that doesn't matter too much, right? Laying one or two fewer eggs per week isn't usually important for hobbyists.

Is your hen pooped out?
This hen has stopped laying

How can you tell if your hen isn't laying?

If you have a mixed-age flock, it may be tough to tell which birds are still laying and which aren't. Here are a few signs that you have a hen who isn't laying:

  • Her combs and wattles have faded. An active layer will have deeply pigmented combs and wattles.
  • Her legs have lots of pigment. The legs of a good layer may also be paler or "bleached" (in brown egg laying breeds with yellow legs).
  • Her feather condition is fabulous. Hens who are good layers may also have broken feathers, simply because their bodies may put fewer resources into their plumage.
If you have a younger bird with these symptoms, you'll want to review our Why Your Chickens Aren't Laying overview.