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.
You might be wondering why you've heard that chickens stop laying due to age after a year or two when that's not strictly true. You've likely heard that simply because factory farms usually slaughter their layers at a year or two old or so. And it's not because they STOP laying, it's because those girls might lay a couple fewer eggs a week.
Laying one or two fewer eggs just isn't usually important in backyard terms, even if you don't regard your hens as pets, but a commercial entity, a factory farm, sees "financial sense" in killing their all their one or two year olds and bringing in fresh chattel. Those poor birds, even "free range" commercial hens, may never have seen a blade of grass in their short lives!
However, keeping hens in your backyard isn't really a good way to save loads of money on eggs. Factory farms buy food in bulk at much lower prices than you can when you're only buying five or 25 pounds at a time, and factory farms keep their chickens in tiny areas so they don't have to use much space. Factory farms don't even provide nest boxes for their birds, so the poor hens are forced to lay out in the open, which is distressing to them. Even "free range" factory hens are simply crowded onto the floor of a big warehouse. A factory farm is about money, while a backyard flock is about the beauty of the hens, the healthier eggs and the affection and entertainment chickens provide. Even if it does not save you money on eggs due to the horrific conditions factory farms are permitted in order to sell cheap eggs, it is still inexpensive to keep backyard hens, and it is rewarding. If you keep hens at home, you will have the best-tasting, healthiest eggs you can find anywhere. Plus, chickens are fun--they're bright, affectionate creatures that are wonderful to watch and keep as pets.
Read about how much healthier eggs are when they're laid by hens with access to pasture.
Keeping hens in the backyard is becoming more and more popular, and we sincerely hope it will reduce dependence on factory-farmed birds.