Your First Eggs: An Egg-citing Time

Getting your first eggs is one of the most fun and rewarding parts about raising chickens. From the moment you open the doors to your nesting boxes to storing your first eggs for later use, our extensive guide takes you through the moments leading up to your first eggs and beyond.

chick with foot on egg next to pile of eggs

Signs Your First Eggs Are Coming

hand holding different colored eggs with chickens nearby

Come week 15-17, you’ll start to notice a change in your bird’s behavior signaling it’s almost ready to lay its first eggs. Your pullet’s wattles, combs, and vent will transform from a pale pink to a dark red color. The redness and swelling indicates your bird is preparing to lay eggs.

Your birds may give their nesting boxes a test by hopping. Birds may scamper around their boxes, peek inside, scratch at the bedding, and generally become curious about its nesting quarters. Some pullets may even practice sitting in their nesting box.

Chickens do a submissive squat to place themselves in a mating position. In lieu of a rooster, your birds may do this in your presence. Apart from its mating function, squatting acts as a defensive mechanism to protect the pullet’s underbelly.

Which Breeds Produce Which Color Eggs?

Breed Catalog

Feed For Laying

hen eating scratch

Chicks start off with a complete starter-grower feed for the first 18 weeks of their life. At around week 18, your pullet’s nutritional needs will change. At this point, it’s time to switch from your complete starter-grower feed to a complete layer feed. Complete layer feed contains all the essential nutrients for healthy pullet growth and egg development.


Unlike starter-grower feed, layer feed has extra calcium to help create the strong eggshells. Layer feed contains about 16% protein and 2.35-4.5% calcium. Hens need 4 grams of calcium per day to produce a single eggshell. Calcium deficiency could affect egg quality, production, and your bird’s skeletal structure.

Placing some calcium supplement in the form of crushed oyster shell or limestone in a separate dish in the run can help your birds make strong and thick eggshells. Placing it in a second dish allows your birds to take as much or as little as they need.

Eggshells can take about 20 hours to fully form. Purina’s premium and organic Complete Layer Feeds (pellets and crumbles) include an Oyster Strong System for continuous calcium release.


Specialty formulated supplements with extra Omega-3 can go on top of your birds’ feed for an extra boost in healthy fatty acids in eggs. Some owners feed their birds flaxseed, which is a good source for linolenic acid, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid.

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How to Prevent Egg Breakage

hen looking at eggs in a nest

Ceramic eggs are, sometimes, used to show birds where they should lay their eggs. When egg-laying is in full swing, however, some hens may develop the bad habit of picking at and eating eggs. Using an artificial egg, made from ceramic, wood, or another hard material, can discourage your birds from breaking any more eggs.

Ideally, you want to collect your eggs frequently (up to two or three times a day). Picking up the eggs discourages hens from getting any bright ideas. Egg breakage can also be due to poor nutrition. If your bird isn’t getting enough protein and calcium, the eggshell may be weak and be vulnerable to breakage.

Finally, make sure to keep your nesting box full of bedding material. Owners use straw, pine shavings, and other bedding materials to encourage nesting. If you’re really concerned about breakage, place a rubber shelf liner cut to size at the bottom of your nesting box in case the nesting material is moved out of the way.

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Egg Baskets

Eggs in a basket

Egg-laying season is a wonderful time, but there are a few considerations you should keep in mind to make your egg collection a breeze. A small flock of hens can produce enough eggs that you can hold with one or two hands. However, this method may prove a bit unwieldy for some. For maximum egg protection, an egg basket can make egg collection so much easier.

Egg baskets make it easier to transport a small or large number of eggs from the nesting box to your kitchen. Some egg baskets are made from heavy-duty coated wire. This helps prevent corrosion over time. That means you can wash your eggs (if needed) in the container and leave them there to dry until you’re ready to use or store them.

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Small Eggs at First?

Close up of two eggs

Hens need about 14 to 16 hours of daylight and eight hours of darkness, as well as proper nutrition to produce healthy eggs. When your bird starts laying eggs and their color can depend on the type of breed you have. Backyard chickens commonly produce eggs in blue, pink, and green colors.

At first, you may notice your pullet lay small and irregular eggs. Its first eggs may be super small (between 25 and 40 grams). Some may have weak shells, no yolks, or two yolks. After about a week, your pullet’s egg production will become more consistent. At about 30 weeks, your birds’ egg production should be at its peak.

Your birds’ eggs will gradually increase in size as it ages. Chickens are most productive during the spring and summer months. During the fall, they will undergo a molting period and take a vacation from laying eggs. During the winter, the limited daylight can slow down your birds’ egg production.

As egg production decreases during the winter months, some owners may provide supplemental lighting to continue to egg performance.  Others may let their birds take a break to come fully rested for eggs in the spring. If you’re going for the extra light, all you need is about 25-watts of incandescent, fluorescent, or LED light per 100 square feet.

Chickens are most productive during the first two to three years of their life. Your birds can produce between 200 and 300 eggs per year. Your hens may skip a day or two on occasion. Overall Hens can lay eggs for the first five or six years of their lives. After that time, they may approach retirement age where their egg laying becomes sporadic and stops.

Safe Handling of Eggs

Eggs in a carton

Eggs have a protective layer called a cuticle or bloom that keep bacteria out. Its natural and protective layer means you don’t have to wash your eggs. You can keep them right on your countertop at room temperature. Fresh eggs can be used within a few days.

If you do need to clean some dirt from your egg, you should rinse the egg under warm water. Cold water can cause the inside of the egg to shrink and make it vulnerable to bacteria absorption. Once you’ve rinsed your eggs, dry them as quickly as possible with a soft cloth.

After collecting your eggs, you can put them in egg cartons (label with the collection date) and keep them in the refrigerator. Refrigerated eggs can last up to 30 days. If you store them in your refrigerator, put them on a shelf not the door. The jostling of opening and closing the door can cause them to break.

Not sure if your egg is fresh? Drop it in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs will sink to the bottom, while bad eggs will float to the top. Semi-fresh can remain in the middle. Air pockets inside the egg increase as it gets older.

Not sure if your egg is raw or hard-boiled? Spin it. A wobbly egg is raw, while an egg that spins evenly is hard-boiled. Waiting a couple of weeks after collecting your eggs can weaken the membrane on it making it easier to peel hard-boiled eggs.

Successful egg production depends on many factors. From giving your birds premium layer feed and supplements to giving them a clean and safe space to play and sleep. Every aspect of your birds’ environment affects its performance. Tending to your flock of hens is easier if you follow our tips for healthy egg production.