All chicken hens lay eggs, but some will lay more than others. A good laying hen should give you 280+ eggs per year. The Single Comb White Leghorn (SCWL) is the breed used commercially. These hens, however, tend to be nervous and flighty so are not well suited for a cage-free or free-range system. there are a number of alternative breeds that can be used for egg production in alternative production systems as well as backyard poultry flocks. Refer to the selection on chicken breed selection for more information.


The small laying flock (University of Minnesota)

Small-scale egg production (organic and non-organic) (Penn State University)


The level of egg production of a flock is dramatically affected by how the pullets were reared. It is not always possible to get read-to-lay pullets. This means you will need to raise your own pullets from chicks.

Rearing chicks and pullets for the small laying flock (University of Minnesota)


An important aspect of pullet development is the lighting program. The reproductive system of chickens, as with all birds, is responsive to the number of hours of light in a day. Increasing day length (i.e., more hours of light per day as happens in the spring) stimulates them to come into production. This includes both males and females. Conversely, decreasing day length (i.e., less hours of light per day, as happens in the fall) typically results in them going out of production. To allow for year round egg production, it is important to use a lighting program to maintain egg production when natural day length is decreasing.

Lighting for small flocks (University of Maine)

Proper light management for your home laying flock (University of Nebraska)

Lighting programs for backyard egg production (University of Georgia)

Lighting programs for replacement pullets (University of California)

Lighting programs for table egg layers (University of California)


The age at which pullets come into lay depends on the breed and the rearing environment, but is typically around 20 weeks of age. At this time the calcium requirement of the chickens increases dramatically so proper nutrition is very important.

Management requirements for laying flocks (Virginia Tech)

Producing your own eggs (University of New Hampshire)

Evaluating egg laying hens (University of Kentucky)

Egg eating by chickens in small and backyard poultry flocks (eXtension)


It should be possible to keep your laying flock for 12-14 months. If they stop laying you may need to trouble shoot to find out what the problem is. Disease should be considered, but it is typically not the main reason that hens stop laying eggs.

Why have my hens stopped laying? (University of Kentucky)

Molting and other causes of feather loss in small poultry flocks (Kansas State University)

Factors affecting egg production in backyard chicken flocks (University of Florida)

Not all chickens in a flock will be good egg layers. You may need to sort your flock and cull any hens that are not laying.

Evaluating egg-laying hens (University of Kentucky)

Culling hens (Mississippi State University)


Whether you are producing eggs for home consumption or for sale, you want to produce a good quality egg with a clean, strong shell.

Concepts of eggshell quality (University of Florida)

Factors affecting egg quality (Kansas State University)

Egg cleaning procedures for the backyard flock (University of Nebraska)