If you are planning on getting chickens with the hopes of fresh eggs, it is important to understand how egg laying works. One common misconception with eggs is that they are always fertilized and will develop and hatch into a chick. The commercial eggs at the stores have never been introduced to a rooster. You do not have to have a rooster for your hens to lay eggs. Of course if you plan on raising chicks, roosters are necessary for fertilization. As long as your hens are healthy, they will begin to lay eggs at the mature age of 4 to 5 months depending on the breed.
If you watch your chickens daily, you will notice a change in their behavior before they lay their first egg. Hens will want to spend more time with the rooster if you have one and they will crouch for breeding whether you have roosters or not. They will also spend a lot of time picking out a place to lay their eggs. Ideally you want to train them to lay eggs in their nesting boxes. Nesting boxes are the ideal place you want your hens to lay eggs. Without your guidance, hens will pick a random place to lay eggs that might not be safe or ideal, especially for egg collecting.
You need 1 square foot nesting box for every 4 to 6 hens. These boxes need to be at least a few inches off the ground, in the darkest corner of the coop, and kept clean. Nesting boxes should be lined with straw, pine bedding, or something similar to keep the eggs safe and the hen comfortable. Make sure you have enough roosting areas for your hens or they will use the boxes to roost and will get them very dirty. Chickens will lay all their eggs in the same location so it is best to get them to lay their first egg in the nesting box. If you have multiple hens, try to encourage them to use different boxes so they do not fight or break each other’s eggs. Train hens to lay eggs in the boxes when they are getting ready to lay their first eggs by putting a fake egg or golf ball in the nesting box, this will show the hen that the nest is a safe place to lay eggs.