Canberra Backyard Poultry

Pullets and hens

“Pullets” refers to female chickens less than a year old, “hens” females a year and over.  The pullet year is the most productive year for laying eggs, after this egg laying declines though hens can still lay up to 8-10 years of age.

From 6-8 weeks until around 18 weeks of age pullets need a pullet grower food, after this they can move to a layer feed.

The age a pullet comes on the lay varies widely.  Hybrids are at point of lay from around 18 weeks old, while some large pure breeds will be over 30 weeks before they lay.  Laying is also related to season and daylight hours.  Pullets getting close to point of lay in autumn when daylight hours are declining may not come on the lay until spring when it warms up and daylight hours are longer again. First eggs can be funny shapes and the colour may vary slightly.  Pullets are also more likely to lay double yolkers while they are getting the hang of egg producing.  A pullet or hen will usually make a lot of noise before and/ or after she lays an egg, though this varies greatly between individual birds.

If you don’t know who is laying a mystery eggs there are a couple of signs to indicate a pullet may be laying.  Before they come on the lay, a pullet’s face and wattles will become red.  If you pick up a pullet you can feel underneath her, near her vent, for her pelvic bones.  The egg must pass through these bones to be laid so in a laying pullet or hen you will be able to fit two or more fingers between the bones, while for a pullet yet to lay you will probably only be able to fit a single finger.

Most chickens generally go through a moult sometime in autumn, which means they loose their feathers and re-grow new ones.  This can happen suddenly or over a longer period of time, so don’t be alarmed if you suddenly find a nearly bald chicken one day in autumn!  They will also stop laying while they are moulting.


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