Without further ado, here are the factors that influence when you can expect that first egg to make its way into the nest box.
Factor #1 - Breed
Chicken breeds that are generally considered to be "layers" tend to lay sooner than those considered meat or dual purpose breeds. The hybrid laying breeds start laying as early as 16 weeks. Heritage laying breeds tend to lay about 4 weeks later (20 weeks) and all other breeds will begin laying between 20-32 weeks of age.
I have no hard evidence to prove this, but I suspect that the breeds that lay the most eggs each year are also ones that are likely to lay the soonest. For a list of breeds sorted by annual egg production, check out my previous article How Many Eggs To Expect Your Chicken To Lay.
Factor #2 - Season & Sunshine
Breed notwithstanding, you generally won't see any eggs until the amount of available daylight exceeds 14 hours. This is because egg laying is tied to hours of available daylight.
Specifically, a chicken's egg laying is triggered when light falls on photo receptors located in a chicken's skin. The light stimulates a gland to produces a hormone that cause the chicken to lay.
In the winter, there isn't enough light to produce sufficient hormones, so egg laying declines. Egg laying picks up again in the spring when light levels exceeds 14 hours per day.
If you get baby chicks during the late summer, you probably won't see any eggs till the following spring. There just isn't enough light in the fall or winter to stimulate those photo receptors.
However, If you buy chicks in the spring, you'll need to wait until your bird is both mature enough (See Factor #1) AND the amount of daylight is sufficient to trigger your chicken's egg-laying response.
|Let the Sun Shine|
So when can you expect 14 hours of sunshine?
Due to the tilt in the Earth's axis, it depends on where you live. Folks living in the northern part of the U.S. will get 14 hours of sunshine sooner than those who live in the South. That gives folks in the North a bit of an advantage. They are likely to get the first egg sooner than those in the South all other things being equal (same breed, hatched on the same day)
Below is a table that shows the first day when each of three representative cities in the U.S. will receives 14 hours of daylight.
Want to know exactly when you will get 14 hours of sunshine? Check out the "Sun & Moon" calculator at TimeAndDate.com. You'll need to click on the "change location"button in the top box of the web site to set your location. Then change the months till you find the first date when the amount of daylight exceeds 14 hours.