When Do Australorps Start Laying?
Our Black Australorps usually to lay their first eggs at around 6-7 months of age.
Several things that can affect when they start to lay:
- What type of food you raise them on
- What time of year you hatch (or purchase) them
- How they are raised
Let’s explore several of these topics more closely.
Use age-appropriate feed
I recommend keeping your Black Australorp pullets on a non-medicated starter/grower feed until they first start to lay eggs. Then, once they start to lay eggs, switch to layer feed.
Layer feed has too little protein to support proper growth of your chickens while they are young and still developing.
And the extra calcium that lay pellets contain isn’t healthy for growing chickens, even though it is beneficial and needed once they start laying.
In short, use the right feed for the stage of development your chickens are in. Use starter/grower while they’re growing, so that they will reach full size and potential. Then switch to layer feed once they start laying eggs.
When were they hatched?
Depending on when your hens were hatched, they will (obviously) reach maturity at different seasons of the year, and this can affect when they start laying.
Black Australorps that were hatched in the spring will mature enough to start to lay in the fall or early winter. That is the time of year when the number of hours of daylight per day is decreasing. December 21 is the shortest day of the year for people (and chickens) who live north of the equator.
Chickens are affected quite a bit by the amount of daylight they receive. Too little daylight, and hens won’t lay, or won’t lay much.
A brief story that illustrates this point:
I raise most of our chickens in portable hoop-style coops (10-foot x 10-foot). One winter, I had fastened some metal sheeting to the back end of the coops to act as a wind break. Several of the coops were facing south, but one particular coop was facing north. (The back end of the coop, with the metal, was on the south side, toward the sun.)
I was keeping egg laying records, and the number of eggs I was getting per hen from this particular coop was far less than the other coops. The hens were all the same age, and there was no other difference that I could tell between the coops.
Once I realized that the problem was simply that the metal sheeting was casting too much shade into the coop and reducing the amount of daylight, I spun the coop around so that it faced south just like the others.
Within just a few days, the number of eggs climbed up to match the other flocks.
Amount of available daylight makes a significant difference for egg laying chickens.
I bring this up because if your Australorps are just getting up to laying age (6 months of age) right around the shortest day of the year, you may not get eggs from them for another month or so. In other words, the short days may delay the onset of egg laying.
Other factors, such as very cold temperature, can also affect, and potentially delay, egg laying.
Chickens are seasonal layers. In a backyard flock, you’re not likely to get year-round eggs.
But if you want eggs as close to year-round as possible, then I recommend hatching or buying chicks in early spring each year. Female chicks hatched in March will reach 6 months of age in September and should start to lay around that time.
Any Australorp hens that are in their second year of laying (or older) will start to molt around September or October, so you won’t get many eggs from them in those months. But your newly hatched, 6-month-old pullets will supply you with eggs through the fall.
Black Australorps molting
When Black Australorp hens reach about 18 months of age, or in the fall after their first season of laying, they begin going into a molt, and egg-laying ceases until the molt is over.
We usually begin to see some eggs again in December, and lay rates of the second year hens will gradually pick up. As with all breeds, Australorps will not lay as many eggs their second year as they did their first year.
A useful rule of thumb is to expect about 80% as many eggs as the year before.
Which of my Black Australorp hens are laying
There are a number of different ways to tell.
One of the most practical ways is to check the spacing between their pelvic bones and compare that between the various hens in your flock. The hens with wider pelvic bone spacing are likely to be the ones that are laying.
I explain this more fully in an article on which hens are laying.
Laying pattern for Heritage Black Australorps
The first Heritage Black Australorps we raised, starting from a straight run of chicks that awe purchased, began to lay on in early December, about 6 months from the day they were hatched. Incidentally, as mentioned earlier, December 21 is the shortest day (fewest number of daylight hours).
Once they started to lay, their lay rate increased rapidly for 1-2 months until it reached a peak.
For at least several weeks, lay rates were around 85%. Then as the weather began to warm in early summer, at the time they reached about one year old, their lay rate began to decline.
Each year, during the hot, central Texas summer, their laying slows down considerably. Then, as mentioned earlier, in the fall of their second year (at about 18 months of age) they go into molt that lasts for 8 or more weeks, during which they cease laying. Some of them will start molting as early as mid-August.
This is why, as of June 2021, I’ve started to work with several other breeds that I think may be better suited for our climate.
Do Black Australorps go broody?
While hens are broody, they don’t typically lay eggs.
In spring, some of our Australorp hens go broody and cease to lay while they set on eggs and raise chicks. The hens that don’t go broody tend to continue to lay well.
The tendency toward broodiness depends on the strain. Australorps that are bred for high-production will be less likely to go broody than ours.
How many years do Black Australorps lay?
We have Australorp hens that are over 4 years old that still lay eggs. They are a good breed to choose if you want a long term egg layer.
But the number of eggs they lay per year does decrease with each passing year, just like it does with all breeds.
A good rule of thumb is that once a flock starts to lay, they’ll produce about 80% as many eggs as they did the year before with each passing year.
This is one reason why I recommend replacing some of your layers every year.
What size egg do Australorps lay?
Australorps lay a medium to large egg. From what I’ve seen, they lay a larger egg than Delawares and Barred Rocks but not as large as White Leghorns or ISA Browns (Red Stars / Red Comets / etc.). The featured photo at the top of this article gives an idea as to the size.
What color eggs do Black Australorps lay?
Egg color varies. Most eggs are fairly dark brown, but some are quite light.
Do Black Australorps lay in winter?
Yes. Winter through spring is when our Australorps lay their best.
Are Black Australorps good layers?
Yes and no. During winter, ours lay well.
During summer and fall, they lay poorly.
Again, we’re in central Texas. It gets hot, with highs reaching 100 – 112 (F) during the peak summer heat.
If you lived in a cooler climate, you might get more eggs from your Australorps in summer than we do.
I’m raising a single Heritage strain from one group of starter stock developed by one breeder. If your climate and stock are different, you’ll likely have different results. I would love to hear back from other growers on this.
What about other breeds of chickens? When do they start to lay?
According to the guest article on McMurray Hatchery’s blog, At What Age Will My Chickens Start Laying? – hybrid egg layers start to lay at 4-5 months and heritage breeds start at 5-7 months. Hybrids include commercial White Leghorns, Red Stars and Black Stars. Hybrids are a good choice if you are looking for lots of eggs and if you plan to replace your layers yearly or every year and a half. Heritage breeds are a better choice if you are looking for longer-term egg layers and if you’re raising chickens for meat as well as eggs.
In short, in my experience, heritage Black Australorps tend to start laying at about 6 months of age during optimal conditions. They lay well in cool weather but slow down considerably in hot weather and cease laying during the fall molt, which can last for a few months.
Different strains of Australorps may following a different laying pattern.
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Why did my Black Austrolops start laying at 4 months old? When will they go broody?
Michael, ours have never started to lay earlier than about 6 months. But a few things that could cause them to lay earlier are:
1. The breeder that produced them may have selected for earlier laying.
2. If the pullets are switched from starter/grower feed to layer feed (which is lower in protein) early, before they’ve started to lay, that could cause their growth to slow down, and they might possibly start to lay earlier. I recommend keeping pullets on a starter/grower feed until they actually start laying, then switch to layer feed at that point.
As far as broodiness, it depends. Usually, only some of the hens go broody. If they’re going to go broody, it’s usually in the spring. We have a few that are going broody now. If you live in a colder climate, then it may happen a little later for you. Australorps are not an extremely broody breed, and there will be some variation between different strains of Black Australorps as to how likely they are to go broody. We keep a few broodies in the breeding program because we want to encourage that trait to a degree. But it is possible to select against broodiness, and some breeders may do that because broodiness results in lower egg production.
Thank you so much for all of your information!
Do you provide additional lighting during the winter months? I have read that layers require a certain amount of daylight to lay during the winter. I live in the northwest and the days are rather short in winter.
I never have added lighting, but some people do. I’ve always preferred to work with the natural seasons and laying rhythms, and our hens actually lay pretty well during the winter.
That said, we are in Texas at about 31 degrees N latitude. Our day lengths fluctuate, but not nearly as much as they do further north or further from the equator. So it could make sense to add lighting in your case.
Here’s an online tool that you can use to determine daylight hours in your region at different times throughout the year: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/.
Depending on the orientation of windows in your coop, you may get enough light during nautical and civil twilight to count toward the total. For example, today, the tool shows 11 hours and 1 minute where I’m located. But it shows civil twilight to last for 50 minutes and nautical twilight to last for 57 minutes. Altogether, I have 12 hours and 48 minutes of “daylight” that may be sufficient to help trigger laying. It will of course be different in your area at a different latitude.
Coop orientation makes a big difference. A south-facing wall without a window or with a minimal window doesn’t admit much light and can halt lighting (in the norther hemisphere).
If you do decide to add lighting, I recommend turning on a light using a timer before dawn to give the number of daylight hours that you need. From what I remember, the recommendations are usually for about 14 hours of daylight. It doesn’t take a lot of light, so choose a bulb that’s safe and doesn’t generate enough heat to be a fire hazard. Not a heat lamp.
If you decide to use LED lighting, it would be good to do your research first to make sure that it will work. I researched this topic quite some time back and at the time was running across some concerns as to whether the spectrum of light generated by LEDs would be adequate to trigger laying or not.
There are a few other things that are fairly common in winter that can halt or slow laying, such as colder temperatures and feeding a lot of hen scratch. Hen scratch is lower protein and higher carb. Hens tend to put on weight with it and then with excess weight they don’t lay as well. Smaller breeds have to work harder to stay warm in cold weather and seem to devote less energy toward laying; whereas, larger breeds tend to be good winter layers.
Please let me know if you have more questions related to any of this.
Several articles I wrote sometime back on this topic and the related issue of raising chickens in winter are on the Claborn Farms website:
Thank you so much for all of that information. I think I will just let them go and see what happens. If they lay, great, if not, we will just continue to buy eggs and enjoy the antics! I’ll try to remember to let you know how it all progresses. I have really tried to raise them with as healthy of an existence as possible – will just continue to do that.
Take care and stay healthy!
Do you use a light in the coop for them to lay in the winter. I have 6 black austrliops that are right at 6 months that haven’t started yet. I bought a hanging light to put in the coop for additional morning light if I need to for the shorter days.
Ronald, please see my earlier reply (in the comments) about lighting.
Hello! I have one beautiful Black Austrolorp named Velvet who lays about 5 eggs a week – since she was 6 months old. She will be two this Spring and has not yet molted, although I noticed this week that some of the feathers on her back near her tail are looking thin and not as full and shiny as usual. She shares a coop/run with one other chicken – a Bantam Cochin rooster. He was adopted as a chick this past summer and they have always gotten along well together. Could she be molting or is something else going on? She eats, drinks and lays normally. I hope it’s molting, because the greenish purple sheen in her black feathers is so striking. She is also a friendly chicken and very quiet.
Are you seeing a lot of loose feathers in the coop? Usually, that’s a pretty good indication that one of them is molting. Here in Texas, we normally see molting start in the fall, but sometimes in the summer, which I attribute to the heat. Lighting, stress and other factors can affect the timing of when they molt. You can also gently look to see if there are any pinfeathers coming in. Those will start to come in while the hen is molting.
It’s not at all unusual for feathers to get broken or for some feathers to fall out, but that doesn’t necessarily signify a molt. When she molts, those feathers will be replaced.
Why does my Australorp lay two eggs in one laying session…one medium and one a little smaller?
Interesting question. I’m not sure. Sounds like you’ve got a really good layer, though.
Should we hatch eggs
without sitting hen on it plz tell me?
Manzoor, you can hatch eggs under a broody hen that is sitting or in an incubator. Either approach can work well. Please see the following articles for more info:
Hatching chicks in an incubator
Hatching under a broody hen