The gestation period for a chicken is 20-21 days. This is the period of time it takes for a fertilized egg to hatch a chick after being incubated at the right temperature. It takes around 24-26 hours for a hen to produce an egg.
How Do Hens Produce Eggs?
In my opinion, producing eggs is one of the many miracles we all take for granted, and when you find out how hens make eggs, you’ll be even more impressed!
Like a lot of birds, hens are born with two ovaries but only one matures and is able to produce eggs (their left one).
The short explanation of how hens produce eggs is that there are thousands of tiny ‘ova’ in a hen’s ovary. These ovas are future egg yolks (the yellow of an egg), and when the process of creating an egg starts, an ova moves from the ovary into the oviduct.
Over the course of a few hours, the yolk then travels through the oviduct where white proteins (the egg white) are added around the yolk.
The egg then goes through something called the ‘isthmus’, which is where the shell membrane fibers are produced.
Next, the egg enters the shell gland, and this is where the shell forms.
This part takes some 20 hours (just think about how complex creating a shell is!). This is also when the egg is colored and a special coating called a ‘bloom’ is added to protect it against bacteria.
So, just as I opened up by saying, creating an egg - or any form of life - is nothing short of a miracle and an impressive feat to get your head around, right?
The whole process is triggered by sunlight and takes around 24-26 hours to complete. This is why even the most prolific egg-laying breeds can’t produce more than one egg a day, it’s simply not possible.
Related - Should you wash shop bought eggs?
Do Chickens Need to Mate With a Rooster to Lay an Egg?
This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to understanding how and why hens lay eggs - hens do not need a rooster to lay an egg.
Hens will lay eggs whether a rooster is present in the flock or not. Just as they will lay eggs whether a rooster has mated with them or not if there is a rooster in the flock.
The difference is that a hen can lay fertilized eggs if they’ve mated with a rooster. While they are only able to lay unfertilized eggs if there is no rooster.
Makes perfect sense now, doesn’t it!
Related - More on how hens reproduce with a rooster.
How Long Does It Take for a Chicken to Lay a Fertilized Egg?
Figuring out if an egg is going to be fertilized is a little tricky. Especially as it involves knowing when a rooster mated with a hen.
The basic math behind how long it takes for an egg to be fertilized, and how long it takes for that egg to be laid, is basically that the sperm needs to be in the hen’s oviduct when egg creation starts.
So, if you spot your hen mating, it’s likely that the next egg she produces will not be fertile as it’s already in production.
Something else interesting to note is that sperm can stay in a hen’s body and fertilize many eggs over a period of a couple of weeks.
How Long Is a Chicken Pregnant?
I see this question asked a lot, and the correct answer is that a chicken does not get pregnant.
Hens are not impregnated by roosters, and they do not develop a fetus inside their bodies like a lot of other animals and mammals.
The egg is fertilized on its way through a hen’s reproductive system by sperm that has been ‘injected into the oviduct.
That’s a very different process from getting pregnant and developing offspring in the womb. It’s important that you’re aware that hens will lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs, too.
Related - Do hens have periods?
How Does a Hen Incubate and Hatch Chicks?
When talking about the gestation period of a chicken, I assume most people are talking about how long it takes for a hen to incubate and hatch some chicks.
For those new to the term ‘incubating’; incubating eggs is the process in which egg-laying animals hatch their eggs.
Essentially, it means they sit on or protect their eggs until they hatch. In the case of chickens, that means sitting on the eggs to keep them at a temperature of around 99 degrees Fahrenheit for 21 days.
When a hen is sitting on eggs it’s called being ‘broody’. Different breeds are prone to going broody easier than others, but generally speaking, if a hen builds up a clutch of eggs in a nest they will go broody and sit on them.
This is why it’s important you collect eggs on a daily basis. Unless that is, you want your hen to go broody.
But you’d need to have a good idea that the eggs are fertilized, otherwise, she’s going to be sitting on them for no reason and that can have a bad impact on a hen’s health.
Hopefully, I’ve helped clear up and answer the question; “what is the gestation period for a chicken?” sufficiently for you.
Chickens do not technically have a gestation period. If you want to know how long it takes for a hen to produce and hatch an egg, then the answers are:
- It takes around 24-26 hours to produce an egg.
- It takes around 21 days to incubate and hatch an egg once it’s been laid.
Image credits - Photo by M Azharul Islam on Unsplash