chicken musings (how to tell who is laying?) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Well, yesterday was educational (I hope). We slaughtered one cockerel and 8 non-laying hens - or so we thought. In three of them we found an egg with the hard shell already on. So much for the "dry and puckered vent" method of telling which chickens are laying or not! Since my hens free range and I don't have any of those trap-door laying boxes, I have a hard time telling just who is earning their keep and who's free-loading. Another hen that I know for sure hasn't laid an egg for two months at least, had yolks backed up, starting with a full size one. How can one really tell who's laying, other than with a hidden camera? One reason we decided to cull at this time is the fact that we were getting fewer and fewer eggs as the weeks went by. With 23 hens, we were getting first 18 or so eggs every day back in the late fall, but lately it's been down to as few as 7/day. Since over half the hens were 2 years or older, culling seemed in order. But I discovered that some of them were obese - up to a one inch layer of fat on some parts of their bodies. I'm still kind of new at this, but doesn't that seem a bit much? Then I remembered that our feed store had switched to 20% protein crumbles (I'm pretty sure it used to be 17 or 18%). I didn't realize this until last week, and now I'm wondering if the excess fat could account for the lower egg production? The only plus to all this is in hunting for a feed store with 16% ration, I discovered Quality's brand has no animal by-products in it, and I've been hunting for months for feed like that. If anyone has tips on how to tell who's laying or not I'd appreciate their telling me. I know about the faded leg and comb color, but with such a motley crew as I have, it's hard to tell whose legs are faded and whose are just light. Well, today's going to be busy with canning chicken and preparing pot pie for dinner. Thanks for listening.

-- glynnis in KY (, May 07, 2001


Glynnis, I know your frustration. I have a group of 3 year old hens who are fat as little bowling balls, and only about half are laying. What I've tried to go by, with fair results, is look at who is really beautifully feathered. If she looks like a show chicken, she's probably not laying. The good layers get pretty raggedy looking. But I know how disappointing it is to butcher one and find the whole factory in full swing. I have to admit I'm only right about half the time.

-- melina b. (, May 07, 2001.

We have a chicken tractor that we have used in the past for raising the next flock. This year I put the questionable hens in it for several days, long enough to get acclimated to the new situation and if I don't get any eggs or only a very few, they are gone. So far, so good with this method.

-- marilyn (, May 07, 2001.

We've found that the only sure way is to watch and band. It's not as hard as it sounds because the hens generally stay in nesting boxes quite a while. Band everyone who lays, and after a week or so, cull everyone else. You can also observe who is getting mated. The roosters don't usually waste their energy on infertile hens.

-- David C (, May 07, 2001.

Well, my mom always says to measure the distance between the pubic bones. Press your hand against the vent. If three fingers fit between the bones, that hen is still laying enough to keep the bones apart. If she has stopped laying regularly, her bones will move closer together.

Thanks for the reminder. It is really high time I culled the non- layers from my flock.

-- daffodyllady (, May 07, 2001.

glynnis in KY, I asked the same question a while back and way told that all my hens might be laying, some every other day, some every day, some every 3rd day etc. Maybe all of your are laying but not every day. I don't know about this, just repeating what I was told. Eagle (Ed in TX)

-- eagle (, May 08, 2001.

Update: the funny thing is, I'm now averaging a dozen eggs per day, just like always! Maybe one of the butchered ones was an egg-eater? Anyway, thanks everyone for your help. Glynnis

-- glynnis in KY (, May 10, 2001.

Glynnis, They must have heard of your plans!!!

-- cowgirlone (, May 10, 2001.

Obesity affects fertility of chickens just like it does all animals.

I was going to do the banding method, but that would take time and concentration that I just don't have so I chose another method.

Every year, I buy a different breed of chicks, when production goes steadily down, it's time to butcher the oldest ones, identified by their breed. I was planning on butchering at 3 years old, but I was given 6 year old hens that are laying dependably and there is no production loss from my three year olds yet.

I do use a "time out" hutch to check for egg eaters, agressive hens and possible non-layers. Three days in solitary usually straightens them out before returning to the flock.

-- Laura (, May 16, 2001.

I read in one of my old books that you can tell by the beek it turns yellow or orange I don't remeber for sure I will have to read up and get back to you.


-- lisa miller (, May 21, 2001.

hi it's lisa I found my book .number 1 they don't call it musing they call it culling and there are several ways to tell if your hen is laying 1 is a young hen tath is who hasn't laid an egg will have very yellow beak and feet. the yellow will bleach out as she lays .so if you have a hen that has yellow feet and her sisters don't she is a candidate for the soup pot.number2 laiing hens have moist round vents while hens that don't lay known as boarders vents are dry and puckered .layers have bright combs while culls are ddull and shriveled .a layers pubic bones are farther apart than a nonlayer's that all i have and keep in mined the book I got the imfo from was publised in 1974 good luck and let me know if it works


-- Lisa Miller (, May 22, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ