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9 chickens, 3 eggs

 
Sandy Cooper
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We have a flock of 9 laying hens, with 4 chicks being raised up to join them. Lately I thought someone was coming in and stealing our eggs, because a few days we had NO eggs, or 1, and now I'm getting about 3 a day. I am wondering why this might be? I know some of my girls are getting older but I can't really tell who is laying and who isn't. I don't think anyone is molting but again, not sure. Thoughts?
 
pal lane
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Location: Macal River, Cayo, Belize
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I had a similar problem not long ago, and changed all the nesting material, scrubbed the boxes and treated the chickens for mites. They're laying again, but still not back up to their former level.
 
Jay Green
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It's the time of the year for a little slow down, especially if you are experiencing high temps.

My birds slowed down during the hottest part of July but are starting to pick up a little, though they are molting pretty steadily now. My mature hens are 6 yrs old and 4 yrs old and, out of 8 hens, I'm getting 3-4 eggs only...and two of those are from two of the 6 yr old gals. One of my hens is just off a brood nest and mothering some birds, so she won't be laying just yet. So..that leaves only 3-4 eggs out of 7 girls, even though they are pretty ancient in chicken years to be laying that steadily in a summer slowdown time. Normally I'm getting 5-6 eggs from 8 old girls.

Will be culling some oldsters before fall....
 
Renate Howard
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If they are free-range it could be they moved the nest to somewhere else and only a few are still using the "old" nest. Putting a fake egg in the nest or leaving one when you collect will keep them from moving the nest (usually)!

It could be something stealing the eggs too - I've had dogs that discovered the eggs and started stealing them; also had squirrels steal eggs - sometimes I found one or two in the yard with a tooth hole from the dog chasing the squirrel and it deciding to drop the egg to make a faster getaway!
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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forest garden hugelkultur
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We've had the same drop off as described above. In the late spring we had about a dozen eggs a day from 17 hens. From then til now there has been slow drop off to about 1 a day right now. All the hens look pretty shabby as they moult. Of course we had three hens go broody a month after we dispatched our rooster so they missed a chance to raise babies this year. For three weeks all they did was sit in a box and complain only to stop laying all together and moult. How ungrateful.

So between moulting, broodyness and a little heat, we've found ourselves dipping into the eggs we froze last fall. I just scramble a dozen and pour them in a zipper bag. Lay it flat on a sheet pan and freeze. Then you stack them up like books in a box. I did that knowing we'd eventually have a slow down in production. That paid off I guess.

This year I plan to save them again but I'm going to freeze some in ice cube trays for "individual servings". A couple egg cubes thawed in a mug in the fridge overnight and you're ready to go for morning.




 
pal lane
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Location: Macal River, Cayo, Belize
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I never waste a broody hen... I can always buy fertile eggs somewhere if I don't have my own, and why feed them if they're not doing something productive? You might have access to eggs from a variety of breeds, and do a mixed batch.

I need to store eggs for the moulting... here it's late fall. I've read about both oiling and waxing the shells to keep them fresh... will have to research a bit more. Wish I had a freezer to store them <sigh>.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
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forest garden hugelkultur
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pal lane wrote:I never waste a broody hen... I can always buy fertile eggs somewhere if I don't have my own, and why feed them if they're not doing something productive? You might have access to eggs from a variety of breeds, and do a mixed batch.


The reason I got rid of the rooster was that we had hatched 50 eggs (his offspring) and purchased another 50 chicks to increase the layer flock, raise meat birds and select good breeders. I timed it so that ours hatched the day before the chicks came in the mail. When the hens went broody, the chicks we had were about 4 weeks old. I wanted the rooster gone by the time the chicks went out on pasture to avoid confrontation. All in all it was a really bad time to have hens raising their own. As it stands, they are all getting along well. Except for the lack of eggs. That's ok though. There will be an abundance of meat and eggs by fall. Next year all the broodies will have their chance to raise up babies. I now have all the breeds I need to begin a serious breeding program.

As to feeding them. My birds eat mostly pasture and garden waste, so they don't really cost me anything to feed them. I do use some chick crumbles to focus their attention in certain areas I want really scratched up. It works really well for clearing the space between the stems of small trees and shrubs. I might use one bag every two weeks for the 120 chickens but it's not really needed.



 
Sandy Cooper
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Jay Green wrote:It's the time of the year for a little slow down, especially if you are experiencing high temps.

My birds slowed down during the hottest part of July but are starting to pick up a little, though they are molting pretty steadily now. My mature hens are 6 yrs old and 4 yrs old and, out of 8 hens, I'm getting 3-4 eggs only...and two of those are from two of the 6 yr old gals. One of my hens is just off a brood nest and mothering some birds, so she won't be laying just yet. So..that leaves only 3-4 eggs out of 7 girls, even though they are pretty ancient in chicken years to be laying that steadily in a summer slowdown time. Normally I'm getting 5-6 eggs from 8 old girls.

Will be culling some oldsters before fall....


What you have said here seems about right. I don't want to cull anybody who is still feeding me, but I'm trying not to be sentimental. We "adopted" this flock, which started at 11 birds, so unfortunately I don't know their ages. I could REALLY use some advice on how to tell who is laying. I tried looking at their legs and their combs but for the life of me, I can't tell. I also try to catch whomever it is that makes a big show in the morning but.....the only one I'm sure about is my Americana! (blue eggs)

It has been hot here too, and some of the birds seem a bit scraggly. I think I'll take a cue from you and wait until fall, then reevaluate my flock and get ready for chicken and noodles.
 
Jay Green
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The only sure and true way to tell is to take them off the roost and night, insert a gloved finger gently in the vent and palpate the next day's egg through the intestinal wall. Don't press on it but you can sure enough feel it in there. That is a chicken laying the next day. Mark all those who do not have an egg in the chute. The next night, do it again...any birds who were marked the night before and still don't have an egg in the chute are likely not laying steadily enough to pay for their feed. I can forgive a chicken who lays every other day in peak laying season...but not one that doesn't lay for two days in a row.

Now, this time of year is not the time to determine laying, as most birds..even the good layers...can have hit or miss laying during molt season as the nutrients needed for laying steadily are diverted into new feather growth. The very best time to test for laying is mid to late March...any bird that IS laying will be laying at that time, full bore.

The only reason I am culling in the fall is I'm no longer into high egg production now that my kids are grown and moved out, so I'm nursing along an older flock who free ranges for most of their nutrition and only needs a little supplementing in the evenings. We have a history, this flock and I, and I'm allowing a little sentimentality to enter into our growing old together. They are all too old to expect full laying from them and some are so old that they are showing signs of body changes and moving a little more slowly...I want to cull them before they get any laying issues or joint pain or have a hard time in the winter. I'll keep a bird for sentimental reasons for a season or two, but will not ever let one become debilitated from old age issues....that would cause suffering and also waste her meat. These birds mean too much to me to have them wasted.

This will likely be my last flock, so I'm letting them go along as long as possible..but all good things come to an end.
 
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