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Which chickens aren't laying?

 
Posts: 121
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
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I have 23 egg layers.  10 are 2.3 year old golden Comets that used to lay daily in the summer when they were younger, and 13 are 1.3 year old Rhode Island Reds that also layed close to every day last summer.  These days, as they've all gotten older, I only get 11-14 eggs per day, which means I'm feeding some chickens that either aren't laying, or are laying at a substantially lower rate.

Since I'm handing off my little egg production business to my 9 year old son, I'd like to determine which chickens aren't laying, so if some aren't laying at all or at a very low rate we can begin to cull them out.  I don't have the room or setup to split them up into two large sections, so I'm wondering if there's a trick or technique to figure out which chickens aren't laying.  Any ideas?

I thought about putting one at a time in a dog crate for a few days at a time.  Not exactly "free ranging permaculture" but it seems like it might accomplish my goal.  Would that work, or do you have a better idea?

Thanks in advance.


 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Jayden Thompson wrote:

I thought about putting one at a time in a dog crate for a few days at a time.  Not exactly "free ranging permaculture" but it seems like it might accomplish my goal.  Would that work, or do you have a better idea?

Thanks in advance.




That might stress them to the point that it would throw off their egg laying.  I don't think there is an easy answer to this.  Maybe a loose diaper
 
Posts: 248
Location: Ellisforde, WA
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If you have a rooster with them, you can tell by where they roost. He will be closest to his favorites to most easily protect them. The so-so layers are near him, the ones furthest away are the ones who lay very seldom or not at all. Cull these.
In defense of older chickens, they lay a larger egg. Even Joel Salatin keeps his. Breed at 3 for health. They'll pass their antibodies down to the chicks.
 
garden master
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For what it's worth, I have been told, by my raw milk lady who raises a couple hundred layers, that if their vent looks wide and sorta flat like a crescent, they're laying, and if it looks small like a belly button, they're not laying. This may be an old wives tale, I don't know. I have not authenticated this information.
 
Posts: 52
Location: Western Side Of The Great Oak Savanna
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Laying hens are born with all their embryos intact.

They have 900-1000 embryos on average.

Your older Golden Comets have already peaked and are on their downhill slide. They can lay sporadic for 5 to 7 years, but after 3 years, they're ready for the pot.

I cycle my hens every 2.5 to 3 years, occasionally keeping an older layer for incubation purposes.

The vent info from the previous post is about as accurate as you can get, from my experience.
 
pollinator
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James Freyr wrote:For what it's worth, I have been told, by my raw milk lady who raises a couple hundred layers, that if their vent looks wide and sorta flat like a crescent, they're laying, and if it looks small like a belly button, they're not laying. This may be an old wives tale, I don't know. I have not authenticated this information.



I have found this to be at least mostly true.  Catch them up one by one after dark, flip them over, and check out the vent.  You could confirm by penning up the (apparently) non-layers, and see if egg production stays the same (and if the penned hens are laying).  

Of course, it's possible that they're all laying, or mostly so, just at a reduced rate, in which case culling won't make a difference.
 
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I add new hens every year and slaughter the hens in their second molt. I keep them through their first molt, but not their second molt. If you get a new breed or color every year, it is easier to figure out which group is the oldest.
 
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