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Molting blues - Page 3

post #21 of 29
Thread Starter 
I think I'm still not being clear.

My light comes on twice a day. I don't leave it on a full 15 hours because they are outside in the middle of the day. So they are getting a very long day of light. But it has never seemed to make much of a difference at my place with multiple groups of birds.
post #22 of 29
Thread Starter 
I'm surprised so many of you are having the brooders laying during this time. That's cool. The broodiest one in my flock is actually a bantam. After some time off, she's back to sitting in the nest box all the time, except her nest is empty. Chickens are so crazy
post #23 of 29

The way I'm reading your post makes me think that your broody hasn't been able to satisfy her maternal instinct by hatching and raising chicks, whereas our broody hens have raised chicks, possibly even two broods of chicks through the spring and summer, moulting whilst raising the late summer chicks and then are now back to laying. It's a 10+ week process for a broody hen to incubate and rear chicks so they get quite a long break from laying eggs especially if they raise two lots each year. That may be a significant factor in them being able to lay through the winter.

post #24 of 29
Thread Starter 
This girl raised three groups of chicks last spring and summer . But she gives up on them early, unfortunately.

She never raises her own chicks, which may be part of it, not sure. But she'd rather sit than be a mom. I take that back, she's a great mom for 4 to 5 weeks, but then she gets that wanderlust and I find her back with her boyfriend. Then onto the nest.

Usually there is another hen I can leave the chicks with at that point, or they are ready to be on their own.
Edited by UrbanBirds - 10/27/15 at 10:38am
post #25 of 29

Ah OK, I did read that wrong then. Wow, 3 clutches in a season is good going! Five weeks in summer is long enough for the chicks to be independent so I wouldn't hold that against her. They might need longer at this time of year when it's starting to get cooler though. My main broody normally goes back to laying between 5 and 6 weeks and woe betide any chick that tries to snuggle up after that! She's never physically hurt one but boy is she mean!


Maybe it's something to do with their breeding that they lay through the winter then or perhaps I'm just lucky to have two very special broody hens. I have two new broodies that are raising their first chicks now. They are moulting whilst chaperoning the chicks but will be casting them off soon, so it will be interesting to see if they start to lay straight away too or wait till after the winter equinox..

post #26 of 29
Thread Starter 
I think you have some good ones for sure. I find the broodiness expression varies quite a bit. I only have a couple out of at least twenty eight now that will set the whole gestation, hatch them and stay with them. It seems this trait has been bred away so diligently that, in most hens anyway, only pieces of the process remain. Even in heritage breeds, because, let's admit it, all heritage chickens today began as hatchery chicks.

My summers are a lot longer than most. With a heat lamp I could hatch chicks all year. But the "natural" season can easily begin in April or early May. So we get a lot of clutches.
post #27 of 29

I think you might have something there as regards hatchery birds. Here in the UK, because the scale of things is much smaller, it is easier to get locally raised birds from small scale producers and other backyard/allotment keepers. I think the hatcheries are probably more just for commercial producers. I'm not sure they will deal with individuals just wanting a few chicks and I'm not sure our postal system will handle live chicks or maybe we have welfare laws that prevent it.... either way, I think it's quite different here in that respect..

post #28 of 29
I don’t have any real “in” with hatcheries here in the US and I hate to paint all the hatcheries we use with the same brush. Each one is an independent company, often family run, with different individuals making the decisions on which chickens go in their breeding pens. The different criteria each uses means there will be differences in the chicks we get from the same breed from different hatcheries, appearance as well as behaviors. They (with maybe one exception, I think Sand Hill tries) are not set up to provide true SOP quality birds, they are set up to mass produce somewhat representative birds at mass production prices. Some of these people may select for certain traits, like if a specific breed is known to go broody, but I’m sure some don’t. They are commercial operations with incubators. They don’t need broody hens, they need hens that lay eggs. And the ”pen breeding” system they use is not conducive to producing SOP birds but it helps keep their genetic diversity up. Quality breeders carefully select which rooster goes with which hen. That makes a lot of difference.

The ones we buy from are not set up for the commercial industry. I’m sure they sell some chicks to commercial operations, probably small independent operations, not the big boys though. The major commercial operations, hybrid laying pullets and hybrid broilers, generally run their own hatcheries and provide chicks to the people that grow them out. The hatcheries we buy from might hatch 80,000 to 100,000 chicks a week in peak season and shut down for the off season. The commercial hatcheries might hatch 1,000,000 chicks a week 52 weeks a year. They have several of these hatcheries scattered across the US.

I find a lot of differences in “breeders” too. Each have their own goals and abilities. Some breed for only what the judge sees and don’t worry at all about behavioral traits. Some include various behavioral or production traits in their criteria. Some take hatchery chicks and with very little knowledge of the SOP when selecting which chickens to mate sell purebred chicks. You can go from chickens that are really close to what the breed should be to chicks that are not really as good as most hatchery chicks.

I do not have any real knowledge of the UK baby chick market but I’m sure you are right. There are differences in the hatcheries we buy from in the US and your market in the UK.

My flock is a mix of breeder chicks and hatchery chicks. By mix I mean a barnyard mix, not close to any breed SOP. I’ve selected for broodiness so they often go broody. It’s a small flock, usually 6 to 8 hens of laying age. A couple of years back I had so many going broody it sometimes took several days to get enough eggs to put under a broody. That broody buster stayed busy all summer.

I don’t keep a lot of hatchery pullets when I get them so I don’t have a true representative sample to go by. Now I just want a rooster for genetic diversity. But when I started this flock they were pure hatchery birds. With my limited selection I noticed breeds of hatchery birds that are “supposed to” go broody a lot didn’t, Buff Orpington for example. But my Black Australorp, which “can” go broody, did a lot. But that is with a very limited selection to look at.

Mine are a mix from three different hatcheries and one breeder. That may be part of why mine are not real consistent about when they molt. People seem to think that chickens are consistent in what they do. In general, yes, but in the details I just don’t see that. I have six hens of laying age right now, not pullets in their first year. The broody hen that molted in late summer is back to laying. One has not started the molt yet and is still laying. One looks like she’s about finished and should crank back up soon, her comb and wattles are getting red and her feathers look really nice. The other three are still molting.

 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.


 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

post #29 of 29
Thread Starter 
We've had the warmest November on record with a week of ninety degree days. Until this week, my flock of about twenty was laying between one and four eggs per day, then, on 18th, they laid a dozen, and they have each say since. I'm seriously considering not doing the extra lighting at all next year as it appears to make no difference.
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