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How long do laying hens lay?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi, folks...I haven't posted here in a while, but am once again planning to lobby my husband for a back yard flock.  I was curious as to how long one can expect their hens to lay eggs...I know that chickens can live for up to ten years with good care. But for how many of those years do they produce eggs? I am eager to hear your personal stories, and what breeds you keep. As a suburbanite, I would be keeping just a few birds as pets, but wouldn't mind the side benefit of fresh eggs.

I am also curious...the production birds like the brown/buff sex-links....do they lay for a shorter period of time? Do they have a shorter life span due to the strain of producing so many eggs? 

Thanks in advance for any info you are willing to share!

post #2 of 6

It seems that there is no set answer to your question.  From what I've read many will continue to lay throughout their lives but will slow way, way down as they age and their eggs may not be as "perfect" either.  I think your first couple of years are the prime laying years.

Owned by two old dogs (yellow lab and a big, red, fuzzy mutt) and four chickens (Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, and two Easter Eggers)
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Owned by two old dogs (yellow lab and a big, red, fuzzy mutt) and four chickens (Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, and two Easter Eggers)
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post #3 of 6

The production breeds often do have shorter lifespans, as they often succumb to ovarian cancer. If you get heritage breeds that don't grow so fast, they tend to live longer, but they're not as productive of layers. (And bantams and game breeds live the longest of all! But also lay the fewest eggs comparatively.)

Hens are most productive layers their first two years or so. The laying slows down after that, but certainly does not stop altogether. It depends on the hen, but some lay for a very long time and others stop or severely slow down relatively early.

What people do with hens that stop laying varies. Personally, I keep my hens for their whole lifetime because my chickens are all pets, and I work for a farm animal rescue group that takes in "spent" laying hens and finds them happy homes where they can live out their lives even if they don't lay. Some people do kill the hens when their laying slows down. I can't personally advocate that, as someone who doesn't believe in killing animals, but in general keeping or killing are the two usual options. Unless you can find someone like me who doesn't care about laying, or a rescue group that will take them.

Personally, I mostly keep bantams because for me the eggs are just a bonus. My chickens are primarily pets, and bantams have a longer lifespan, I can keep more of them, and they're cute as can be.

Good luck, I hope this answers some of your questions!

Works at a farm animal sanctuary, vegetarian, former wildlife rehabber.

My flock: 70+ chickens (serama, OEGB, various breeds of bantams, and many more!), 9 ducks (6 call, 3 east indies), 3 peafowl, 1 Narragansett turkey, 1 Canada goose. Plus 2 corgis, 1 border collie, 3 cats, 2 horses, 2 cockatiels.

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Works at a farm animal sanctuary, vegetarian, former wildlife rehabber.

My flock: 70+ chickens (serama, OEGB, various breeds of bantams, and many more!), 9 ducks (6 call, 3 east indies), 3 peafowl, 1 Narragansett turkey, 1 Canada goose. Plus 2 corgis, 1 border collie, 3 cats, 2 horses, 2 cockatiels.

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post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for both of your responses...interesting that a production bird would succumb to ovarian cancer; that actually makes perfect sense, much like the increased risk caused by fertility drugs in humans. I would not be interested in killing an older bird, so I may have better luck with a non-production type of bird that may be less prolific, but would perhaps provide an occasional egg for a bit longer.

Thats one of my biggest challenges...choosing which type of bird to get. There are so many choices, I am looking for the right fit!

post #5 of 6

Generally speaking you get two productive years (as in pays for their feed) from most birds that were bred for egg laying.  There are those rare individuals that can go three, but they are rare.  After that most will still continue to lay but won't lay enough to pay for their feed from the value of their eggs.  This isn't every bird, but that's the average.  Some won't lay enough in their pullet year to pay their way and still more won't do it in their second year. 

I've got one Buff Orpington that's six years old and still lays once in a great while.  I know when it's her egg because it's huge.  Pretty seldom, but she does still lay.

Birds that weren't bred to lay (as in non-laying strains and non-dual purpose) may not ever lay a lot of eggs (as in less than 150 in their pullet year).  But that's not what they are bred for anyway.

I haven't found the production breeds to be any shorter in life-span than any other breeds.  Yes, some do die, but I have occasional losses from every breed.  I've got some four year old red sex-links in the yard right now.  They don't lay much now relative to their earlier years, but they're still alive and I keep them for breeding.

Keeping birds in light and environmentally controlled conditions might could do that since their systems don't take a break the way birds kept under more natural conditions do.  Mine are all outside so natural daylight is what they get and natural weather as well.


Edited by A.T. Hagan - 3/30/11 at 9:06am
Chance favors the prepared mind.
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Chance favors the prepared mind.
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post #6 of 6

I own a bunch of production birds - they have laid flat out for two years, and then stopped. We haven't seen an egg in a very long time sad

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