My girlfriend and I are trying to decide on what breed to get next. She would like a breed that lays for a long time. Can you help by letting my know what breed you have had the longest and if they are still laying. P.S. We live in Wisconsin, so cold winters....
What breed lays the most number of years?
Featured Stories on BackYard Chickens
- Don't Panic
Longevity in laying is not breed specific, but rather has more to do with the individual bird, how she is managed and fed, and what diseases she may be exposed to over the years.
I have sex-links that are four years old that still lay. Not as well as they did in their first two years but they're still laying.
I agree with previous poster.
To answer your question and offer unsolicited advice:
1. New Hampshires, hatchery
2. Speckled Sussex, hatchery
3. Green Egg Layer, hatchery
4. Black Copper Marans, breeder
I have some of these hens laying at three years.
Of course, the breeder of the BCMs above is no longer breeding BCMs. The other birds I got from Cackle and I would buy from Cackle or Ideal or Estes if I had to replace what I've got. I am not in any way limiting long-term layers to this small group. There are many other breeds that could lay at three years or more! This just happens to be what I happen to have right now. In order of amount of eggs is: New Hampshire, tie between Speckled Sussex and Green Egg Layer, then the Black Copper Marans comes in last. (my experience only)
Fresh air is particularly helpful to hens. I read up on ventilation (ammonia issues) when we were trying to build our coop and came across the old version of this: Open Air Poultry Houses by Prince Tannat Woods. I believe it's still online somewhere to read. The old version. There are also a number of scholarly papers on the issue of ammonia and health of chickens.
We live were it gets down below 0F a few times a winter, even this last winter which was mild.
For longevity, I think that good feed during the first 5-6 months lays the foundation for continued long-term egg-laying. Their whole reproductive system is being built at this time. From conception on through their first egg, their nutrition is critical to making sure their egg laying system is in top form. The best fresh feed available is important. Fresh means that all the vitamins haven't gone rancid. It's very easy for them to be oxidized or lose their potency sitting on the shelf. Without the proper vitamins, the chicks won't be getting what they need to become great long-term layers. I also have a tendency to think that high levels of soy in their feed can tamper with their hormones enough to cause issues with their egg-laying apparatus and whether or not they get prolapse or start laying internally (which I've never seen), but you can look soy up on your own if you like as it can become a controversial topic.
Breeds are good lead but not guaranteed. Same breed from different hatchery can indeed vary.
As for first hand experience, I have a production red and a LH both at 3 yo. Both were neck in neck champs in their younger days with the PR laying bigger eggs. PR started laying softshell after 2.5 yo but recovered (so far). Now, LH is at half speed and PR is a bit slower.
Do you want them to lay the most eggs per week over a number of years? Or do you want them to lay eggs steadily over a number of years?
I am curious about why you want hens like this. Are you going to keep the hens until they die.
Every hen will slow down some each year until she stops laying eggs. As mentioned, feed and health play a large roll.
Thanks to all who answered. The reason being is we do intend to keep them for a long time and would like steady eggs for a number of years, not necessarily lots per week. I do understand about the feed thing. We just hear about so many people that only keep their hens for two years and then replace them. I am sure that the production would go down over time. But we were just wondering for long term what may work the best.
An interesting story,an old judge and breeder told me that after many years breeding Buff Minorcas,he decided to do a longevity test.On his large laying flock of over 600 Buff Minorcas,which averaged 225 eggs as yearlings,he decided to keep the flock and see how well they layed and how long they lived.,after 15 years the flock was down to 150 birds.After five years production dropped to about half.,at 15 it was down to 50 eggs and stilling dropping but at a slower rate.At 20 years only about 40 birds remained,but when these old hens were mated to cockerels the offspring were still vigorous and pullets good layers.