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How old is too old to lay?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Production hens......brown hybrid egg layers I understood to be 'old' at 2-3 and to die aged at 4 or under. I am talking about the Hyline. ISA Brown, Warren type......bred to lay eggs and to never be broody etc.

 

 

Well here's Warrren......aged 6 years and 5 months......I've owned her ever since she was POL (never been confined in any way).IMG_7193.jpgIMG_7195.jpg

 

She stopped laying in August /September2011, having laid about 5 eggs per week for 5 years. I thought she had entered her retirement. Then at the end of February 2012 she began to lay again....perfect eggs...about 4 per week....laid in the same place in about 30 seconds.

 

Warren looks fit, feels heavy, is feisty ....and well, just looks much younger than she is. She has a 5 plus daughter (Warren xBrahma) who is also an excellent layer.

 

Maybe some genetic superiority?

post #2 of 8

I have never heard of them dying young - just that they run out of eggs sooner because they lay them so fast in their youth.  In commercial egg factories they die young because they are culled once they have laid the majority of their eggs - not because they grow old and die of natural causes.

post #3 of 8

Nice!!!    Congratulations on your fine hen.  Glad you bred her, as her offspring is worth having, I am sure.

 

We have an odd ISA Brown or two still laying pretty well in the 3rd and 4th seasons too.  A.T. Hagin, a regular poster here, also has ISA's laying much longer than a year or two.  So much depends upon how they were raised, how fast they were pushed into POL, how much they are pushed during the first year, how quality is their diet, how much fresh air and exercise they get and a host of other factors.

 

We know the commercial hen houses, for whom these birds were primarily intended, do not tend to keep them long.  They've crunched the numbers and quite likely, they need that 6 egg per week average for profitability?  On average, the flock falls below that at year two, so out they go and in comes a new flock.

 

 

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post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by HEChicken View Post

I have never heard of them dying young - just that they run out of eggs sooner because they lay them so fast in their youth.  In commercial egg factories they die young because they are culled once they have laid the majority of their eggs - not because they grow old and die of natural causes.

 

This is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison FAQ page:

 

 

Defined Number of Ova

I have heard that a pullet is born with a certain number of ova, which determines how many eggs that hen will lay in a lifetime. Is this true?

D. A. Smith, Montana

Yes and no. It is true that a pullet is born with a certain number of egg cells. Some studies have shown that an 18-week old hen (ready to lay) has less than 1,000 ova (egg cells) available in her ovary. As far as we know, there is no mechanism for her to produce any more.

Of course, the number of eggs she will actually lay can be much less than this, depending on health, nutrition, lighting factors, etc. It cannot be more than that number, however.

Ron Kean
Extension Poultry Specialist

 

 

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post #5 of 8

The answer started with "yes and no" but really didn't explain why, since they basically said what I've always said - that the hen is born with all the eggs she'll ever lay.  It was a poorly worded question in that the question was asking if every egg they're born with will be laid, which of course is no truer in a chicken than in a human woman.  However the important thing to understand is that the hen cannot produce MORE eggs.  She is born with every egg she will ever lay - but that does not mean she will lay every egg with which she is born.

post #6 of 8

For sure, a hen isn't going to lay ALL of her potential eggs.   I've also seen differing reports of just how many eggs, in potential, a hen has to lay.  That U of Wis article seemed to suggest something less than a thousand.  I've seen documents stating a much higher number.   More research is needed.  I'm unsure.

 

If a top laying hen laid 300, followed by almost 200 her second season, she'd still potentially have a few more decent years of 150 left in her.  So much depends on whether she was pushed, diet, disease, wear and tear, etc.  All the variables.

 

 

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post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

Warren (this hen's unimaginative name) has lived her life since she was bought 'POL' aged about 18-20 weeks totally free range over a large area.She has always been a good forager and loves to eat the most appalling looking things which crawl out from under logs.

 

I don't use any artificial lighting and she has had her 'lay off' periods in the dark months .....last year for a very long time.

 

She is just obviously determined to squeeze out any eggs she can.

post #8 of 8

Must say.. Beautiful hen :)

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