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2 questions

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by thoth3g, Oct 11, 2014.

  1. thoth3g

    thoth3g Out Of The Brooder

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    1. How long can I expect my hens to lay?
    I've heard a lot of people giving a prime 2 year egg laying span. I read something on the chicken lady blog that suggests much longer. I will likely do a yearly flock reduction after the first round gets around 2-3 years old. (Stew pot). I guess I will watch the time frame for a noticeable and consistent drop in production to schedule the culling?

    2. The northwest has a very short daylight span during part of the year. I plan to turn on coop light in early am and also turn on small 25watt red lamp during the night. Is this going to prevent molting?

    Any comments or suggestions?
     
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    1. Hens will lay for up to 6 or 7 years or more, just not as often. You need to figure out how many eggs you are hoping to get per day, year, whatever. From what I've read, though, they do seem to peak around their second year. They will quit laying earlier in the fall when they begin their molt as they age. That's been my experience, anyway.

    2. I have a lightbulb on a timer for my chickens in the winter. I usually don't start using it, though, until mid to late Jan. or so. I have never tried to prevent molting. I would think that it's going to happen as it's a natural thing.
     
  3. thoth3g

    thoth3g Out Of The Brooder

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    Oh no...not to prevent...just dont know if it would.
    Guess I will have to find a good rule of thumb on cullings. Its not that I must have a huge production but at some point when it drops off enough it would make sense. (Dual purpose right?)
     
  4. mrchicks

    mrchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have 7 hens that are 3 years old and still mostly lay an egg a day. Right now they are molting, so I am down to 2-4 eggs from them most days, some days nothing. After they are done molting I'll add a light to get them laying again for the winter, but I don't add any light at night, or heat.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Two good questions.

    1. How long can I expect my hens to lay?
    I've heard a lot of people giving a prime 2 year egg laying span. I read something on the chicken lady blog that suggests much longer. I will likely do a yearly flock reduction after the first round gets around 2-3 years old. (Stew pot). I guess I will watch the time frame for a noticeable and consistent drop in production to schedule the culling?

    The studies that have been done on this are generally of the hybrid commercial layers, not the backyard breeds we typically keep. I will give you some general information based on those studies but breed and strain can make a big difference. And you have to have enough for averages to mean anything. Individual hens can be way different from the averages regardless of breed or strain.

    What I mean by strain is that if you breed a flock of chickens to reinforce a trait, you enhance that trait over time. Most people don’t do that for longevity of laying but some do. If you breed hens that lay well later in life, then you will get a flock where they lay well later than others of the same breed. So yes, the best thing you can do is to monitor, keep records, and make decisions based on your chicken and your flock. I don’t do that. I have a different system.

    Whether you provide extra lights or not, it is fairly normal for a pullet that starts laying late summer or early fall to keep laying through the winter. They just skip the molt entirely that first fall and keep laying. It doesn’t always work but it’s fairly normal.

    With all that said, the studies show that pullets lay really well their first year. Then they molt and stop laying to refresh their systems. When they start back up they lay really well again and the eggs are larger. That is the two years you have heard. After their second adult molt, productivity normally drops for the flock by about 15% to 20%. That’s maybe less than one egg per hen a week. That may be enough to really hurt profit margins on the big commercial growers but you might not find it that bad. Then after each molt, they drop another 15% to 20% on average. That’s when it starts to get pretty noticeable.

    I don’t know how many you are looking at but I keep a laying/breeding flock of 7 or 8 hens. Every year I keep four new pullets to add to this flock. I let the previous year’s pullets molt and keep them around another year. When the laying season is over and they molt and stop laying I process the oldest ones. This way I have eight hens laying during the main part of the laying season, these eight plus four at the end of the laying season when those pullets start, and the pullets laying some eggs in winter when the others are molting. Different people use different systems.

    2. The northwest has a very short daylight span during part of the year. I plan to turn on coop light in early am and also turn on small 25watt red lamp during the night. Is this going to prevent molting?

    Different things can cause a molt but what you are talking about is the seasonal molt when the days get shorter. Technically it’s the nights getting longer that matters, not the days getting shorter, but the effect is the same. Chickens normally lay eggs when it is OK to raise chicks, spring and summer. We’ve domesticated them and messed that up some, but they still tend to follow this pattern. When the days get shorter they quit laying and molt, using the nutrients they can find to regrow the worn out feathers instead of using it to lay eggs. Many people believe it is a set number of hours of daylight (14) that makes this happen but it’s not. It’s the change in the length of days. Chickens so close to the equator that they never see 14 hours of daylight follow the same cycle. Chickens a long way from the equator may already be molting by the time the day gets down to 14 hours. If you are going to provide lights look at your longest day of the year and base your light schedule on that.

    You don’t need a lot of light. As long as you can read a newspaper in there you have enough light. Each coop is different. I don’t have a clue how many watts your coop would need. The higher the wattage the more the electricity costs.

    Don’t leave lights on all night. Chickens need their dark hours like we do. Leaving the lights on all the time not only costs money to pay for electricity but it can cause certain egg quality problems. I suggest you use timers to set your lighting schedule.

    Many people use lights to extend laying. I don’t but I consider that a personal decision. Egg laying follows a curve. The flock will ramp up to peak production and maintain it for a while. But after a while that peak production starts dropping, both in number of eggs and in quality of eggs. Each flock is different but with the commercial hybrids, productivity is down to about 60% of peak maybe 12 to 18 months after they start to lay. That’s normally where it becomes unprofitable to feed them so the commercial operations either force a molt or replace the flock. They will go through that same cycle again but they normally reach that 60% a little quicker the second time around.

    Good luck!
     
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Try different color of eggs each year, one year get brown egg layers, one year get green, one year get white, then it is easy to say ohhhh the white layers are really slipping on production..... Easy way to keep track
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Well, that depends on how old you are and how good your eyesight/glasses are.......LOL!

    I'm using a CLF this year, I add light early mornings only so they go to roost with the sunset, I like that it comes up to full light slowly, uses less electricity ...but it's very bright and not sure it will hold up to the cold.

    That's a very interesting idea! Don't think I've heard/read that one before.
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Alternating colors of the chickens themselves each year also helps you know which ones are how old without marking them. With some breeds and colors that can be a challenge.

    Getting dependable green or blue egg layers may be problematic, but that is a good idea to alternate egg color. Not sure I've heard that before either. Due to the size difference in pullet and older hens eggs, alternating brown and white should work pretty well
     
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Not my original idea, but one I read on here.
     
  10. thoth3g

    thoth3g Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote: The different color egg things is a nifty thought but I will be hatching eggs from my flock and will stick with one breed. If I see a consistent drop in production after a few years I will likely to attribute that to the older bunch and cull them. I plan to stage it and tag them with leg bands. I suppose it will in the end be best to just see what my flock does. I like your timing. Perhaps it would make sense to cull after the laying season. I'll be supplying eggs to coworkers and neighbors most likely so were talking about 20-30 at a time. (I have the capacity for 100+ but would rather stay below 60-70, thinking maybe 50ish)
    I've built an incubator (and still building the) brooder right into the coop so I'll keep some eggs in reserve in case I have to hatch some out (taking precautions but you never know). I'll add some pics to another thread!

    Just to clarify though, (Ridgerunner) are you culling every other year or every third year? My original thought was to stage it so that by the third year I was culling the oldest bunch and adding a new bunch. After the third year it would be a yearly rotation.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2014

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