Any way to guess the age of a hen?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Ariel301, Dec 24, 2009.

  1. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    About a month ago I bought a few chickens from a neighbor whose kids got bored of them. There are two adult hens, an adult rooster, and two that were chicks (about 11 weeks old now). They are some sort of bantam EE mix and a white leghorn. I could never really get a straight answer from the previous owner on the age of the older birds; I am not sure she knew. She claimed they were laying, and there were eggs in the coop when I picked them up, but I'm not sure those eggs came from any of these birds. (They were brown, and the leghorn at least should lay white, who knows about the others but those were not bantam eggs...). Since I have gotten them, I have not gotten a single egg.

    I thought at first it was stress from the move. Well, they've settled in nicely and are very content, and still nothing. They're not molting. I make sure their diet has enough calcium and protein. Still nothing. I thought maybe it was because it's winter, but I have two friends with flocks of chickens here that do not have artificial light, live in similar arrangements, and eat the same diet, and both flocks are still laying though mine are not.(Theirs are Barred Rock, Jersey Giant, and Leghorn). It's not incredibly cold here, no snow, plenty of sunshine and nice weather. I don't have the ability to put a light in my coop since there's no electricity close enough. And the chickens don't really like to stay in it anyway; they prefer to hang out in my goat shed instead.

    I am wondering if I bought very old hens that are not laying anymore, or maybe the two adult hens in question are still too young. The combs on both are bright red, indicating that they should be old enough to lay. I am unable to catch the EE hen, but caught the leghorn this morning to check the width of her pelvic bones, on the advice of a friend. They are very close together, indicating that she is not laying? Could that mean she is too old, or is she definitely too young, or is it just because she is not laying right now? Is there any way to estimate about how old they are by looking at them? Also, I have not seen the rooster show any interest in mating the hens. That seems unusual to me. The leghorn at least will 'squat' if I touch her on the back. I also had another rooster I borrowed for a while from a friend, he was about a year old, and he did not show interest in these hens either....?

    Any thoughts?
  2. Cindiloohoo

    Cindiloohoo Quiet as a Church Mouse

    Dec 19, 2009
    Southwest TN
    The only way I personally know and it's not precise is to look at their legs. Older chickens don't have the smooth skin that younger ones do. The skin is supposedly an indicator of age. Or you could check their teeth [​IMG] JK!!
  3. fancbrd4me02

    fancbrd4me02 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I look at the legs, too. But this is something that comes with practice, and is not precise. Also, a bird with scaley leg mite can have "older" looking legs, but be young in age. Do you know any experienced chicken people in your area who can look at them? If this person you got them from got them from the kids they are probably not too old. Lots of people get chickes for thier kids then the kids lose interest and the parents don't want to deal with the mess. Based on circumstantial evidence I would bet they are not that old. They might not have been cared for properly, so they may need some TLC to get them up and going. Besides, they would probably have to be pretty old not to lay at all... Many of my chickens have laid pretty well until they were 4 or 5 years old.
  4. fancbrd4me02

    fancbrd4me02 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oh, also my older and non laying birds tend to have smallish not so bright combs, so the brightness of the combs is a good sign. Young roosters often take some time to show interest in hens. Older experienced roosters will bother even the old ladies.
  5. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    I'm not really sure by looking at their legs,but I tried anyway. They don't seem to be really, really old birds by that method; their skin looks fairly smooth to me. It was hard to get a close look since they're out free-ranging right now and don't want me to catch them! I think they were being sort of neglected for a while at their last home, we have noticed that they have put on weight and gotten much more shiny and just generally good looking since we got them. They were pretty dull looking in the beginning. I'm not sure if the older chickens were bought or ones that she hatched in the incubator...she told me that she had hatched the two younger birds I got, and had hatched a few generations of birds but they just did not want them any more. Maybe they just need a while to recover from lack of care, and get back in shape?

    They're not great pictures, but here are the two hens in question. They're in much better shape now; this is right after I got them. And their combs are more red than this; but being in the shade messed up the color.


    On a side note, does anyone know what color to call this silvery hen? I have never seen another one colored like this, but I really like it!
  6. Wooden_Pony

    Wooden_Pony Chillin' With My Peeps

    I am going to say they are not laying because they are still young.

    If that is a Leghorn her comb is very small for a mature hen.

    You have Pullets which is another reason the roo is not interested in them.

    Congrats on your new additions!
  7. fancbrd4me02

    fancbrd4me02 Chillin' With My Peeps

    They look young!!!!! Good for you! I am pretty certain that those are just some young ladies in need of TLC! They will lay for you soon.
  8. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    Well that is good to hear! If they were old birds they were going to become soup, and I'm getting rather fond of them, so I'd rather keep them as layers [​IMG]

    The leghorn may be a cross, she's at least not anywhere near a show quality bird. Who knows? I have noticed that show quality leghorns have much bigger combs than she does. If she's just a pullet and still growing, she is going to be one HUGE hen! She is the same size as the year old Jersey Giant rooster that I had. I figure I can hatch some good eating chickens from her!

    Thanks for the help!
  9. Chicken Chaperone

    Chicken Chaperone Chillin' With My Peeps

    I just wanted to post and say hooray for you for giving these chickens a new and better home! I think that's awesome and the chickens are lucky to have you! [​IMG]
  10. evonne

    evonne Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 5, 2009
    Las Vegas
    i doubt your white is a leghorn at all.. i have one and she is sleek, slender, and not fuzzy butt...
    she does however look like my barred rocks.. could she be a white rock??

    good luck with them....

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