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Best ways to tell who's laying and who is not?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by triplepurpose, Oct 29, 2016.

  1. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Not sure if this should be in the laying section, meat section, or here, but anyway:

    What in your opinion is the best way to tell who is laying (and ideally how well), and who is not, for the purposes of culling the flock in the fall?

    I know some people just get new birds on a regular basis and rotate out all the oldest ones, keeping track with bands or separate enclosures and just culling by age. This is what we tend to do, and overall it tends to average out in our favor. But what if you have an older hen who is still laying decently, or a younger one who never lays well at all?

    We also have a bit of a bottle neck this fall because we have too many older hens and not enough pullets. We need to keep ourselves in as many eggs as we can for the next few months until we can raise a new crop, but prefer not to waste money on feed through the slower months.

    I have tried to learn something by looking at rears to see if the vents were "large and moist" vs "small and dry" looking, but so far have only been able to cull one obvious non-layer (which a later "necropsy," as it were, during slaughter, proved an accurate assessment)--all the rest looked various degrees of "large and moist" to me. Yet we are only getting between 3 and 6 eggs a day from 12 layers at present. Maybe I just don't know well enough what to look for?

    I have tried constructing trapnests as a project years ago, but had a hard time building anything that could work properly, and besides it's more of a project than I can take on right now anyway.

    I plan to build a small chicken tractor that could be used to raise young birds in the spring and possibily to separate older hens in the fall for "testing" (putting a couple hens in the tractor, seeing what they lay for a week or two, then culling or making notes and returning to the coop, etc). But that is a rough workaround and doesn't give us very quick answers on the whole flock either.

    Anyone have any tips on ways to divine egg laying activities accurately?
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
  2. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The days are getting shorter continually and that may be the factor for your reduced egg laying. Mine went on strike totally, but its OK with me and I will assume production will pick up back to close normal in the early spring. If you supplement light so the hens experience 14 hours of light, the laying should stay steady regardless of season (except during molting time). Observation would be my choice of who is laying and how often. You may need to keep track since you have 12 hens. There are articles I read here on BYC about supplemental light. Seek them and inform self.
    WISHING YOU BEST.. [​IMG]
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Shorter days affect frequency of egg laying as does molting. I have a flock of twenty four, all ages, one rooster, and just two of the girls are laying at present. As those go into molt, as I expect them to anytime, I will be down to zero eggs until three new pullets reach point of lay soon, hopefully with the help of supplemental light.

    Even with as many layers as I have, and even a couple of my oldest girls are still laying at age seven, I know exactly who is laying and what their eggs look like.

    How do I do this? I peek into the nest boxes and see who's in them. I follow up a bit later, and see who's left an egg for me. By doing this on a regular basis, I learn the subtle differences in the eggs each hen lays. That way, even if I'm busy elsewhere, when I gather the eggs later, I can identify who has laid them.

    Some folks who aren't as keen to detail will use food dye dabbed around the vent. When the wet egg passes the stained vent, it picks up some of this harmless dye. With as many hens as you have, you would need to mix different tints of the four primary colors food dye kits come with. For example, red +blue = purple. Red + yellow +orange. Etc, to get beyond the red, yellow, blue, and green in the kit.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Newmamabear

    Newmamabear Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was thinking about this same thing earlier. How to tell who's been laying eggs and who isn't. I'm going to try putting a blue bingo marker upside down in the nests and hopefully they'll mark themselves and take some of the guesswork out... Will have to wait and see. Might just end up with some mussy chickens.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    This^^^^ will only tell you who has been in and out of a nest....I know mine may go in and out of several nests before actually laying.


    Trap nests and banding are the only real way to accurately assess who is laying what.
    Building the nests can be costly and is time consuming.
    Managing that system is time consuming too,
    as you have to be there all day to release birds and document laying.
    Just getting used to how to manage it, and waiting for the birds to get used to the setup.

    It can be hard to tell who is laying...pelvic point spacing is the best indicator for me...but even then,
    a bird not laying now in fall due to molt or low light may still be productive for another year or two.

    In the end you have to decide how you are going to manage your flock long term,
    and if egg production is your main goal then age of birds is probably the way to go.

    So many variables come into play....how much space you have, how many non-producing birds can you afford to feed for how long, what breeds to have depending n your goals.

    babbling out.
     
  6. Newmamabear

    Newmamabear Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the advice aart, looks like you've got a lot of posts on here and you're pretty knowledgeable. I'd be better off just giving up. I don't know how banding would tell you anything about daily laying and not sure that a trap nest would be a route I would take. I'll stick with my marker, you know what they say about the idiot that didn't know it couldn't be done.
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Really, imo this is the wrong time to be accessing. At this time of year, molting, day length are going to be much in effect and over-riding genetic laying disposition. However, I do understand the need to reduce the flock to reduce feed costs. If in doubt, go with older birds, any bird that does not look like they are thriving, and any bird, that does not really fit with the flock or you don't really care for. You may harvest a layers, been there and done that, but your feed savings will make up for that.

    This is an idea I have read about, never tried myself, but thought it would be a good idea. Year one, you have white egg layers, year two, you add brown egg layers, year three you add Easter eggers. Once you get this set up, you should be able to tell quite easily, which group is producing eggs, and which groups is down in eggs. In my opinion, you should access in July and August. If they are not laying in mid summer, they are not going to be laying in the fall or winter.

    Getting to know your eggs is easier if you have a mixed flock. Then it is easier to tell which egg comes from which bird, but even when I know which bird, their eggs are not exactly alike. In a flock of one breed, it would be pretty difficult.

    Good luck,

    Mrs K
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Banding is how you ID the bird for your records.
     
  9. Newmamabear

    Newmamabear Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Lol yes well I know what banding is... Just not how it would be useful if a person is unsure of whom is laying on a daily basis. What would there to be to write down if you didn't know who did it? Certainly the pelvic bones are a good indicator of pullets maturing into layers, it doesn't count the number of eggs though with any consistency. A mixed flock is probably the easiest way to go with regards to identifying eggs like Mrs K said but that would be a project for another year. Curiosity killed the cat.
     
  10. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    thanks all!

    yeah, i understand well the daylight thing already. even in here at 22 degrees latitude it still has an effect.

    right now we have precisely two different age groups, seven older hens and foir new pullets. ultimately by next year we would be replacing all the older girls anyway.

    i realize that making longer term judgements based on what a hen is doing right at a particular moment may not be ideal--but its a heck of bit better than just eanie meanie minie mo, which was about where we were at the other day! And at least it prevents you from culling an active layer, and guarantees some feed savings short term.

    Ive been doing some more reading and will try to make the time to go through the flock again real soon to measure pubic bones and such armed with increased knowledge of what to look for. i may do this a couple of times if i have to put off slaughter for a week or two anyway just to double check my work and make sure i dont cull anybody just coming out of molt too!

    having different breeds for different age groups def works (if you are not breeding your own replacements, that is) but isnt it just as easy to use bands to mark age groups, even the cheapie ones without numbers (on the older hens, not the pullets)? eg pullets = no band, yearlings = one band, older = one band on each leg, etc? thats what we do--the only prob i see is it could be time consuming only if you had dozens or hundreds ... :)

    but even culling by age isnt a perfect solution because it doesnt account for those older hens who keep on trucking (and esp if youre breeding, you may really want that older productive hen!) or that occasonal free loading pullet that never lays well at all (an older book i have even recommends culling first years too just to remove those poor performers).
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2016

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