Can a hen lay herself to death?

Cel45

Songster
Oct 28, 2015
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Houston, Tx
I have two Production Reds. one is laying and one is not. They are 26 weeks today. Tilly, the one that is laying started on December 3rd. She has only taken one day off since. I am just curious, thanks.
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
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A hen is born with all the eggs she will lay in her lifetime. They are mostly very, very tiny, but they are all there.

According to the ebb and flow of hormones, the length of the days throughout the years, so many eggs will move down the "chute", growing to their ultimate size, and then laid.

As her body ages, this production slows down, and fewer eggs develop and are laid, but a hen in good health will continue to lay eggs until either natural death occurs or she has a health problem and dies.

Sometimes an egg gets hung up in the chute and causes an infection. That's the only way a hen could possible lay herself to death.
 

Free Feather

Songster
5 Years
Aug 1, 2014
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Hardcore production hens can get infection, cancer, osteoporosis, deficiencies, prolapse, peritonitis, and other complications from laying way more than they were meant to. Letting them take a break in the Winter and feeding them nutrient rich feeds helps. This can happen to production reds, as I am finding out. I notice that the longer they lay in a stretch, without breaks like Winter, broodiness, and molting, the worse their eggs look, with soft shells and odd shapes. Their beaks, legs, and faces will bleach, their feathers will look ragged, and they will walk hunched like their joints hurt. If their high nutrition needs are not met the calcium will be leached from their bones, the protein from their feathers, and the shell pigment from their skin, and that is why they look like this.Overall they are not healthy and do not live long.
 

Cindy in PA

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Jul 8, 2008
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Hardcore production hens can get infection, cancer, osteoporosis, deficiencies, prolapse, peritonitis, and other complications from laying way more than they were meant to. Letting them take a break in the Winter and feeding them nutrient rich feeds helps. This can happen to production reds, as I am finding out. I notice that the longer they lay in a stretch, without breaks like Winter, broodiness, and molting, the worse their eggs look, with soft shells and odd shapes. Their beaks, legs, and faces will bleach, their feathers will look ragged, and they will walk hunched like their joints hurt. If their high nutrition needs are not met the calcium will be leached from their bones, the protein from their feathers, and the shell pigment from their skin, and that is why they look like this.Overall they are not healthy and do not live long.

I have red sex linked chickens this year. They have been laying for 7 months & I rarely get less than 12 from 12 hens everyday. Their feathers are beautiful, their shells are great & they appear to be very healthy. I have had the same type chickens several times in the past & never had a problem either. I use lights every winter. Good food & oyster shells and fresh water & scratch is what they live on. Hens are born with all the eggs they will ever have, but in most cases that is thousands & more than they will ever have time to lay. JMHO
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
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Nov 27, 2012
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I have an amberlink cross that has laid almost continuously (6-7 a week) for 18 months now.
Early on she had 33, 49, 34, 20, 33 days stretches with no days off.
She still hasn't molted...I do use supplemental lighting tho.
She's fine, appears healthy, tho does have some funky shell formation at times.
 
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Free Feather

Songster
5 Years
Aug 1, 2014
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I have red sex linked chickens this year. They have been laying for 7 months & I rarely get less than 12 from 12 hens everyday. Their feathers are beautiful, their shells are great & they appear to be very healthy. I have had the same type chickens several times in the past & never had a problem either. I use lights every winter. Good food & oyster shells and fresh water & scratch is what they live on. Hens are born with all the eggs they will ever have, but in most cases that is thousands & more than they will ever have time to lay. JMHO
I did not have problems when they were younger, either. But when they started to get a couple years old they developed problems. People who kill them before they get older do not notice this. They are just not going to be as healthy when they get older or live as long as a non-production heritage chicken or a game. It also varies slightly with where you get them from, and feeding them lots of calcium helps. The older they get and the longer they go without a break, the more calcium they need just to make a normal egg.
 

Chickerdoodle13

The truth is out there...
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Mar 5, 2007
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Essentially, a hen could lay herself to death by laying eggs without a proper intake of enough calcium to support egg laying. Calcium is very important for not only the egg shell, but also for the contraction of muscles necessary to push the egg along the tract and eventually out of the body.

As the others mentioned, they could also get an infection cause by a retained egg, but this is usually caused by bacteria like E. coli and is usually associated with severe peritonitis.
 

chickengeorgeto

Crowing
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Dec 25, 2012
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.....I notice that the longer they lay in a stretch, without breaks like Winter, broodiness, and molting.... Their beaks, legs, and faces will bleach, their feathers will look ragged, and they will walk hunched like their joints hurt. If their high nutrition needs are not met the calcium will be leached from their bones, the protein from their feathers, and the shell pigment from their skin, and that is why they look like this.Overall they are not healthy and do not live long.
The bleaching of eggshells and body parts is a normal result of a brown egg layer getting close to the molt. Every last speck of calcium that a hen uses to produce her eggshells is leached out of her skeleton. The oyster shell and calcium in the lay pellets that she eats goes into replacing the calcium in her skeleton. Hens are unable to withdraw protein from their plumage. However they can and often do pluck and eat feathers from other members of the flock if they don't get enough protein in their diet. You will normally first notice this feather plucking on your roosters' neck and saddle hackles. A careful study of the color or lack of color of certain body parts on a hen will give you a good idea of how long she will be laying or how long it will be until she starts back to laying. This is how commercial egg producers cull their non-productive hens.
 
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Cel45

Songster
Oct 28, 2015
663
65
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Houston, Tx
Thanks guys, so let me ask another question. I do have oyster shell available, but they don't seem to eat it. Should I add some to their daily feed or throw some down with the stratch I throw for them daily?
 

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