Different breeds, different time tables

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Nutmeg101, Oct 23, 2013.

  1. Nutmeg101

    Nutmeg101 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 21, 2013
    Georgia
    Hiya! Curious about something (and I must be using the wrong search topic). Six hens, 4 breeds, all roughly the same age (25 weeks).

    There is 1 laying (barred rock- who is 2 weeks older than the others). Not daily, more like every 3 days, and smallish "pullet" eggs I'm guessing. Recently, I have also started finding 1-2 soft shells in a day- but also every 2-3 days. so I am guessing that 1 maybe 2 of the other hens is starting up. There are 2 RIR, a SLW, a GLW, and an EE. All eggs so far are brown. I found one in the nest box with a red feather on it, but the BR had just climbed off the box....

    I am not stressed or worried- just curious. It is getting cold here, and I won't be lighting the coop, so the production will disappear until spring anyway-

    Chickens are tricky!! So how old when your hens started laying?
     
  2. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    Apr 8, 2008
    Ohio
    As you said in your title, different breeds lay at different time tables. What complicates that this time of year is that those time tables are influenced by the number of dark hours that they get (usually people talk about light hours, but technically it's the dark that their body senses).

    Breeds like Leghorns and commercial hybrids like red sex links tend to lay early, around 18-20 weeks. Breeds like Marans often don't lay their first eggs until they're six months old, so 25 weeks or so. Some pullets will hold off until 30 weeks or so, and all of these timetables are "normal".

    Complicating that this time of year is that you can push back a chicken's date of first lay by shortening the day length. In a closed layer barn, they will keep the day length short until the pullets are 18 weeks of age, then gradually lengthen the day until the pullets start to lay. That's because laying super early isn't actually very good for chickens, and also because you get fewer tiny pullet eggs when you push back that first egg. Large layer operations will also "set" the final size of the egg by limiting certain amino acids when the egg size reaches 80% of the final desired size (layer barns don't want those extra large and jumbo eggs, they want them to all be uniform size large).

    That light restriction is what's happening naturally in the northern hemisphere right now. As the day length shortens, the date of the first egg for your pullets is pushed back. In fact, without supplementary lighting, it is not unheard of for some pullets to just wait until spring, when the day lengthens again.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
  3. Nutmeg101

    Nutmeg101 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 21, 2013
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    Thanks- that is actually what I was expecting when we got the chicks so late. I had ZERO expectations of getting eggs before march/April. So when one started - it was a bonus! And then the soft shells, I was just curious. I am actually *trying to stay out of their natural process as much as possible. I don't want to force laying through the winter, (my neighbor thinks I'm nuts for not lighting the coop). Just noting the marvel and wonder of it all :)

    I had no idea you could manipulate the size of the eggs! Learn something new every day! I don't want to be in charge of egg size, but wow!

    Found another soft shell this morning- firmer but still a soft shell. I will just be watching and waiting. I can waste so much time watching the chickens (I call it studying so it sounds more productive)
     
  4. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    Apr 8, 2008
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    You know--you're not actually staying with the natural process by not lighting the coop. It's actually unnatural for chickens to go without laying for this long. Chickens are descended from jungle fowl and the area where they evolved was much closer to the equator, so they had a longer day length naturally than they do now, with us keeping them so far from home. Up in New England, the day length is decidedly unnaturally short for chickens, and extra light this time of year will not hurt them in the slightest. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/09/supplemental-light-in-coop-why-how.html
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013

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