Hens too old or not?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Steve777, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. Steve777

    Steve777 Out Of The Brooder

    23
    0
    32
    Jul 14, 2013
    We are fairly new to chickens. We inherited a flock of five 2 year old hens last summer. Last Sept-Oct they went into molt and stopped laying. Being newbies, we did not have any extra light nor did we switch to high protein feed at first, but those things were done. And the girls came back into egg laying quite well, and have been going strong (for old hens) until recently. The egg laying has been declining gradually over the last few weeks, until now we are not getting any (for the last 3-4 days).

    At first we wrote off last year's slow-down and molt to the stress of the weather back then (flood and very cold temps), made worse perhaps by our lack of lighting and feeds. Now however we are at roughly the same time of year, no extremes in the weather, light bulb in the coop to extend light for 15 hours a day, good feed, and these hens have still stopped their egg production.

    So my question is, is it just that these hens are getting too old and their egg laying days/seasons are numbered? Or is this just a chicken cycle that they are going to stop egg laying in Sept each year and molt, but they will come back in a while?

    I have not seen any signs of molting (extra feathers around, rough looking birds). And I have not noticed any signs of disease (although on the black birds I notice a touch of white by their vent sometimes), but everyone seems healthy. I suppose I could just wait a few months and see what happens, but I would like to be able to figure out what's going on.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Overrun With Chickens

    2,916
    409
    261
    Mar 7, 2011
    Finger Lakes, NY
    Hello & welcome, [​IMG] I have a similar issue to yours. Mine are 3ish, are laying minimally, looking tatty. I've adopted a wait and see policy. I think they may be getting ready to molt, but also as production birds rather than heritage, I fear they may simply be getting too old.
    Keep us posted, good luck with the eggs!
     
  3. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,576
    165
    158
    Jun 4, 2014
    Victoria, Australia.
    I think 'just to be on the safe side' you should buy some more chickens.

    I'm sure everybody here would back you in that choice [​IMG]

    (Any excuse will do for more chickens.......!)

    - Krista
     
  4. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Overrun With Chickens

    2,916
    409
    261
    Mar 7, 2011
    Finger Lakes, NY
    There speaks a true addict........................[​IMG]
     
  5. mindwing

    mindwing New Egg

    5
    1
    8
    Apr 25, 2013
    If they are looking tatty, then it is their yearly molt. Chickens tend to molt every year--late summer to fall. Some molt more than others. After about age three, the egg production goes down on most breeds, so it is a good idea to get some new chickens. I had a leghorn from an egg ranch, and she died of old age at four and a half. We have an old RIR hen who is nine and laid until last year. All my layers are really ragged looking right now and I'm only getting two or three eggs a day from 8 chickens. Two pullets just started laying or I would be almost eggless.

    I'll probably add about three hens a year for a while and cull one or two a year. (Shh, don't tell my husband.)

    mindwing

    P.S. My laying herd is 13 chickens, a baker's dozen.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2014
  6. Howlet

    Howlet Chillin' With My Peeps

    317
    13
    83
    Jul 31, 2014
    Maryland
    My Coop
    XD i would SOOO get more XD[​IMG] the issue is THE PARENTS XD my mom LOVES dem but dads liek eeh they crap infront of my garage get em gone. XD
     
  7. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,576
    165
    158
    Jun 4, 2014
    Victoria, Australia.
    (Whispers to self.......)

    "Oh no! They're on to me!" [​IMG]


    - Krista
     
  8. Steve777

    Steve777 Out Of The Brooder

    23
    0
    32
    Jul 14, 2013
    Well, sort of a update but it comes with some new questions. It was definitely a molt as feathers started appearing all over the place in the next week or so. Things seems to go better this year, warmer temps, and higher protein feed. And about 5 weeks later we started getting an egg every other day (about right for one hen laying). That started a couple of weeks ago, and I was expecting the others to join in, but it hasn't happened yet. I did notice some pin feathers still on one hen when the eggs started coming, so a few of the girls may be taking a bit longer to molt, but I am wondering how long to wait.

    Last year, the egg laying ramped up fairly quickly; within two weeks we were back to full production (2-3 eggs a day for these girls). This year it's been two weeks and still at only one hen laying. Not sure how long to keep waiting to see if the others join in or if they have ended their egg laying careers. Any thoughts on this?

    Next question is about adding/replacing some of the flock. I had been thinking of adding a few more hens next spring, with the idea that spring time would be an easier climate to introduce new birds to the flock. But if more of the old girls don't start in laying soon might have to do the addition sooner. Any thoughts on this? I had been planning on getting laying birds, so doing the intro might be a bit tricky in winter with snow on the ground.

    Also, I was wondering if all the birds in a flock will molt at the same time, or if I add hens who were hatched later in the year if I might build a flock with only 1/2 molting at a time? Is that worth trying to do?
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by