How do you know when your pullets are going to start laying?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by HHandbasket, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. HHandbasket

    HHandbasket The Chickeneer

    I have read several different posts on these threads regarding the behavior of a pullet shortly before she lays her first egg. I have an Easter Egger that is about a month or so older than the rest of the flock. They told me when I got her she should start laying around mid/late July. Should I start seeing some pre-egg-laying behavior in the coming weeks? What should I expect?

    The reason I'm asking is that there are 2 little small roundish rocks in the dirt at the bottom of the chicken run. SOMEBODY in the chicken pen has placed them together somehow (not by human hands, I assure you) with some of the hay "fluffed up" around them, and I caught my EE sitting on them yesterday afternoon. I have also seen her sitting in a lowered position off and on now for about a week. In the last two days, I've started to see some of this behavior in my other chickens, as well.

    Of course, it could have something to do with the sudden temperature spike here in northern California. We were still getting snow in the Sierras until 2 weeks ago, so it's been an odd weather year this year.

    Best as I can tell, Bertha's at least a month away from her first egg, taking into account the age I was told she was when I got her. I don't think the ages I was given when I got these birds was very accurate, but I know she's not old enough to lay yet. She's an ameraucana mix, so she really doesn't have much comb to speak of, and her face/head hasn't really turned red yet. I was told she was full ameraucana and was hatched from a blue egg, so I don't really know for sure WHAT she is. She has the dark blackish feet, which leads me to believe she's an easter egger.

    Rest of the birds should start laying around Labor Day.

    I'm sure the signs will come with all my birds, but I do not really know what all those signs are.

    Any tips?

  2. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Songster

    Sep 4, 2009
    Some signs are:
    1. Very bright cherry red comb, wattles, face, and earlobes (if the lobes are red to begin with)
    2. The pelvic bones, on either side of the vent, have widened to the point you can place 3 fingers between (3 for large, 2 for small birds)
    3. She squats briefly, when you move to place your arm or hand over her body (this happens about 1-2 weeks before laying)
    4. Interested in the nest and sitting there for periods of time (this can happen a month before laying)
    5. Sometimes sings the egg song
    6. Tossing straw over her shoulders, as she walks around (expect her to lay an egg, that day)

    If I were you, I'd discourage her making a nest in the run. Instead, place those "eggs" or some golf balls into the real nest boxes, and show her where they are. This way, she'll get into a different habit for eventual laying. You may need to move her for the first few times, into the real nest box.
  3. HHandbasket

    HHandbasket The Chickeneer

    Oh, Bertha has definitely developed an interest in the nesting boxes and does sit there. When I come out to give treats to the chickens, the rest come out into the run from under the coop (it's an ark with an elevated "henhouse"), but the last few days, Bertha comes out of the nesting box compartment. I've also noticed some shuffling around of the bedding material in there. I guess it's time to put in a couple of actual nesting boxes... thought we had another month or so to wait on that, but we want her to know where the "right" place is to lay an egg before she gets started.
  4. ZaneyMama

    ZaneyMama Songster

    Feb 2, 2010
    Boulder, Colorado
    Mine are close to laying, too. So exciting! What is the "egg song"?

    Why do they toss straw over their shoulders?
  5. briteday

    briteday Songster

    Dec 16, 2008
    Northern NV
    You'll know the egg song when you hear it!!! [​IMG] BAWK, BAWK, BAWKKKKKKKK!!!

    A friend just made an observation about "ready to lay" and feed seems she fills the feeder a lot less just before they start laying. I'd make a guess that they are growing, growing, growing...then egg. I'll be watching for that this year. We're going thru Flockraiser like I own Purina right now so I will be glad if there's a slowdown in the next month or so.

    Also, I just purchased some ISA brown chicks this year. I went looking around on the product website (Hendrix Genetics?, just google "ISA brown") and the technical info says to feed the main meal 4 hours before lights out. So my started chicks are getting free fed right now but I will start feeding on a schedule once they start laying. I've had a problem with mice this year and had started feeding the existing flock 1-2 times per day (usually one bucket of scraps or weeds in the AM and Flockraiser in the late afternoon at the last egg check 4PM-ish) to eliminate the open free feed container feeding the rodents. Now maybe we'll just make it a habit. I'm sure commercial flocks are so studied for maximum egg output that my miniscule observations can't possibly compare. So I'll try it their way for a while and see how it goes. The girls do free range all day, currently enjoying the abundance of sage brush here due to the wet Spring. And they get plenty of weeds and kitchen scraps most mornings. Hmmm....
  6. HHandbasket

    HHandbasket The Chickeneer

    Part of me wishes we had spent the extra money and bought hens already old enough to lay, but I'm kinda glad we started with young pullets & get to watch them grow up and get used to us and experience the joy of waiting on their first eggs! They see us now when we come out the back door. They hear the back door open and come running to the edge of the coop. We are pathetic and almost ALWAYS have treats for them in-hand when going out into the backyard. They have us extremely well-trained.

    I don't think Bertha's making the "egg song" yet, but I did notice a change over the weekend in her vocalizations. Up to this point, all the pullets make noises that basically just sound like birds--but I noticed Bertha sounding more like a "cluck" (soft "ba-GAWK") over the weekend. She now sounds more like a chicken than the rest.

    The folks we got her from told us she should start laying around mid July, so I'm pretty sure that what I'm seeing is the behavior that starts roughly a month before laying.

    She'll start laying a good month or so before the other birds--what should I do about the feed? They all eat from the same feeder. Should I keep everyone, including her, on flock raiser until everybody is laying, or can I start them all on the layer crumbles? Or what about mixing the food?

    I was told Bertha came from a blue egg, so I hope she lays pretty blue ones. [​IMG] I can't wait to post pictures of her first eggs. This is a great exercise in patience for me. I'm already plotting and planning what dishes I'll be making with my (their) first eggs.
  7. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Songster

    Sep 4, 2009
    The EGG SONG is sung in different keys and different tonal ranges depending upon the volume and throatiness of the hen.

    But it's usually a very similar rhythmic tune that goes: BAWK-BAWK-BAW-GAAAWWWWK! BOK-bok-bok-bok-BAWGAHKK!

    Here's a version of it. Enjoy!

    About the straw-over-shoulder habit...I don't know why, except to wager a guess that they are SO close to laying at that point, all they want is to keep making a nest ANYWHERE they are. So...get a drink of water, and pick up straw, tossing over your shoulder into your imaginary nest. [​IMG]
  8. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Songster

    Sep 4, 2009
    I just saw your question about the feed. I was all caught up in the joy of the egg song, LOL!!!

    Anyway, don't worry about the feed right now. What I did, just before my first pullet laid at 19 weeks old, I began offering crushed oyster shell in a dish, in their run, free-choice style. I still had a partial bag of grower feed left, so I used it and purchased a layer feed bag, mixing it gradually into their grower feed, in the feeder, until the grower bag was gone. This worked well, because the new laying pullet could get the extra calcium she needed from the oyster shell, and the rest of the girls began eating the oyster shell, as their time came on to lay. In our flock of five, our earliest layer was 19 weeks old, and the latest was nearly 40 weeks old!

    You can purchase oyster shell at the feed store. Make sure it's a well-flaked variety, and you'll be surprised because the pullets that aren't laying will begin to munch on the oyster shell, if it's available, as they get closer to laying. It's actually another indicator -- their interest in chowing on oyster shell. I continue to leave crushed oyster shell in a dish attached to the wall of their run, always available to the hens so each one can eat what she needs, whenever she needs it. That, plus their layer feed, gives them the basics.

    ETA: your first "dish" will be a fried or poached egg, I guarantee it! you'll be SOOOO eggcited. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  9. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Free Ranging

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    Sounds like she's really close, if she's already practicing nesting. My EE got really red around her face and the skin around her beak right before she started laying. If you reach for her does she hunker down and lift her wings out from her body? (That's squatting)

    Egg song is another clue she'll start soon, but not every pullet sings.

    The day mine started laying, they got really vocal. (much more than usual) A couple of them I caught running to the coop, then coming back out, then running back to the coop, etc until the egg was laid.
  10. MammaMoose

    MammaMoose In the Brooder

    Jun 8, 2010
    Lawrenceburg, KY
    I can't wait to hear that "song". Mine are only 3mos. old, so I guess I still have a ways to go. Mine just growl and me and one squeaks. I guess they're still babies...except for my growler, she's a mean one.

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