How to tell which hens are laying

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by flippinggoldfis, Feb 21, 2016.

  1. flippinggoldfis

    flippinggoldfis Out Of The Brooder

    May 12, 2015
    I have several new hens who just started laying. I know because there has been an uptick in egg production lately. I'm usually at work when the girls are laying, so I can't see which ones. Are there other signs that I can look for to tell which girls are producing besides seeing them on the nest?
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2016
  2. CochinLover1

    CochinLover1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 17, 2015
    Leg paleness and the pelvic bone width. If her pelvic bones are wide than she's in lay, also look at her vent, you can tell if it is stretched out and paler if she is laying.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    There are some signs that can tell you which ones are probably the ones laying. I say probably because they are not perfect and most don’t tell you how often they lay.

    When they start to lay most hens’ combs and wattles turn bright red. That’s a sexual turn-on for the rooster, it tells him which hens need fertilizing. The problem with this is that other things can cause a hen’s comb and wattles to turn red. At different times of the day they might be redder than at other times. As with most of these, this doesn’t tell you how often they lay or even if they have actually started, just that they should be getting ready to start. Still, it is a good strong sign.

    Another way is to look at their vent. You probably should be occasionally doing this anyway to check for mites or lice. They like the moisture around the vent and some lay their eggs in this area. As far as egg laying, if a hen is laying she will have a large, soft, moist vent. A hen not laying will have a tight dry vent. The problem with this, other than it doesn’t tell you how often she is laying, the vent will get soft and moist if she is getting ready to lay or maybe for a while after she stops laying. This is an excellent way to tell which hens are not laying though. A dry tight vent means no eggs.

    I haven’t done it but some people say they have and it works. If you put food coloring in the vent in the morning before they lay, the egg will have colored streaks on it after it is laid. Others have said you can use lip-stick the same way. That way you can tell which hen is laying which egg. Personally I’m not going to try telling my wife why I’m putting lipstick on a chicken’s vent but to each their own.

    You can make trap nests. Any hen that goes in the nest will be trapped there until you let her out. That way you can see the egg she is laying, if she is actually laying and not just going in there for fun.

    Another clue is when a hen squats. They might squat for a dominant rooster, a dominant hen if you have no rooster, or maybe even for you. It’s a sign that they might be reaching sexual maturity. I’ve seen a 13 week old pullet squat for a 13 week old cockerel about two months before she started to lay. It’s not perfect but again it’s a clue that they might be thinking about laying.

    My last suggestion is to take some lubricating material and a medical glove to the coop at night after they are on the roosts. Check inside each hen’s vent with your finger. If a hen is going to lay the next day you should be able to feel the egg in the shell gland. Be gentle so you don’t break the egg if the shell has started to form. The problem with this is that if the egg will not be laid until late the next day the shell may not have hardened up enough to be able to feel it easily. This might take some practice.

    Leg paleness does not work that well to tell which hens are currently laying, especially if they have just started. It only works with yellow-legged and skinned chicken anyway. A yellow-skinned hen stores certain pigments in various places (legs, vent and others) while she is not laying, say a pullet before she starts or a hen that stops during the molt. That pigment is gradually used up in making the egg. If I remember right it contributes to yolk color. Over the course of the laying season the hen’s legs and other yellow spots will gradually get lighter. How fast it gets used up will depend on how long she has been laying and how many eggs she is laying. Late in the laying season it’s a good way to tell which are your better layers, but it’s not of much value to tell you which have just started. My chickens have white legs. It’s totally worthless to me.

    The width of the pelvic bones is a good way to tell which are laying, are about to lay, or just stopped.
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Shazam Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Another thing is they get very talkative and bossy, especially first time layers. Even my older hen I can tell when they have resumed laying because they get loud and have lots to say.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    If you have a few new pullets that just started laying, you can check their pelvic points.

    They can be hard to find at first, but I've found it a pretty good indicator with pullets.
    Depending on how many pullets you have, you still may not be able to tell which bird laid which egg.....
    .....not sure what your goal is.

    2 bony points(pelvic bones) on either side of vent:
    Less than 2 fingertip widths apart usually means not laying.
    More than 2 fingertip widths apart usually means laying.

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