Many eggs all at once or over a period of time?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by K813ZRA, Jul 26, 2016.

  1. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm not sure if this is the correct place as it has to do with egg laying but also the general makeup of a chicken but anyway, here goes.

    I have been doing a lot of reading however many sources show different data and I am unsure what to go by. I see people talking about true heritage quality breeds over hatchery breeds due to many factors but one of them is egg production. Example: From my understanding a lot of hatchery birds will lay more per year but birds bred to standard will lay less eggs a year but for more years to come. Am I understanding that correctly?

    Moving on from that, my understanding is that a chicken is born with a predetermined amount of eggs it can lay already mapped in its genetics. How many that is seems to differ from bird to bird and a solid number on that is something that I can not find as I have seen figures as low as 400 and as high as 1,033. I don't know if that differs by breed or not. But is it fair to assume that the average chicken has a similar number of eggs in its laying life cycle as most any other chicken?

    Here is where my curiosity comes in to play. Just as an example lets say the average chicken lays 500 eggs and you have two breeds of chicken. One lays 250 eggs a year and the other lays 125 eggs per year. Does that mean that in theory chicken A will lay for two years and chicken B will lay for four years? (I realize this is a crude example as from what I have read chickens will not simply stop laying but rather they lay less productively year after year.) So I guess what I am trying to ask is, will breeds that lay less eggs per year lay for more years than breeds that lay more eggs at once or do the breeds that lay less per year simply lay less eggs in their lifetime?

    I ask this because while I understand that there is a natural life cycle and everything is food for something else I really do not wish to recycle my chickens every two-three years. I will eat them if need be and already have with a few extra roo's but for the most part, to me my chickens are pets that just happen to lay eggs that I can eat, give away or sell. Now, I bought hatchery birds and I realize they may fizzle out quickly but I can plan better for the future if this turns out to be the case. By getting chickens that lay better over the years as opposed to in one or two big bursts and by going with heritage bred chicks or eggs from a reputable breeder.

    Anyway, I hope this makes sense and I am really appreciative of any insight you have to offer.
     
  2. jpalmatier83

    jpalmatier83 Out Of The Brooder

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    This is interesting and I'll be following this thread to see what comes up!
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    When a pullet hatches she already has all the ova she will ever have. It varies chicken to chicken but the number is set at hatch. Not all ova become eggs. Some are just not quite right or may become defective. There isn’t a firm answer to how many ova will become eggs. The older the hen becomes, the more likely some ova will go bad.

    It is possible a hen will use up all her ova. In the industry that’s called a “slick” hen. That seldom happens with our backyard chickens, but it can. It sounds like you do not want to provide artificial lights to maintain egg production over winter. Instead let them follow a standard molt in the fall and quit laying cycle. Speaking to a University poultry science professor, he said that this very seldom becomes a problem with our backyard chickens, but it can happen.

    Something else to avoid is do not feed them a high protein diet. High protein encourages them to lay more, plus it makes the eggs bigger. The larger the egg relative to the size of the hen the more likely they are to have egg laying problems. There is a reason commercial operations feed a 16% protein feed and it’s not because they are brutes that love to abuse their chickens. It’s because if they feed a higher protein feed it can cause health problems to their specialized hybrid layers. With our standard breeds that’s not as important because we don’t have their hybrids and ours normally forage for part of their diet or get treats anyway.

    The commercial hybrids follow a pretty routine laying schedule. They lay really well their first season and after their first adult molt. But after the second adult molt and every adult molt after that flock production drops about 15%. That’s a flock average, some individuals drop more, some less. You have to have enough chickens for the averages to mean something. I don’t know that there is a set rate for our non-hybrid chickens. I’d imagine it varies wildly. You pretty much have to go on an individual basis.

    Egg laying traits, like all other chicken traits, can be affected by breeding. If you breed for a chicken to lay a lot of eggs early you can get that. If you breed for longevity of laying you can get that. Each hatchery is different with different people selecting which chickens get to breed and each uses their own criteria. For business reasons longevity of laying is not likely to be one of their criteria. In general, do not expect to get laying longevity from hatchery birds.

    Breeders vary a lot more than hatcheries. Some that call themselves breeders take hatchery chickens and breed them. They probably know a lot less than the pros at the hatchery. Some breeders develop show chickens. Their goal is to win a grand championship so they will mainly breed for the traits the judge sees. The judge does not see egg laying so that is not part of their criteria. Some breeders breed for production traits, meat or eggs, and don’t worry that much about what a judge sees. A judge doesn’t see their birds. There are a very few (single digits) breeders of some breeds that breed for show quality as well as the heritage traits the breed is supposed to have, production and behavior. You probably can’t afford their birds if you could find one willing to sell to you.

    Some people do breed for longevity of laying, but not many. Those people can be hard to find. I’m not sure how you would even look for them.

    Some people consider a show chicken of certain breeds to be a heritage chicken. I don’t unless they are also breeding for production and behavior. Some people will say that’s a Delaware or New Hampshire so it’s a heritage chicken. Not to me unless it includes looks, behaviors, and production as they are supposed to be. The term “heritage” can be pretty nebulous, meaning different things to different people.

    If egg laying is that important to you, I suggest you get some chickens from whatever source and breed your own. Only keep breeding chickens that hatch eggs from hens that have been laying well for a few years. Eventually you will have a flock with good longevity, but it will take years to develop. It will be years before you even know which eggs to hatch.

    But what I really suggest is to get some chickens and enjoy them and don’t obsess over this. Treat them well. Don’t overfeed them. When their egg production drops below what is acceptable to you, enjoy chicken ‘n dumplings, cog au vin, or broth and start over with new chickens. As you said, it’s a cycle. Enjoy the cycle and don’t over-complicate it.
     
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  4. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for the explination. I do have my chicks already. Two flocks one is buff orpingtons and the other is mixed. For me it was really just curiousity. I do like the idea of hatching some chicks in the future though. Hopefully I have many years to dedicate to this as I am under 30, just barely.
     
  5. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    In general, birds that are allowed to brood, and birds that get an annual break from laying during the winter do tend to produce well for a longer period of time. They also tend to suffer less from laying complications.
    Some breeds will never produce as many eggs over the course of their life as other breeds, though. Cornish, for example, are every other day layers at best. They just aren't capable of the same kind of output as a Barred Rock.
     
  6. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you. As for allowing birds to brood and take time off in the winter, that is oaky by me. I won't push them to lay. I will get what they give when they are willing to give it.
     
  7. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    I think that you have been sold a bill of goods. All the term HERITAGE means at the end of the day is that someone has been breeding or maybe inbreeding a line or strain of fowl ever since Grover Cleveland was in the White House.

    If no improvements in the major purpose of a chicken has been made recently then in my opinion you don't need that family of birds.

    The term HATCHERY is used by some breeders to rundown chickens that are bred by reputable commercial breeders. Know who you are dealing with.

    At the end of the day both of these terms are completely useless when choosing the fowl that you want or need.

    Special or fancy birds are usually short lived, have health problems, are un-economic, and are sold to fanciers to only be looked at, not to produce eggs or drumsticks.

    As an example 130 or so years ago the median number of eggs produced per hen was about 80 eggs a year or a little more than 6 dozen eggs every 12 months. Do not be fooled, most of the stuff that chicken keepers get fed these days come out of the animal rights industry and it is intended to discourage you from owning chickens or else eating eggs and poultry by convincing you that chickens are mistreated..

    Chickens are living breathing animals and all living breathing animals will eventually stop living and breathing..

    A hen NEVER lays more eggs as she ages, hens are very much like every other living breathing animal with age they slow down. Don't ask me how I know this.

    Although there are exception most hens will not live much past 3 or 4 years. If you wish a continuous supply of eggs then you need to plan for the future and have some replacement pullets in the pipeline ready to take up the slack in the hen house as your older ladies start slowing down or dropping dead.

    If a hen only lays 125 eggs in one year it only means that she is not pulling her weight.

    Hens do not have a predetermined number of eggs but they do have a predetermined number of potential eggs that is represented by the number of ovum that hen has stored at birth in her ovaries like a woman has a fixed number of ovum but that doesn't mean that she will produce one infant every month until she runs out of ovum.

    Good luck with your chickens.
     
  8. jpalmatier83

    jpalmatier83 Out Of The Brooder

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    Ooc, back to the original post in relation to:


    Is that (assuming a fixed number of ova at birth) because the time spent down while broody and during the off season extend the use of the fixed amount of ova? Or, do the occasional breaks make a larger percentage of the ova viable for egg laying purposes?
     
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    It is completely impossible to push a hen to lay more eggs. She only lays if she is young, healthy, well fed and her hormones are hitting on all cylinders. You are completely at the mercy of the hen in this respect.

    There are ways however to prevent a hen from laying more eggs if that is your goal but it always involves mistreating the hen in some fashion.

    Just like giving a hen or rooster an attitude adjustment to cure some chicken foible that we humans would rather not face like the pecking order dis-order that we see as bulling.
     
  10. jpalmatier83

    jpalmatier83 Out Of The Brooder

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    Couldn't artificial lighting in the winter or non optimal (high) protein diets be considered ways to "push" a hen to lay more eggs?

    Even breaking a broody hen would increase egg production, as the 20ish days she would otherwise be down would equate to an extra 15 eggs.

    Or, is this what you consider (just asking, not a judgement statement) mistreating the hen?
     

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