Old hen question

Billie-Jean

Hatching
7 Years
Jul 26, 2012
9
0
7
I reckon Babs is pretty old for a bird, she's just over 3. Anyway I was wondering about something. She hasn't laid in like 6 months, which is fine because I don't need or want eggs particularly, just a happy bird. I wrote a bit ago about her pal Ginge, who sadly died a few weeks back. I got her two friends (Betsy and Miss Anne) who she seems to hate :p she was dreadful with them at first. She's better now but I wouldn't trust them alone for a long time. Anyway she likes to come into the house (don't judge!) because she's spoilt and reckons she's a people too. Anyway I noticed around that she's been laying SOMETHING, I'm not totally sure what. It's like a small round egg but the size ranged from little fingernail size to thumbnail size. Obviously there's nothing in it, it's like a baby messed up shell. It doesn't cause her any harm or distress. I just wondered what it was. She probably does one a day. Is it just like the end of her egg laying cycle? I have noticed she flicks her head a lot, like she's trying to flick something out of her face. There's no sign of any problem. Perhaps it's something she's created in her old age. I wouldn't be surprised. Anyway just wondered if anyone else has a similar experience.
 

Sonya9

Songster
5 Years
Feb 7, 2014
1,259
171
211
Jones County, Georgia
I would not consider three years old to be old at all for a pet chicken! Many breeds can live well into their teens. Some lay for many years and some even keep laying the occasional egg in their teens too! The laying houses may kill them off at 1.5 years or so but that has nothing to do with old chickens, just chickens that aren't producing eggs as fast as desired or even because their eggs are too large.

I just adopted two four year old OEG bantam hens (needed small companion hens for another OEG hen) and I hope to have those girls for MANY years. The breeder said they still sometimes lay and they both lay at least once every two days here, the change in environment may have jump started their hormones a bit (OEGB's are not big egg producers even in the best of times).

Your girl may be going through some hormonal stuff too and I wouldn't assume her good egg laying days are over, she could start laying nice eggs again.
 
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chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,905
655
296
Australia
High production layers are prematurely aged at 2 years old but that doesn't mean they can't live for years more, in good health too. I'm assuming she's one of that breed, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong! They kill those hens at such a young age for a few economical reasons, as stated above too, an example being that at over a year old they may begin to lay one egg less per year. It's not because they're old; far from it.

Many people think 10 is ancient for a dog or cat and it's just a species-specific thing, but wild counterparts of dogs and cats (their ancestors, like Wolves, Wildcats, etc) are capable of living for twice that. We severely restrict the lifespans of our domestic animals and then think that's normal for the species rather than a direct result of our breeding and feeding habits inflicted on their species for countless generations. It's now gaining more recognition that it's more breed related than species related and has a lot to do with what we fed them and how we kept them. Hence why some people's cats and dogs live twice their littermates' lifespans. Diet and lifestyle have a lot to do with it.

I knew one purebred Silkie hen who was still laying full clutches of eggs at 14. Plenty of hens are still laying into their teens, if anybody allows them to reach that age, and if they're not of some intensive production breed whose genetics compels such overproduction that they're burnt out before they hit the normal prime age of any other hen.

Their diet has a lot to do with it, too. They restrict fats so they don't become too fat to lay, and all the oils and proteins are cooked, which is basically how you feed for heart disease and premature decrepitude and death. If you take her off layer pellets and just put her onto a normal diet for pet or breeder chickens, she will do much better. But she'll lay less as her body can now slow down from harmful overproduction into producing within her health's capacities.

In fact, chances are she's laying less because you're giving her a good diet, if she's a high production laying breed, that is; give them what they truly need, not what the financial bottom line of the egg factory needs, and they stop producing so heavily. Otherwise, they produce heavily on what is labeled as a 'complete diet' but which is actually a subsistence survival ration, the barest bones of nutrition, sufficient to keep them alive and producing in the short term, the intended recipient of which is expected to be killed before the diseases of malnutrition set in. It's not complete at all. It's one of the reasons they're prematurely aged before they hit their prime. If raised on this diet, once they're taken off it, they often stop laying for a while as they are finally able to redirect their dietary intake into rebuilding their own bodies, attending to their health, instead of ceaseless production; they will start up again once they've rebuilt, but won't lay as heavily as before. But they will lay for many years longer than their commercialized counterparts.

Being able to free range appears to be a fairly necessary thing for longevity. The stimulation it provides, as well as the detox and nutrients they get from grass, insects, etc, does wonders for their health. Exercise is also one of the biggest determinants of lifespan, and being free of the constant stress of caging is also good for them.

Best wishes.
 

Sonya9

Songster
5 Years
Feb 7, 2014
1,259
171
211
Jones County, Georgia
In fact, chances are she's laying less because you're giving her a good diet, if she's a high production laying breed, that is; give them what they truly need, not what the financial bottom line of the egg factory needs, and they stop producing so heavily.
Any suggestions regarding a good chicken feed type/brand for adults that also lay? Mine free range and get healthy snacks, they are currently all on starter as 3 are only 10 weeks old.

I am not concerned about high egg production just healthy chickens that can produce some eggs as a side benefit.
 
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chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,905
655
296
Australia
Any suggestions regarding a good chicken feed type/brand for adults that also lay? Mine free range and get healthy snacks, they are currently all on starter as 3 are only 10 weeks old.

I am not concerned about high egg production just healthy chickens that can produce some eggs as a side benefit.
Any good adult feed will support laying too, it just won't be modified towards getting the most out of the bird while putting the least in, like high production layer feeds are, generally speaking.

I'm in Australia, so what brands and feeds I could recommend would not apply to your country, but I have heard some members of the forum in your country talking about the ingredients in the feeds their birds get, and there is nothing equivalent in Australia. Sounds amazingly good. I don't offhand recall the names but breeder feeds will be extra good, and really just doing a read of the ingredients of every brand, and discussing it with other people, looking for quality instead of cheapness, will lead you to something great.

Best wishes.
 

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