"Older" hens not laying?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by mkelle11, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. mkelle11

    mkelle11 Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 13, 2008
    Hello!

    We have 3 Leghorns hens and 8 or so Comet hens. 4 of the Comets are 2009 hatches (We had 22 hatched, and 4 were hens. Very sad.) but the others were hatched about March 2008. We let the head Comet hen sit on a nest this summer so we could get some Americauna crosses, but the other comets laid through the summer, although it's difficult to tell entirely because they are free range in the warm months.

    The younger hens have started to lay, and are really putting their feathery hearts into it- However, I suspect that the older hens have stopped. We haven't been getting any white eggs, which outs the Leghorns, and we've only been getting about 4 brown eggs a day, which I attribute to the younger hens. I do not think the eggs are being eaten, because there's no sign of broken shells or any sticky remains on the other eggs.

    I live in MN, and right now it's a chilly 5 degrees out, but we have had them on lights for about a month now, and they are cooped up in the insulated coop, with two heat lamps, water, oyster shell, and a layer feed. It's the same set up these hens had last year, and they were fantastic layers then, especially the Comets. I know that hens lay the best their first year, and after that it goes downhill, but it just seems odd that they went from reasonably decent layers in the summer to nothing now. Of course, it could be that they are still laying, but we are mistaking it for the younger hens- I've put one older hen in a nesting box with food and water, but shut in there, to see if she's laying, and I plan to repeat the process for the others.

    So- How long does it take older hens to react to light and start laying? Is there some normal process I don't know about that explains this? And finally, if these hens basically are done, is it worth trying to fatten them up a bit and butcher them, or should I just "retire" them? (Which in my book involves putting them out with the bantams in their coop and if they wander off and freeze or get eaten by a raccoon, so be it)
     
  2. gsim

    gsim Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 18, 2009
    East Tennessee
    I wouldn't be too hasty to rid myself of them. It could be no more than the weather. It just does not cost that much to feed a couple of chickens . (I think it breaks down to 5 cents a day per chook for feed with my bunch ) You may well see them snap right out of it and start laying at any time or no later than springtime when it warms some. When did they molt ?

    I have Black Australorpe, Barred Rock, RIR, and Buff Comet. They are supposed to be good wintertime producers. All breeds are laying but some chooks have not yet started. They are all 6 1/2 mo old . They seemed to molt in Sept and started to lay in Oct. They do not seem to have slacked off for the winter, yet it could be that most all are laying, but none every day. I get 15-17 eggs a day from the 24 pullets. I have not done anything with lights either. [​IMG]
     
  3. mkelle11

    mkelle11 Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 13, 2008
    It isn't so much I want to get rid of them- Basically, with the set up we have now, we have two coops- A larger, more heated one, and a smaller, older, less heated one. The larger one is where we usually keep the laying hens in the winter, and they are cooped up except on very, very nice days. In the other coop, we keep the bantams and the roosters. They are let out every day and shut up at night, except on really nasty days, but basically they are free-range. Hens that were not laying I'd basically return to the routine they enjoy in the summer, but I know that, from past experience, some will take it into their little heads that sleeping on low-hanging branches are better, and either freeze or disappear one night. Mostly I'd want free-loaders out of the big coop to save space and keep it a little cleaner- We also have some young hens in there that I want for next year and really don't want to wander off, and then a 5 or 6 month old Peacock that we raised, who can't be out with the others because he isn't old enough for this cold without a mother. If it was the better idea to butcher them (Although that would be a wasted effort right now) we have about 12 roosters who are going to get it very soon. (We were holding it off because we were busy and honestly, we don't look forward to the event, and the weather was nice. But suddenly the temp dropped 20 degrees and we're doing it this weekend or next. )

    I honestly don't know when they molted- I'm guessing mid summer, gauging by when they lacked clipped wings, but I wouldn't be surprised if one didn't- She had a really tough go of it last year. Broken leg, tip of her wing bitten off through the fence by a Mr.Raccoon- those feathers are just starting to grow back, but overall she still looks rather scruffy. She's a personal favorite- we wouldn't boot her out of the "nice" coop if she was blind and wingless. Lol. We've wormed them recently as well.
     

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