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Selecting for best FUTURE layers in fall or winter

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by HotDesertChick, Dec 4, 2016.

  1. HotDesertChick

    HotDesertChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My present herd of 7 Dutch Welsummers and 10 Black French Marans are only reliably putting out a grand total of 5 and 6 eggs per day. The hens are a 2016 hatch, and molting only a small amount.

    After dark tonight, Hubby and I, tagged ten hens that still appear to be laying(??). All of the tagged are still sporting rosy/large combs, typical of "active layers". But, I have read that hens that have had "extraordinary" production may also appear pale in terms of comb colors, leg color, because of the stress on their bodies. The Marans seemed to take a little longer to come into production, as opposed to the Welsummers. So, the "Frenchies" may be just laying later into the year?

    Did I band the "right" hens? Should I judge by comb size & rosy color? Thanks, for any comments. WE NEED to CULL!
     
  2. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Makes it easy to find out if you just glove up and insert the tip of a finger into the vent and palpate for the next day's egg. I've found this to be the most sure way to discover who is actually laying and who is not. All the other indicators can fool ya and you can wind up killing a great layer.

    It's easy to do, just hold her tucked into your arm with her belly up, insert the finger gently and palpate towards the spine...should feel the hardness of an egg in the oviduct if she will be laying the next day.
     
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  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    What date in 2016 did they hatch...how many weeks old are they??
    Marans tend to be later layers 7-8-9 months old or even older and coming into maturity in the 'dark' part of they year can delay that even longer.

    If a bird is molting she won't be laying, not too common for them to be molting in between 6 and 12 months, but not unprecedented either.

    Both Marans and Welsummer don't tend to be daily layers...more like 4-5 eggs per week.
    I've found examining vents and pelvic bones to be pretty darn accurate to tell if a bird is laying or not.

    Vent Appearance:
    Dry, tight, and smaller - usually not laying.
    Moist, wide, and larger - usually laying.

    Pelvic Points 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.
     
  4. HotDesertChick

    HotDesertChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, Beekissed and aart for your great comments. I have never tried slipping a finger up a hen's bum, but if the hen only lays every other day, or a couple days apart, I would not be able to palpate an egg? It would be still be too far "up" the oviduct?

    Aart, I have used the fingers between the pelvic bones, but I has been many many years since I did this. The Marans are nearly double the size of the Welsummers...quite hefty girls, so the "two-finger spacing" would be the same? I will try again (poor ladies...) and see if there appears to be any relationship to the comb size/color, and "pelvic-point" width. My girls might not let me in the henhouse after dark anymore! My husband will think I'm nuts (but he already has his suspicions at to that subject ).

    All of the hens are almost 9 1/2 months old (Will be 10 months old on December 17). They have been shedding a few feathers, which are easy to see within the light-colored pine shavings in the coop. They won't go through any significant molt until next fall/winter??

    Thanks again, for both inputs. BYC is GOOD!
     
  5. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Normally, I'd mark all birds without an egg. Check the next night, any birds that had an egg the previous night but didn't have an egg the next night are fixed with a band on the opposite leg, any still without an egg the second night are left with a band. The third night all birds that are banded and still do not have an egg are culled the next day...that eliminates all birds that lay too little and keeps those that may just be laying every other day or more.
     
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  6. HotDesertChick

    HotDesertChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, Beekissed. Great idea using the bands on alternate legs. I presently have bands on the right leg, from 1 to 10 for my "list of suspects". I can add more bands, if I try to "assess" the entire group (without judging comb color, etc). Would it help to band EVERY hen and note each number in a log book? "Anyone" who fails to lay an egg within three days should be culled?

    Are the Welsummers appearing to "shut down" from also maturing earlier, and laying "ahead" of the Marans? Could the Marans be coming INTO production more at this time, solely due to their late maturity? I do not supplement daylength artificially, so is this a poor time to select for best annual egg production? Only choosing hens that are laying right now? Will these girls actually BE the best future layers?

    Still confused....... (happens often)
     
  7. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    It's not the greatest time of the year for selecting for best layers, though it's most likely the best time to determine the best winter time layers....though I've found that can fluctuate from year to year and isn't always the same hens. They all have cycles and rests in their laying and it's not static, so I usually choose for best laying performance during the best, peak times for laying....any hen who is a cycling layer will be laying by Mar/April...I usually assess laying then. If she's not laying then, when hormones are highest and all birds should be laying, it's likely she's never going to be a great layer, no matter what.

    Then I keep watch during other laying cycles in the year and even when most birds lay off good laying, like during molt or winter, and see if there are hens that will still lay during molt or winter months. It's an ongoing process to weed out laying genetics and a lot of work if you don't have trap nests to verify which bird is laying what.

    Then you have to determine what is considered good laying for that particular breed so you won't be expecting leghorn production numbers from a DP type bird that may be taking off regular laying to go broody, then molt after brooding, etc.
     
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  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Agrees hard to assess layers, especially Marans pullets, at this time of year.
    Marans are often not stellar layers even in the highest season.
    10 months is not late for Marans, especially in the 'dark' season.
    The feather loss is not too unusual either, have read of many birds that age going thru a partial molt of a fall/winter.
    Could be a feather picked here and there in pecking order scuffles too.
    Most birds don't go thru their first full annual adult molt until their second fall.

    No, the two finger thing is not an absolute measurement.
    Different sized fingers, different sized birds make it more of a comparison tool.
    Took me some time and experience looking at vents and feeling bones of both known layers and young pullets before I could tell with one exam.

    Sounds like maybe you just have too many birds going into winter...space/crowding issues?
    Why are you culling now and what are your goals for chicken keeping?

    Many keepers (and their egg customers) are disappointed to learn that all their birds will not lay like 'pez machines',
    with eggs always available year round like walking into the grocery store.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Point well made. My style is to let them take a break, but when my kitchen supply of eggs is reaching crisis mode, I start them on a light. Several of my customers are totally disappointed that their supply has been cut off. (Shows how special real eggs are when factory eggs can now be purchased for $.88/doz.) They will gladly pay more than 3x that amount for real eggs. One of my customers says she's just going to have to get some chicks this spring, but she's speaking with the voice of the pez machine mentality, not realizing the cost or work involved in start up, or ongoing maintenance. I'd not supply her with chicks b/c of her attitude: when they stop laying, I'll just turn them loose. Not on my watch, you won't sweetie!!!!!!
     
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    LG, you wouldn't believe how many people do that very thing.... they've had the use of these birds and they are no longer useful, so let's just let them roam until the wildlife pick them off. They feel that is the "natural" way of doing things...they stop feeding them very much and just...let them go. And pretty soon they are indeed gone and when they are, those folks get more.

    Now you see why I don't sell any of my birds? Not anymore. I've seen too much. I'd rather eat them here than let them go out into the great unknown...which I've come to know of.
     

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