What to do with non-laying hens?

Tycine1

Crowing
10 Years
May 26, 2009
1,679
3,920
371
David, Chiriquí, Panama
Richmond, Missouri is currently only receiving just over 10 1/2 hours of daylight this time of year. Chickens require 14 hours of light daily for optimal egg production. The 3+ hour deficit is likely the culprit and NOT your flock. Your area is scheduled to start receiving a full 14+ hours of natural daylight on May 4th, 2020. By this time, you will have noticed a significant increase in production the month prior. Link to source posted here so that you can bookmark it for future use, https://sunrise-sunset.org/us/richmond-mo/2020/5 (Switching months shown links are on both left and right side of webpage, about 2/3 of the way down the page.)
 

BigBlueHen53

Fragile, Beautiful, Strong
Premium member
Mar 5, 2019
3,557
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SE Missouri, USA
Oh mercy, I don't have room in my freezer for 25! :eek: We used to have a chest-type freezer big enough for a couple of deer or a side of beef, easy, but it was like 20 years old and really ran up the electric bill so we got a smaller one. You could have hidden a body in it. Still deciding what kind of cockerels to order, what are you getting?
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,281
12,530
707
Southeast Louisiana

if you cull a few at a time..how do you know who’s not laying


@aart has a link that helps with that. Part of the issue is that mature hens naturally stop laying and molt this time of the year unless you extend lights. Even then, after a certain amount of time of continuous laying they drop off. Their laying goes through cycles. Even a great layer has downtimes in that cycle.

how old are chickens when they stop being productive

It varies by the hen. Some stop a lot earlier than others. It's not that all of a sudden at a certain age they stop laying though that can happen to some individuals. What typically happens for a flock average is that they lay really well until their first adult molt. They again lay really well after their first adult molt plus the eggs are a bit bigger. After their second adult molt the flock average drops, often in the range of 15% to 20%. For commercial flocks that makes them not profitable, commercial operations work on a pretty thin profit margin. But those hens will still lay pretty well, it might be enough to keep you happy. But after he next adult molt productivity is typically fairly low.

I read don’t use heat lamps in winter due to fire risk..so do you mean LED?

That heat lamp bias again. People have been using heat lamps safely for over 100 years. If you know how to use them they are pretty darn safe. If you don't use any tool correctly it can be dangerous. But this is not a place for heat lamps. They use too much electricity producing heat so are inefficient.

You can use an LED or incandescent. What you are looking for is enough light to read a newspaper.
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,281
12,530
707
Southeast Louisiana
Chickens require 14 hours of light daily for optimal egg production.

There can be not much difference in optimal egg production and what you actually get. That 14 hours is what commercial operations do but there are other factors besides length of light. They want each hen to eat just enough for optimum egg productions but not any more. When they wake up hungry they automatically feed a certain amount of feed so they all are busy eating and the bullies are not keeping the weaker ones away so they all get to eat. When they are hungry again they dump some more feed. They don't want to do this when most are on the nests laying so they have those intervals timed. They have worked out a system where 14 hours gives optimal egg production but there are other factors than just length of light.

In Arkansas with less than 10 hours of light in the depths of winter I had pullets that were laying an egg 5 to 6 days a week. I had hens that had finished the molt and started laying when they finished in December, again laying really well. Production was not as good as in the better months but it was totally respectable. Production would really drop in severe cold, but it also drops in severe heat in summer.

I think the real problem is the molt, especially for those younger ones. I expect those Australorp especially to come back gangbusters well before the day length reaches 12 hours, let alone 14.
 

BigBlueHen53

Fragile, Beautiful, Strong
Premium member
Mar 5, 2019
3,557
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SE Missouri, USA
Thanks, @Ridgerunner that is really good to know. I have always suspected my hens actually lay better in the colder winter months than in the hot, humid dog days of summer, but have only recently been actually tracking production, so we'll see! No night lights here at this point, time will tell if we think it's worth the expense.
 

Jandsloch

Songster
Apr 3, 2019
396
719
151
Nw pa
I started using a light on a timer and it seems to be helping. Currently it’s a “shop light” the kind with a cage on front closed on back. I put a natural light light bulb 25 watt (lowest natural I could find) it’s 2ft in from main door of a 10x10 shed I have the caged front facing the door...their roosts r to the left side otf shed. I did this so when it comes on it doesn’t shock them. ;) anywho currently it comes on at 4am and off around 630-645 when it’s dusk they go in and roost and it shuts off. I will be changing these times as the days continue to shorten...I’ll adjust so they get at least 14hrs of light and it still shuts off just after they go in to roost (dusk). Hope this helps. Maybe this is worth a shot before u cull the entire flock. Also perhaps caging a couple younger ones and seeing if u get eggs might also be a good way. I never knew if my sons pullet was laying until he took her to the fair. Can’t mistake an egg in a cage for anyone else’s ;)
 

Jandsloch

Songster
Apr 3, 2019
396
719
151
Nw pa
A
25w for a 10x10 shed? They're supposed to be getting enough light that you could easily read a newspaper inside the coop...
and.....I can easily read a newspaper inside....here’s a pic....light behind me keep in mind it’s the back of the light which is enclosed the actual light is facing the other way. Also keep in mind it’s a natural light bulb. It’s super bright hence the reason I went with a lower watt pretty sure it’s bright!
 

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