when to replace flock to keep production high

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by polychickens, May 25, 2008.

  1. polychickens

    polychickens In the Brooder

    Apr 23, 2007
    For those of you who update your flock periodically for maximum egg production, at what age does this make the most sense? I have heard that a chicken can lay for years, but that peak production is around 28 weeks and slowly declines after that. So, how long do you keep paying their upkeep vs replacing them?

    I have had no luck singling out individuals who aren't producing in my flock of 42 hens, so culling the few isn't really an option. I'll probably update the whole flock, but when?

    Note, I keep hens for food, not as pets. I'm really looking for an answer based on production/economics. Thanks! PC
  2. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    You may wish not to look at it as a calendar decision, PC. The economics has to do with converting feed into eggs. When the hens have a rate of lay that falls below 50% each day, they are probably not paying for their feed.

    You may be able to make good guesses about this based on their age but it would vary by breed and other factors. Take a look at Table #4 from this NC State U website and see if that gives you any ideas.

    Steve, who tries to be a merciful but reasonable agriculturalist :|
  3. coopist

    coopist Songster

    Jan 2, 2008
    Midwest U.S.
    Most of the old-timers here in the midwest that I know just replace their birds after 2 years. The thinking is that a hen can reasonably be expected to earn her keep up to that point. After that, it may make basic economic sense to replace. I don't know how big your operation is or how much you're interested in old-fashioned thinking, though.
  4. BirdBoy88

    BirdBoy88 Angel Egg

    Dec 26, 2007
    my uncle replaces all hens that are over 2 years old... to me the younger they eggs the better egg layers
  5. sunnychooks

    sunnychooks Songster

    Jul 21, 2007
    If you replace your flock after 72 weeks you'll only have to deal with one molt (assuming you get chicks in the spring). I get new chicks in the spring and replace 1/2 of my flock every fall. I still get some egg production throughout the colder months from the younger ones that I keep and don't have to deal with an eggless winter by replacing the entire flock at once.
  6. NoSpringChick

    NoSpringChick Songster

    Apr 15, 2008
    SE PA
    Having a large flock...how do you know which ones aren't laying? Just curious.
  7. sunnychooks

    sunnychooks Songster

    Jul 21, 2007
    I don't know of any way except by using a trap nest. When the hen goes in to lay an egg, a door swings shut so she can't get out until someone opens the door for her. That's why many people opt to replace the entire flock at a certain age.

    Edited to add:

    Sometimes when I want to eliminate only a few from my flock I will look for the bleaching sequence. Chickens with beaks and feet that are very yellow are not laying (bleaching also involves other areas such as the vent or shanks, but it's easier for me just to look at beaks and feet). I will also choose birds who have nice, shiny, glossy looking feathers. Too much energy and protein are going into producing pretty plumage and not enough into producing eggs!

    As a side thought, when I choose birds to eliminate I also choose the larger ones. This has no bearing on whether they are laying or not, but the larger birds will eat more to maintain their body weight and condition (and you'll be spending more $$$ to keep them) and will still lay the same number of eggs as their lighter and smaller counterparts that don't eat as much.
    Last edited: May 25, 2008
  8. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    What do you all do with your hens when you cull and update your flock? I will have to get rid of 25 at a time, and I'm not needing those for stew hens.
  9. spottedtail

    spottedtail Songster

    Aug 5, 2007
    I keep each flock 18 months.

    That's May of the present year through Oct of the following year. Then they are sold. At this age they are still good layers, so there's no problem getting them sold. It does help alot to have good records to prove their production.

    By mid Oct, the new flock of chicks is beginning to lay well, so there's really no decrease in egg volume when they start producing.
    However, egg size will be smaller for months.

    I have been considering keeping each flock 30 months. I know there are advantages and disadvantages to that. But I would to see firsthand how all the variables (and bottom line) compare at 30 versus 18.


    P.S. Trapnests are great.
  10. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    spottedtail, where do you sell them? auction? privately?

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