When to replace my hens...

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Baizer84, Sep 15, 2014.

  1. Baizer84

    Baizer84 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 28, 2014
    Hamilton, TX
    I've got a set of 10 Buff Orpington pullets. They are 5 months old and should begin laying very soon. Egg production is important to me. They are not pets. My plan is to order my new pullets in the spring and then, when these hens hit 18 months old next September/October, add them to the deep freeze as stewing hens and replace them with hens I order in the spring. Thoughts? I plan to do this every year. I've been told that, for egg production, this is the most efficient method.
  2. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    For a primary focus on production, yes, that would be the most efficient method, and is the process most production focused (aka factory) farms use.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
  3. Baizer84

    Baizer84 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 28, 2014
    Hamilton, TX
    Well, then that is what I'll do. As I have a whole list of breeds I wish to try, I guess that means that I can try a new one each year.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    How important is egg size to you? You are going to wind up with a lot of eggs. Can you realistically use that many? Do you need that many year around?

    Pullets lay smaller eggs than older hens of the same breed. Egg size will increase as they lay, but the big jump in size is after they go through an adult molt. Pullets often skip the molt their first fall and continue to lay through the winter and all the following season before they finally molt in the fall at around 18 months of age. Then they molt and quit laying until the molt is over. After that molt the egg size increases nicely. Some commercial operations force an early molt to get the egg size up so they get more Grade A Large eggs. They get more money for those.

    There are a lot of studies out there on frequency of lay. Those studies are performed on the commercial laying hybrids kept in commercial conditions, not Buff Orpingtons or other dual purpose breeds kept in a backyard. Still that’s the best I have to go on. The tendency there is that the hens will lay as well as pullets after that first adult molt. It’s after the second adult molt that productivity drops.

    If egg size is not that important to you, your method should work well. I do have a question though with you doing this every year and them being 18 months old when you finish them off. If you do this every year, they will not be 18 months old when you put the older ones in the freezer unless you wind up with 20 hens the second laying season plus an additional 10 pullets when they start laying in the fall for a total of 30 laying until the molt starts.

    The most efficient time to put older hens in the freezer is after you get a full laying season out of them and they start to molt. If you pluck a hen that is in molt, you will get a tremendous amount of pin feathers under there. I generally skin mine to avoid that problem.

    My goals are a bit different so I use a different approach. My goals are more about meat than eggs though eggs are part of it. I’m also playing with genetics and breed my own, using as many broody hens to hatch and raise their own as I can.

    My method is to replace half the hens every year. Using your ten hens as an example, every fall I’d replace 5 hens with pullets I hatched in the spring with the excess being eaten. Instead of 1-1/2 years old, these would be 2-1/2 years old. So during laying season I’d have 5 hens two years old that are laying nice sized eggs plus I’d have history on them so I’d know which eggs I wanted to hatch, 5 hens that probably laid through the winter but lay smaller eggs, and in the fall when the new pullet start laying 5 pullets laying the tiny eggs but will probably skip the molt and continue to lay during the winter. When the molt starts, the five older hens are put in the freezer.

    One difference is that I feed five hens during the molt when they are not laying. I’m not sure if you are doing that or not. You should not have that as a general rule, though they may not lay as well in the winter as they do in the summer. My number of eggs drops dramatically in the winter when the older ones molt.

    Buff Orpingtons are known to go broody a lot. They don’t lay when they are broody. How does that fit into your plans? If your goals are only eggs, are Buff Orps the right breed for you?
    1 person likes this.
  5. Mtn Laurel

    Mtn Laurel Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 18, 2012
    Northern Virginia
    My Coop
    Have to agree about the Buff Orpingtons. I only have one but - within her first year - she went broody twice. The first time was a "faux" broody but she quit laying for a while. The second time she was dead serious and I put eggs under her to hatch so she didn't lay for about 6 weeks. Add to that any molt time when they stop laying. That's a lot of time without eggs within a year, especially if you've got more than one Buff Orpington.
  6. JackE

    JackE Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    I have three BOs, two of which go broody on me regularly. If you want max eggs, with no broodiness, go with another breed, like a BR. I have five of those, and they never go broody.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Baizer84

    Baizer84 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 28, 2014
    Hamilton, TX
    I only have Buff Orpingtons because I found ten started pullets for only $13.00/head. I haven't had hens in a long time but I previously had White Leghorns. The breeds on my list for future purpose are as follows:

    White Leghorns
    California Whites
    Norwegian Jaerhons
    White-Faced Black Spanish
    Lamona (If I can find them)

    As you can see, most of these are flighty, non-sitters. That is what I, ideally, would have. I just have the Orpingtons because that is what I could get that was started this late in the year.

    Egg size isn't a huge factor. Medium-sized eggs will be fine.

    I have a nice brooder I acquired and will be ordering my next set in the spring. Probably the Jaerhons.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    Are you going to provide supplemental light to keep them laying all winter? My preference is to keep them a bit longer, through 2 laying seasons, then, I'll evaluate and make decisions from there. Given that it takes about 5 months to raise a chick to POL, and their non-laying time for molt is considerably less than 5 months, and they don't lay the nice big eggs until their second laying season, IMO, for the back yard flockster, it's more productive to keep the girls through 2 laying seasons, and perhaps even longer... though I have no point of reference for anything after the second laying season. In addition, IF you are planning to raise your own birds from your own eggs, it would make more sense to breed for long productivity life.

    Also, how about a mixed flock. That way, you can have a couple of egg laying machines, as well as some more meaty DP birds, and will be more likely to have a broody come along now and then.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
  9. Baizer84

    Baizer84 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 28, 2014
    Hamilton, TX
    These are some good points. I could probably keep 5-6 dual purpose breeds for broodiness from time to time and then keep 5-6 of the Mediterranean types for egg production.

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