Wyandotte hen in mixed breed flock stopped laying and severly overweight / obese

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by SillyMissLily, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. SillyMissLily

    SillyMissLily Out Of The Brooder

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    I've only had chickens for about 3 years now so I still have a lot to learn...

    I have a flock of hens of various breeds including Australorp, Welsummer, Wyandotte, red and black stars, Sussex, Marans, Orpington, and one Ameraucana. I feed a layer pellet free-choice, plus lots of veggie scraps. The feeder is inside the elevated coop so they have to climb the ramp and go inside to eat, and the scraps I feed is mostly green leafy vegetables and fruits like melons and nectarines, and sometimes small bits of corn, beans, cheese, etc. I really didn't think you could overdo on the fruits and vegetables, so I don't really limit this, but I also don't think that the amount I give the 15 hens is more than 10-20% of their daily diet.

    I had two Columbian Wyandottes that stopped laying. I decided that I would cull these birds from the flock because I really had no idea what could be the cause of their lack of egg production and I don't want to keep feeding a non-layer. They have suffered through bumblefoot, which I tried my best to clear up, but I just couldn't get rid of it in these two. I thought this might have something to do with lack of laying, but...

    I killed one of the two Wyandottes yesterday and couldn't believe what I saw when I started to clean and gut the bird. Gobs of fat, just absurd amounts of it. The inside of the gut cavity was one solid mass of yellow fat. It all made sense why they stopped laying, but I feel a little guilty about not recognizing the problem sooner.

    Has anybody had obesity problems in heavy breed chickens? How do I deal with it, especially in a mixed breed flock? I have 14 week old chicks that will be joining the adults soon, and some lighter breeds like Anconas are in the mix. Should I be restricting feed? Should I worry about how much veggie/fruit scraps they get? Should I just plain stay away from the heavy breeds?? Any advice is appreciated.
     
  2. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote: Chickens lack chins waste lines, or cellulite so you are forgiven for not recognizing the signs of a obese hen. Bumble foot is one such sign to watch for especially if you keep heavy breeds.

    Hens won't get double chins, beer bellies, or love handles to tip you off. All most all of a chicken's body fat is concentrated in and around the vent area. Practice by feeling the remaining Wyandotte's backside to see how chicken fat 'feels' then feel all of or one or two of your hens each week to be sure that one of them isn't packing on the ounces. Also the annual molt should be starting soon if it already hasn't started and most hens (but especially heavy breeds) lay few if any eggs while molting.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2014
  3. SillyMissLily

    SillyMissLily Out Of The Brooder

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    I'm heading outside right now to feel my chickens.

    So what can I do to prevent this in the future? Should I be taking food away for periods of time or only feeding a set amount? The latter doesn't seem like a good idea for the less assertive flock members, they may not get enough to eat.
     
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Hens who are laying a reasonable number of eggs won't be fat, because egg laying is hard work metabolically. Hens who stop laying but are not sick will gain weight. Lots of high calorie goodies aren't helpful either. And then there's genetics; most hatcheries and many breeders don't select for longevity or production after one year of age. Mary
     
  5. SillyMissLily

    SillyMissLily Out Of The Brooder

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    So the 'fat' hens I have may not be entirely my fault? That's good to hear, but I'm still not sure what to do to prevent this in the future. And after checking the rest of the flock I think I have 2 or 3 more overweight birds. I wonder if I should try separating them from the others to ration their feed better.
     
  6. SillyMissLily

    SillyMissLily Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 19, 2014
    Colorado, western slope
    Since I started this thread in September, most of my hens have molted and come back into lay. But out of 22 hens I am only averaging 8 eggs a day. I know for a fact that one Australorp hen is not laying and does indeed feel very 'fat.' But I also have a beautiful ameraucana/easter egger hen that never started laying after her molt. She used to be pretty reliable, and another mutt-breed easter egger, completely unrelated to the other that started laying after the molt and then abruptly quit. Very confusing to me. The easter egger and the Australorp are just about 3 years old right now. Is there something I can do to:
    1) help some of these non-layers pick up again, such as separating them to a quieter coop for a while, putting on a diet, etc?
    2) figure out which hens are not laying at all (hard to do unless I watch the nest box activity frequently for a week) - some kind of camera for this??
    3) find better breeders of laying chickens! How would you know?
     
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Birds that continue to lay frequently at three years of age are to be treasured, because so many hens will be really slacking off ( or having health issues) by that time. As the days get longer, production will increase as much as it can. Good food, parasite management, and low stress are what you can do to have healthy hens. Mary
     
  8. hereorthere

    hereorthere Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just out of curiosity- what did the fat "feel" like??

    Am kinda in the same predicament as the original poster....and all my hens are now entering their 3rd year & am barely getting a egg from the original flock of 10 Welsummers. I've never had any of my hens butchered, so have no idea the amount of vent fat that they might possibly have.
     
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Let's just say that this much fat is too much fat.

    You should be able to easily feel your chickens' pelvic bones. If you can't she or he is too fat.

    [​IMG]

    In the wild a 3 year old hen would be as scares as hens' teeth.

    Therefor Mama Nature never saw any reason to equip a 3 year old or older hen to lay eggs like she was a spring chicken. When we do we are attempting to force the hen to do something that is against her basic nature.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2015
  10. hereorthere

    hereorthere Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the visual. Wow- that is a lot of vent fat!!

    I am new to chicken-keeping and have read so many stories (here on these forums actually) about the 2yr mark- yeah or nay to have them butchered. BUT when you do the math, then my hens would be approaching their 2yr anniversary for laying eggs as I have not had lights on in their coop during the winter months. True or am I grasping at straws?
     

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