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How To Tell If A Hen Is Laying – Best Ways To Keep Flocks Healthy

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Humm… Has she gone on strike? Let’s crack the “how to tell if a hen is laying” code. Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic.

It’s pretty frustrating to wonder if your hen is laying… There could be several reasons why you are not getting the same number of eggs you normally would.

We are all about having productive and profitable backyard farms around here so not getting eggs is more than a tad annoying.

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How Long Can You Expect A Hen To Lay

Depending on the breed a hen should lay pretty consistently for at least 2-3 years. You will start to see a pretty good drop-off after that but still get a good number. IF you have all the key elements in place.

The oldest hen I have ever had was about 7 when she died and for the last two years of her life she would lay about 1 egg a week

Characteristics Of A Hen That Is Laying

Below are some characteristics and features of hens that are laying. Don’t get rid of a hen because she does not have all of these features below. If you’re not familiar with a breed it would be a bummer to get rid of a hen that was perfectly fine.

The pelvic bones and vent are the most reliable ways to tell.

  • Carriage (behavior) — active and alert.
  • Eyes — Bright and shining.
  • Abdomen — deep and wide.
  • Vent — large and moist.
  • Molt — Late and Fast.
  • Skin — bleached and stretchy.
  • Pubic bones — wide and flexible.

You need to keep things from getting too costly. If you are getting enough eggs to make up for the feed costs its not a horrible thing to keep a few old ladies. Buuttttt if there are too many freeloading chickens some have to go.

Reasons Why Your Hen Might Not Be Laying

There are several reasons why a hen might not be laying other then age or something being wrong health wise.

  • The light might be less than 14hrs and that causes hens to stop laying. Here is a blog post to help with that.
  • A predator might be taking the eggs. (possums and skunks are a big cause of this)
  • Molting is another cause of hens not laying.
  • Do your hens free roam? She may be laying eggs somewhere else in a secret spot that you havent found.

Here are the supplies you need to add a light in your coop to get the hens to think the days are longer than they are.

Woods Import 550165 Do It Brooder Heat Lamp 250W 10In Brooder Ht Lamp – See On Amazon

SLOW DOLPHIN Photo CFL Full Spectrum Light Bulb,2 x 45W 5500K CFL Daylight Photography Photo Video Studio Lighting( 2 Packs) – See On Amazon

Plusmart 24 Hour Outdoor Lights Timer Waterproof, Programmable Mechanical Timer with 2 Grounded Outlet, Plug in Switch – See On Amazon

Pro tip: If your hen is in molt then she will stop laying until her feathers grow back. To speed this process up mix cat food into the feed. This will increase her protein intake and grow the feathers faster. Don’t freak out on me about that. A poultry show judge told us that trick when we showed chickens through 4-H.

Here is a blog post that will help you learn how to get your hens through a molt.

This is a very simple video with a great explanation that I think will benefit all chicken raisers.

Reasons To Cull Freeloading Chickens

First off I want to make it clear that you are not a bad person for culling chickens. You are allowed to keep your flock at a healthy level. How you chose to do so is up to you.

I do think it is important to be a good steward of your animals and not be wasteful. But you also owe it to the birds you have to keep your hobby farm in working, manageable conditions.

  • It reduces the feed usage.
  • A hen that is not producing will eat just as much as a hen that lays eggs.
  • Takes up less space in your coop.
  • Lessens the chance of disease from an overcrowded coop.
  • Keeps your coop from getting dirtier faster.
chicken, hen

(We do have one hen that I owned before my husband and I were even an item. So we guesstimate that she is about 7 years old which is AMAZING. Normally predators take care of the old age around here. )

Related Post: Raising Chickens In Small Spaces.

Options After She Has Stopped Laying

Not many people like this topic but it is a natural part of country life so it needs to be covered. If you are of the mindset to do this first idea then don’t feel like you are alone in this thought and know that it is ok.

Some people think it is terrible to process a hen that is not producing and you should just let them live out their life. A hen can live for 5+ years after she has stopped laying well and that is just too much feed to waste. Ok, rant over.

There are a few options.

1st, You can take the hens to a local processor and your hens will provide your family with a nice meal for their last hoorah! If you are not keen on doing the chickens in yourself, then taking them to the butcher is the best option.

You take them live to the butcher and they come out ready for the freezer. You don’t have to see anything happen if you don’t want to.

If you do not have one close to you I am sure you could post in a local farming or homesteading group that you are looking for someone to do this for you along with what you are willing to pay and I am sure someone will be willing to do it. It would also be a good way for kids to make some money as well.

You can put the hens up for free or very cheap on your local classified ads like craigslist. Just be honest when posting and say that they are not laying often or possibly not at all.

Also, there are many people who put a listing up saying they will take unwanted farm animals. You can find them on classified ad listing like Craig’s List.

3rd, If you are ok with processing them yourself but do not what to have to kill them, ask an experienced friend do them in for you. This can make the process easier. When I was new to raising chickens I was ok with possessing them but was not a fan of doing the deed myself. It gets a little easier over time.

When I don’t think the hen is worth taking to the butcher or the animal is injured my husband has an air rifle that does a nice quick job if you know where to take the shot.

As harsh as that sounds I am not one who likes to see an animal suffer unnecessarily so the fair thing to do is put them out.

Pro Tip: Prepare young children who might be living at home to see animals missing or the actual processing happening. It is a natural part of life and the young people in our life should be prepared for what is going to happen. So many parents make up stories to help it go over and this is just prolonging what you will have to tell them later and then they will put together that you didn’t tell them the truth the first time

If an animal is sick of injured still make sure the child knows the truth even if you don’t what them to see the animal being put down.

hen looking out of the coop

Track The Age

A hen typically slows down after age 2 and drastically drops after 3 years old. So one thing I like to do is make sure to get different breeds the years I buy replacements so I can tell the difference and know which hens were from which year.

If you have a large flock this is especially helpful.

You could also use leg bands if you like to have a mix. These leg bands on amazing are really affordable. I would choose one color to put on each bird from one particular year. Definitely make a note of that.

There is nothing wrong with keeping your flock trim. To have a hobby farm that doesn’t completely suck away your extra cash you have to draw a line somewhere. Decide what that is and don’t be afraid to hold to it.

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