Hi all,

We've just bought a new property (3 acres on the Taieri, Dunedin) and have inherited a flock of 13 chickens with it.

At present, we're getting an average of between 4-8 eggs a day from them, so Im suspecting some of them might be past laying.

How can I tell how old my chickens are, and which ones are laying, or which ones need to go to chook heaven?

Thanks,

Leanne

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Hi Leanne, I'm just a newbie to chooks myself but I'm wondering whether some of your chooks might just be off the lay because they're coming into a moult for winter? No doubt some more experienced keepers will confirm this but if you're not adverse to waiting a little while, I would hold onto them through winter/spring and give them a chance to prove themselves, just in case they're just having a rest feathering up for winter. You might find that more of them go off the lay as well (depending on the breed) as the weather gets colder (modifying their feed to compensate can sometimes help them come back on lay sooner) - food is diverted to keeping them warm rather than making lush eggs! Other than that, I wouldn't have a clue how to age chooks so will be keeping a watchful eye on any other responses to see if I can learn something new :)
Hi Vicki,

I think you're right. But I'm still suspecting we have AT LEAST a couple of "lay abouts" ;-) I'm not intending to chop any of them any time soon, but come Spring, if the lay percentage doesn't go up, I'll be looking with suspicious eyes at them, and checking out new potentials.

Cheers,

Leanne
If their crowns get droopy, they are getting old. I have eight chickens and are getting 5 or 6 eggs most days so two will be in the pot soon.
Thanks Gail. I've have a close look at the chookies.

Leanne
the legs get crustier too as they age, my oldest hen has some very callousy carbuncle looking ankles!!!
What breed are they? If you are still getting eggs from them at this time of year then chances are that are good layers and will moult (or are moulting) and will be back laying again later in the year. A range of hens coming in and out of laying is good over winter. That way if you're lucky you have only a week or so with no eggs. Our three main layers (brown shavers) are 5-6 years old and we get an egg or two a day. They should moult soon and then come back into lay in July. They came from a free-range egg farm so have been bred to be good layers. Our pretty little year old hen (buttercup?) laid almost every day and then moulted about a month ago. She hasn't started to lay again but I have hope that she will start soon and bridge the gap a bit.

My mother said that a natural egg cycle for a hen is not every 24 hours but more like every 28, so ever so often you don't get an egg in a day. I think the older they get the longer that period is. Sneaky chook is on about 4 eggs a week.

My chook bible says the early moulters are the ones to cull "as they will not be your best layers". It also says that "as they get older hens will take longer to come into the lay each year". So cull the early moulters now and then the ones that come back into the lay. Of course this is also the time to get new young hens to replace the old ones you are culling. Having said that, our girls die of old age or non-human predator.
Hi Dinah,

Thanks for that really useful information.

We have 13 chooks, and are still getting 4-5 eggs a day, so I'm guessing we're doing okay, then :-)

I'm not desperate to cull them any time soon, as we keep a vegetarian home, so it is likely our birds will get on into old age as long as the eggs keep coming. That said, I'm thinking of increasing our number of chooks, as we easily have room for a few more, and eggs are a really useful barter.

Cheers,

Leanne.

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