Physical signs that a hen is too old for laying? - Homesteading Today
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  #1  
Old 12/06/10, 07:52 AM
 
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Physical signs that a hen is too old for laying?

Bought them from a lady that had too many. Couldn't tell me their ages, some looked younger, some older...am still a newbie at this. Some of their combs have turned pink in just 5-6 months since we've had them...what's that mean?

tia

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  #2  
Old 12/06/10, 08:47 AM
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I read that the color bleaches out of their combs, wattles, beaks and legs as they lay eggs. The older they get the more bleached out they get. I have read this online, so you might want to do some searching to see if you can find pics to demonstrate.

If they haven't molted yet since you bought them, they may just be going into a molt. I am new to chickens too, at least as an adult raising them. We had them when I was a kid, but I didn't pay attention to all the details. Plus, they usually got eaten by something before winter rolled around.

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Old 12/06/10, 12:27 PM
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They're too old to lay when they're dead. It just all depends on what you find is acceptable as far as how frequently a hen lays. I have some 3.5 year old hens who lay a couple of times a week. I'm fine with that... besides I like the big eggs. Some people butcher their older hens at 2 years. You'll find that on these boards each chicken-owner will have a different opinion.

I figure if I go out to the coop and one of the older hens is holding a sign that reads "I'm done!"... that would be a pretty good clue, too.

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Old 12/06/10, 04:07 PM
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I have heard/read the opposite. That when their combs are full of color, they are laying. When they are pale they aren't laying or are sick.

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  #5  
Old 12/07/10, 08:16 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessFerf View Post
They're too old to lay when they're dead. It just all depends on what you find is acceptable as far as how frequently a hen lays. I have some 3.5 year old hens who lay a couple of times a week. I'm fine with that... besides I like the big eggs. Some people butcher their older hens at 2 years. You'll find that on these boards each chicken-owner will have a different opinion.

I figure if I go out to the coop and one of the older hens is holding a sign that reads "I'm done!"... that would be a pretty good clue, too.

Or maybe if their sign reads that they're demanding retirement pay.....Thanks for the giggle...they just came off of molting and red combed one, Spike, is laying one every day and one other that I can't identify yet...but I've got 9 hens and about half of them are pink and the other half are red combed...this is new to me as we've always gotten chicks and raised them but this is different as we bought them "laying" already.

They've been wormed and get vitamins in their water, which they like, and eat out of the "goodie bowl" but won't touch the laying pellets. Gonna switch to crumbles, 'bout out of other stuff at the moment anyway. Love molasses coated oats and they free-range. They have most of their feathers back from molting and look and act pretty healthy cept for the one or two eggs a day.

I'll do some digging around and see what's up...chicken soup in the near future I s'poze.

Thanks a heap y'all
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  #6  
Old 12/07/10, 08:36 AM
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Bright red combs and wattles are usually laying. Check the vents to see if they are moist and full or dry and shriveled. First is laying, second is not.

As hens progress thru the season, the yellow color in their legs and skin bleaches out, but the red color remains in the comb and wattle.

I'd give them all till Christmas and see if they start laying. Then I'd clean house of all non-layers.

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  #7  
Old 12/07/10, 08:43 AM
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When my hens are laying their combs are pink: they get pale when they are not.

The legs and beak DO fade after they have been laying a while!

I THINK my son's pet stopped laying when she was 7 years old, but, it was hard to tell because we had another brown egg layer. Another hen, Gold dust, was laying still at that age. Not very often, no, but laying. Then she started roaming and in this area that is a BAD! idea: Gold dust dissapeared.

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Old 12/07/10, 11:15 AM
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I guess I wasn't clear about the color bleaching out of their legs, combs, and wattles. From what I read, every egg that they lay needs a nutrient from the chicken to color the yolk. To supply the nutrient for the yolk, it is taken from the hen's body, which leads to the color bleaching out of the legs, etc. So the more eggs they have laid, the less color in the hen's body. And apparently, there are only so many eggs that each hen can lay. So you are supposed to be able to tell how far 'gone' she is by looking at the bleaching. I am no expert, that is why I suggest looking up more info on the subject to see if you can determine how many eggs your hens have left in them. Good luck!

I have been thinking that if I have any hens that make a good broody hen, I might keep them past the prime egg laying years to raise other chicks. This way the good layers can keep laying while the old girls can still be useful. But any others will go in the stew pot around here.

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Old 12/07/10, 11:23 AM
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You cannot really tell how many eggs the heen still has in her by looking at the amount of bleaching, because corn and grass will replace some of the color. during her annual moult they will often gain a LOT of color, because the grass is going in and no eggs are going out.!

A badly faded hen will have been laying for a bit, though.

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  #10  
Old 12/07/10, 12:13 PM
A.T. Hagan
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I would not cull any hen before the end of January. November/December are the worst months of the year due to short daylight hours and molting. If they aren't laying by the end of January then you can look at shriveled combs, dry vents, pelvic and pubic bone spacing.

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  #11  
Old 12/07/10, 11:33 PM
 
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Wow...thanks y'all....lots of good advice. See, this is why I come here first...I like getting advice from those who have "been there, done that"...and you all make it so simple. I'm still in the "duh" stage of raising chickens...thanks a heap and a half.

Based on all the good advice, we've decided to wait until after the cold months go away...somewhere around end of Feb and see what happens, will check their vents though, good idea...Got one named Momma hen...she's just a sweetie but if they all don't put out by by end of Feb, Lord willin and the creek don't rise...well, we'll just start all over again. Sigh.

We're trying to totally remodel an old farm house at the moment and come early spring, if anything's got to be done, we should have the time then.

Thanks again

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