Monday, February 01, 2010

Molting, Broody or ? - How To Identify A Laying Chicken

We are not  going to be culling any of our chickens that are not laying eggs. They are pets and even if they don't lay they do clear the property of insects, they fertilize and turn over the leaves, look good and are fun to watch. So, they all stay. However, I'm curious.

   I wanted to know which hens were laying eggs and why some of them weren't, why and when some molted, and how the broody business affected egg laying, etc. So... I went on a Google search and I found a site here (University of Kentucky) that not only explains a few things and it also has photos!

   There are photos of a good layer and poor layer, vents and fat deposits, and more. I'm going to read this over a few times and then maybe check my hens at night when they are on their roosts.

   Not all of our hens have yellow skin so I would need to use the other methods to check for layers. At least now I know how to identify which chickens are laying. I think it is interesting how the hen uses up the yellow pigment and then goes off laying and replaces the pigment and then starts up the laying process again.

   These photos show the chickens yelling at me yesterday to let them out of the pen, the hens squeezing between the slats, and then running off to the woods. Do they stop to say hi or thanks? A few stick around for a little bit. I think they are the smart ones who want to find out if I have treats.

   This is, Shorty, the short legged Buff Brahma that wasn't expected to survive because she was half the size of the other chicks  and in such bad shape the feed store added her to the box of chicks for free because they didn't think she would live if left with the other chicks. So she was a freebie.           

   When Kristine went down to the feed store to get the second batch of chicks (actually we'd already gotten 4, but they seemed to need a few more buddies before they'd stop peeping all night long) she  was given two buff brahma chicks, when she'd originally only asked for two. The girl who was getting the chicks said,"Oh. We're going to give you this one for free. We don't think its going to make it."

And indeed, the freebie chick was half the size of the other chicks, and crouched, and weaving slightly, and none too bright of eye. Yep. It was probably a goner. But she took the miserable little thing home anyway, and tossed it in with the all the others, bringing the total number to 7.  3 dark brahmas, 3 buff brahmas, and 1 lone cochin.

They dog piled that night with Death-bait, right in the middle. The next morning, DB was up, eating, and actually frisky... Kristine came to the conclusion that although it was undersized, it just needed less crowded conditions to do well. Today she's sort of short in the leg, but otherwise quite alive and perky. (This paragraph was written by, Kristine. I always get this tale mixed up, so she volunteered to set the story straight.)

   Shorty and the photo of the Wyandotte yesterday both have yellow beaks and yellow feet. So, I think this means that they are getting tanked up on yellow pigment and ready to lay soon?  When we start getting more daylight?

Here are two more sites I found. I still think the Kentucky one is the best, but these have additional information. Florida Poultry Judging Manual and the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

[3 eggs yesterday]
[2 eggs today]

February 1, 2009



Becky's Barnyard said...

They are very pretty hens, if a little impatient. I found that very interesting about the yellow pigment. I knew they would stop laying for awhile, I didn't know about the yellow though.

Callie said...

Becky: I didn't know about the yellow pigment either. I had read about checking the pelvic bones and about the pinch test but, I didn't know how to do them. The photos are a help.

diane said...

I didn't realise that chickens were so complicated. I reckon it is too cold for them to get off their butt and lay.

Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

Callie, this was really great! We have 9 hens and most days get 7 eggs. Some days it is 6 or 5. I had to go out and look and sure enough there were two hens who still have yellow beaks and feet/legs. Now I know which 2 are not laying. Thanks! :)

Jennifer said...

Very interesting... I'm going to go read that site and see if I can find out which of mine arent laying!

Nancy K. said...

Thanks for the link! I'm going to go read it right now....

P.S. my cochins and Buff Orpingtons (both yellow skinned breeds) have ben laying all winter, here in Minnesota)

lisa said...

I will have to read up on that before I get more chickens. Thank you for the insight on the bees. Will look up that web site!

Gus, Louie and Callie said...

We don't really care if they lay eggs either. They are so cute and like you said they rid the property of bugs..
Good luck to the little guy..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Callie said...

diane: It is cold, but they need more daylight to turn on their egg laying switch. They need their down time.

Carol: Great! I still need to take a look at my chickens.

Jennifer: I need to read the information again too.

Nancy K.: Our hens laid through their first winter. They are older now and have cut back on egg laying.

Lisa: Hope you like the bee site.

Gus, Louie and Callie: Shorty says thanks! Have fun zooming!

Claire said...

Wow, great article from U Kentucky! I am going to start looking at my hens! They all live out their retirement with me and it doesn't matter if they are still laying, but it's nice to know because when somebody goes broody and hatches a whole bunch of eggs from different hens, at least I will have a better clue who the Moms might be!

Callie said...

Claire: Glad you liked the UK site. Very helpful.

Jayme, The Coop Keeper said...

Callie, I'm so glad you commented, so I could find your blog. It's so fun reading about your girls. One way I can always tell if my hens are laying, or about ready to lay - they do the 'submissive squat' when I get near them. They hunker down and kinda spread their wings...sorry for the graphic, but they are getting ready for the rooster. We have ten hens, and Helen, she doesn't lay, there is something wrong with her, she's barren, but she's a pet, so she stays. We get about 8 eggs a day from the 9 layers. Not bad! Thanks again for visiting my blog. :-)

Toni aka irishlas said...

Nice post, Callie. Lots of information - especially for those of us new to chickens.

DayPhoto said...

You did a good job with this post!