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Posts Tagged at what age does a hen stop laying

The Hens are Laying Daily – Or Almost

29 April 2011

Sweetpea sitting on eggs.

A few of our hens are laying nearly every day now. The best layers are the Buff Orpington and the Barred Rock. The hens are two years old now, “Chicken Prime”. This is the peak of their laying career. The eggs are large. Actually, it will probably be downhill from here as egg production slows as they grow older. I’ll be happy with a couple of eggs a week from each hen. Regardless of how long they lay, they will have a life with us here in Cambria.

A chicken has a life span of 5-7 years. At about 20 weeks of age they begin laying. For approximately two years they’re at their best, laying 4-7 eggs a week, depending on the breed, the season of the year, and the climate. They lay best when the days are long. In the wild, a chicken will lay a clutch of eggs (up to 30), then stop and sit on the eggs to keep them warm. We refer to a setting hen as one that is “broody”. The eggs will hatch around the 21st day. Egg ranches get more eggs than a backyard “chicken wrangler”. Egg farmers manipulate egg production by keeping lights on all night. Hens will continue eating and laying at a faster rate. These poor hens seldom live a long life. They are “spent” and die after a year or two of this pressure to produce, thus, they die young and their meat is used in commercial chicken soup.

A hen will lay up to 900 eggs in their lifetimes. I’ve heard of an Australian hen laying 370 eggs in a year but that is unusual. Our hens have stopped laying periodically. Sweetpea and Poppy have both gotten in the “reproductive mood” and stopped laying for a few weeks. They became “broody”. They don’t want to leave the nest boxes but their eggs are not fertile (no rooster there to do the job) and it is useless letting them sit on eggs. Also all of the girls have gone through a yearly “molt” where they lose their feathers and grow new ones. During this time, the hens have stopped laying for a period of about a month.

It is an interesting concept this whole backyard chicken thing. Economically, the hens pay for themselves by producing eggs that pay for their feed. I love the freshness of the eggs, the orange yolks, the firm egg whites, and the fresh taste of their eggs. I love watching the hens, too. They have their own little “society” all contained in a small area of our garden. They were raised there, that is all they know. I enjoy sharing this experience with others and hope that some of you will be inspired to keep a few hens of your own.