Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Henhouse Ladies

Most years we are not getting many eggs this time of year. Egg production is a remarkable thing. A pullet (young female chicken) begins laying eggs at 18 to 20 weeks of age. She reaches peak production at about 35 weeks, with a production rate greater than 90 percent (that’s 9 eggs in 10 days for a single hen or 9 eggs from 10 birds daily). This period of peak production lasts about 10 weeks, after which her egg production slowly begins to decline.

A high-producing hen’s annual egg production is more than 10 times her body weight. The average commercial Single Comb White Leghorn hen lays about 265 eggs per year, with backyard breeds laying fewer. In most cases, the more exotic the breed, the poorer the egg production.

Hens stop laying eggs for a variety of reasons. External or internal stimuli affect hormone levels, which change the condition of the ovary and oviduct, the organs responsible for egg production. The result of these changes is the reduction or cessation of egg production. The most common stimuli that affect egg production are decreasing day length, disease, broodiness, poor nutrition, and stress. However, even under ideal conditions, every hen’s egg production eventually slows down and stops.

Days become shorter beginning about June 22 and begin to lengthen again about December 22.  This change in day length causes hens to molt and cease egg production, a process that may take several months.

As for the 16 Buff Orphington hens here in Hickery Holler they continued to produce through the winter but did slow down drastically during late December and Early January. We are now up to an average of 12 to 14 extra large brown eggs a day.

During those times that egg production dropped I had plenty of eggs frozen for baking purposes and scrambling. However during those extremely cold days we made sure the chickens had plenty of food and fresh water. We do not put lights on our chickens during the winter as we have found that we usually get enough eggs without the additional electrical expense. We do continue to provide them with plenty of oyster shell and grit along with their food and sometimes even get old cabbage and greens from the local grocer in town for them. They also love the kitchen scraps which consists of potato peels and the like. We also provide plenty of deep straw bedding on the floor of the chicken house as well as in the nests.

Now that the ladies are again laying well we have started selling eggs to the neighbors to help offset the expense of feed. Once the weather warms a little more we will also start letting the hens out for a few hours everyday while we are outside to forage for their own food. But for right now the eagles and hawks are thick and food is scarce. The ladies would not last long free ranging this time of year.

O Wise One says that the feed store told him last time he bought chicken grain that they have doubled the number of tons of chicken food they sell in a year. I guess backyard chickens have really become popular again. Next month we will start hatching some spring chicks to have young hens coming on to replace these as layers.

How about the rest of you homesteaders out there. Have your chickens started laying again yet?

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter    


  1. Started laying yet! They haven't been (blessed) given to me yet!:o( I've been thinking hard how i can beat the law of this HOA..there are many things they don't take care of, but I betcha a dime to a donut they would get after me in a hurry...Bah! Humbug..

  2. Yes they have! My White leghorns are like 20 years old and still laying almost an egg a day! No really they are 6 or 7, I lost count. They never ever stop!! My Buckeyes are just a big ole joke....maybe the White Leghorns just have me spoiled to an egg a day! I think I'll order another batch of WL soon!

  3. My girls stopped laying in late November. They just started to lay again 3 weeks ago, and today I got 8 eggs! I have Barred Rocks, Black Austrolorps, and Buff Oprhingtons.

  4. I dont have chickens but I did find and egg lady around here. A neighbor when I first moved in, gifted me with a dozen of her eggs and Ive been hooked ever since. They are simply the best eggs we have ever eaten, even better than the so called organics at the health food store. And so I feel very lucky to know her and the "girls". She told me she feeds hers wheat instead of the corn that many do. And hers are free range too.

    These yolks are so rich I really have to beat them hard to get the yolk to mix and the taste , wow! And so I envy anyone who has chickens. I thought I would do that here when I moved here but I dont have the right land for it......Im on a hill.

    And so I missed having them a few weeks this winter since they stopped producing. I didnt realize I could have frozen the eggs. Next winter Ill plan on that for sure. The store bought eggs were so bad compared to these that we wouldnt eat them.

  5. We just bought 2 Buff Orphingtons for a friend of my oldest daughter who wanted them for egg laying and for fun. I wish we could have kept them. They were very sweet but our town's ordinance will not allow it. We hope that changes one day. My daughter did alot of research in order to pass along great care instructions to her friend.

  6. Dear Canned Quilter, I found you while searching for chicken info on Pinterest. I have saved Hickory Holler on my laptop and plan to follow your posts.

    I have 2 hens that are 4 years old and they still lay occasionally. I have 7 hens that are 18 months old, 11 chicks that are 10 weeks old and 40 chicks that are 4 weeks old. I live in a community that is almost 4,500 acres (once a large cattle ranch) but has so many deed restrictions you would not believe and it is compounded by each section having different restrictions. For instance, I can't have "livestock", but the guy that adjoins my rear property can have horses on the back 40' of his property, that butts up to my property. Go figure. So when I got my first chickens several years back they told me I could NOT have livestock and I told them chickens are not livestock they are considered "poultry/fowl". They tried to force me to get rid of them and I told them it would have to be settled in court by a jury as to whether or not poultry/fowl are livestock. So they have left me alone in recent years. Because of that, I do NOT have a Roo, out of respect for my neighbors. Also, I can't have a business out of my home so I cannot sell my eggs. I have been giving the few extras I have to neighbors. Thinking that when the chicks start to lay in 2014, I might can ask for a feed "donation." Not sure if they will stop me on that or not.

    Recently my son and I purchased 30 Texas A&M Coturnix quail for our personal use. We love fried quail smothered in gravy and also wrapped in bacon and cooked on the grill outside. We plan to keep back several quail pullets and a roo for breeding purposes, so we will always have a supply of quail in the freezer. Dressed quail are hard to come by so we decided to raise a few for our needs..

    Will follow your instructions on hatching out eggs, hoping the quail eggs should follow the same procedure as chicken eggs. Thanks so much for your time and energy devoted to your blog. You have a devoted following Sincerely. Linda Lovett.


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