Old Hen, Young Hen

Old hen. Buffy is six. She hasn’t laid an egg for years.

Young hen. Amber is a Buff Orpington, Svelte compared to Buffy. She’s yet to lay an egg. Soon.

Old feet. Edwina’s feet are gnarly, scaly, and thick. The toes are too long. But at seven she’s still standing.

Young feet. Garnet’s legs are lean and smooth.

Old bottom. Philomena laid an egg today. Her energy goes into making eggs, not feathers.

Young bottom. Topaz has a pullet’s fluffy butt.

Old face. Edwina’s comb is thick and her wattles are pendulous and uneven. She’s seen weather, and pecking orders come and go.

Opal’s new face. She hasn’t seen much, not yet.

Old hen’s egg.  It’s thin and rough-shelled, and light in color. Pullet’s egg. It’s small, smooth, thick-shelled and deeply pigmented.

Both are good.


  1. Ooooh those old hens. Thank you for this lovely comparison. I love looking at my young’uns and wondering what experiences will shape their personalities and their beauty in years to come.

  2. What a great comparison, Terry. Some days I feel like an old hen, fondly remembering the days when I had a fluffy pullet bottom:-)

  3. such grand old ladies and cute young ones :D Beautiful pictures!

  4. I love this post, very educational as I am new to keeping young Hens! I am definitely feeling more in the ‘Old Hen’ category myself! :)

  5. I must take a picture of Gladys’s (aged six) legs. Like a chick’s! I don’t know how she does it. Do any of yours have spurs? Duck, top hen, has marvellous ones.

  6. Whether old or young – they are all beautiful. Thank you for sharing this post.

  7. When I first found Hencam I was fascinated by Tina and Siouxsie, perhaps from seeing the book with Polish on the cover. And I still am. As time went by I really came to enjoy Buffy and Barred Rocks (sounds like a band, no?). Or maybe tradition wears better than novelty?

  8. They might not look the nicest right know, but those old hens have lived a long time, and might even out live some of the Gems !!!
    Especially Edwina and Eleanor, whoever breed them be it a hatchery or breeder breed a long lived bird. If you get more barred rocks you need to get some more from where you got these two.
    It will be interesting to see if the Gem Buff Orphingtons live as long as Buffy. Acourse you probably don’t know where she came from, since you got her as an adult bird. So she could have come from a different hatchery or breeder. I know Buffy still probably hasn’t shown any interest in any of the Gem Buffy Orphingtons, but have any of them shown any interest in her ? It’s a shame Tina has ended up the bottom bird again, poor thing, I would think Betsy would be the bottom bird since she is the bantam. I know Tina and Sixiousie when you first got them use to lord over the bantam leghorns, but probably since you merged the two flocks that changed. Since Mazie has passed away, has Buffy started to lead the hens again ? Or has Edwina, Eleanor, Philomema, or Agnes taken over ?

  9. I’m a teacher & hen mother… I just bought your book. The kiddos and I love it… I used it to teach character traits. Now I can use your blog to compare old & young traits. Thank you for the giggles & lessons. Tillie is now a classroom term.

    • I love hearing that Tillie is being used in the classroom! I’m always happy to put a “hello” message up on the HenCam page for classes that read the book. Also, I do Skype visits!

      • And I can tell you by experience….the kids will LOVE the skype visit!

  10. Geriatrics is my specialty. As cute as the young ones are, I am drawn to your older girls. I smile when I see the wisdom and stories behind their eyes.

  11. Terry – this comparison with photos is one of the many reasons that your blog remains my favorite! I am drawn to the older gals, too; like us, they’ve lived and endured alot!

  12. An egg customer saw my hens outside, the pullets up high in the maple tree searching for bugs on the bark and leaves, the old hens scratching for crickets on the ground. He asked what happens to the old hens. There was concern in his voice. I told him the old girls are retired to do just what they do every day. They get special treats just for them..right now green leaves from the rutabegas. My customer bought an extra dozen eggs and smiled on the way to his car. Hens are like the old adage about friends, the new are like silver, the old are like gold.

  13. Wonderful pictures- especially of Edwina.

    “Whether old or young – they are all beautiful.” -True!

  14. I enjoyed your old hen young hen spot. I have been comparing the same things w/my chickens. Mine all have names & a unique way of interacting. After my last experience w/ an antique bird, I am curious what method of euthanization you are referring to when you see one of your girls going downhill. I don’t have it in me to wring their neck. I once took a rooster w/a broken leg to the vet to put him to sleep. That did not go well.

    • Missy – there’s no way to euthanize a hen that is easy. You can put a sock over her head (in the dark they are very calm) and use an axe (there will be blood). Done right, I honestly think these methods are as quick as a vet’s needle.