Year End Egg Count

nesting box

I keep two flocks, one young and one old. I keep records of how many eggs are laid daily. Look at those numbers and they will tell you much about my chickens.

In January of 2012, there were 12 hens in the little barn. The best layers were the hybrids, and not yet four years old. Others were nearing six and even seven years of age. By the end of the year there were only five hens in that flock. The productive layers had died (as the high producers often do around three years of age.) A few of the old hens also died. The remaining hens are sturdy and healthy, but quite old and rarely lay. I collected a total of 151 eggs from the small barn in 2012. That’s all. In June, laying in the little barn peaked and the hens (there were eight at that time) supplied 29 eggs for my table. For the last four months, the remaining hens molted, and the nesting boxes have been empty. I’d be surprised if these old hens resume laying in the spring.

A different story was seen in the big barn where the Gems live. Hatched in the spring of 2011, they began laying that September, and continued to lay through their first winter. The 2012 year end count for the Gems is 2,103 eggs (175 eggs per bird per year, although some individuals laid far more, and some almost none.) March was their most productive month, with 247 eggs laid. That’s an average of 20 eggs per hen for that month. Those numbers declined come summer, when some hens went broody, and others languished in the heat. Then, beginning in late August, production dropped further. Sundown came earlier each day, which had some effect, but that’s not the full story. December of 2011 the Gems laid 160 eggs. This year it was only 36. That’s because the Gems, now mature hens, went through their first molt. They began losing their feathers in August, and are only now looking fluffy again. Despite looking good, the molt isn’t done yet as they’re still growing new quills and putting their energy into rebuilding their stores of calcium and nutrients for the next laying season. I find an egg or two a day, which will continue until February, when there will be an uptick in egg numbers. By April my egg basket will be full again, but not as overflowing as it was this past year.

There is usually about a 20% drop in production the second year of lay. In a small flock, like mine, with a wide variety of breeds and personalities, there is much fluctuation. There will be broody hens. There will be nervous hens who can’t settle in to lay. Weather affects production. Too hot, or too dark and damp and the hens don’t lay. The Gems might get sick. I’m sure some hens will die. But right now, I’m optimistic. Perhaps it’s because it’s so cold that when I walk out to the barn the snow squeaks underfoot. The sun shines and I have to squint from the sparkles in the snow. When I open the barn door, the Gems greet me with much chatter. There are no eggs, but possibility is in the air.


  1. That’s the great thing about new years awashed in a veil of white- anything is possible. I can’t wait to see your new chicks. Will you be putting them in with the old lovelies? Thank you so much for the past year of shared knowledge and entertainment. My family and I (and the NH kids) love HenCam.

  2. One of my old girls has laid almost every day throughout winter and the moult – she has lovely new feathery knickers now and still looking sprightly! She is almost 2. I lost one hen this year and Dotty the Speckledy is looking a little pale around the comb, hopefully she will last to see some warm sunshine :o)

  3. I have not had an egg in two weeks but then I only have two hens right now. Not sure if I want to get a couple more chicks this year or wait another year. I am in the city so we are very limited. Three hens legally. I bet when the feed store gets the chicks in I may have a weak moment and come home with a few.

    • Candy loves the snow and cold. But, she doesn’t like that her water freezes up. She can drink out of the chicken waterer, but I also bring her fresh water twice daily.

  4. I woke up this morning to the first heavy frost of the winter. With the sun shining through the tree branches one could almost be fooled into believing it snowed last night. The hens are all happily gathered in their run busily pecking away at the wild bird seed in fat hanging from the outside perch(great idea I saw in your barn). It is 10 a.m. and I am about to go out and let the girls out to free-range for the day and as always the anticipation of how many eggs will be waiting to be collected by me, enriches my day. How did it take me so long to discover the many joys of raising a small flock of chickens?

  5. Conditions in England this year meant I didn’t get my four girls until the last weekend in June when they were (one of them only one month old) and the others two months old. To my surprise the eldest girls started laying in November and December and are laying really well (one has laid every day) with only the youngest (no comb yet), probably going to wait until spring. I had resigned myself to spring before eggs but they surprised me! It is such an amazing experience!

    I so look forward to seeing your next lot of newbies, can’t wait. Love your mixture of different ages and always so much to learn from. Happy new year Terry!

    • I’ve heard that England has been one big, soggy mess. Hard to keep hens healthy in that! I hope that the weather improves for you in 2013.

  6. My production hens are still under a year old, and have been laying daily this winter. So far the winter has brought only a 12 percent reduction of eggs. These are my first chickens – I raised them in my kitchen (that was challenging) into their 4th month of age. I love them! They are pets. Now, though, I am concerned about their life span, which I did not know was shorter than average. I hope they live longer than 3 years!

  7. My 4 youngest hens are just a couple of months younger than your gems and I have been enjoying watching the gems to know what to expect! My girls molted for two months and are just now mostly done. They are back up to 3 or 4 eggs a day and looking wonderful. Goldie got over her fowl pox. It took about the same amount of time as the molt for her to completely recover. (about two months) During that time she did not lay and did look awful. She lost her dominant pecking order status and is now more cautious around the others, but she looks great. . My one remaining old hen (9 or so) has started laying again in the fall, kept laying right through her molt, and continues to produce an egg every other day. She was a rescue hen and did not lay at all the first two years I had her.

  8. Hi Terry, I see you have said that its hard to keep healthy hens in wet conditions. I live in England also and got 3 point of lay girls in the spring. My fave girl Dotty died within the first 2 months and my next Cilla died only a few months ago. I went from 5 hens to 2 this year so am now wondering if the weather was more a part of it than I first thought! I have a 4 year old hen called Betty and she just keeps going, shes not laying anymore but she will have an off day and not eat but perk up the next day and eat loads! Shes a trooper!

    P.S – I check in everyday to your hencam, i love it! :-) Thank you for all your tips.

    Denise from UK.

    • I’m sorry for your losses. Yes, a wet chill is far worse than far colder, but dry temps. My hens have no problems in freezing temps, but I’ve seen respiratory diseases in the early spring when it is damp and chilly. A wet chicken can’t keep warm, disease spreads and parasites breed. It helps to put sand in the pen, to raise them up out of muck. And doing what you can to keep the bedding dry also helps. Ventilation, too, is essential!

      • Thanks for your advice Terry, ive made sure i keep the vent of the hen house half open now as i was shutting them up completly. I keep the hen house clean and dry but guess they could have been in a damp chill during the day. Ive now put some clear plastic around the sides of the run to try and keep some wind and rain out for them so hopefully that will help them, they are much drier now. :-)

  9. Despite the wet weather here, my 6yr old Poland has finished her moult and has started laying 3/4 eggs a week!!! She has never laid in the winter before and I was not expecting her to lay again. Well done Hattie!