Will She Lay Soon?

The six pullets (I call them the Girls as opposed to The Gems in the Big Barn) are five different breeds, and they will reach maturity in the next few weeks. The first to lay will likely be the White Leghorn, Twiggy. She is my wild child. She’s as fast as Road Runner from the cartoon. I almost expect to hear “beep! beep! as she zips by. She’s flighty and yet curious. I adore her. As soon as the temperature dips to a bearable level, I’ll be outside trying to get her to calm down and slow down enough that I can get near her. I have a few tricks up my sleeve – but will not resort to Wile E. Coyote’s methods of TNT and chicanery.

Twiggy is 16 weeks old today. In the last few days I’ve noticed signs that she is near ready to begin egg laying. Her comb is larger and beginning to flop over.



It remains pink, but is no longer pale. It will be a bright red when she lays her first egg. Betsy Ross, the five-year old Bantam White Leghorn, used to have a bright red comb. It never flopped over – she’s way too petite and elegant for that! But, this summer it has shriveled a bit and taken on a purplish hue, which are signs of a hen past laying age. There she is, behind Twiggy, being sensible in this heat and sitting still on the cool, damp earth. Twiggy, of course, is in mid-stride. It’s not easy getting a photo of her!

two leghorns


Some of the other Girls will be late-bloomers. Veronica is a Cuckoo Marans, and according to the breed standard, her comb should be full and erect, but hers is barely visible on her head. It’s awhile to go before I see her dark brown eggs in the nesting box.



Th Girls are close enough to laying age that about two weeks ago I mixed what was left of the chick food with a bag of laying hen pellets. That’s almost finished, and they’ll be entirely on adult feed this week. The oyster shell dispenser is full. They’ll eat it when they need it. They’re getting plenty of greens and weeds from the garden, and watermelon rinds, etc. I’m careful to not feed table scraps with empty calories, like white rice. I want their first eggs to be strong. (For more about what to feed hens go here.) Now, I just have to sit back and wait. I just hope that Twiggy slows down enough to stop and lay her eggs in the nesting box, and not while on the move!


  1. It`s amazing to think those chicks you brought home in early spring are getting ready to lay. I loved watching my pullets mature and I never had them as chicks. I think Twiggy is beautiful and a `model` chicken, with her flopping comb and sharp white feathers.

  2. Twiggy reminds me of a ballet dancer (in training) with her white net costume and long legs leaping across the yard doing “grand jetés” and other moves. A lovable wild thing who is fun to watch.

  3. I always thought of Nadia Comaneci when watching Twiggy. Graceful, sure-footed, and well balanced. A beautiful hen. Feathers always perfect and white. I’ll give her a 10. :)

  4. Love the photo of Betsy and Twiggy together. My maran was a late bloomer layer. But she lays consistently but always late in the afternoon.

  5. I love seeing posts like this. Thank you for sharing so much detail! I have one pullet with a comb very similar to Twiggy, and the others all look like Veronica. It’s interesting to see how the different breeds mature at different rates!

  6. Twiggy is a lot of fun to watch on the cam. :) My girls who are about 12 weeks, have been sneaking laying pellets from the older hens food….though still get a supply of chick food. ( which very surprisingly the older hens haven’t a big interest in) I can’t wait to hear about your first egg!

    Are any of your girls aggressive towards you? I have a RIR who actually lunges at me to peck. It makes me a little sad because all of the other girls are so sweet and my older hens are very gentle.
    I have been physically putting my hand over her and pushing her down gently when she acts like this and she seems to be getting the hint, but I wish I knew why she has that chip on her shoulder ;)

    • That’s not a chip on her shoulder. RIRs are always, voraciously hungry. Some have fewer inhibitions than others. My Speckled Sussex, Etheldred, is like that. Make sure that you never feed her when she does that. If you have treats, ignore her and throw the food in the direction of the hens with both feet on the ground. She’ll figure out that her efforts are futile.

      • Thank you for your insight. I appreciate the reply. But this is when I don’t even have treats or food. :( When I open the pop door in the morning, I have to peek in a bit to push it open for them and she attacks me. Yesterday, I picked her up ( they were free ranging) and I walked around and talked to her nicely for a good 10 minutes…she was calm because I was holding her very securely so she couldn’t turn around and peck me. When I put her DOWN? She was free to walk away…but instead she deliberately turned at me and lunged. :(
        And when I DO have food or treats, she really doesn’t want to come near me….the young ones are still shy and the older hens get to the food first anyway.
        I’m starting to really dislike her and I feel bad about it. And I’m a little worried that my seven year old is going to get the brunt of her grouchy-ness one of these days.

        • Kris, you have permission to not like one of your hens. Just like one can be a favorite, one can also be an annoyance, or worse. I’d have to see this interaction to get a better handle on what is going on. She’s communicating to you in a way that is a miss-match with what you know. I’m sure it’s frustrating for both of you. When that happens and you feel attacked, of course you don’t like her! Some hens are much more difficult to get along with than others. Honestly, especially with a child in the picture, if you can give her away, do it and don’t feel bad at all.

          • This is why I love your blog. You always give me something to think about. I have to admit that I was thinking more about myself and my own feelings than about hers. Your point about her trying to communicate with me hits home. I don’t understand her because she doesn’t act like my others. But as you say, it is probably frustrating for her as well.
            My brother would probably take her but I don’t want to give up on her just yet. Add to that, we already had to give him one of our “girls” who didn’t end up being a girl. A beautiful Jersey Giant Roo. So I am down to 3 as it is. Thanks again for your time, Terry.

  7. I adore floppy combs!

    I hope that when I get a White Leghorn, her comp will be large and floppy :)

  8. Yes, Twiggy is getting very close to laying.
    Good luck in getting her to slow down. I have two, ages of three and two, they still dart about the run and yard like greased lightning. Don’t be surprised if you let them out to free range and find Twiggy on top of the coop to have a look around. The oldest of my two still like to get up on my coop for a survey of the area. The coop at the eave is tad over 6 feet. I know most chickens don’t fly well but a leghorn does a darn good job of it.
    Believe it or not the younger of my two went broody this year, it was not a “false broody” for a couple days she drug it out for a month. I don’t think I have had one do that before.

    • Judging by the fact that at this moment Twiggy is on top of the rabbit hutch, I don’t doubt what you’re saying at all. As soon as it cools off, the Girls are going to have an outing on the lawn. No telling where Twiggy will end up.

      • I had a white reccue hen that roosted on an eye-level clothesline whenever we did not move her. I think she was a leghorn. Her comb was floppy and she was very active, running with the wild turkeys during the daytime. She laid an egg every day in the garage. Twiggy reminds me of her.

    • I just saw Twiggy on top of the hutch. I think she’s practicing for excitement in the future.

  9. Hi Terry, your pullets seem all grown up compared to when they were tiny little chicks not that long ago!

    Anyways, I’m worried about one of my pullets. I had them out in the run today and I was walking back towards my coop, and didn’t notice one of them right next to me, and I stepped on her foot. I caught her and felt her foot for any heat or if she flinched when I touched a certain part. She didn’t, but when I let her get up on her own, she limped and them would stop and hold her foot up. I put everyone back inside and checked on her to make sure she would be able to get up on the roost, and she did. So I looked closer at her foot and the joint and the base seems swollen. I’m very worried, what should I do?
    Thank you

  10. Veronica with be a beautiful Cuckoo Marans!
    And Twiggy – do her tail and neck feathers look like those of a ‘he’ rather than a ‘she’ ?
    I do hope I’m mistaken in thinking that, maybe she’s just a tomboy!

  11. I’m sure Twiggy will lay any minute now, I am so grateful that the white leghorn I have, that I thought was perhaps a rooster, is actually a pullet as I type this she is in the nesting box laying an egg…

    • Leghorns have that upright stance and strut about them. But, put a cockerel side-by-side with a pullet and the differences are obvious!

      • Terry I believe you got your chicks from McMurray. If so Twiggy should not have the big floppy comb of the commercial strain. McMurray is always where I have gotten my leghorns and the Pearl variety the comb stands straight up.

  12. I was told that one way to tell cockerel from a pullet is by the length and shape of the hackle (neck) feathers; i.e., a rooster has long pointed ones, and a hen has shorter rounded ones. To me, Twiggy’s feathers look rounded. I think she’s just very self-assured and that comes across as “cocky”. :-)

  13. This may be a silly question, but it looks like the windows of the little barn have 2 big S’s on them? What am I seeing?

  14. My buff leghorn is also a wild child…her comb is so big and floppy it covers one side of her head…you cannot even see her eye!

  15. Talking about laying I think Lucy is egg bound I have 4 hens ones is laying regularly and lucy RID started a week later she layed 2 eggs now nothing!! and she clucks up a storm when the other is laying I’m gonna give her the olive oil and try to check her vent (the other 2 have a couple more wks yet) Hope this works :((((

  16. I was watching the goats play on hencam, and then went to goatcam, just before you opened the windows, this morning. That is when I saw the windows look like S’s on them. I had never looked at them before! I hope someone else has seen what I mean! Now I feel pretty crazy! My husband saw them too, though! Ha!

  17. RE: eggbound I did everything you suggest vas. on glove in vent couldn’t feel anything ,olive oil, she is sitting with but up and squeezing vent alot and panting now what ??? ANYONE

  18. Lucy got her spa bath and I must say at first she flopped a bit but then she fell asleep !!! maybe this will work ….thank you for ideas Terry

  19. Wow! Looks like party central is the top of the hutch. Lots of interest and activity up there.

  20. Terry, I was just watching the hen cam, and I saw the goats looking in the same direction “smiling” and wagging their tails. I thought to myself “I bet Terry is coming” and sure enough, you came strolling into the camera’s view. It was too cute!!!

    • They do smile and wag their tails. We’ll have the goatcam high-speed soon, and then you’ll really be able to see it. Also, if you see them in the corner of the paddock, with Caper yelling, he’s spied me through the window and is telling me to come outside. So far, my neighbors have been tolerant.

  21. I was wondering, Terry, if your going to “show” Beatrix or Owly in competition?

    • I don’t show. But, in any event, those two are not a real breed. Ameracaunas are a mix that lay colorful eggs, but they don’t conform to a breed standard.

      • :o( Seems hens that beautiful should have a place for them. I feel sure they would win if there was such a competition. Thanks for info about Ameracaunas.

  22. I love your website. I found it after a friend sent me the article in the Boston Globe about your nursing home hens. Wonderful!
    I am new to chickens and have a flock of 9 assorted 11 week old bantams. I adore them all, way beyond what I expected. The white silkie has developed impacted crop and I’m sick over it. I watched your video of the medicine dosing and I’ve been trying to get some warm olive oil into her today. I can’t get her to open her beak as well as you did with Buffy! I think I’ll take her to the vet tomorrow if she’s not better.

    On another subject, you mention that your oyster shell dispenser is full and ready to go. What sort of a dispenser do you have for oyster shells?

    Any assistance or advice would be appreciated. Thank you!