Eight of the hens in the Big Barn will be five-years old this April. The others are turning three next month. In chicken terms, that’s old. None of them are laying prolifically like they did their first year, not even the wonder-hen Twiggy. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few don’t lay at all this year. Others are likely to lay sporadically. Misty is already back on a regular schedule, although even she is not laying a daily egg.
As I predicted, February saw an uptick in the number of eggs laid. First it was only one. And that was left in the dust bath box. The first egg of the season is often not where you want it.
I’ve kept three of the five nesting boxes blocked off because the hens had been sleeping and pooping in there, but now that it’s laying season, I’ve opened them up, and the few hens that are currently laying are using them.
Egg laying glitches often occur when production picks up. With older hens it’s to be expected. You might not know about these glitches, because thin-shelled eggs get smashed and eaten before you find them, or what’s expelled gets mixed up in the bedding and manure. I found this on the floor of the coop:
This is a solidified yolk. My best guess is that the hen released a yolk from her ovary, but wasn’t yet making the whites or the shell. This happens. You rarely find such things because the other hens eat it. But it’s been cold. This was a frozen lump. Pushing out a mass like this is difficult. The shell helps the egg slide out of the vent. Without a strong shell, things get stuck. Agatha might have made this mass, she was straining the other day.
This is not lash. I’ve written about that here. Lash is often a sign of a fatal ailment. This yolk is just a glitch. Still, the hens are old and I expect things to go amiss as we head into spring. I’m actually surprised that they’ve all been vigorously healthy this winter. Doesn’t Owly look good? I’m hoping to see one of her beautiful dusky blue eggs soon.
The babies are 3 already? I’m sitting here with my mouth open. Where -does- the time go? I remember sitting on my couch at night with your cam up watching the little ones off and on while I knitted or worked on projects. I missed being able to do that when they got big enough for you to take the heat/light away. But then I got to watch them figuring out the ‘world’ when you were turning them loose. And now they’re THREE! Sheesh.
Looks like Agatha is having some discomfort again today. She’s sitting next to the dust bath, facing towards it, and seems to be straining from time to time. Hopefully her egg-laying system will get sorted out for her soon.
Speaking of egg glitches, I have one hen that just started laying again, and the last few days she’s laid eggs with blood smears on them. Ouch. We’ve had colder temps here the last few days too, so I’m thinking that may have something to do with it. Also, her eggs are always quite round, so probably not so easy to pass. I think I will try applying some live oil to her vent area tonight. Can’t hurt, right?
Beatrix does look beautiful, except for the top 2″ of her head she is identical in feather colouring and pattern to my Welsummer ‘ Welly’. Do you know what cross of breeds she is from ? My Girls are also 3 this year and the eggs are certainly less. Last January I got 78, this one I only got 31 plus 3 broken, so under half and Feb seems to be going the same way. I am giving them lots of veg and fruit as treats as they are not to happy going out that much. Do you thing the cold, wet and windy weather we seem to be stuck with could be affecting there egg laying ?….:)
Beatrix and Owly (and I labeled this photo incorrectly – it is Owly!) are “Ameracaunas” or “Americanas” or “Easter Egg Layers” – varied looking hens that lay varied, colorful eggs. Each hatchery has their own line.
my girls are the same. very few eggs over the last few weeks I froze quite a few in late summer when production was high. I use them in baking, H
ave not tried to eat them scrambled, I am sure they are fine they just don’t look too good. I cherish every egg I am getting right now. But I love my chickens they deserve the rest, and if they stop completely, Oh Well I nearly lost one of my favorite old girls awhile back, was looking for someone to euthanize her but I used my trusty homeopathy and she is fine, I don’t know if anything is going on inside of her or not, she’s almost 7
We lost our old (6 years) BA girl last week. She went off and hid somewhere, I guess to die as we couldn’t find her and the others weren’t acting spooky as if something nabbed her. She was tired, not getting around well and always waited for me to come and take her outside to sit in the sun. She had a good life but it still makes me sad not to see her when I go to let the girls out in the mornings.
We are getting green eggs 2 or 3 a day but only a brown one now and then. We have three GLW x EE rooster, they lay really large dark green eggs. They’ve been good layers from the very start. They will be 5 years old in August. They are slowing down a bit and they have laid a few thin shelled eggs this late winter.
Are you sure your 6 year old BA hasn’t gone broody and is sitting on a hidden nest of eggs somewhere?
Thank you so much for this post. It is pretty much the same thing I am going through with my girls. It explains a lot.
Knowing what happens as hens age helps to keep the worry level down.
That’s Owlie! My almost 4 year old Scarlett’s first couple of eggs have been laid outside of the nest box. I think she has forgotten what the box is for.
Oh my heavens, you’re right! That is Owly. Beatrix was on my mind when I wrote this. Thank you!
I have a soft spot for Owlie since she and my Henny Penny are twinsies. Beatrix is quite stunning. I hope you get a couple Speckled Sussex in your next batch of chicks. I haven’t seen those offered in the feed stores here so I am enjoying them vicariously. ;-)
Owly’s feathers are just amazing. Amazing.
Owls is a beauty! My girls will be 4 in March. So far my production is only slightly down from last year. But they just started up 3 weeks ago. I got 3 eggs today.
Her personality was a stand out from day one, as well. Always looking up!
My six year old black australorp started up this week and laid two eggs in four days. I’m amazed. In her prime she never laid more than four a week. So,I think that’s pretty good.
Owly looks great! I became interested in raising chickens a couple months ago and I came across your site a few weeks ago! I love the wealth of information here and especially watching the chickens! For the past week or so I’ve been counting your chickens every day, trying to see the full 14 at once and last night I finally caught them all. :)
You have a gorgeous flock, I can’t wait to start my own! Thank you for your site, love watching the hens and watching Phoebe chat with the goats occasionally! :)
I see that you’re in Sweden. Let me know what breeds you end up getting!
I’m actually American and moving back to the states eventually (long story short, I moved to Sweden to be with my fiance while he studies in university). So, unfortunately I’m only chicken dreaming for now! When I do get back to the states I plan to have a gorgeous mixed flock, such as you have. :)
For now I’m just reading everything I can possibly read about chickens, from as many sources as possible!
I actually have made a sort of collage of all the chicken breeds/colors I plan to get for my flock, so I can see how they all look together. I’ve learned about chicken math too already, I originally thought a small flock of 4-6 would be good but now I have over 15 in mind! I plan to get 5 or 6 each year for 3 years in a row.
I figure I’ll start out small, gain some experience and grow the flock, while also extending the laying years a little bit. When they stop laying effectively, I’ll just continue to enjoy watching them and enjoy the fertilizer they’ll make for me!