How long do hens lay?

Discussion in 'Broody Hens & Egg Laying' started by Sara Silver, Nov 27, 2017.

  1. Sara Silver

    Sara Silver Member

    70
    22
    8
    Hello, I JUST started my little flock. And I've received conflicting information on how long chickens lay. I did some reading before jumping in and the literature stated that hens have a peak period of laying from about 6 mos to 5/7 yrs and then the production slows down. But it said they never really just STOP laying.

    However, I've run into more than one person who said that they do. In fact, I spoke to a breeder just now about a hen for sale that is a yr & a half and he warned me that since she's "older", she might only lay for one more yr. I'm a little distressed over this because we got the flock specifically to have our own eggs. We can only keep so many and if they lay only til age 3 but live for 10 yrs...well, that would make our venture quite a failure!

    Thanks for reading!
     
  2. seminolewind

    seminolewind Super Mod Staff Member

    9,096
    1,016
    113
    Hi. In my experience, my hens have laid well for about 5 years with a small decline. Some I found only shorten the season they lay. My Polish, who are not known to be called layers lay for a straight 4 months and that's it. But keep that up longer than most birds. A lot depends on genetics, health, breed and stress. Very few lay all year except hybrids.

    I do have a senior home for them. I do get a surprise from them sometimes. Your best layers would be hybrids that are bred to lay.
     

  3. Nm156

    Nm156 Well-Known Member

    1,867
    192
    63
    1st year of laying will be the best.The 2nd year is little less eggs but bigger eggs.after that the egg laying goes downhill.
    Most of my original flock (39 months old) haven't laid much eggs if any after their 2nd laying season.
    If you want endless eggs,you'll have to replace your flock about every two years.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  4. Sara Silver

    Sara Silver Member

    70
    22
    8
    Thank you both! Looks like we might need a tie-breaker!!
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  5. robin416

    robin416 Super Moderator Staff Member

    9,800
    359
    83
    Karen already mentioned this, a lot is going to depend on the breed, how the bird was bred. My hatchery hens had quit by two and three years old.

    My 12 1/2 year old Silkie hasn't laid in probably 5 years. But my six year old Silkie is still laying and going broody. My 8 year old Hamburgs were still laying this summer.

    None of the birds that I just mentioned are hatchery birds. All were hatched by me in my breeding program.
     
  6. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Well-Known Member

    401
    332
    63
    As everyone has already said - it depends. Getting a hybrid hen that's bred for laying will give you ample eggs for about the first 18-24 months, after that, they slow up noticeably. They will still lay, but not as prolifically.
    Heritage hens will lay less eggs per year than hybrids, but will lay for several years longer.
    If you want eggs consistently, the best thing to do is get say, 3 hens the first year then add 3 more in 18 months and so on.
    Hens can live for 10+ years, but the average is around 7-8 years, depending on circumstances.
    Hope this all helps :)
     
    seminolewind likes this.
  7. Sara Silver

    Sara Silver Member

    70
    22
    8
    Yes, thanks! Just a follow up question- what exactly is a heritage hen? While a quick Google search did turn up a short list of chickens that would be considered heritage...I couldn't find a definition. One article gave me the impression that this might mean a purebred or chicken worthy of being shown, is that it? Thanks so much for your help!!
     
  8. Nm156

    Nm156 Well-Known Member

    1,867
    192
    63
    Do you want a chicken to feed for 6 years to get 300 eggs or a chicken that lays the 300 eggs in 2 years then you eat the chicken or feed it to your dog.
    1 chicken at 6y/o at 300 eggs. $117 $4.68/dozen .
    1 chicken at 2 y/o at 300 eggs. $39 $1.56/dozen.
    Based on 1.5lbs feed/week at$.25/LB of feed
     
    chickenqueen likes this.
  9. robin416

    robin416 Super Moderator Staff Member

    9,800
    359
    83
    Basically a heritage hen is not one that all the focus wasn't put on high egg or meat production. Hatchery birds are bred for a purpose and they end up having much shorter production lives.
     
  10. Nm156

    Nm156 Well-Known Member

    1,867
    192
    63
    Most birds that people call "Heritage" are attempted recreates of the original breeds from back in the day.Whose whole soul purpose was too create the most eggs or meat at the time.
     
  11. Sara Silver

    Sara Silver Member

    70
    22
    8
    You have a very valid point. However, there's also the issue of it just being my husband and I...we can only eat so many at a time. Currently, we have 3 hybrid pullets and we are already giving away a dozen or more a wk and this is just during the off season. While I do enjoy providing fresh, healthy, local eggs to family and friends, we didn't get them to feed everyone else, lol!

    I don't mind if egg production were to slow down, I just don't want it to stop all together because to be honest, I couldn't stand to kill my ladies. I actually enjoy feeding them, watching them de-grub the yard and the daily surprise of seeing how many eggs and what color they may be:) I thinking adding a couple heritage hens may be just the thing!
     
    boskelli1571 likes this.
  12. Sara Silver

    Sara Silver Member

    70
    22
    8
    Thanks so much to everyone! It was wonderful to get so many replies and so much information. I appreciate your time and consideration:D
     
  13. seminolewind

    seminolewind Super Mod Staff Member

    9,096
    1,016
    113
    I agree with this. Add 3 at a time 18 months apart so you have eggs but not so many you'll go crazy .
     
  14. Sara Silver

    Sara Silver Member

    70
    22
    8
    Do you think I will have to worry about integrating hens with such a difference in age and so long after the current flock has banded together?

    I've had a couple of friends tell me horror stories about new hens (or even old) being held down and pecked to death by one or more of the flock... I couldn't bear that.
     
  15. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Well-Known Member

    401
    332
    63
    The Livestock Conservancy states a heritage breed as: self sufficient, good forager,will mate naturally, has mothering instinct, good fertility, longevity, resistance to disease and has been bred naturally.
    Most hatcheries will sell the 'older' breeds, but they are bred purely for the $$ raised. To buy heritage you have to scout around and find local breeders.
    With regard to integration - if done properly there will be squabbles but there should not be outright warfare in the run. Read up on integration, folks do it differently so there isn't just one way to do it. When the time comes - ask us again :)
     
  16. chickenqueen

    chickenqueen Super Moderator Staff Member

    3,890
    959
    113
    I loved that.Thanks for posting it.I never thought about what my farm fresh eggs actually cost me.I'm not in it just for eggs but it was still fun to know.
     
  17. oldhen2345

    oldhen2345 Oldhen2345

    77
    56
    18
    My oldest hen is 3 years old and probably laid less than a dozen eggs this year. Every year, I cull out a few chickens and replace them with day olds. I was searching for the perfect mix of egg laying and yard candy. Each spring, I brood a few more than I want, take the best of the lot, give away the worst of the oldest ones - skittish, loud, bossy, aggressive- whatever reason they get put in the cull list for. The next spring, I refine the batch again. I pretty well have all the best of the best- so next year is going to be a problem. I give them away on Craigs list with full disclosure of the reason for the culling. Most people like having free chickens. Some are young- some older- all find a home within 24 hrs of posting. I can imagine the beautiful home they are going to- I never imagine a stew pot.
     
  18. chickenqueen

    chickenqueen Super Moderator Staff Member

    3,890
    959
    113
    If I'm down-sizing and I sell them for $5.That weeds out most of the bad people.If I get a good vibe from the buyer,I'll work out a deal.If I don't get a good vibe,price is firm and usually they leave empty handed.It's a chicken paradise here(well,until the geese came anyway)and the thought of them going to a new home where they can't live like they do here,makes me feel so guilty,I haven't sold any for years.That's why I have a bunch of freeloaders.
     
    boskelli1571 likes this.
  19. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Well-Known Member

    401
    332
    63
    me too! :rolleyes:
     
  20. oldhen2345

    oldhen2345 Oldhen2345

    77
    56
    18
    Wish I could keep them all, but I live in town and with my yard, coop size and all, I can only have about 7 (city regs say 10, but yard won't support that much free range scratching). I was supposed to only be keeping 5, but with chicken math and all, well you know.
    It is a good idea to charge a small amount for each to weed out the bad people. I will try that.
     
    boskelli1571 likes this.