Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Still waiting for our pullets to lay

So how long should you wait for a chicken to lay?

Well it depends entirely on the chicken, well the type of chicken you have. A commercial laying cross and hybrids generally begin laying from around 18-22 weeks. Pure bred bird however take a fair bit longer, possibly 26-32 weeks. Their laying quantity is also considered to be lower, possibly 150-300 eggs per annum depending on the breed. As a general rule, they should however continue to lay that quantity for longer. Whereas your commercial crosses will lay one a day (occasionally a second if you’re lucky) for a year or so, before the rate drops off.   We had (until Christmas last year) a Wellsummer hen that was still consistently laying 3+ eggs a week at 7 years of age; she was an original from suburbia, and was a pet more than anything- but she earned her keep.

It is also worth noting that it really does also depend on your breed. There are many laying breeds and dual purpose that will lay up to 300 per year. Such as our old Wellsummer and Sussex birds. We also breed Indian Game (AKA Cornish) these are not egg laying birds. And tend to be almost seasonal in their laying. Laying consistently for around a month once or twice a year. We do still have a few birds that would be 3 years of age and laying is around the same.

 

Indian Game hens
So as we had an enforced streamlining of our breeding program. The rather questionable dog attack of almost our entire laying and breeding flock whilst we were away for a few days over Christmas last year. We now have a few Sussex pullets, all between 8-10 months of age and a young rooster. But we still had not had a single egg.

Weather can also be a factor with chickens, along with moulting. These pullets have definitely not been moulting, as their feathers are immaculate and in great condition. It has been a fairly mixed winter/dry season. So we had upped their protein intake. Adding a molasses based protein meal to their rations, along with worms and a little dog food as an added bonus- yes chickens can eat meat. They naturally forage for bugs and insects, even vermin like small lizards or mice. And these guys are  free ranged and have access to all the gardens offering along with their grain. So figured it maybe a case that they are either laying where I cannot find them, or something else is getting there first. Maybe a crow or snake . Though I would have thought a snake would be unlikely due to the colder weather and crows generally leave some evidence, such as shells on the roof or something. So we decided there was only one way to find out… to confine them.

Not my preference by a long shot, but we do have a couple of very generous chicken tractor that we use for introducing young birds to the outdoors. More than ample area (especially if we move them around regularly) for 4 standard sized backyard chickens.

So Sunday evening I waited until they had gone in to roost and moved them- no they were no too impressed. This morning we had two eggs!

So now to illuminate what the problem was in their back yard area…

Especially as I have just ordered a couple of boxes of fertile eggs. I have always been reluctant to sell my own eggs as fertile, as there is no particular guarantee that they are fertile, just that they run with a rooster. But as I have not been getting my own to incubate, and we are wanting to begin rearing next year’s laying stock now.  I figured I would utilise the opportunity to introduce another bloodline. So eagerly waiting their arrival.