As a chicken keeper, one of the most important things to know is which of your birds are currently laying eggs and which ones are not. This information can help you manage your flock more effectively, from feeding and nutrition to identifying potential health problems.
But with a large flock, it can be challenging to keep track of who is laying and who isn’t. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to figure it out.
Look at the Vent
When it comes to identifying whether a chicken is laying eggs or not, one of the most straightforward methods is to take a look at their vent. This is the part of the chicken’s anatomy where the egg exits their body and is situated below their tail feathers. By examining the vent, you can often determine if a hen is laying eggs or not.
If the vent appears moist and large, then it is likely that the hen is currently laying. This is because as the egg travels through the hen’s reproductive system, the vent will become moist and stretch to accommodate the egg’s passage. In contrast, if the vent appears small and dry, then it is probable that the hen is not currently laying.
Of course, it is important to keep in mind that this method is not foolproof, and there may be other factors that could cause a hen’s vent to appear differently than what you might expect. Additionally, it’s worth noting that not all hens will lay eggs every day, so just because a hen’s vent appears small and dry at a particular moment doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t laying eggs. Nonetheless, observing the vent can be a useful tool in determining the egg-laying status of your chickens.
Use a Pelvic Exam
A pelvic exam is another method that can be used to determine if a hen is laying eggs. This technique involves gently picking up the hen and feeling for the two bones near the vent. These bones are located at the base of the tail and can be felt by applying gentle pressure with your fingers.
If you are able to fit two or three fingers between these bones, then it is likely that the hen is currently laying eggs. However, if you can only fit one finger between the bones, then the hen is probably not laying at the moment.
It’s important to note that this method requires a gentle touch, as the hen may become agitated or uncomfortable if handled too roughly. Additionally, it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly before and after performing a pelvic exam to prevent the spread of any potential diseases.
Check the Comb
Checking the comb of a chicken is another way to determine if it is laying eggs. The comb is a fleshy, red piece of skin on top of the chicken’s head.
A bright red comb is usually an indication that the hen is currently laying eggs. However, it’s important to keep in mind that combs may change color based on various factors such as the hen’s age, health, and laying cycle. For example, the comb may appear paler or darker depending on the hen’s overall health or stage in the laying cycle.
Therefore, while comb color can be an indicator of whether a hen is laying or not, it’s not always a reliable method on its own. It’s best to use a combination of methods to determine whether a hen is laying or not.
Look for Red Combs Among Pink Combs
When observing your flock, you may notice that some hens have pink combs while others have red combs. If your hens have pink combs, then you should look for the ones that have turned red. This change in color is usually a sign that the hen is laying eggs regularly. On the other hand, pink or shrunken combs may indicate that the hen is not currently laying eggs.
It’s important to note that the color of a hen’s comb can vary based on many factors, such as age, breed, health, and even the temperature outside. For example, during the winter months, a hen’s comb may shrink and turn pale due to the cold weather. Therefore, while a red comb is a good indication of a laying hen, it’s not always a definitive sign, and it’s important to consider other methods of determining egg-laying status as well.
Check for Egg Production
Checking for egg production is a simple and reliable method for determining if a hen is laying. It involves keeping track of the number of eggs each hen produces in a day and over time. A healthy laying hen will typically lay one egg every 24 to 26 hours, although this can vary depending on the breed, age, health, and environmental factors.
To check for egg production, collect the eggs daily and keep a record of which hens they came from. This will help you identify the hens that are not laying, as well as those that are laying consistently or inconsistently. Keep in mind that hens may take breaks from laying during the winter months, molt, or when they are stressed or sick.
By monitoring egg production, you can also identify potential problems such as low egg production, soft-shelled or abnormal eggs, or signs of disease. It’s important to provide your hens with a healthy diet, clean water, and a comfortable living environment to ensure optimal egg production and overall health.
Using cameras to identify laying hens is a modern and convenient method for poultry farmers. By installing cameras in the coop, you can monitor the hens’ behavior without disturbing them. When reviewing the footage, look for hens that spend a significant amount of time in the nesting boxes, as this is where they lay their eggs. You may also observe them vocalizing or exhibiting other behaviors that indicate egg-laying.
In addition, reviewing the footage can help you identify potential issues with the hens or the coop, such as overcrowding or nesting box problems. It is important to note that installing cameras in the coop should be done with care and consideration for the hens’ welfare, and you should also ensure that you are adhering to any privacy or surveillance laws in your area.
Another way to identify which hens are laying is to use food coloring. This involves adding food coloring to the vent of each hen and keeping a record of which color corresponds to which hen. This method is effective but can be messy and time-consuming.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all hens will lay every day, and some may take breaks for molting or other reasons. Additionally, hens that are older or not in good health may not lay as often as younger, healthier birds.
Regardless of whether or not a hen is laying, it’s essential to provide all of your birds with proper nutrition, healthcare, and a comfortable living environment. As a chicken keeper, I believe that all of my girls deserve the best, whether they are laying eggs or not.
Keeping track of which chickens are laying eggs is crucial for managing a healthy and productive flock. By using methods such as looking at the vent, performing a pelvic exam, checking the comb, monitoring egg production, using cameras, or food coloring, chicken keepers can determine which birds are laying and which ones are not.
However, it’s important to remember that not all hens will lay every day, and some may take breaks for various reasons. Regardless, providing proper care and attention to all chickens is essential for their overall health and wellbeing.
As a chicken keeper, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our feathered friends receive the best care possible, whether they are currently laying eggs or not.