Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What Did YOU Do Last Night?

Well, I came up with a new ending for my "You might belong on a homestead if..." You spend your evening with your husband feeling chicken butts in the dark coop. WHAT??? you say???

Our egg count has been very low for the number of hens that we keep. We are not sure if something is eating them, or if the hens are laying somewhere outside the coop or if they were on strike. We want to keep them penned up in the coop for a couple of days and see how many eggs we get. However, we had too many chickens to do that and it has been pretty warm. So, we decided to do our yearly cull of old layers.

We were using color coded leg bands to get rid of all the 3 year olds. The first year all the girls got a red leg band. The second year all the new hens got blue leg bands. The third year we did not use leg bands at all. Then when we did our yearly cull of hens in the fall, we would get rid of all of the hens with a red leg band, which we did. This year we were to get rid of all the hens with a blue leg band. We ended up with a couple of cases where the leg band had to be cut off because it got too tight. We decided to scrap the leg band idea. Our next plan was to get different looking breeds each year. This year was the first year for that idea. We got light brahmas, which are the white chickens you see in the first picture. I noticed that one of my 3 year old hens was still laying faithfully. She would lay her egg in the goat shed every day, or at least almost every day. We did not want to cull a hen that was faithfully laying, so we went back to the tried and true method of measuring the space between what we call the pin bones on the backside of the hen. I am always elected to be the actually tester. You should be able to comfortably get 2 or even 3 fingers between those bones if they are laying well. My husband could automatically call some of them as he handed the chicken to me to be tested. If they were pretty beat up and looked like something the dog dragged around, you could usually put 3 fingers easily between those bones. Then he would hand me a beautiful, soft, well feathered girl and tell me that she was probably not laying. A couple of those girls were so closely spaced that I could not even put one finger in between the bones. So, we got rid of quite a few "feed eater/no output" hens. The weather is supposed to be cool tomorrow and the next day, so we are going to keep them in the coop and see how many eggs we get.

Oh, the fun things you get to do... Down on the farm!! =)


PEA said...

I guess SOMEBODY has to do that job!! lol Little do us non farming people realize everything that needs to be done on a farm!! I had no idea that how you could tell if a hen was laying or not...very fascinating!

Peggy said...

Well I learnt something new! I was just going to keep my hens till they died of old age but at least now I know how to tell which are laying eggs.

Lynn said...

I'm not sure I want to try that method, Marci! But then, we're still waiting for our first eggs from our Buff Orpingtons.

Marci said...

Lynn, it is really not gross. The 2 bones stick out and are just in front of their vent, so you are not getting yucky or anything. You just feel that soft area in front of the vent, feel the bones and then see how many fingers will fit between them.

Clara....in TN said...

Pretty Chickens, Marci. Something got all of Lisa's chickens. It's a possability someone stole them because there was no sign of any of them being killed....no feathers....nothing. Maybe a hawk swooped down and stole them....we don't know!

Hopeful Agrarian said...


I need you to have a talk with my wife about the infeasibility of keeping non-laying layers in a chicken retirement program. Susan names many of our chickens and has no plans whatever of culling them when the time comes that they stop laying. All of them are her 'friends' 2007 is the year our oldest chickens turn 3 so I need to some persuading.

On second thought maybe I had better not. Her compassionate personality that makes her devoted to her chickens may be the very thing that makes her put up with me. If the chickens go ... well let's not think about what might happen to me!