Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Time for another installment of the regularly recurring game - "Where the %$@? are the chickens laying their eggs?"
I don't expect many eggs this time of year, of course. But I can tell by looking at them that some of the hens are laying. There are several signs to look for, but the easiest way to tell if a hen is laying or not is to look at her comb.
This hen is not laying. She is molting. See how she looks skinny and untidy, and her comb (though I barely got it in the picture) is small and pale? She won't start to lay for probably several weeks. First she has to grow all her feathers back and gain some weight. Hens go into molt after their first year of laying, at about 18 months of age. The first year is the most productive, but the second year is still pretty good. After year number two, it's charity to keep a laying hen alive.
These two hens are intermediate: their feathers are full and sleek, but their combs aren't there yet. The black hen is a little closer to starting production, I think, but the speckled hen is not close yet.
This hen is a layer. She is fat and fluffy, her comb and wattles are well developed and bright red. She is laying her eggs somewhere all right... I just don't know where!!! For comparison, here is the comb on one of our roosters. A hen in good laying form has a nice big crest and wattles, at least two thirds the size of a rooster's. Combs vary a lot by breed, so some will be bigger than others, but all laying hens will have combs and wattles that are thicker, brighter, and redder than hens who are not laying.
Now I have to go back out to the barnyard because as I was posting these pictures, I saw that I had taken a picture of an egg which I didn't find when I was out there. Can you find it?