Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ask Bee - Empty Nests... My Hen's Aren't Laying Well!

Dear Bee,
I am starting to wonder about my 4 2.5 year old Black Australorp hens. I have been getting 1 egg a day from them for the past 3 months. I knew egg production was supposed to slow down at 2 years, but this is making me crazy. 

At the moment, I am "paying" $6 a dozen for my eggs. My feed costs $30 a month, and I get about 5 dozen eggs. Not good egg math.

 (Photo Credit: VintageGardenGal)
Before August 1, the 9 hens I have gave me 6 eggs a day, every day. Then 1 hen went broody, the 3 1.5 year olds began their molt, and the 4 big girls just stopped laying. I keep searching for reasons why this may be, but I am running out of excuses for them. Should I cull them?

Bee’s Answer –

Sometimes you eat the cost on feed in the winter and the spring laying recoups those costs.  Mixing cheaper whole grains in the layer feeds can help cut costs through the winter and you may also want to explore measured feedings if you are currently feeding free choice.  I look too at any feed loss from shoveling or rodent forays and, when I used to feed dry feeds, kept a wire overlay on the trough feeder to prevent feed loss from shoveling and flicking, and only fed once a day to avoid free feeding and having any feeds sitting out for rodents each night. 

Going with Fermented Feed can really cut the costs even further. 

Black Australorps are great birds and will make you some exceptional long term layers if you have the patience with them through their natural slow down times...most dual purpose breeds slow down about this time of year but will slowly start laying more and more as winter goes along.  My oldest BAs were still laying each day during peak laying season at 7 yrs of age... and I believe they could have continued laying even longer if they hadn't met with a mishap. 

I never cull for laying at this time of the year, as this is the lowest rate of laying you will probably see in a flock (particularly a flock older than their first year).... between August and Dec. is no time to judge a bird on laying prowess.  You'll find that each flock you have will have the same slow down times past the first year and you'd have to cull them all at 2 years... as some normally do at this time of year and then get new point-of-lay (POL) birds in the spring. 

I could never afford to do that, so I just scrimped on feed and put faith in the old birds. 

Bee -


  1. This is an awesome blog, so much information and so easy to get to. Thanks so much.

  2. This is some of the best advise I have gotten from Bee.
    I went into chicken keeping thinking I would cull all my birds (got them in April 2012) in Fall 2013. I now look forward to managing my flock though molts and winter and old age. I'll add a few new birds every spring, watch the flock for 'not thrifty birds' and cull them and nurture and help the others thrive.
    Thanks Bulldogma and Bee.

  3. Culling high producing breeds like red sex links on their third year is understandable, but dual purpose birds can lay long into their life. Breeders would go under if they culled 2 year old birds regularly. Winter is a resting period, and is to be expected. :) Good post!


  4. This information is excellent information. Really enjoy the blog.

  5. how do I tell if my hens are laying regularly ?

    1. Are you getting eggs? How many hens of laying age do you have, and how many eggs are you getting on average? If you question weather a certain hen is laying, you could separate her in a place where she can see her friends - like in a dog crate in the coop - and see if she lays. Of course hens don't lay every day. You can do this just through the morning and early afternoon, letting her out after 3:00 PM. If you find an egg in the crate she's laying. :-)


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