Thursday, July 25, 2013

When hens start laying - Part 2

Pullet (young layer) eggs
It is the middle of a very wet winter for me here in Adelaide. One of the coldest and dampest is many years in fact. So all the more extraordinary when my new flock of hens start to lay their very first eggs.

My veggie seeds are taking an extra 5 days to germinate but my chookies are all ready to lay!

Last month, one of my Silver Laced Wyandotte hens started by laying her very first surprise egg on the concrete path next to the water container, and had a little curious peck at it. Since then she has discovered the fake wooden eggs in the coop layer boxes and has been laying there daily ever since. Meat/egg hens love to sit on eggs, they really love it! So using dummy eggs has worked wonders.

Her eggs now contain yolks (yolkless on the first lay, usually). Pullet eggs are usually smaller than older hens' eggs but less runny in their whites so when they are fried they stay beautifully symmetrical, almost. I love pullet eggs for breakfast, but I do prefer the bigger eggs in other recipes.

But as of today, ANOTHER one of the girls has begun her first egg laying. I suspect it might be one of the Light Sussex hens.
Is this the owner of the newly laid whiter egg?
I haven't managed to pick which chickens are the layers, but the egg shell colouring does give me a hint. Every breed of hen has a particular shell colour range.

via
The second hint I have is their perching habit at night.
When I was cleaning the coop last week in the roost area I noticed that there was a yolk splat on the lino floor covering beneath one of the perches. It was shell and white free which indicated that it had not come from my old Isa Brown. A shell-less egg is most likely to come from a young pullet whose body is still trying to get laying into gear.

The third hint I had was watching their movements in and out of the coop.
Normally, my free-range girls do not go up on their balcony next to the door to the perches during the day unless they are considering visiting the layer boxes. They usually only wander in and out for a peck of feed and a drink of water and walk back out again. My Light Sussex was definitely on the balcony with head through the door.

I knew another hen was on the verge of beginning her egg laying life.

And the fourth hint is in the comb. When hens coming into their laying season their comb looks larger and more mature.

There are always little hints, sometimes it might even be an increased hunger, so the flock might make a little more noise trying to entice their owner out to give them a few more treats.

As the hens grow older their egg size will increase.
Silkie Bantam chickens will always lay very small eggs, whereas Leghorn and White Austrolp chookies aim to surprise with their incredible occasional whoppers!

TERMINOLOGY

  • Egg only hen: Isa Brown and Australop. Not particularly broody. Light body. Regular layers.
  • Meat/Egg hen: Bigger, fatter and lay less often throughout the week. High tendency to get broody.
  • Meat hen: Bred for meat. Very heavy bird. The eggs are often very small and random.


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