May 9, 2011

Unofficial Egg Laying Research Results

Last Monday, I asked current and former chicken owners to comment on their experiences with egg production. I was curious, because the how-to books I read on chickens led me to believe that chickens 1) stop laying when daylight hours get short, and 2) lay best their first year, after which egg production drops drastically. That hadn't been my experience however, and I wondered if the same was true for others.

My 3 Welsummers & an Ameraucana

I had 25 folks offer information to help with this unofficial study. The results were very interesting, and quite positive for those of us who keep chickens for their eggs.

The questions I asked were:
  • What breeds do you have?
  • Are they hybrid or heritage?
  • How did your first and second year egg production compare for each breed?
  • Did you light your coop artificially during winter's short days?

Fortunately, many of you volunteered information that I didn't ask about, i.e. diet and free ranging.

My Delaware in the nest box

Here is a summary of the results:

Breeds. Those mentioned were a mix of heritage and hybrid:
  • Americaunas
  • Ancona
  • Araucanas
  • Australorp
  • Banty
  • Barred Holland
  • Barred Rock
  • Brahma
  • Brown Breasted Red
  • Buff Orpington
  • Cochin
  • Crevecours
  • Delaware
  • Easter Eggers
  • Golden Polish
  • Golden sex link
  • Leghorn
  • Light Brahmas
  • Norwegian Jaerhon
  • Old English Game
  • Partridge Rocks
  • Polish
  • Redstar
  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Russian Orloff
  • Silkies
  • Silver Laced Dorking
  • Silver Spangle Hamburgs
  • Speckled Sussex
  • Welsummer
  • Wyendots

Egg Production after the 1st year: The majority of participants reported little if any drop in egg production after the first year. To my happy surprise, many reported that egg laying remained strong and steady with 3 and 4 year old hens. 

Egg Production during short, winter days: Almost everyone reported decreased egg production at various times, but this was usually associated with moulting rather than daylight hours. Spring chicks normally moult during winter months, so this may be the reason for the short daylight concept. Most of you did not offer artificial light during winter months. Some did, but just as often as not, these were in colder climes, where the purpose was for warmth. 

Diet: I did not think to ask about this, but many volunteered this information anyway, for which I'm grateful.

My Barred Holland Rooster

Conclusion: My hypothesis was incorrect. Breed (heritage or hybrid) is not as big a factor as I assumed. The key in this limited sampling seems to be lifestyle and diet. A large percentage of participants mentioned they allow their birds to free range. This not only translates into a more natural diet, but also less stress because the chickens are allowed to be chickens and do what chickens do. 

Diet and free ranging could be an interesting next step in this kind of research, but I'll leave that for someone else. This little study served my purposes, and I hope it's encouraging to others as well.

Thank you to all who participated! We've made a first step in dispelling some myths about chickens and egg laying. Good news for homesteaders and backyard chicken lovers.

Click button for more or to participate!


Mama Pea said...

I didn't get a comment off to you but enjoyed reading those of all the others. I wonder if the myth of egg production dropping drastically after the first year comes from battery raised birds in a commercial operation where they automatically kill them all off after their first year of laying and the hens go into Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup? (I'd want to go to the great chicken pasture in the sky, too, if my first year was spent like that of those poor chickens!)

Sherri B. said...

I really enjoyed reading all of the different info from the others. I had heard many of the same things as you but hoped if we treated our little flock lovingly then maybe we would see a better payoff. I am encouraged with the results of your study and will look forward to eggs in our future with our current feathered family members. Thanks for thinking this up.

Renee Nefe said...

I don't have chickens (not allowed by my HOA and I don't want them) but I have friends who do keep them. I think their results follow what you've found out here.

One of my friends had her very first hatchling this week. I hope it makes it as they also have a fox nearby who has a taste for her chickens. Luckily they found her next and hopefully they caught the fox and relocated her as well.

Rachel S said...

Very neat "unofficial" reserach. I would have to agree with most of your findings based on personal experience.

trump said...

Incase anyone is interested, i will have an old order Mennonite woman named Jean post her 2nd post on my blog this Tuesday. Please feel free to visit and leave a question for her if you like. Thank you folks.Richard from Lebanon county's Amish settlement.

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, good question. I'm learning that a lot of research, information, and advice, usually favors whomever is footing the bill to get the word out. In the industrialized world, everybody is a consumer, even producers. It makes sense that those who profit from selling chicks and chick supplies would encourage anything that supported annual sales and profits.

Sherri, it was very interesting, wasn't it? I just started noticing that other with chickens were blogging about the same things I had noticed. Just seemed to make sense to put all our experiences together to see what conclusion we could reach!

Renee, I hope this is an encouragement to anyone with chickens, or considering getting them. Foxes, are another matter!

Homesteading Quest, thanks for that. You are one more nail in the myth coffin! LOL

Richard thanks for that. I'll be on over later today!

luckybunny said...

Really great idea Leigh! And very interesting results.

Anonymous said...

Good job. I enjoyed reading about your results. I think you should continue doing this type of research, you have the audience for it.

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

This was a great post! It was very informative. We have five acres and have been talking about chickens, So I learned a lot in this post!!

Leigh said...

Donna, thanks!

Sgtempleton, thanks! I'm willing to explore the validity of ideas and assumptions. It helps because there are so many willing to participate. For homesteaders, it may be important to take a serious look at the information we're given before proceeding with it. So much out there is geared toward industrialized farming. That doesn't apply to the homestead or small family farm. Agribiz practices seem to be a recipe for failure for the rest of us. The "old ways" would work better for us, but it's amazing how much knowledge has been lost.

Alicia, thank you! So glad to have a community of like minded folks out there, all interested in the same things and willing to work together. (You will love having chickens BTW).

Tina T-P said...

You know, my 10 year Americauna hens are STILL giving us eggs - a couple every three or four days - silly old girls don't know when to retire.

I'm so sorry to read about Jasmine's baby - I hope that she is better by now.

Loved the story about the onions - Dehydrating them was a stroke of genius!

It looked more like spring today. A little sun, a little cloudy, but NO RAIN!! T.

Leigh said...

Tina, thank you for that tidbit! That's excellent to know. My goal to add a few new chickens (hopefully homestead hen raised) every year sounds like a good way to keep us in a steady supply of eggs. :)

SparingChange said...

Very interesting. Our chicks are 11 weeks old today, and I have read alot about their laying habbits. I am anxiously awaiting our first egg. No clue what breed of chickens we have.

Leigh said...

Megen, that first egg is really exciting. Too bad we can't frame them! LOL

theblackegg said...


Leigh said...

Sophie, thanks!