04 February 2012

Of Roosters and Eggs

Since getting chickens I've heard stories about roosters and hens.  Some people think hens are more productive egg layers if there is a rooster around - they also think they keep the hens "in line".  I read somewhere that a rooster's crow stimulates a hen's hormones and makes her more productive.  Recently I heard all of this again, when my uncle called me, on behalf of a friend who was looking for a rooster for his flock.  I've decided to compare out flock with our neighbor's roosterless flock to illustrate the different factors affecting egg production.  It's very unscientific, but worth a shot.

We now have eight hens of laying age and are getting 6+ eggs every day.  Ours are less than a year old, so they haven't yet reached their prime.  Before the last four began laying, we had two very good layers - an egg each every day - and two less than perfect layers - at least one egg per day combined.  Since the Rhode Island Reds are brown egg layers, it's easy to tell which ones are theirs.  There have been no more than five days that we have not gotten two eggs from the two hens since they started laying in early November.  Our other hens are bantams, and white so it's hard to tell the difference between their eggs, but they definitely don't lay a regular as the RIRs.

At one point our neighbors' flock of five hens were probably laying close to four eggs a day, but recently they are only getting two per day.  One factor could be age - some of their hens are two+ years old.  Apparently that's when egg production starts to decline.  When we were discussing the difference recently, their suggestion was that ours were getting more sunlight during some of the shortest days of the year.  Egg production is supposed to decrease during the winter because of the shorter days, but we didn't see that in our flock.  Our hen house has a green fiberglass roof which lets light in - that combined with the neighbor's flood light could mean they are getting more light.  After our neighbor's light was out for two weeks and they replaced the bulb, it seemed brighter than before.  Our chickens noticed a difference too - the roosters began crowing throughout the night.

Whether it's their age, or the extra light, or the roosters, we really won't know everything that factors in to egg production, but I thought it was a good thing to try to figure out.

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