How to tell if my hen is in lay?

In this video clip, Mike Colley, FAI Farms poultry manager, explains if a hen is in lay.

Firstly, he checks the health of the hen by looking at:

  • feather condition across the whole body and the flight feathers — the feathers should be smooth and complete.
  • eyes, nostrils, comb and wattles — the eyes should be open with a sparkle in them, the nostrils should be clean, and when a hen gets close to being ready to lay an egg, their combs will get larger and turn a deep red.
  • vent (or ‘back–end’) where the egg will come out — it should be large, clean and moist. If you have a copy of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, please see pages 195-196 for a good description of what to look for.

To tell if the hen is laying eggs, gently feel around the vent area and between the bones. If it’s inflated (puffy), then the hen is in lay.

If the area feels taut or the hen looks unwell, she may not be laying and may have an illness such as egg peritonitis.

Here’s another video clip of Dr. Michael Darre, extension poultry specialist from University of Connecticut, shows how to tell if a hen’s still laying eggs.

Here is a summary from the video above of three quick ways to tell if your chicken is still laying:

  1. A hen that is still laying will generally have a pale beak, shanks and feet because the yellow pigment ‘xanthophylls’ goes into the eggs (known as bleaching). The pigment leaves in order:
  • Vent
  • Eye rings
  • Earlobes
  • Beak
  • Shanks
  • Top of feet and toes
  1. A hen that is still laying will have a large, pink and moist vent. You should be able to fit about three fingers between her pubic bones.
  2. A hen that is still laying will have feathers that tend to look a bit more disheveled (messy looking). This is because she is channeling many of her nutrients into egg production.