That being said, however, commercial chickens do have their own set of issues that comes along with their steady egg production. When commercial hens were first developed, they were intended for intensive farming in battery housing where they would live in temperature controlled environments with artificial lighting in order to encourage them to lay and lay and lay some more. Under those conditions, they're expected to last about 18 months and their breeding can tend to predispose them to reproductive issues.
That is what I am confronted with right now with my black utility Australorp.
About a week ago, our weather patterns took a sharp turn into hot, dry weather and on that first day, all of my chickens got quite stressed with the heat. Boss, my Australorp was also struck with a mild case of sour crop that day, which I managed to alleviate successfully, but she has not been completely 'right' since then. She's been off her food a bit, and also quite sluggish and just not herself.
For a few days, she didn't lay at all, and then she produced an egg which had a very thin shell.
|Very thin shelled egg|
So for a few days after that, Boss didn't lay at all, and then she laid a normal egg. I crossed my fingers, hoping that her problems had been due to heat stress and she might have gotten over it.
Not so. Unfortunately she has been sporadic with laying since then, and then three days ago, I discovered what resembled a puddle of eggwhite in the nest with the other hens' eggs. That has been the case every day since and today, I also found the following.
|Soft Shelled Egg|
Other than this egg laying problem, the hen seems fit and healthy and I am reluctant to give up on her at this stage. I have isolated her from the flock in a small pen in our garage. This is so that she will be kept in darkness 24 hours a day and hopefully will go off the lay.
By also changing her feeding routine and switching her to a different ration, I am hoping to put her into a forced moult which will mean she stops laying for some time. This should rest her system, and hopefully lead to recovery, but it is all a bit of a gamble really. Given her breeding, she might just be at the end of her productive days and I will need to make the decision whether to put her down or not.
Personally, I will not have anymore commercial layers after my current two are gone. I plan to breed Australorps anyway, and pure breeds have fewer problems with their reproductive systems due to the fact that they don't lay as many eggs.
I am hoping this poor little girl will come good, but it is a forlorn hope.