The average laying hen produces 325 eggs annually. A healthy hen can lay an egg daily for years. Laying hens are in high demand, making them difficult to buy at times. The older a hen gets, the more difficult it is for her to produce in a new environment. Buying older laying hens may not produce any eggs at all.
Egg binding is when the egg gets stuck in the hen’s vent. The damage to the hen from egg binding is serious and requires immediate attention. Lubricating the hen’s vent with your finger is one way to help the egg move freely again. Put lubricant on your finger, insert into the hen’s vent and massage the abdomen as you ease the egg out gently with pressure. If the egg does not come out with massage, you need to break it and remove the pieces completely. The gentler you are, the less chance you have of causing damage to the inside of the hen’s vent. Lacerations in the hen’s vent can become infected and cause the laying hen to become sterile.
Oviposition is when the shell forms around the egg. The shell comes from a gland in the reproductive tract. The shell gland and the egg actually invert so the egg is clean when laid. There are times, however, when the shell gland does not revert back to its normal condition. Other chickens pick at the protruding shell gland until it hemorrhages, gets infected and eventually causes the death of the laying hen. The cause of prolapse is straining.
Hens peck at each other, kill each other and even eat other hens to establish hierarchy within the flock. The cause of cannibalism is lack of adequate space and not enough food and water. Chickens will fight for their share of the space, food and water provided. It is a survival instinct of the bird. Assuring that each laying hen has enough space, food and water will help reduce need for a pecking order among the flock. Undernourished chickens also cannibalize for protein and vitamins they are lacking in their diet.
Pests that create health risks for laying hens include mites, ticks and fleas. These pests come about because of unsanitary conditions. These pests attach to the hens and suck blood. The pests also eat the feathers of the hens and their skin. This chewing of the hen causes enough stress that the hen will stop laying eggs and eventually die. Rodents also are pests and will cause problems with laying hens. Rodents scavenge for leftover feed and bring mites, ticks and fleas into the chicken coup. Keeping a well-kept feed area and chicken coup is imperative for laying hen production.