How to Tell if a Chicken is Still Laying


Layer or Liar? How do you know if your chicken is still laying eggs?

With the price of feed going dramatically up for us in the winter, it’s really important for us to know if our hens are really laying still. I *could* go outside, watch for each one to enter the nesting box, wait for her to deposit her egg, then mark her in a way that I would know she was still laying. But, since I don’t have that kind of time on my hands, there is an easier way to do it.

Check her vent.

Here’s how. Gently hold your chicken and flip her over so you can see her vent. This is her “butt” or where the eggs come out of. You are looking for a moist looking vent. A dry one signals that her laying life isn’t happening.


Next, feel for her keel bone. This is the bottom of the breast bone. Then, place your fingers from the keel bone toward the vent. 1-2 fingers means that she is still laying. 3-4 means that she isn’t laying so well anymore.
Also, feel her abdomen. If it’s nice and soft, you have a layer. Hard and firm, a liar.

Finally, check her comb and leg color. A chicken will “lose” her color from the top down and gain it back in the same order. When she is in full egg production, her comb will begin to lose it’s deep color, on down. If her legs are a bright yellow, her laying life is pretty much over.

With all these signs, the top pictures of each group are from an obvious liar, and the bottom a layer. You have to decide if the liar is worth keeping around. In our cases, personally, they are not and we cull them from the flock. Here’s how to do that for yourself. Keeping lots of “liars” around means that you are providing feed and water, but not getting anything out of it for yourself.

Need some more help with your flock? Check out The Urban Chicken today!


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  • Jessica

    I like the idea of owning chickens for eggs and meat, but not sure I would have people to take care of them if we are gone for a vacation. Plus I don’t know if we are allowed to have them in our town.
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    • Heather

      Understandable…most towns are allowing them now, or you can work to change the laws. They are getting easier and easier to have 😉

  • Christie

    You’re amazing. The thought of just touching a live chicken makes me hyperventilate! This is a great post!
    Christie recently posted…How To: Make a Safe School Lunch #SponsoredMy Profile

    • Heather

      LOL!!! It gets easier, the more you do it 😉

  • rondell

    just learned something new lol thank you!!!

  • Sarah

    Interesting. We have a LOT of old birds at the moment that really need to be weeded through….
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  • janet pesaturo

    Thx for sharing on Homesteaders Hop. I find that just looking at the comb is enough to tell if she’s laying. Also, I disagree with what you say about the leg color. Yellow legs tend to fade as the hen ages. Faded legs indicates advancing age, not how well she is laying per se. Older ones tend to lay few eggs, but there are many exceptions. If I were to get into raising them for meat, I would cull as you do, though I don’t really find it a problem to let them live out their retirement. Natural attrition ensures that we never have an all old lady flock, and I think the younger ones learn from the old hens, who are very aware of the neighborhood pets and predators, which are dangerous and which are not.

    • Heather

      Thanks for your input! Unfortunately, we aren’t able to afford to allow them to live to their old age 😉 We don’t have a lot of free range room, and feed is around $35 a bag in my area currently. I wish we could, though, for the same reasons that you mentioned.

      • connie

        We are looking into fodder for our ladies, we’ve never culled, and never will. We feed our flock (add new chicks to) so we aren’t left with a non productive flock. We treat our’s like pets and always will. Fodder is SO much cheaper…. so money will not be a reason or issue.

  • Lesa

    Wonderful info! I have had ckickens for 25 years. You taught me something! I always wondered who was not laying and pretty much relied in age. I know I fed them MUCH longer than needed before going in the soup pot! I am going to save same money thanks to you. :)

    • Heather

      I’m so glad! :)

  • Katrina Fletcher

    I was just introduced to your blog from another site I visit and I am really enjoying it so far. Let me just say that a lot of people, myself included, have a hard time letting go of their hens. My chickens are also pets (they are hand reared, tamed in the house before introduced to the rest of the flock. We decided that we would rather have birds we can handle in case of emergency and so far it works well). Unfortunately, as the original flock started to become matriarchal, my husband and I had to have the talk. Who do we bury, who do we throw in the crock pot. So, we agreed on a “pardon list”. On it, my rooster and two of my favorite hens. I will definitely use these tips. Thank you.

  • Michelle

    I don’t care if my chickens are laying. To us they are pets. And sure they lay eggs, but I would never cull one for the sake of her not laying. The only way I would cull one would be if I absolutely had to. But even that I would have a really hard time doing.

    • Heather

      totally understandable…each one has to decide that for themselves 😉

  • Brandy Hunter

    Some very good things here! However, I would like to correct on one thing. A bright, deep colored comb does not signify a lack of laying…quite the contrary. A bright comb and wattle actually signify a good healthy bird, but has nothing to do with laying, except a good healthy bird will probably lay better than a sick one. The dull color would concern me. The feet and beak DO signify how well a chicken is laying, though. The yolk get it’s color from the chicken’s pigment, so if they have pale legs and beaks it’s a pretty good indicator they are indeed are laying.

    • Heather

      very interesting!! We learned this in our 4H program, but as always, are open to correction :) thanks!

  • Kristy

    Great post! I have never seen this method before and have had chickens for many years and frequent online discussion forums as well. I suppose this would work to see if pullets have started to lay also, right? I’m heading out now to do an inventory of layers vs. liars. I have 87 chickens of which 4 are roosters so I’ll be out there awhile.