The day-old Golden Buff chicks that we started raising on May 10th are now old enough to combine with the main flock (hopefully we’ll do that this weekend), but everyone wants to know why we’re adding more chickens. Well, it’s because the adult Golden Buffs that used to lay an egg nearly every day, have now slowed to a few eggs each week. They’re over two years old, and are running out of eggs.
Chickens are born with a set number of eggs available for them to lay over their life, and depending on the breed (see a handy breed comparator here), they may lay them over a relatively short time, or a more extended period. Traditional breeds (like Buckeyes, Barred Rocks, or Rhode Island Reds) typically hit maximum production at around two years and then decrease about 10% a year after that. Hybrid egg laying breeds like Sex Links (Golden Buffs, Red Comets, Black Sex Links, etc.) and White Leghorns will typically hit maximum production sooner and may lay around 300 eggs annually, but start running out of eggs and slowing down significantly after a couple of years.
Chicken life expectancy (if protected from predators) is from 8 to 15 years, and chickens can continue to lay into their teens. The hybrid egg laying breeds are seldom kept that long (because egg production slows so much); however, many traditional breeds are kept for years in backyard , farmstead, or pet flocks as egg production slowly decreases.
The upper right picture is of the baby Golden Buffs, while the one in the lower left is of them today - all their baby fuzz gone and big enough to start introducing to the main flock.