How do you get the most eggs from your backyard chickens?
It may sound like a difficult question but if you have kept chickens before you already know the answer – you treat her like a queen!
To get your chickens to lay lots of eggs, there are several things you need to do.
Some of these things will be obvious to you, others perhaps a little more obscure, but they are all important to your flock.
Below we share with you 10 natural ways to make chickens lay more eggs…
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10. Free Flowing Water
Most people do not really think about water and the vital role it plays in life.
We all need water and without it we will suffer from many different health problems.
Chickens are no different.
They need clean, fresh water every day to support their bodily needs. I know, you see them drinking from muddy puddles and ditches but they really should have clean water. That mucky water you see them drinking may contain parasites and bacteria that can make them sick.
You may think they do not drink very much but the average chicken will drink a pint of water every day.
During hot and humid weather this can double.
If hens become dehydrated they will not lay eggs and it will take them a few days to start laying again.
You should have one chicken waterer for about every ten hens. If you have any bully birds in your flock then it is probably a good idea to have two water stations so that timid members of the flock can drink in peace.
9. Reducing Stress
Chickens can get stressed by small and inconsequential things such as a change of feed, loud noises, a squirrel in the run and other trivial things that we would not even think about.
Because chickens are a prey species they have good reason to be extremely cautious of anything different.
It is your job to try and keep the stress down to a minimum if you want your chickens to lay eggs.
An incident such as a stray dog running through the yard can deter them from laying for several days sometimes. That is not something you want happening on a regular basis.
Chickens that suddenly stop laying have usually experienced something causing them stress.
Things we do not think about can cause anxiety. Someone unknown to them walking in the yard, new flock arrivals, a cat wandering by, can put them on edge.
As an example, a friend and I were checking out the new chicks in the yard. The hens were very upset because they had not seen this person before and they scattered to the very edges of their field. They did not lay for a couple of days and scolded me for bringing someone new to see them.
Chickens thrive on routine.
If you can get them into a steady routine of daily activities, they will be happy and will be productive egg layers for you.
Although most chicken feed contains calcium, some hens still need more calcium to lay eggs.
The easiest way to supply this is by providing oyster shell as a free choice supplement.
A hen that lacks calcium will lay soft shelled or shell-less eggs. Soft shell eggs look like regular eggs but when you pick them up, they are not hard they are quite malleable in the hand. A shell-less egg looks exactly like it sounds, there may be a thin membrane holding everything inside, but there is no solid shell.
This can be easily fixed by providing calcium to the hen.
You should not add calcium directly the feed. Instead you should put it in a separate feeder and let them pick at it as they need.
Another source of calcium is of course, their own egg shells.
I wash eggshells then bake them in a warm oven for 15-30 minutes. I then remove the shells from the oven and when they are cool smash them into tiny pieces that are not recognizable as an egg and feed them back to the ladies.
Never feed whole shells back to them, it can possibly cause egg eating.
7. Stopping The Broody Spread
Certain breeds have a tendency towards broodiness
This in itself is not a bad thing however if you are only interested in eggs then it is a problem.
Hopefully you have chosen your breeds wisely and you will never (or rarely) get a broody hen, but if you have a hen that is determined to sit on eggs that will significantly reduce your egg output.
When your hen decides to set she will lay enough eggs to satisfy herself (she may gather other eggs too) and then she will stop laying and sit for 21 days until they hatch.
Then she will care for them and possibly go into the molt after that.
In total this is around ten weeks where she will stop laying eggs.
Another thing about broodiness is that it is sort of infectious – once one does, your other chickens will join in. To keep your egg supply you will need to break broody hens. Read easy ways to break a broody hen for more help.
6. Having Enough Space
Chickens do not like to be crammed together.
They like having enough space to flap their wings!
Inside the coop each chicken should have 4 square feet of space, and outside in the run they each need at least 8 square feet.
If you let them free range then you might be able to get away with slightly less coop space.
Just remember that crowding them can lead to health and behavioural issues.
They may start pecking and feather plucking, egg eating and a host of other anti-social behaviors. The weaker birds get trampled on too and can suffer from injuries.
By giving them enough space you are providing for their mental and emotional wellbeing. A happy and content chicken is going to be healthier and more productive than a hen that is unhappy and depressed. Read how much space do chickens need for more.
5. Parasites And Bugs
Bugs are not only irritating but they can be very bad for your hens’ health.
Mites in particular will suck your hens’ blood overnight.
In severe cases this can lead to anemia and death, even in mild cases the hens are made miserable by the biting and skin irritation.
Lice can cause intense irritation and damage to their feathers.
Internal parasites such as worms can cause intestinal problems and also can interfere with the absorption of vital nutrients from their food.
None of these issues are pleasant and they can all cause your chickens to stop laying eggs.
You can eliminate lice with a simple dusting with poultry powder. Mites can be an enormous problem once they get established, so it is better to try and keep the problem to a minimum.
By performing health checks once a month, you can keep all of these problems under control and keep your chicken laying eggs.
You may be surprised to see cleanliness on the list, but it is important for several reasons.
A filthy coop can lead to lots of problems such as fly infestations, an overload of parasites and toxic ammonia.
As you can imagine these are all time consuming to treat and they all greatly affect the overall egg laying ability of your chickens.
Secondly, do you really want your hens laying their eggs on top of muck?
It is no fun having to scrub off poop and mud off your eggs.
Obviously with chickens it is impossible to keep the area spotless, but keeping on top of the mess is easy to do if you do small clean ups frequently. Using things like poop trays or boards that can be removed and cleaned really do help you keep up with chores.
3. Supporting The Molt
The molt is a miserable time for your chickens.
They are losing old battered feathers and replacing them with beautiful new ones, but it can be painful for them.
Those new feathers coming in are full of blood and nerve supplies which makes them exquisitely sensitive to the touch, so try not to handle them when they are in this period of growth.
During the molt your chickens will not lay eggs.
While you cannot prevent the molt you can help them get through it a bit quicker by providing a higher quality feed.
You will need to increase their protein intake from 20% to 22% during their molt. Also make sure they have enough vitamins and trace elements by giving them a powder supplement in their water once every couple of weeks (too much is as bad as not enough).
High protein treats can help too just use them sparingly. Mealworms, cat food and fish food will all be welcome treats for them.
Your best egg layers will zoom through the molt fairly quickly and be ready to lay much sooner than your poor layers. Some hens seem to take forever to get through the molt. The older the chicken the longer the molt in my experience.
How quickly they get through their molt is a good way to know which chickens are laying eggs.
Once the majority of your hens are through the molt you can switch their feed back to their usual laying feed. Give them some time and your chickens will start to lay eggs again once they have recovered from the molt.
2. Providing Quality Feed
If you want your hens to lay lots of eggs then you need to feed them good quality nutrition.
Chicken feed is relatively cheap and trying to save money by buying cheap quality or cutting rations with extra corn or scratch will have a negative impact on your flocks egg laying.
If you are raising them from chicks then they must have a high protein (20%) feed to grow and develop properly. As your chicks get older and become pullets they should move over to a complete layer feed with 16% protein.
Unlike humans, hens are quite good at regulating their nutritional needs.
If you let them forage then they will get lots of their nutritional needs from wild sources such as grass, bugs, worms and weeds (all of which contain vital nutrients for them). The overall feed bill is going to be slightly less than penned birds.
In addition to quality feed you also need to stick to healthy treats.
Mealworms, corn, scratch and bird seed all make good treats.
They can have bread, pasta and pizza crusts occasionally, just not a steady diet of it. Too many carbohydrates can encourage them to become obese and obese hens do not lay well and can have serious health issues.
1. Picking The Right Breed
This is without doubt the single most important item on the list.
If you want your hen to lay lots of eggs then do not buy breeds that are known to be poor egg layers.
There are several breeds out there that can lay over 250 eggs per year – that is roughly five eggs per week. Multiply that by each hen you have and your egg basket is going to be very full!
All of these chickens enjoy free ranging but they can be kept in a run if necessary.
If you have small children then you might want to choose one of the less assertive breeds such as Barred Rocks or Easter Eggers who will tolerate (and sometimes enjoy) a good deal of cuddling and hugging.
Now you know ten natural ways to make sure your hens do you proud and lay lots of eggs.
It is not so difficult to entice your hens to lay lots of eggs for you. Attention to the things listed here will make sure your hens are healthy and happy.
Just remember though hens are not machines and we cannot expect them to lay good quality eggs all year round without some thought about their welfare.
Production facilities force hens to lay by manipulating the lighting.
This is a personal choice as to whether or not you do that – I do not.
I believe that they have worked hard through those egg laying months and when they do not lay this is their body needing a natural rest.
Take care of your chickens and they will reward you.
How do you get your eggs to lay more eggs? Let us know in the comments section below…