Today we are going to look at why chickens stop laying and how to start them laying again.
There are a variety of reasons why they stop egg laying.
Some are easy to figure out while other reasons can be difficult to pinpoint.
Making an egg is a complex process that takes between 23-26 hours to complete. During that time anything that might shock or startle the bird can cause mishaps.
In our article we will share 11 common reasons why your chicken has stopped laying eggs and how to fix it…
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11. Annual Molt
Chickens will stop laying eggs during their molt.
The molt is a highly stressful event for chickens. It requires huge amounts of protein to replace their old feathers with new feathers.
During this time the chicken’s body cannot support the growth of new feathers and laying eggs, so something has to give – in this case it is the egg laying!
Some chickens molt faster and are done very quickly, while others may take their time.
However on average it will last around 16 weeks.
Solution: You can help your flock by increasing the amount of protein you give them. Change their feed up to 20% protein or higher during the molt.
High protein treats such as mealworms, cat food, fish pellets and tuna fish in water will also help. There is no way to speed up the molting process so you should let nature take its course.
10. Decreased Daylight
A chicken’s egg laying rate is impacted by the amount of daylight hours they get.
Chickens need a good 12 hours of daylight to maintain their egg laying. 14-16 hours of daylight will keep her at peak production.
During the late Fall and winter months daylight is at a premium here in northern climates – this is the time of molting and decreased egg laying. Once the girls have finished their molt the hours of daylight are usually not enough to kick start their egg machinery into production.
This is Mother Nature’s time of rest and regeneration.
In the spring the daylight will start to get longer and your hens will start laying eggs again.
Solution: If you want to override nature and have your hens lay through the winter months you will need to add a light for them.
A sixty watt light bulb is enough to get them going again.
Make sure you add the light at the beginning of the day rather than the end otherwise your chickens may be plunged into darkness before they have roosted. You will need to put your light on a timer switch so you can adjust the hours accordingly.
9. Old Age
Sometimes your chickens will stop laying because they have reached old age.
The age at which chickens stop laying eggs will be different for each breed.
For example some hybrids (such as Red Rangers and Golden Comets) will only lay for around 2-3 years at best. Selective breeding has increased the yearly egg output, but has sadly reduced the life expectancy for these breeds.
On the other hand heritage breeds (such as Faverolles, Minorcas and Leghorns) will lay for up to 5 years.
The yearly quantity may not be as much as the hybrids but overall life expectancy is much longer.
Solution: There is no cure for old age! Your best solution is to add a couple of pullets to your flock each year to keep the overall egg production up.
Salpingitis is the inflammation of a hen’s oviduct.
It is usually caused by a bacterial infection and the most common culprits are either: Mycoplasma gallisepticum, Escherichia coli, Salmonella or Pasteurella multocida.
The symptoms are usually hard to spot but hens with salpingitis will usually go off lay and then start to lay lash eggs.
Lay eggs is not actually an egg but a collection of dead tissue and solid pus that is laid by the hen – very gross!
Solution: If you find the infection early enough then it can be successfully treated by a veterinarian. Sadly the infection is usually only discovered after the hen has laid a lash egg or perhaps died.
You should always get you birds from a reputable source to avoid bringing certain organisms such as salmonella into your flock.
7. Predator Attack
If a hen suffers from a predator attack (or a serious scare) she will most likely stop laying eggs for a while.
This is usually a stress reaction, rather like a post-traumatic stress reaction. If you have ever suffered from a very traumatic event you will understand that the body takes time to re-adjust to normality after a shocking incident. This reaction occurs regardless of whether or not the chicken has been physically injured.
Solution: After the attack you should place the hen in a quiet and dark environment with some food and water. If she has been injured you should treat the wounds accordingly.
She will need time, patience and a lot of reassurance from you. As soon as possible you should integrate her with the flock. Otherwise she would have to endure the pecking order again and that will not help matters.
Some hens get back to laying eggs quickly but some hens take several weeks until they get back into the swing of things.
Usually when you think of malnutrition you think of skinny starving birds.
However obese chickens are also malnourished, just in a different way.
Malnutrition is the imbalance of nutrition (either too much or too little. To keep your hens in good shape and laying eggs they need balanced nutrition.
A simple and easy way to tell if your hen is over or under weight is to pick her up and feel her keel (breastbone).
This runs straight down the middle of her chest.
If she is too thin it will feel like it is sticking out, whereas if she is too fat you may have trouble locating the keel.
Solution: You should use a formulated feed for your chickens.
The poultry industry has spent years and millions of dollars perfecting feed for chickens.
To keep your flock in good health you should use the feed supplied by the industry. You can buy organic feeds if that is what you want although these cost a little more.
Some folks still like to mix their own poultry rations and that is fine as long as you know what you are doing.
In addition to their feed you can give them treats as long as they are not overfed. Healthy treats such as greens and grains are good to feed to your flock but they should get around 90% of their nutritional needs from their feed. This balance will keep them laying eggs.
5. Hot Weather
We always worry about our flock during the winter months.
Will they be warm enough? What about frostbite and all the other little things that go along with it?
But chickens actually have more problems dealing with the heat than the cold.
If the conditions become too hot for your hens then they will start to lay less. This is a physiological response to environmental stress.
- The ideal laying temperature is 65-75°F.
- At 85-90°F egg size and quality start to fall.
- Above 90°F they may stop laying eggs altogether to reduce stress on their bodies.
- If your temperatures soar over 100°F you need to start emergency cooling since overheating and death are a very real threat.
Solution: It is not always possible to keep the temperature in the preferred range but you do need to keep them cool.
Shade is important, lots of clean fresh water, fans (securely placed), frozen treats and water sprinklers will all help to keep them cool and laying eggs.
Water is essential to life and nothing can survive without it.
Your chickens will need clean fresh water every day – you can use automatic waterers.
Winter time can be a problem if you do not have heated drinkers. You will need to make sure they have enough water to drink throughout the day.
Summertime heat is brutal for chickens.
They do not sweat like us, instead they use their comb, wattles and feet along with panting to try and keep their heat down.
Remember water consumption can double in the summertime so keep on top of it. You can also add electrolyte powder to the drinker so that your birds can maintain their electrolyte balance. This is very important if you want them to keep on laying eggs.
Solution: You should make sure your chickens always have access to fresh water.
During the winter months you can use heated drinkers. They may be a little expensive but they last for several years and in my opinion are worth their weight in gold.
Having an overly amorous rooster and too few hens is a recipe for stress and injury.
Hens that are constantly being harassed by a rooster will become nervous, perhaps go off their feed, hide and stop laying eggs.
If you want the rooster to breed that is fine, but he needs a schedule.
Solution: If you want your roosters to breed then set out a schedule – give him one or two days each week to do his duty then he needs to be corralled.
This will give the hens time to recover and go about their business without being mated every opportunity he gets.
If he is causing physical damage to your hens then fit them with hen saddles – this will prevent wear and tear on their feathers and skin.
Stress is something us humans know about!
And so do your chickens.
They can stress about all sorts of things: change of feed, change of routine, new additions to the flock, too hot, too cold!
When chickens are stressed they can go off their feed, lay eggs in strange places, or not lay eggs at all.
Generally it is usually a fairly large stressor that will stop some of them laying eggs for a while.
The following stressors can all cause a temporary halt in egg laying.
- New additions to the flock.
- Moving to a new coop.
- Predator attacks.
- Overly amorous roosters.
Solution: Try to keep to a routine with your hens – the less change the better.
If they have stopped laying look carefully at the situation and ask yourself what has changed? It can take quite a bit of detective work but you can usually figure out what the problem is.
A chicken that is overloaded with lice or mites will suffer not only discomfort but a lot of stress.
As we know mites will suck blood and a large infestation can leave a bird weak and anemic.
The discomfort of the situation may be enough to stop her laying eggs and also give her anemia.
Solution: You should check over your flock regularly and treat infestations either as you see them or on a regular basis. If the chicken is infested you will have to re-treat them after seven days to kill all the new insects.
So know you the most common reasons why a hen will stop laying eggs.
Some of these are physical and with others there is not too much to do about them.
Although we covered stress here the list of stressors is not an all inclusive list. You have to know your flock fairly well to detect what the stressor might be.
As an example, my chickens have never known anyone but me. So when a friend or stranger drops by they become invisible. They just do not do other people.
To a certain extent the breeds you choose will govern how they react. The Mediterranean breeds are known for being flighty and nervous while breeds such as Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds are less likely to become nervous wrecks at the drop of a hat.
We hope this has helped and given you some ideas on how to get your hens back to laying eggs.
Let us know in the comments section below…