10 Reasons Your Hens May Not Be Laying Eggs

As we approach the Winter months (and yes, I realize it’s not technically even Fall yet but a girl can dream!),  we enter the period of the year when hens lay less eggs. However, there are factors that could result in your hens laying less eggs at other times of year. Are you getting less eggs than normal? Does it seem like everyone just stopped laying altogether? Here are some things to think about:

 

1) TIME OF YEAR  The time of year can have a big impact on how many eggs you are getting. Hens need approximately 14-16 hours of daylight per day to lay effectively. Daylight hours reach their peak on June 21st and reduce down from there. On December 21st, it begins to increase again. You can find out the specific number of daylight hours in your area by first finding your latitude and then looking at this Daylight Explorer to discover how many hours of daylight you have at different times during the year. If you suspect lack of daylight is hindering your hens from laying, you can always supplement the coop with artificial light.  Many people use lightbulbs in their coops on timers to give their hens the extra light they need to continue to lay consistently.

2) PESTS/DISEASE  If lighting is not the issue, you should definitely check your hens for signs of pests, specifically mites and lice. Birds infected with pests will have a distinct reduction in laying. If you find any type of pests or suspect your chickens are ill, address it promptly. We talk about treating mites and lice here.

3) STRESS A change in environment, new additions to the flock, changes in feed & water can all lead to stress in your chickens. Fighting among the hens, introducing a new rooster or hen, changing the coop structure are also causes of stress. Chickens are creatures of habit. Anything that disrupts their world can lead to a reduction in eggs. Fortunately this usually resolves itself fairly quickly.

4) TEMPERATURE  This is a big one for us here in the South. Anytime we have a sudden spike in temperature, our hens stop laying. This past Spring, we suddenly had 90 degree temps in the middle of March. And we collected very few eggs.  A sudden cold snap can result in the same thing. It takes a few days for the hens to acclimate. Make sure you have plenty of fresh water during a sudden heat wave. Our experience has been that hens don’t up their water intake when the temperatures rise. We always lose a few hens during sudden spikes in temperature.

5) AGE  It’s an unfortunate fact that hens lay less as they age. Usually hens start to slow down around age 2. That doesn’t mean they quit laying, and some hens will continue to lay well for years. But an older hen will generally lay less eggs than a younger one.

6) MOLTING  Oh, the curse of molting! Yes, they look better after they molt, but boy are they ugly going through it! You can expect molting around one year of age and about once a year after that. Molting is the process of losing feathers and getting new ones as a replacement. When hens are in molt, they will likely have a reduction in number of eggs laid and may stop laying altogether. A molt usually lasts 2-6 weeks.

7) EGG EATING  Unfortunately you may sometimes have an egg eater in your coop. I’m not talking about a predator. We’ll get to that next. I’m talking about one of your hens who suddenly develops a taste for eggs. You might find broken shells in the nest box or the remains of a yolk. Breaking a hen of eating eggs is extremely difficult. Once they start, it’s very hard to get them to stop.

8) PREDATORS  Predators love freshly laid eggs. If you’ve noticed a sudden decline in eggs, you might have a visitor coming to the coop and helping itself to dinner. Snakes are notorious egg eaters. They slither in, eat up the eggs, and slither out (hopefully leaving your beloved girls alone!). If you suspect a predator, make strides to predator-proof your coop. Adding hardware cloth, extra netting, boards, etc. around any potential openings will help. I’m amazed at how small a space a determined predator can get through.

9) FEED  Your birds need a well-balanced and nutritional diet. Chickens who do not receive the proper nutrition may not lay consistently. Make sure you are using a high-quality feed. Limit amounts of scratch and other non-nutritious snacks.

10) WATER  Hens need access to fresh water at all times. Chickens that do not receive clean, fresh water will decline quickly, even to the point of death. In the summer, make sure that the water is clean with no algae and bacteria in it. Hot temperatures can wreak havoc on your waterers. We add a little Oxine into our waterers to keep down the bacteria. In the winter months, make sure the water is not frozen.

 

 

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