Most folks keep backyard chickens for the delicious, farm fresh eggs. But, what if your best eggs layers suddenly stopped laying eggs? Below are the top nine reasons your girls might slow down their egg production.
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Once your hens reach about 15-18 months old, they will start the yearly tradition of molting. During this molting period, chickens’ old feathers will fall out to make room for new feathers. While your hens are molting, they will stop producing eggs.
During the winter months, we lose about 6 hours of sunlight. This change is the primary cue for hens to stop reproduction, which means no more eggs for you. However, the organ in the brain controlling this can be fooled with artificial lighting, or some chicken owners choose to use this time to let their hens rest. The choice is yours.
#3. Too Much Junk Food
When I say “junk food” I don’t mean that you’re feeding your chickens cookie dough ice cream and Twinkies. But, your hens might be filling up on table scraps, bread, or other goodies. Hens need a minimum of approximately 16% protein to lay to their potential. Table scraps and even scratch can dilute or lower the amount of protein they’re getting. These things are fine to feed your chickens on occasion, but cutting back might bring the egg production back up.
#4. “Over Mounting”
If you have any roosters, they might be giving your hens too much attention. You only need one rooster for every 12-18 hens. If that ratio is too low, the rooster will over mount your hens and leave bare patches on their backs and back of their heads. If your rooster is stressing out your hens, you’ll see a definite drop in egg production.
Chickens need constant access to water, and just because you put water out doesn’t mean each hen is getting enough. Water evaporates quickly in hotter temperatures, so if you live in a hot climate or are going through some hot summer months, be sure to be filling up water more frequently.
Another reason your hens might be dehydrated is that alpha hens will sometimes block the water source for hens that are lower on the pecking order. If your hens aren’t getting enough water, you will see a drop in egg production, so make sure all of your birds have access to water.
#6. Added Stress
Your hens might be going through undue stress. For example, the nesting box might be too bright or noisy for them, or predators might be harassing them at night.
#7. Something is Eating the Eggs
If you don’t have enough nesting boxes or food, other hens might be eating the eggs. Predators might also be getting at the eggs without your knowledge. Set up a game camera or security light to catch the culprit, if the problem persists.
#8. Change in Pecking Order
If you add or remove any birds, whether it be a hen or rooster, the pecking order will change. This could cause a power struggle or void, which can create stress for your hens. As we went over in #6, stress will cause a drop in egg production.
Parasites or illness will cause stress on you and your chickens. Never rule out sickness if your hens’ egg production slows down. If you are worried one of your chickens might be sick, separate them from the others so the illness doesn’t spread.
We will be covering more about illnesses and parasites in future Chick Day posts, so make sure to check back with us to learn more.
Ask an Expert
If you have looked through this list and your hens’ egg production is still very slow or stopped, contact a chicken breeder, your local vet, or contact our friends at Nutrena.
Do you have backyard chickens? Have you ever had an issue with hens laying eggs that you just couldn’t figure out? Tell us your chicken stories or ask questions in the comments section.