Tips On How To Get Chickens To Start Laying
Let’s face it. There is nothing better than going out and collecting fresh eggs and then cracking them open into a frying pan. The glorious, plump orange yokes are better than a ray of morning sunshine.
Just when you think you have a good handle on chicken raising, it’s devastating when you go out to collect your amazing eggs and there are none. “What? No eggs!” Before you get too offended, there may be some simple solutions to get those eggs flowing once again.
It is recommended that you keep track of the number of eggs that your hens lay. It can help you identify if there is a problem and allow you to address the issue right away. You will have to figure out which hen or hens are not producing eggs and then narrow down the possible reasons.
There are tales handed down from old chicken farmers that claim feeding “hot pepper” to chickens will get them to start laying again. This is an old wives’ tale that has not been supported by any research. The theory is that when the chickens eat cayenne pepper, they get so heated up that they start laying again.
Let’s take a look at some of the valid reasons chickens might stop laying and what you can do to get them started again.
6 Common Reasons Chicken May Stop Laying Eggs
Starting out with the most common reasons is the best way to begin your investigative process. You can probably easily identify these issues and hopefully determine the cause of your egg-laying dry spell.
If your chickens are not eating the dietary requirements they need to lay eggs, the production will stop. This is pretty much a “no brainer”. What you may not know is exactly what the dietary requirements are for laying hens, so knowing this might be helpful information.
Poultryhub.org is a good source of information on the nutritional requirements needed for the average laying hen.
When a hen reaches 18 weeks, she should be laying eggs. Laying age will vary according to breed. When hens do begin laying, they will need to consume around 20 grams of protein a day. The amount of protein will increase as hens continue to grow and gain more bodyweight.
Check the nutrition labels on your feed and make sure your girls are getting the protein, vitamins, and minerals they need to lay their optimum number of eggs a week. Some people have found that their egg production will increase dramatically when they have switched to a higher-quality feed.
Not enough of eating the right kind of food will definitely result in reduced egg-laying or no egg-laying at all.
Another important aspect of being able to produce eggs is proper hydration. If a hen is not getting enough water, her body will adapt by stopping egg production. Your flock needs a good source of clean water all day long. Fresh water is imperative. This is especially true in the summer months or in climates that stay warm all year round.
If you know your girls are getting the right food and plenty of fresh water but your eggs have stopped flowing, the problem may be as simple as not enough daylight. The average chicken will need 14 to 16 hours of sunlight a day to lay eggs.
In the winter months, the natural light may only be shining 9 hours a day. This means your girls are 5 hours shy of laying light. Some breeds will lay all year, regardless of the amount of light. Others will shut down the egg factory due to a lack of light.
The reason a hen’s body shuts down is to rest and recover. Some chicken raisers embrace this natural process. Others choose to set up an artificial light in the coop to keep up the egg production. You have to weigh your options. Your hen may have a longer and more productive life if her body is allowed a recovery period. If you simply can’t do with a laying break, you can consider adding artificial light to your coop.
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No, this doesn’t mean your hen is in a bad mood. If she is getting lots of nutrition, water, and there is plenty of light, a hen will get “broody” when she decides its time to sit and hatch her eggs.
It takes 21 days to hatch eggs. Your hen will sit on a nest for 21 days or until the eggs hatch. During this time, she will not do any laying. Look for these signs to determine if your hen is in a “hatching” mood.
- She is sitting in the nesting box all day.
- She raises her hackles and growls at you when you take her eggs.
- You notice feathers missing from her breast (she is removing them to generate body heat for the eggs).
There are ways to prevent your hen from getting broody. That is fodder for a whole new article.
4. Disruptions to the Flock
Girls will be girls. A little drama can disrupt the laying process. The most common disruption is when you move a chicken to a new location or transport them for some reason. If you move the coop, this can be enough of a reason to stop laying temporarily.
Introducing a new chicken to the flock can disrupt their routine. There will be some pecking and shoving for a few days as a new pecking order is established. This should be a temporary non-laying event and things will get back into full swing in a few days.
If you have only a few hens and an over-zealous rooster, this can cause laying problems. If you notice feathers missing off your hen’s back, this can be the result of an aggressive rooster. Your hen may be traumatized by the constant attacks and stop laying.
Molting is the time in a chicken’s life when they shed the old feathers and grow in new ones. If often occurs around changes in season, such as when winter collides with fall and the daylight decreases.
During this time, you will see your chicken shedding. Their bodies are going through a natural rejuvenating process and part of that process is halting egg production. It is healthy for a chicken to molt. While it can be halted with artificial light you have to be aware that there is a natural reason for this process and you are messing with nature.
6. Old Age
If all of the above reasons have been checked off the list, the last common reason for a reduction or halt in the egg-laying process is simply old age. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this reason.
A typical breed like a Rhode Island Red will lay around 200 eggs in their first year, and reduce down to 128 by year 3. They can lay up to ten years, but you will only be getting about 40 eggs a year by this point. Eventually, they will dry up all-together and stop laying.
Other Reasons Your Chickens May Not Be Laying
If you have ruled out all the common reasons your hens are not laying, the investigation must continue. There are some less common reasons for a hen to stop producing eggs.
- Illness. You chicken could be suffering from a disease or illness. Believe it or not, chickens can catch a cold. Ever heard of the bird flu? Look for any discharge from the nostrils. You will want to isolate any sick chickens from the others to prevent the illness from spreading. You can get antibiotics from a veterinarian. Once your chicken in healthy again, she will begin laying again.
- Parasites. Mites, lice, and worms are a possible cause of stopping egg production. You will need to rectify this problem to get your chickens laying again. Look for pale combs and itchy birds. These are signs of a bird with parasites. You can spray the chickens and coop with a poultry spray designed for ridding parasites like lice and mites. Worms are a little trickier and you may need to feed your chickens a de-worming medicine. It is not advisable to eat eggs for a time period after administering medication as there may be residue in the eggs.
- Breed. Certain breeds of chickens are simply not as productive as others. Check the facts on egg production for the breed you are raising. You will get some idea of how many eggs you can expect from your girls and which seasons your birds may not be laying.
- Nesting Box. Your nesting box may be causing the problem. If you don’t have enough bedding, if it is too small or cramped, your chickens may be choosing to lay somewhere else. One backyard chicken farmer thought her girls had stopped laying until she found a hidden nest with 50 rotten eggs. Another possibility is that the chickens are laying outside the box and the eggs are cracking and getting eaten.
Tips For Getting Your Chickens To Lay Eggs Again
- Make sure your flock is getting the right nutrition for laying eggs. Supplement with snacks high in protein like mealworms, sunflower seeds, oats, and provide a free-feed source of calcium like oyster shells or crushed eggshells.
- Always provide a clean and steady supply of fresh water.
- Make sure your nesting boxes are roomy and well padded.
- Check your flock routinely for parasites.
- Place a light on a timer in your coop to provide enough light for laying.
- If your hens are not free-range, make a roomy run to ensure your chickens are not overcrowded and stressed.
- Provide toys or fistfuls of fresh greens to keep your hens active and happy.
If your egg production has slowed down or stopped, there may be a simple reason. Egg-vestigate the common reasons first. If you are satisfied you have the basic issues covered then move on to the less-common reasons. Taking good care of your chickens and being proactive with their health and well-being is the best recipe for making the most eggs.
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