Why your hens stop laying eggs and what you can do about it?
Here is a list of most common reasons why your chickens have stopped laying, along with suggestions for what you can do to get them laying again:
- Not Enough Daylight
Hens need 14 or more hours of daylight each day to lay well. During late fall and winter, particularly from October through February (in the US), the natural daylight can drop to less than 9 hours a day; your hens would need 5 more hours of daylight to lay eggs.
Hens need a good balanced diet in order to produce eggs. Good quality layer feeds have the correct balance of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, calcium and other minerals. Commercially prepared rations are a nutritionally balanced food source; poultry nutritionists formulate feed to ensure that chickens get all the nutrition they need daily. If you feed table scraps or scratch grains to your hens, you should use moderation so as not to upset the balance. Even healthy snacks should only be given in moderation.
Chickens must have access to clean fresh water at all times. A lack of water for several hours will probably cause a decline in egg production. Regardless of what watering system you use, it is important to make sure that you refresh their water supply daily and ensure that their water drinker is kept clean. Chickens prefer a water temperature of 55° F. If water is hotter or colder than this, they’ll drink less. In hot weather, use a larger waterer and check it more often as chickens will drink more in the hot weather. 5-gallon or 7-gallon founts are a good idea if you have a big flock of hens. In very cold weather, you will need to make sure their water doesn’t freeze.
Stressed hens can stop laying or lay soft-shelled eggs or odd-shaped eggs. A fright, running out of food and water, molt, illness, poor nutrition, excessive lighting, heat/cold stress, disruptions of the pecking order (for example adding a new bird to the flock), overcrowding in coop/run and getting moved to a new coop/run all causes stress.
Read more: Why are my chickens laying soft / rubber eggs, and what can I do about it?
- Diseases or Parasites
Diseases (such as Newcastle disease, infectious bronchitis, avian influenza, egg drop syndrome) or parasites (such as worms, mites or lice) can slow or stop laying. The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow is a good source of information on this topic. This book is jam-packed with easy-to-follow information about all aspects of chicken healthcare — a great book for beginners and experienced chicken keepers.
- Environmental temperature
The optimal laying temperature is between 52°F (11°C) to 79°F (26°C) with a relative humidity of about 75%. A humidity level above 75% will cause a reduction in egg laying. In the winter, you’ll need to keep your chickens warmer than you would otherwise, since laying declines at temperatures below 52°F (11°C). During the summer, be sure to keep your backyard flock cool, calm and comfortable by providing plenty of shade and cool water.
Chickens will molt about once a year and usually slow or stop laying eggs during that time. It is a normal, natural and beneficial process. The molt will last from 8 to 12 weeks on average. This is like a several week vacation period for laying eggs. Older hens may take longer and molt more often.
Read more: Why and when do chickens molt and how you can help them?
- Old age
As hens get older, they don’t lay as many eggs as in their first 2 years. Usually, by the time they’re about 5 years old, they’ll only be laying about half as frequently as they did at their peak. There will come a point when they are no longer producing and so you will need to add to your flock every few years to keep a steady supply of eggs.
- Predator attacks
Predator attacks or fear of predators (domestic dogs and cats included), being chased by children, etc. also can stress your chickens out and create a decrease in egg production. Keep the coop enclosed in a poultry run with galvanized hardware cloth, electric netting, and/or chain-link fencing. Consider also covering the top with poultry netting. Often people forget that snakes and rats can fit through most chicken wire and can steal the eggs or kill the chickens. Make sure you use the ½-inch square galvanized hardware cloth, which is tight enough to leave out ground crawling arachnids. Bury hardware cloth at least 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) into the ground around the perimeter to deter digging predators. Remember that your best offense is a good defense.
Read more: How to predator-proof your coop and run
In the following video, Justin Rhodes identifies 20 possible reasons why your chickens aren’t laying eggs, PLUS the solutions for each potential problem.
In this video, Becky shows you how she dealt with some issues in her chicken coop that were hurting egg production.