What to do when hens stop laying eggs
Have your hens stopped laying eggs? There are many reasons why hens stop laying eggs. From old age to illness, we’ll explore all the top reasons for egg decrease in this post.
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Change in season
As summer moves into fall, the decrease in daylight signals the chicken’s body to lay less eggs. Chickens naturally take a break in egg laying in the winter and can slow down to one egg per week or cease laying all together. We here at Backyard Chicken Project firmly believe in giving our beloved hens a much needed laying break in the winter, but every chicken keeper has their own views on this topic. If you don’t want to allow your hens a laying break, you can artificially light the coop in the winter.
Extremely hot weather and extremely cold weather can cause a decrease in egg production for your hens. Make them as comfortable as possible by insulating the coop in winter and providing shade and plenty of cool water in summer.
Check out our post on winter chicken care for more information:
Another reason that hens stop laying eggs is due to molting. Most chickens molt (lose old feathers and grow new ones) in the fall, although they’re known to also molt in the spring and summer.
Some chickens molt so lightly you can barely tell it’s happening at all! For these light molters look for ruffled feathers or bald spots on the head or around the vent.
When your hens have stopped laying, diet is the first thing you should examine. Lack of sufficient food or water for even one day can disrupt a hens laying cycle. Make sure you’re feeding a high quality layer feed and ensure each hen is getting enough to eat every day. Feed your hens chicken scratch and other treats sparingly. Make sure your chickens always have a supply of fresh water.
When hens go broody they stop laying eggs entirely, and don’t begin again until their broodiness breaks for their chicks reach an independent age. Broody hens are easy to identify, they will sit on the nest day and night on a clutch of eggs. Broody hens will often puff up their feathers and shriek at other hens or people who come near the nest. They may also peck at intruders.
Female chicks hatch with only a certain number of ova, once they’re gone, they’re gone. For this reason hens slow down on laying as they age, until they cease laying entirely. Most hens lay steadily from 6 months to two years old. After two years old egg laying steadily decreases.
Hens will stop laying eggs when they are ill. If your hen stops laying unexpectedly, watch her carefully for signs of illness.
Common Signs of sickness in hens:
- Drop in energy level
- Refusing to leave the coop
- Droopy tail
- Glassy, watery, or droopy eyes
- coughing, sneezing, wheezing, gasping
- vent discharge
Chickens become stressed very easily. Like any animal, stress affects chicken physiology and can lead to a decrease in laying.
- recent predator attacks/predator nearby
- moving to a new coop
- extreme weather
- Adding or losing chickens
When chickens suffer from an infestation of lice or mites they will slow down or stop laying eggs. Check your hens thoroughly for these pests, they tend to congregate under wings and around the vent. Be sure to check the chickens at all times of day, as some pests are only active at night.
If your hens have stopped laying eggs, checking for pests, illness, and stressors is the first step to getting them back on track.