How Do I Make My Chicken Lay An Egg?

How Do I Make My Chicken Lay An Egg Blog Cover

Most backyard chicken owners will agree that the single best part of keeping chickens is the walk down to the coop each morning to collect eggs.

I normally have anywhere from 8-10 fresh warm eggs waiting for me every morning and the family love eating them for breakfast!

But what do you do if your chickens aren’t laying eggs? How can you get your chickens to start laying eggs?

Unfortunately there is no way to ‘force’ your chickens to lay eggs, however there are lots of things you can do to encourage your chickens to start laying eggs.

Whether your chickens haven’t even start laying yet, or, have gone off lay, follow the steps below to get them laying eggs sooner rather than later!

The Importance of Nutrition

If your chicken’s dietary requirements aren’t being met, then they won’t be laying any eggs for you.

Your chicken needs around 20 grams of protein to lay an egg. In addition to protein, chickens need: calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, fat and water.

Chickens Help Your Garden
Chickens Eating In Garden © Karen

In-fact, water is the single most important nutrition they require and even a few hours without water can cause them to stop laying eggs for weeks. On average chickens will drink around three times as much water by weight as they will eat.

If anyone of these nutritional requirements isn’t being met then chances are your chickens won’t be laying any eggs.

Whilst it can appear overwhelming and daunting, providing your chickens with the correct nutrition is relatively straight forward.

All you need to do is feed your chickens an approved commercial feed.

Chances are if you’re reading this your chickens are of ‘egg-laying’ age so you should be feeding them layers pellets. Layers pellets are specifically formulated to provide your chickens with the correct amount of protein and calcium so they will lay lots of eggs with thick strong shells.

Feeding Chickens Commercial Grain
Feeding Chickens Grain

Note: If your chickens haven’t started laying yet, you should be feeding them either grower or developer feed. Start feeding them layers’ pellets at 20 weeks old or when they lay their first egg if this occurs before 20 weeks.

Backyard chicken’s that most commonly don’t get the required nutrition are those which aren’t feed commercial feed.

Whilst some people think feeding chickens commercial feed takes the fun out of it, I prefer to feed them commercial feed to make sure they get their key nutrition and then I feed them scraps and snacks for a bit of variety.

Have you seen my chickens’ top 9 favourite snacks?

Are Your Hens of Laying Age?

Unfortunately if your chickens aren’t the right age, you can feed them as much protein as you like but they still aren’t going to lay any eggs for you.

Either your chickens are too old or too young; in both cases they won’t be laying any eggs for you.

Young hens or ‘pullets’, typically start laying eggs at 18-20 weeks old and their first season of laying will be their best. Trying to encourage a pullet to lay before they are 18 weeks old is futile because their bodies haven’t developed enough to lay eggs yet.

Once a hen gets to around 4 years old the amount of eggs that they lay starts to slow down considerably and you will find they don’t lay that many eggs anymore.

Chickens Egg Laying Reducing Over Time
Chickens Egg Laying Reducing Over Time

If your hens aren’t between that magic time frame of 20 weeks to 3 years old then unfortunately their isn’t much you can do except let nature take its course and provide them with love and affection!

Issues with Nesting Boxes

So you have checked your nesting boxes and there are no eggs inside, so you assume that your hens haven’t laid any eggs.

Most of the time this assumption is correct however sometimes you might just have an issue with your nesting boxes and your hens are laying elsewhere (either in the coop or outside in the run).

The main issue you will run into is simply not having enough nesting boxes for your chickens.

Chicken Nesting Boxes
I’m not sure Norman has this problem, he has eight nesting boxes!

To make sure your nesting boxes are adequate here is a quick checklist:

  • One nesting box for every four chickens.
  • Nesting boxes need to be at least 18 inches above the floor.
  • They should also be at least 12 inches wide to provide your hens with enough room to lay down in there.

Another common issue with nesting boxes is parasites.

If you don’t replace the bedding inside the nesting boxes often enough you will attract parasites.

These parasites will bite and nip your chickens whilst they are laying their eggs, and it can be extremely unpleasant for your hens. If this is happening your chickens will normally find somewhere else to lay their eggs instead.

I change the straw in my nesting boxes once a week during the summer and often twice a week during the winter when the straw gets wet and mucky.

Are They Getting Enough Daylight?

Making sure your chickens are getting enough daylight is crucial if you want them to lay eggs.

To lay eggs your chickens need plenty of natural daylight- at least 14 hours a day and 16 hours is even better. This is why battery hens are exposed to more than 17 hours of artificial light every day.

However, I would never use artificial lighting to force my girls to lay eggs.

As a result of this daylight paradigm, it means that during the winter your chickens will naturally lay fewer eggs.

When Do Chickens Lay Eggs Best?

Chickens lay more eggs in the spring and summer because their offspring will have a greater chance of survival. As chicks would struggle to survive during the cold winter weather, hens are naturally inclined to lay fewer eggs during the winter.

I tend to store lots of my eggs during the summer when they are laying well so I have a supply to last me through the winter. However if you can’t or didn’t do this and still want your hens to lay eggs, your only choice is to fit an artificial light in their coop to give them enough daylight.

Moulting

If your chicken is moulting they definitely won’t be laying eggs.

For those of you who don’t know, a moult is when a chicken loses their feathers and grows back new feathers. They will lose feathers around their neck and back first; this will then spread to their tail feathers and breast bone.

Chicken Moulting
Chicken’s Back Moulting © Thomas Kriese

A chicken will normally moult towards the end of season, in the fall. It is also normally linked to daylight hours, so in the fall you can expect your chickens to start moulting when the amount of daylight starts to reduce.

On average a moult will last around 8 weeks. If you have a young healthy chicken then this moult will be shorter- around 6 weeks. Whereas if you have an older chicken, the moult can last up to 12 weeks.

The reason chickens don’t lay during a moult is because they don’t have enough protein.

A chicken requires around 20 grams of protein to lay an egg. However a chicken also needs a lot of protein to grow feathers; feathers are approximately 80% protein. So your chicken only has enough protein to either lay eggs or moult, it doesn’t have enough protein to do them both at once.

High Stress Levels

Any chicken which has high stress levels will not lay eggs. There are four key things which can significantly raise chickens’ stress levels: predators, moulting, a change in flock dynamics and finally, being crowded.

Predators

Many things can raise a chickens’ stress level, but the worst one is predators attacking your chickens.

If you followed our advice on how to stop predators attacking your chickens, your chickens will be safe, but just the experience of an attempted attack is more than enough to stop your chickens laying eggs.

Fox Stalking Chickens
Fox Stalking Chickens

After an attack your chickens should start laying again within several days.

Moulting

High stress levels can also cause your chickens to moult. And as we discussed above, whilst a chicken is moulting they will not lay eggs. This is because they need the protein in their body to grow feathers instead of making eggs.

As soon as your chicken has finished their moult they will start laying eggs again.

New Flock Dynamics

Adding or removing birds from your flock will alter the flock dynamics and cause the chickens a great deal of stress and anxiety for several weeks.

Even if you introduce new chickens to your existing flock properly, chances are your girls will still be disrupted by the new chickens and will go off lay for a few days.

Once you have introduced the new chickens, after a few days your girls should be laying again.

Size of Coop

If you have a coop which is too small for your chickens, this can disrupt their egg laying.

It isn’t so much the crowdedness which causes the chicken stress, but the crowdedness increases unwanted behaviour such as foot pecking and bullying.

All of these behaviours in turn raise the chickens stress levels which then stops them laying eggs.

Conclusion

So there you have it: unfortunately you can’t force your chickens to lay eggs.

However if you follow the steps in this article you can create an environment in which your chickens are going to be very likely to lay lots of eggs for you!

The key takeaway is that when chickens stop laying eggs, this is their way of telling you something isn’t quite right. It could be their their diet, an infection, parasites or not having enough daylight. It’s your job as a backyard chicken keeper to investigate and make them happy again!

Let us know below what you do when your chickens stop laying eggs…

Comments

  1. Ricky Donoho says

    False: Nests need to be 18″ off floor. Nests do NOT need to be any measure above the floor of coop. I’ve built 2 coops with nests designed on floor, beneath poop board and roosts with no problem to laying eggs.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Ricky,

      Whilst hens will still lay eggs on the floor, an elevated nesting area will almost always improve their rate of laying 🙂

      Claire

  2. Fiona says

    Hi I have 2 Rhode Island Reds who are just about 16 months old. My hens didn’t lay anything for a while and I stopped giving them mixed corn and then got some eggs but only one was laying. The other one broke the eggs and laid nothing. Since then the layer has laid approx 3 eggs a week and the other nothing. Recently I give them some mixed corn just as a treat on a couple of occasions and now I have no eggs at all for over a week. They free range out of their coop for over 12 hours a day, have lovely grass area in a portion of a field and have fresh water and clean house. I can’t work it out. They have layers pellets, access to grit (which they don’t seem to like) and dandelions etc. I don’t give them any treats now. What might be wrong?
    Thanks

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Fiona,

      What is their water supply like- fresh clean water is a must!

      Also, as they free range all day is there a chance they could be laying eggs elsewhere and not in the nesting box?

      Claire

  3. Brandy Williamson says

    What kind of light can I use to give artificial light to my girls? They are Rhode island reds and are 18 weeks old and I haven’t seen any eggs yet. I am feeding patina eggs layer feed and change water every day and they are out of the coup from sun up to sun down.?

  4. James O'Neil says

    I have a coop, and the nesting area is elevated with a ramp. But as far as I know, they refuse to go up. I’ve placed feed there in the attempt to tempt them up the ramp, but it has not worked.
    Now I believe that the ramp is too steep for them, could that be the reason, or should they still be able to some what “flap” their way up?
    Another quick question. Lately, my chickens have been “whining”. And I am concerned. Do you have any idea what the problem could be?

    I’m a beginner…and I’m hoping you could help me.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi James,

      It’s unlikely that the ramp is too steep- the general rule of 30-40 degrees. Also, you will find they can and will just hop straight up into the coop and skip the ramp all together…

      Claire

    • Russell says

      Not sure if the problem is petsisting. I had the same issue with my new hens for a couple weeks. The problem went away when I did two things. Not sure which was the solution. Firstly I put some extra thin strips of wood across the ramp giving them more grip. (So it ended up being a 5mm high and 1 cm strip of wood across the ramp spaced at about 6 cm spacing. The chickens started going up the ramp almost immediately but then stopped and refused to go in trough the entrance to the coop. So I widened the opening to 30cm x 30cm. Even my two silkie hens which were bought from a breeder, where they had never had a ramp in their coop, quickly started going up and downthe ramp. The silkies even sat side by side blocking the entrance until the much larger hens reckoned enough was enough and pushed past or over them. Now the two large hens (Langshans) jump from ground to top of the ramp andvife versa while the silkies still walk up and down.

  5. Pamela says

    Hi, I have 5 hens. All are 17 months old and all lay almost daily except the Black Cuckoo Marans, who has never laid an egg. (I have a mixed flock.) She is second in the pecking order, so is not stressed. She broods in one of the 4 elevated nesting boxes. I have 3 water troughs that are changed daily. I feed a commercial laying feed and supplement with oyster shell, baked, crushed egg shells and meal worms. The hens free-range 3-5 hours a day and I can see all areas where a hen might try to lay an egg, but they all return to the coop to do that. The coop/run is large. They do not have mites and I use an organic spray (vinegar and orange oil) weekly when I totally clean out the coop and run. I sprinkle DE around on every surface.

    She does squat down when I go to pick her up and she has a bright red crest and wattles. No parasites. She is not thin. Any ideas? I hate to think she is the 1 in 10,000 hens that is sterile!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Pamela,

      If she is the only hen not laying and she has never laid an egg it sounds to me like unfortunately she just isn’t going to ‘bloom’.

      It’s rare but occasionally it does happen 🙁

      Claire

  6. ann says

    Another issue. I have a hen that died unexpectedly. She had no signs of distress and was clean and free of lice/mites. I checked her vent which looked normal and clean. Her comb was healthy looking. She had been very healthy and laying good eggs until yesterday when I noticed that she was acting very sluggish. She refused to eat and I tried to hydrate her with a syringe. I also placed her in a shallow pool to try to get her to drink. She took a couple of drinks in there. After holding her and trying to help her, I placed her in the nesting box (where she wanted to be) for the night. She was dead in the morning. I’m thinking that she went brody a couple of days ago because she started laying in the nesting boxes all the time. I heard that it is possible that she could have dehydrated herself by staying in the nesting boxes and then just became too weak. I feel a huge sense of guilt because I just did not know that she was becoming dehydrated or weak. Have you heard of this happening before? Any other suggestions as to what may have caused her death/symptoms.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Ann,

      I’m sorry to hear about your loss.

      I have heard about this before and know that some chickens have died due to starvation/dehydration because they don’t want to leave their eggs…

      With that being said it’s hard to say for sure why she died without seeing her.

      Please don’t feel guilty- it sounds like you did all you could by helping her out of the coop and trying to get her to eat and drink. She could have been suffering with a hidden illness before she went broody.

      Claire

  7. Tina says

    I have 6 hens . By calculations they should have started laying , but not have. Because of our location, they are kept in a structured coop. Should I let them run free, just scared they will be taken off by predators…

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Tina,

      Your hens don’t have to free range to lay eggs. Just make sure they are fed high protein layers pellets and have some space outside to roam around in 🙂

      Claire

  8. Jane says

    I have 3 American gamefowl hens. They’re all 25 weeks old. They’re free range and eat corn and rice. They haven’t started laying eggs and they have mated before.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Jane,

      I would swap their corn out for layers pellets.

      They need protein in their feed in order to lay eggs.

      Claire

  9. Jean says

    I have 14 3 year old chickens . They are fed layer pellets and free range with plenty of fresh water . Every summer their egg production slows down . I am only getting 3-5 eggs a day sometimes less why does their production lessen in the summer ?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Jean,

      It’s likely the very hot weather is slowing them down. Perfectly normal during heat waves and I have the same problem which my hens!

      Claire

  10. Josie says

    Hello this is my first time having chickens and I keep getting different info on when they should lay, I have a mixed crew that consists of black and golden sexlinks, brown and white Leghorns, and some red rangers. They we 10 days old when I got them the first week of may. I also just put them on layer pellets and always clean and refill the water. Any help would be great.

  11. Linda Aldama says

    Ok, am going through the steps to try to get my chickens laying again. I changed their feed to see if that works. Don’t think they liked Purina. How long after I change.feed should I wait until I change again. I cannot find any other reason for them to stop laying. Other than they used to have a rooster and now do not. Could that do it?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Linda,

      A rooster will not stop the hens laying so I wouldn’t worry about that.

      I would give them a couple of weeks to settle down with their new feed.

  12. Rick says

    We have 5 Road Island Reds. But only 4 of the 5 are laying regularly. One, “Elby”, quit laying at the end of June. Not sure why or what to do to get her back on track.
    Also, with winter coming, we realize the lighting situation, but what about the temperature? what is too cold for them? Or what should their coup temperature be regulated at?

  13. Ava-Valerie says

    Hi!
    My chickens are almost 26 wks old and I still see no eggs. Why? We have everything you stated in the article.

    Thanks!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Ava,

      Some breeds don’t start laying as early, so they might need a few more weeks!

      Claire
      P.s- have you checked that they aren’t laying in a ‘secret’ nest 🙂

  14. Francesca says

    My chickens have not been laying eggs for two to three years. We noticed that after our first chicken died, the egg production drastically decreased. They are very happy chickens, with a sunny coop, fresh food and water, food scraps ( we make sure we are careful with what we give them) and are free range. What may the problem be?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Francesca,

      It sounds to me like your hens are getting pretty old- most of my older girls have stopped laying now as well.

      This is just nature’s way, when they get old their body stops producing eggs and there isn’t anything you can do to stop this unfortunately.

      Claire

  15. Beth says

    Hi there
    We have 4 chickens. 2 austalorps and 2 isa browns. They are about 24 weeks old and one has been laying for 10 days now, the others however haven’t started yet.
    We got them all together. I have noticed the 3 that arent laying seem to be dropping feathers alot. Could this be the reason? Even though they’re only 24 weeks?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Beth,

      If its only the occasional feather I wouldn’t worry. I’d expect they all start to lay in the next week or so 🙂

      Claire

  16. Priscilla Jenne says

    we have 13 free range chickens, and only 3 have been laying eggs for the past 2 months. It was suggested that we pen them in, which we have for the past 3 weeks, still only 3 eggs.
    We have 4 nesting boxes, plenty of laying mash with cracked corn, fresh water is pumped into their troth daily, and a large area within their penned area. Is it possible that we need to be feeding them laying pellets instead of laying mash? Your help is greatly appreciated.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Gillian,

      Try increasing the amount of bedding in the nest box- that should do the trick 🙂

      Claire

  17. Maria says

    My lovely 4 hens have stopped laying since the earthquake in Italy struck.. I live about 2 hours from the epicentre… we really felt the effects on the day.. they weren’t great layers before the earthquake on August 24th, but now nothing… they are fed commercial feed, have enough space in their coop, have fresh water daily, etc etc… 1 hen is a 18 months old and the rest are about 6 months old, and replaced three who were carried off by eagles in March. These three laid 3-4 eggs daily.. I was overrun with eggs… so first a feast and now a famine.. they free range for 12 hours a day… any suggestions?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Maria,

      I’m so sorry to hear about the earthquake and the effect it’s had on you.

      Unfortunately I don’t have any suggestions, after a traumatic event there is no telling when hens will start to lay again.

      Continue to feed them with high protein feed, keep them free from illness and make sure they have access to fresh water- this is all you can do.

      Claire

  18. Madison Langdon says

    Hi Claire,

    My parents recently gave me two of their laying hens – I’m not sure what kind they are. They have been at my house for a week now and have quit laying eggs. They were laying before.

    I know I might be being a bit premature. However, I wanted to ask – the coop at my parents was extremely large, the coop at my house is much smaller but still an adequate size for the two of them. Would adjusting to a new coop size effect the laying?

    Thanks in advance,

    Madison

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Madison,

      It’s probably more the change in environment rather than the coop. Give them a few weeks to settle in and they should be laying again.

      Claire

  19. Nicholas bundi says

    Kudos! My 168 hens are now 8 months old and not any sign. Kinda funny, but now from your advice let me try feeds high in protein. Thanks.

  20. Jeff says

    I just picked up 11 rhode island reds. Sunday. Monday had 1 egg Tuesday n Wednesday 2 eggs. I know it’s going to take a while for all of them to lay. I know the need to get used to the coop so they know it their new home. How long should I keep them cooped up before the go out to the pin. Also coop has no windows( should I put Windows in)

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Jeff,

      I normally keep them in the coop for 24 hours until I let them out into the pen 🙂

      Yes, if possible add a window but make sure it’s predator proof!

      Best of luck,

      Claire

  21. Kevin Atchley says

    I have 5 Leg horn hens that are 2 years old. None of the 5 have ever laid an egg. At this point I have tried higher protein food, they have plenty of water, should I just give up and face they probably will never lay?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Kevin,

      Some hens are later bloomers but 2 years!? Some hens never lay an egg but to have 5 at once that have never laid is unheard of…

      The important thing is not just high protein but that also their other dietary needs are being met. This is why a complete layers pellet is the best way to go.

      I would go this route and see how you get on,

      Claire

  22. William Simms says

    My silkies are almost a year old and haven’t started laying yet I’m feeding them scratch feed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *