It’s always a cause for concern when your chickens stop laying. In fact, noticing this can help you identify if your chickens are ill. That’s why we always keep track of the amount of eggs our chickens lay- this way we know straight away if somethings wrong.
There are lots of reasons why your chickens might have stopped laying, but you don’t need to rush out and buy super market eggs just yet!
Today we are going to look at the most common reasons why your chickens have stopped laying and what you can do to get them laying again.
1. Their Diet
The most common reason why your chickens have stopped laying is there is something wrong with their diet. Have you recently changed their diet or even changed the brand of pellets which you are feeding your chickens?
We once decided to stop feeding our chickens layers pellets and to feed them maize instead. Maize is just ground up corn.
When feeding the girls layers pellets we were getting a minimum of 9 eggs a day and after feeding them Maize for a matter of days we were only getting 4-5 eggs a day!
Yikes- this was because maize doesn’t container much protein and chickens need around 20 grams of protein each day to continue laying eggs.
Just remember whatever you are feeding your chickens they need a proper balanced diet to ensure their bodies are capable of producing eggs.
If you are feeding your girls layers pellets and they are still struggling to lay, consider giving them snacks which are high in protein such as: pumpkin seeds, oats or mealworms.
Another often neglected aspect of their diet is water. If chickens don’t have access to fresh water all day round you can say goodbye to your eggs.
The Perfect Feed for Your Flock
2. Not Enough Daylight
So you’ve made sure your girls are getting plenty of protein and fresh water, but there are still no eggs in sight. Sometimes it can just be the wrong time of the year for your hens to lay.
To lay eggs your chickens need plenty of natural daylight- at least 14 hours a day and 16 hours is even better.
This means that during the winter, when in the US, the natural daylight can drop to less than 9 hours a day; your girls would need 5 more hours of daylight to lay eggs.
The solution to this is to place an artificial light in their coop and set this on an automated timer. This will certainly keep your egg production high but it’s something we would never do.
There’s a reason why hens don’t lay as much during the winter… their body needs to rest and recover for the next year. And if you don’t give them time for their bodies to recover you will do more harm than good in the long run.
It’s not all bad news though, your hens shouldn’t stop laying completely and you should get the occasional egg, but that’s about it.
3. Broody Hens
So your girls are well fed, getting plenty of sunlight, but they still aren’t laying. It’s time to give up on them and get a new flock… only joking!
You might have a broody hen and in this case she won’t lay eggs no matter how much protein or sunshine you give her.
When a hen gets broody she wants to hatch her own chicks, so she will sit on top of her eggs for 21 days until they hatch. During this 21 day period she won’t lay any eggs- not good…
There are obvious signs to look out for if your hen is broody:
- She will sit in the nest box all day.
- She will become very territorial and stop anything getting near her eggs.
- She will remove her breast feathers to give the eggs heat from her body.
If you think your hen is broody, read how to stop my broody hen.
4. New Additions To The Flock
So you’ve definitely not got a broody hen, but still don’t see any eggs. Have you recently moved your chickens or introduced new chickens into the flock?
Chickens love routine and the slightest disruption to their routine usually results in them going off lay.
The most common routine disruption they experience is when they are moved. This can either be when they are transported to your home after you’ve bought them, or if you’ve decided to move their coop.
Chances are you bought your chickens as pullets so they weren’t laying when they arrived anyway. But if you’ve moved their coop they will not be happy with you!
Give them a few days to come around and they should start laying again.
If you’ve just introduced new chickens into the flock this can also disrupt their routine and egg laying. When new chickens are introduced there tends to be some shoving and jostling for the first few days as they establish the new pecking order. During this time they won’t lay eggs but again, after a few days they should start laying again.
5. Certain Breeds Don’t Lay As Many Eggs
Certain breeds just don’t lay as well as others and we sometimes forget this, especially when we read about how great other peoples eggs are.
Breeds such as Rhode Island Reds or Buff Orpingtons can lay more than 200 eggs per year. Whereas other breeds such as Ameraucanas or Silkies are known to lay less than 100 eggs a year.
If you’re unsure about how many eggs a year your breed of chicken should lay, this beginner’s guide to chicken breeds should help.
6. Old Age
So you’ve got a Rhode Island Red, which should be laying over 200 eggs a year, and they have just stopped laying.
Unfortunately as chickens get older the amount of eggs they lay slows down. Look at the image below and you can see you normally only get around 3 years of good egg laying from a chicken.
If your Rhode Island Red laid 200 eggs in their first year, they should lay around 168 eggs in their second year, 128 eggs in their third year. This number will continue to decrease down to around 40 eggs by their tenth year.
If your chickens are getting slightly older then a decrease in their egg laying is perfectly natural and expected.
There is nothing you can do about this and it is simply nature’s way as your chickens age.
If you have a settled, young chicken, that is well fed, has plenty of natural daylight and they have suddenly stopped laying chances are that they are ill.
- Colds: Symptoms to look out for include slimy nostrils and them walking around with their beak open because they can’t breathe through their nose. Make sure to isolate any chicken which you think might have a cold to stop it spreading to the rest of the flock.
- Parasites: This includes lice, mites and worms. You will notice your chickens comb will go pale and they won’t stop itching themselves. The easiest way to treat any parasite it to spray both the chicken coop and the chickens with a poultry cleaner. Something like Johnsons Poultry Housing spray should do the trick.
- Moults: Many people confuse the symptoms above as an illness when actually its the chicken moulting. Chickens moult each year and it can take around 6 to 12 weeks for them to grow back new feathers- during this time period they will not lay eggs.
8. UPDATES – Stressed Out
In case you haven’t noticed, many of the situations on this list are stressful. Illness, broodiness, new flock members are all stressful to chickens.
Stress, like for most creatures, causes a decrease in productivity, and in this scenario, that means a decrease in egg production.
But there’s a lot more that can stress out a hen than the issues addressed in this article.
For example, the presence of predators can freak a chicken out so bad that they lose feathers, stop eating, lose weight, and stop laying eggs. Unfortunately, this problem can be hard to pinpoint because predators often lurk out of sight unbeknownst to us.
If you have ruled out all other problems on this list, look into the emotional well-being of your hens, and what might be causing some undue stress. Sometimes it’s an easy fix, and sometimes it takes some investigation.
If you want to keep track of how many eggs your chicken lays this spreadsheet should help. You can either fill it in on your computer or print it off and stick it up somewhere.
Now that your chickens are hopefully laying again, it’s worth reading how we used a chicken tractor to increase the number of eggs our chickens lay.
Let us know in the comments below how many eggs your chickens normally lay…