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 number 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 supermarket 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 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 need to contain 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 properly balanced diet to ensure their bodies can produce eggs.
If you feed your girls’ layers pellets and they are still struggling to lay, consider giving them snacre high 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.
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So you’ve made sure your girls are getting plenty of protein and freshwater, but there are still no eggs in sight.
Sometimes it can just be the wrong time of the year for your hens to lay.
2. Not Enough Daylight
To lay eggs, your chickens need plenty of natural daylight- at least 14 hours a day and 16 hours are 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 lying 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 to establish the new pecking order. They won’t lay eggs during this time, but again, after a few days, they should start laying.
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 people’s 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, the 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 from spreading to the rest of the flock.
- Parasites: This includes lice, mites, and worms. You will notice your chicken’s comb will go pale, and they won’t stop itching themselves. The easiest way to treat any parasite is to spray both the chicken coop and the chickens with a poultry cleaner. Something like Johnsons Poultry Housing spray should do the trick.
- Molts: Many people confuse the symptoms above as an illness when actually it’s the chicken molting. Chickens molt 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.
Unfortunately, this problem can be hard to pinpoint because predators often lurk out of sight unbeknownst to us.
Rooster to Hen Ratio
Another potential stress is if you don’t have enough hens for each rooster.
If that happens, he may mount your hens too much, leading to stress and bare patches on their heads and backs. This is yet another potential cause of stress that can reduce or stop egg production.
9. Other Potential Causes
The above issues aren’t the only potential reasons for your chickens to stop laying eggs. If you don’t think any of the already-mentioned causes are to blame, consider the following.
Someone Is Eating or Stealing the Eggs
The hens may be laying eggs like you expect, but someone else gets to them before you. While this could be a human egg-thief, it could also be an animal or even one of the hens eating the eggs.
We already touched on having too many hens for your roosters, but the opposite can also be an issue. It isn’t common to let egg-laying hens interact with roosters, as you don’t want the eggs fertilized. But this can lead to broodiness. That’s when your hen gets confused and thinks her eggs may be fertilized. In this situation, you will have to address the broodiness.
Another potential issue could be the weather conditions. Whether it is extremely hot or extremely cold, you may notice a drop in egg production. The good news is that this is easy to overcome with enough water and other methods in the summer and insulating the coop in the winter.
If you have ruled out all other problems on this list, look into your hens’ emotional well-being 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.
Answers to Common Questions About Reasons Why Your Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs
Didn’t find the information you wanted above? Or maybe you just want a quick summary of the most important points? Check out these FAQs.
What to Do When Your Chicken Stops Laying Eggs?
When your chicken stops laying eggs, you should get to the bottom of the problem and address the source of the issue. If there isn’t a good solution, such as in the case of an aging hen, see if you can find her another role on your farm, such as catching bugs. Or you can humanely dispose of her or turn the hen into a meat chicken.
How Do I Encourage My Chickens to Lay Eggs?
Some of the best ways to encourage your chickens to lay eggs include ensuring there are enough nest boxes and they are appealing, regularly collecting the eggs, using a “nest egg” to train the chickens, and giving them enough spots to roost.
How Many Days Can a Chicken Go Without Laying an Egg?
If your hen is broody, meaning she has fertilized eggs or thinks she does, she may not lay eggs for up to 21 days.
What Do You Think Will Happen If Hens Stop Laying Eggs?
If your hens stop laying eggs, you can try to come up with another purpose for them or just keep them as pets without a function. Hens can be good bug catchers or provide meat.
What Is the Average Life Span of a Laying Hen?
Most laying hens live about five to 10 years.
Let us know in the comments below how many eggs your chickens normally lay…
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