Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why Aren't My Chickens Laying?!?!

One of the great things about owning chickens are the amazing eggs they provide. Many backyard enthusiasts get chickens for that reason. There is nothing in the world like walking out to your coop and getting a freshly laid egg! But what happens if you’re nest box is empty? You might be asking “Why Aren't My Chickens Laying?!?!”

If your new to owning chickens and bought chicks to start your flock, the first and most simple answer is, the pullets (what a female hen is called BEFORE she lays an egg) just aren’t old enough yet. Most, but not all breeds will begin to lay anywhere from 16-24 weeks of age.

As your pullets near the age of laying, you will want to switch them to a feed meant for laying hens. It takes a lot of calcium to produce an egg, so make sure you are providing a proper diet. You will want to feed a high quality layer feed and ensure each hen is getting enough to eat every day. Water is also very important and your layers need to have access to water at all times.

New layers tend to lay smaller eggs and are sporadic in their production at first. They also might not be using the nest box at all! Even my established layers like to go rough on me from time to time, so if you know your chickens are laying and you haven’t seen any in the nest box for a few days, it might be time to go looking for that secret nesting spot.


Ours either hid them in a nest in a back corner of our shed, under a lawn chair, or they like to stash their eggs in the straw bales. Our Ester is notorious for finding an open straw bale and just disappearing into it to lay. As you can see in the above photo, she likes to go deep into the straw! I have no clue sometimes why I bother keeping a nest box for them as they all tend to lay in the same secret spot.

If you know your hens are laying and they haven't hid their nest, then why might you still not be getting eggs? Well there is a laundry list of reasons....

Molting - Most chickens molt (the process of replacing old feathers with new ones) in the fall. While some chickens go through their molt without much notice, other explode like a pillow fight went down in your yard! Growing new feathers takes a lot of calcium and so hens stop laying during this time in order to divert the calcium need to growing new feathers.


Winter - Chickens naturally slow down egg production in the winter, it's normal. The decrease in daylight causes chicken to lay less. Heck, some hens may stop laying all together. It is the natural cycle for their bodies. Commercial egg farms provide artificial light during the winter months to keep egg production up. Since it is a natural part of a hen's cycle to slow down and conserve energy during the winter months, we do not provide supplement light to our girls. The decision is up to you.

Weather - Extreme changes in the weather can play a role in decreased egg production.  In extremely hot weather, you may notice your chickens panting. That is stress. Make sure you provide your birds with cool water during these heat waves. Vice versa an extreme cold snap can cause the same stresses on your flock. Drafts are worse than cold temps, so make sure your hens have some where to get out of the wind. 

Stress - Well we already talked about weather related stress, but chickens can be touchy on other matter too. Simply adding new members to the flock may be enough for more sensitive birds to take issue with. Relocating to a new coop, even if it is still in the same area as their old one. Don't even get me started on predators! When our Buffy was younger, she was such a spaz that if the dog even looked at her, she wasn't right for days. Could you imagine if a raccoon were to wander through our yard? Thankfully, with age, she doesn't stop laying every 5 minutes because the wind blows.

Broodiness - When a hen decides she wants to hatch some young (go broody) she will stop laying eggs entirely when she has the amount of eggs under her she feels is right. Yes, even when there is no rooster around, some hens will try to go broody. How do you know your hen is broody? Well, even if you are collecting eggs out from under her, she will sit, all day and all night if you let her. She may become more aggressive when you attempt to remove eggs from under her. Some hens will just puff up and may "talk" about the indignity of you stealing her eggs, while others can get downright nasty and start pecking the hand that feeds them!

Illness - Hens may stop laying eggs when they are ill. Chickens are really good at hiding their illnesses though. Many times you will not know your bird is ill till they are VERY ill. That is why it is a good idea to spend time with your flock. Get to know their personalities and behaviors, that way you can tell if something is "off." Common things to look for in an ill chicken are eyes that aren't clear and bright, weird sounds, such as a cough or sneezing, vent discharge/diarrhea, and over all droopiness to your bird due to lack of energy.


Recently we had to take our Alpha hen, Grumpy Goldie to the vet due to a "girly" infection. How did I know she had female problems? She laid a lash egg. She is already pushing five years old, so when the vet said she would probably never lay again, it was no big deal. We love her for her ability to keep the coop in line.

Age - Most hens lay well for about the first two years of their lives. By well, I mean steady and reliable. After about two years of age, a hen's productivity will decrease. That is why when the vet told me my five year old chicken would probably never lay again, well she hadn't been laying very well the last couple years, so it was no big loss in the daily egg total.

As you can see, the reasons why your nest box is empty could be one of many things. Understanding the simple rhythms of a hen’s life, from weather to age, can help you understand what is going on out there in your coop. And just remember, it isn’t easy popping out an egg every day! Keep that in mind the next time you collect your eggs and make sure you thank your egg producers! I have it on good authority that mealworms make a nice gift. *wink*


26 comments:

  1. What a great post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, even tho' I don't have any chickens! Dona

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    1. LOL Well maybe you should get a couple! Now that you know all about laying :)

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  2. Interesting post. Our "ladies" have slowed down on their laying this winter, too. We've had hens lay their eggs in our garage which was great for collecting! My friends thought I'd trained them to do that. HA! How do you train a chicken!?!

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    1. How do you train a chicken? Mealworms LOL All our hens know their names, but we raise them from day old. This year we are actually going to I intentionally try to try one of our new hens to do agility. Chickens are VERY smart. And chickens are very food driven, and mealworms are like a drug to them. You can get them to do just about anything for some. LOL

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  3. Such an informative post!! We are just the same and do not give our hens artificial light in the winter months, I feel that they should live the way nature intended them to. I've also heard it can shorten their life if you make them lay more during the winter, and each hen only has a certain amount of eggs they will lay during their life anyway. Our hens have become family to us we love them so much. My family loves our wonderful farm fresh eggs too, they can tell the difference from store eggs. Thanks for this great post, pinning for others to learn as well. Have a blessed week!!

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    1. I don't know if it shortens their lives but you are right, they only have so many eggs so why rush em! Thanks for the pin!

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  4. Thankfully I'm typically pretty mindful and not many whatsits come into the house to replace We bought several sets of pullets over the past couple of years that never produced an egg for us - I'll be sure to keep your points in mind when evaluating this spring's pullet purchase. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I enjoyed this post. (Stopping by from the Tuesdays with a Twist link party.)

    ~Taylor-Made Homestead~
    Texas

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  5. All really good points - we had chickens for years when we lived on a semi-rural block (they're easy to care for and their eggs are an added bonus). It's tricky when they stop laying because you have to decide whether to keep them or let them go. thanks for sharing at out #OTM link up ~ Leanne :)

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    1. We only get a couple every year so as they "age out" it isn't a big deal. And because we keep so few, they are family and will have a home here till they pass. I know, I'm weird but that's how I feel about my girls.

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  6. This is a very helpful post. We have had some laying issues as of late :(

    Thank you for sharing it on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth!

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    1. I hate laying issues. Hope everything is okay for you.

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  7. I don't have any chickens, *yet*, I hope to get some soon, but this is so interesting, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh being a chicky mom is so fun. I can't wait for you to get some. I am picking up more on Saturday I hope LOL

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  8. My husband and I are in the process of getting chickens for the first time. This article was definitely helpful, because neither one of us have raised chickens before now. I grew up around them, but never helped. Thank you for the information!

    Erin | www.awelderswife.com

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    1. Honestly, chickens are pretty easy. Love em, feed and water em and keep em clean and they will make you breakfast darn near every day LOL

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  9. I don't keep chickens myself, but I found it really interesting reading your post. I learned a lot! I know this post will be really helpful for those who do keep chickens and are worried about their hens. Sharing. Thank you so much for bringing this post to the Hearth and Soul Hop.

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    1. Well we need to get you a couple hens! LOL

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  10. Most of my girls have quit laying, but I have 2 or 3 that lay every day at least. They were laying well until it got really cold. The flock I have now is new, I lost all but one hen and two roos when our coop caught fire in January. Some friends from our fellowship had way too many and blessed us with 6 hens (all I have room for at the moment) who were used to less...primitive...accommodations lol. Like a heated coop. I'm just thankful to mostly have enough eggs every week! Looking forward to warmer weather, building a new coop and getting more eggs (and probably chickens...you know how that goes!)

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  11. Good morning! This is just a little note to let you know this post has been *featured* today on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth. Thank you for joining us!

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  12. Great post, I learned lot about chickens with this post, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

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  13. This was right on time!! I've been dreaming of the day I can have chickens and my mind has been super active in chicken dream land. This post was super helpful! I'm going to print it out, pin it and read it over and over! :-D TY!!

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    1. Well I am glad it hit a note with you. Chickens are so much fun! I hope you get some soon :)

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