Chickens stop laying for many different reasons, which can be frustrating for the keeper trying to work out why.
Some causes of a drop or complete cessation in egg production are manageable, temporary, and easy to remedy, whereas others are natural. And unfortunately, these may be less easy or even impossible to fix.
Understanding what makes for a healthy layer is essential so that chicken keepers maximise egg production and understand quickly why something's wrong if numbers drop.
However, most chicken keepers know the main reasons for egg laying to stop, as these affect most flocks. Let's look into ten reasons why chickens stop laying eggs.
10 Reasons Why Chickens Stop Laying Eggs
Reducing daylight hours is probably the most common reason for a drop in egg production. Available light hours affect the hormonal response in hens and other species with varying impacts.
Chickens require at least sixteen hours of daylight to keep laying eggs. As the days shorten, production will reduce from early August onwards.
It's possible to extend the laying season by using what daylight there is and combining it with some artificial light. However, hobbykeepers usually like to let their flocks rest at this time of year.
Coops that are not Comfy
Egg production is affected by a poor living environment, and many different things can cause this.
Chickens are surprisingly vulnerable to stress, which comes in many forms, including too many birds in one coop, the threat of predators, aggressive flock members, a noisy environment, or simply a pen that is too hot or cold.
Fortunately, these kinds of issues are relatively easy to solve.
Maintain a comfortable temperature in the coop, which should align with the temperature outside broadly. Don't overheat the birds just because you think it's cold. Most hens tolerate low temperatures surprisingly well.
If there is a need for some supplemental heat, we recommend adjusting two or three degrees above the ambient temperature.
Ensure the birds have the minimum recommended space: four square feet inside the coop and five to ten square feet outside. Sufficient nesting boxes with clean, dry bedding should always be available for the resident population; good animal husbandry is essential.
Hens should be able to exhibit a range of natural behaviours. Enrichment products and well-designed coop fittings ensure a normal lifestyle. Know your flock. If the current pecking order isn't working, remove the troublemakers.
Laying hens rely on a balanced diet that meets all of their nutritional needs. Adding supplements or too many treat foods removes their focus from a carefully calculated feed, impacting egg production due to a lack of the correct nutrients.
Did you know that layers need 38 nutrients to remain healthy and capable of producing eggs? One of the most essential is calcium; laying hens need four grams of calcium daily. They also need 20 grams of protein a day.
Layers need around 90% of their daily intake for a complete and nutritionally balanced feed. The moral is that whilst scraps, treat foods, and variety are important, they mustn't dilute the hens' core diet.
Changing feed can cause a drop in egg production – the moral here is to always read the label!
During the moulting period, switching to a proprietary feed that's higher in protein can help birds return more quickly to laying. Just remember to swap back afterwards.
Nutrition doesn't just help birds lay; it also impacts the quality of the eggs. The correct feed produces eggs with rich yellow yolks and strong shells.
Access to Water
It's easy to overlook something as simple as clean, fresh water, but if hens don't have an uninterrupted supply of drinking water, then it affects their egg production.
Breed of Bird
Some breeds, like the popular Buff Orpingtons, are prolific layers with an output of more than 200 eggs per year if well-kept. Other breeds like Pekin Bantams lay less than half this - plus, their eggs are smaller. They also quickly go broody.
Poor Flock Routine
Chickens love routine; change the coop or add in new birds, and that'll have an impact.
Sometimes, change is unavoidable, but it's essential to understand how this affects egg-laying. If you can, try to confine changes to the winter period when the birds aren't laying.
The moulting season happens in the autumn and usually tallies with a drop-off in egg production.
Moulting marks the end of the laying period for that year. It's a natural and annual process that results in the shedding and regrowth of feathers and lasts for two to four months, depending on the individual bird. Egg production will resume once the bird has new feathers.
Broody hens stop laying because they want to hatch their own chicks, so a broody hen is a hen that wants to sit on the eggs for three weeks. During this time, that bird just won't lay.
It's easy to spot a broody hen. Broody hens are territorial over their nests and can sometimes become aggressive if you try to move them off the eggs. Take their eggs, and they’ll find others to sit on.
Low or no egg production can indicate that your chickens are ill, particularly if it's sudden.
Cold or respiratory infections are pretty visible and easy to spot; a bird with a cold must be isolated from the flock, or they'll all catch it.
Parasites for hens are nothing trivial and cause stress and agitation - not conducive to good laying. Scrupulous coop hygiene is critical, so act swiftly if you notice parasites, Otherwise, they'll likely spread to all the other birds.
Good flock and coop care minimises the risk of fowl diseases, but some serious illnesses, like Marek's Disease, caused by the herpes virus, affect even the best cared-for flocks.
Good biosecurity is essential to poultry health. Some diseases like Avian Flu are notifiable.
As laying hens age, their productivity naturally slows down. Peak egg production is usually in the first year of laying, with an average of 250-280 eggs, and this number gradually declines over subsequent years.
What To Do When Your Chickens Stop Laying Eggs
The key to good egg production and knowing what to do if egg numbers slow or stop is good flock husbandry. Successful chicken keepers understand what their birds need to be happy, healthy, and productive layers.
Of course, some chickens reduce production or stop laying altogether because they are just ageing, and that's natural.
Environmental factors like Avian Flu, which meant birds had to be housed indoors 24/7, causing stress and lower production, are easy to quantify but harder to fix.
Optimal health and welfare are things you can control, and this keeps egg production on target. It also makes it much easier to spot when something is wrong, and why, so you're not left scratching your head!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Encourage My Chickens To Lay Eggs?
Ensure your chickens have a secure environment that meets all their needs, with optimal nutrition and clean, fresh water. Only 10% of their diet should consist of scraps or treats.
Choosing suitable breeds, keeping a good settle routine, and knowing how to spot and treat disease are critical factors for layers.
What Can I Feed My Chickens To Make Them Lay Eggs?
Layers should be fed a proprietary, branded feed designed for egg production with all the nutrients required to optimise the birds' health and good, strong eggs with rich yellow yolks.
Keep scraps and treats to at most 10% of the offering; otherwise, it'll distract the birds from eating the correct food.
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Happy and healthy birds will lay lots of eggs, so become the best chicken keeper and focus on providing your hens with an optimal environment for their needs with correct nutrition and enrichment for a natural lifestyle.
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