Hens not laying and you’re not sure why? I have several reasons that your girls may have slowed or stopped laying. I know it can be frustrating, especially if you have a small backyard flock and count on every egg for your home. But it may be a simple solution to get your production back on track.
Hens Not Laying Reason #1 – Low Light
As the seasons change and days are shorter, the hens receive less light themselves. This decreased light naturally decreases egg production as well. You will find there is a great divide in the debate of supplemental lighting to keep egg production up. I personal feel that the reduction is a natural process that allows a hen some respite from the work of laying eggs; I do not supplement light at all. However others feel that offering hens a little extra light in the evenings keeps their flock productive; because an unproductive flock isn’t worth keeping. I’ll leave it to you to decide what camp you reside in. And keep in mind that a change in weather can effect their laying as well.
Hens Not Laying Reason #2 – Diet
If your hens have stopped laying it may be a good time to evaluate your feed and supplements. First, are they getting enough fresh food and clean water? Any drop in the amount of necessary food and good water can disrupt their laying or stop it entirely. Next make sure the food and supplements you offer are giving them the proper nutrition. You should be offering your girls a good quality layer feed, preferably organic. Be careful that you are not offering too many “treats” that will discourage them from eating their feed or foraging for quality supplements like greens, bugs, etc.
Hens Not Laying Reason #3 – Molting
I never feel worse for my poor girls than during a molt. They look like, as my dad used to say, that they’ve been rode hard and put up wet. Molting is perfectly normal; it is simply a shedding of old feathers and growing new ones. It takes a lot out of your girls to replace those feathers and they may completely quit laying during that time; but fear not, they’ll quickly start up again once they’re through it. I like to offer a little extra protein during a molt – 6 Ways to Give Molting Hens a Protein Boost.
Hens Not Laying Reason #4 – Gone Broody
When your hen/s think they are ready to hatch some chicks they may “go broody”. They may stop laying to sit on a clutch of eggs in their nest. Some breeds are just more prone to broodiness than others. I haven’t had to take a lot of measures to break a broody hen; usually just removing the eggs she’s sitting on will do it. To help prevent this be sure you are collecting your eggs daily and not allowing them to collect in any nests. Some girls are just going not need a little time to get passed their biological clock ticking.
Hens Not Laying Reason #5 – Getting Older
Your laying hens greatest production time will be from about 9 months (6 in some breeds) until they are about 2 years old. They won’t necessarily stop laying at 2 years old but they’ll probably slow down. Chickens can lay for 5, 6 or even 7 years; I have read that hens have lived and laid past they age of 7 but it won’t be much. In larger flocks it is really hard to tell who is laying and who isn’t so many are tagged and euthanized when they hit 2 years. In a small backyard flock you may know exactly who lays which egg; you’ll have to decide if keeping an older, less productive, hen is possible with your limited space.
Hens Not Laying Reason #6 – Pests and Disease
Lice and mites are among the most common pests that chickens face; and if the infestation is bad enough it will certainly keep her from laying regularly. Prevention is best but be sure to check your chickens often and treat naturally. Check out Fresh Eggs Daily for great tips on preventing and treating chicken pests.
There are several illnesses that can also cause your hens to stop laying. Be sure to look for signs of unhealthy hens:
- Not laying (you probably guessed that)
- Abnormal poo
- Coughing (or other weird noises)
- Quits eating and/or drinking
- Unable to stand on her own
I didn’t include this as a reason but sometimes your hens will simply get stressed out and take a break. If you’ve made a lot of changes to their yard/coop/flock or predators have been around, they may stop laying until things normalize for them.
Take good care of your laying hens and they’ll lay eggs, keep your bugs away and even help you in the garden!