If you’ve been around any chicken communities, you’ve probably heard it asked time and time again. And maybe you’ve asked it yourself. Why did my chickens stop laying eggs? There are a few reasons why chickens stop laying eggs. But it’s so frustrating!
You take good care of your chickens. You probably spent hundreds on their chicken coop and run. And you spend countless dollars on providing them with the best feed possible. But yet, you get nothing in return.
Checking the nesting boxes leaves you empty-handed. You cuss and whine about it. The hubby complains about your chickens not pulling their weight. And yet, no matter what you do, your chickens just aren’t laying the eggs that you expect out of them.
Well, let’s try to fix that! Today I’m talking about why chickens stop laying eggs, and ways you can try to correct it.
Poor or unhealthy diet
If your hens have poor nutrition, you will find that they will likely stop laying eggs. On the other hand, if your hens are overweight, you’ll have the same problem.
Make sure you aren’t overfeeding or underfeeding your chickens. A rough estimate for a standard sized chicken is 1/4 pound per day of food. This can include commercial layer feed, dried corn, kitchen scraps, or even whole grains. Keep in mind that if you don’t use commercial layer feed, your hens could get a nutritional imbalance and you’ll be right back at square one.
Scratch, mealworms, and corn should only be treats, and never be used as a complete diet for your birds. Chickens need a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals, and vitamins to meet their dietary needs. These treats don’t supply those.
Don’t overfeed your egg layers, but ensure that the food you buy for them meets these requirements: 16-18% protein, 3% fat, 3% fiber, and 3.5% calcium. You can even make your own chicken feed, just make sure it has around these percentages. Adding herbs like nettle, comfrey, clover, or alfalfa to your birds’ diet can also give them a healthy, nutrient-rich boost.
Stress is another common cause for chickens to stop laying eggs. When I first got chickens, I bought a little coop that came with 4 chickens. The lady assured me that the chickens were great layers. Well, I got them home…and patiently (or maybe impatiently?) waited for them to start giving me eggs. These chickens took almost a month before they laid eggs!
So I, like you, searched for answers….why are my chickens not laying eggs?
What I found is that a stressed chicken won’t lay eggs. So the stress from moving these birds knocked them off their rhythm for a whole month.
I have confirmed this several times over with my birds. We have had skunks burrow their way into the coop a few times. They didn’t kill any chickens, just ate the eggs. Well, that stresses them out and throws them off their curve. If I get tired of the daily “Easter Egg hunts” and confine them to the run instead of letting them free range, it stresses them out. So no eggs for awhile again. Maybe my girls are moody?
You will probably never have control over every little thing that can stress a chicken out. But, there are some things that you can do to help minimize stress in your chickens.
One major one is protecting against chicken predators. Even if the predator doesn’t kill your chickens, its presence in and around the coop WILL stress them out. Make sure that nothing can dig under, or climb or fly into, the chicken coop or run.
Make changes gradually if at all possible. Introducing new chickens can be a big stressor, so always allow a safe introduction time.
Herbs can also be added to reduce stress on your chickens, just like it can with us. Lavender, lemon balm, and mint are excellent to put in nesting boxes for their calming, soothing scent. And if they eat the herbs, they get bonus points in their diet.
Each year, usually in the fall, chickens go through a period of time known as molt. It is when the chicken’s older feathers fall out and are replaced with new ones. Molt makes your chickens look sickly and unhealthy, but it’s a totally natural process.
During molt, your chickens need additional nutrients, especially protein. Most of their energy goes into making those new feathers. In turn, they will usually stop laying eggs while they are molting.
The entire process of molt can last anywhere from 8-16 weeks. Luckily, there are a couple of ways to get around the egglessness of molt.
The first way is to get new chicks every spring. Chickens don’t usually molt until they are about a year and a half old. So, getting new ones every spring helps ensure that the new hens start really laying before the older ones go into their molt.
You can also speed up the molting process by enhancing their diet. Switch to a feed that has 20% protein, and maybe even some probiotics. I personally give my molting chickens some dry cat food, it has very high protein and helps them grow their feathers in faster. Other good treats to raise their protein levels are canned tuna, sardines, and black oil sunflower seeds.
Just don’t add these high-protein snacks in excess for too long, it’s hard on their livers and will result in fat birds (who also won’t lay eggs).
Parasites or sickness
One thing that will derail your chickens’ laying quicker than a penny on the track is parasites and sickness. If you are getting fewer and fewer eggs, check each chicken individually. Look on their bellies, near the vent, and under the wings for chicken lice or mites. Check their eyes and nose for discharge. Make sure their legs are colored properly and not scaley. And don’t forget to inspect their poop!
Unfortunately, our feathered friends are very good at hiding illnesses until it’s nearly too late. But if you pay attention to their egg laying, it may alert you to an underlying problem more quickly. If there’s an issue, treat it as soon as possible. Ensuring your birds are healthy and parasite-free will help your egg numbers go back up quickly.
Not enough light
Lack of light is one of the biggest reasons why chickens stop laying eggs. Chickens need at least 14 hours of light every day in order to lay eggs. So, in the winter time, when daylight hours drop to 9 hours at times, it makes sense that they will slow down on laying, or stop laying altogether.
There are a few things you can do to keep your chickens laying in winter, but the biggest one is providing artificial light.
A lot of chicken keepers, who need their chickens to lay eggs, put artificial light in the coop. This can be done with a standard 60-watt light bulb and a timer. It’s best to add the light in the morning, as early as 4 am, to allow the chickens to wake up to the light. If need be, you can set the timer to turn off the light later in the evening as well, but this sometimes confuses the chickens when the light goes off suddenly.
Not all chicken keepers give their chickens artificial light in the winter. They feel like their chickens deserve a break from laying, and they allow them to take that break. Neither way is wrong, it’s just a matter of personal preference.
If you have just one or two chickens that aren’t laying any more, they could be broody. For a chicken, being broody means they want to be a mom. They will gather up as many eggs as they can (yes, even other chickens’ eggs), and will sit on them for 21 days to try to get them to hatch. While they are broody, they don’t lay eggs. They don’t do anything except sit on the nest, turning the eggs several times a day.
To see if your hen is broody, go peek at her in the nest. She will immediately puff up her feathers, and usually start squawking at you. If you try to touch her, she may even try to peck at you.
If you have a rooster in the flock, she may very well be able to hatch out more babies for you. However, if you don’t have a rooster, she will just be a frustrated bird, continuously wanting to be a mom and not being able to. And it isn’t very healthy for hens to be broody. They rarely drink or eat, so they get very skinny. And they are very susceptible to lice and mites, since they are laying in their bedding constantly. Normally, you will either want to allow them to hatch some babies, or break them of their broodiness.
If you do have a rooster and the eggs could be fertilized, just leave some for her to raise. I find it helpful to mark the ones you are leaving for her with an X, because she may very well continuously steal other hens’ eggs. Provide food and water for her in the nest, and let her do her thing.
If you don’t have a rooster, you might want to buy some fertilized eggs from a fellow chicken keeper. Or, if she has already sat on eggs for about 3 weeks, you may be able to buy some day old chicks to sneak under her at night. She will most likely take them as her own.
On the other hand, if you want to break your hen from being broody, you need to lower her core temperature. Most of the time, this helps to turn off their biological clock. Try putting the broody hen in a wire cage, without the soft, fluffy bedding. She won’t be able to snuggle into the bedding and keep her core warm. Doing this for a week or so will usually break her of the broodiness.
Chickens stop laying eggs when they get old. Unfortunately, most chickens are considered “old” when they are just 2 years old. While chickens can live to the ripe old age of 10 years old, their reproductive system doesn’t last long enough to allow them to lay past about 2.
If you are dealing with a drop in egg production due to the age of your chickens, consider getting new chicks each spring. Unfortunately, if you do this, and just keep your old hens, you will end up with way more chickens than you planned on. And I don’t know about you, but I just can’t keep feeding animals that don’t provide for me. It may seem harsh, but it’s the reality of life on a farm.
If you get new chicks each spring to replace your old ones, consider giving your old hens away. Or, if you’re up for it, butcher them to provide a tasty meal for your family. Older hens are notoriously tougher, so you may want to pressure cook, or can the meat. The choice is up to you, and what your reality is.
Have your chickens stopped laying eggs?
So, have your chickens stopped laying eggs? I hope I’ve given you some of the main causes, so you can do something about it. If you’ve found this information valuable, would you consider sharing it?