Do you own a great flock of hens only to be disappointed with their inability to give you eggs? We understand completely. Our first three flocks of chickens never aged properly as raccoons and opossums stole them right out from under us. Once we fortified our coop to withstand predators, we focused on getting eggs.
Our short-term goal to feed our whole family turned into our long-term goal to never run out of eggs & that meant discovering why our chickens not laying eggs.
Ideally, we wanted 12 birds in their first-year of laying, 12 second-year layers and 12 third-year layers. Most hens slow down or stop laying in their fourth year and there after. Having birds in all stages gives us a solid rotation of laying birds with one flock always in their first year. Once the birds quit laying they either become harvested for meat or become broody birds for hatching more chicks.
As you have birds of your own, you’ll learn the signs of a laying hen. But what if your chickens not laying eggs? How do you discover what is wrong and help them?
Many variables must come together properly for a chicken to lay an egg.
While it’s not rocket science if anyone of these needs isn’t being met it is likely you won’t have any eggs. No one wants a bunch of freeloaders because birds are an investment and we all want a return on our investments. Even in the form of eggs! You’ve worked so hard to give your birds the proper feed, adequate water, and the sunshine to ensure they will not be freeloaders, yet they don’t produce.
Here are 9 reasons why your chickens not laying eggs.
- Protein: Birds need a good amount of protein to lay eggs. A good laying feed will have approximately 15% protein. A better laying feed will have around 20-22% protein. Check your feed bag and see how much protein your birds are getting. You can always supplement with meat scraps, scrambled eggs, or meal worms.
- Calcium: Birds need calcium to build that hard shell around the eggs. We offer oyster shells to our birds freely. They are kept in a separate container. Your feed will have some calcium in it, but if you want really hard shells, you’ll need to supplement. It’s not uncommon for the first few eggs to be layed without a shell or with a soft shell. This is an indication they need more calcium.
- Sunlight: Birds need vitamin D to lay eggs. If you live in a colder climate or if your run isn’t in the sun, you’ll need to make adjustments. Our birds free range most of the day, so if the sun is out, they sun bathe. Some people do supplement with heat lamps in their coop, but know this can start fires.
- Molting: Every fall birds molt. This is when their feathers fall out and they regrow new ones. When they grow new feathers it takes a lot of protein and energy. They have no reserves left to lay eggs during this period. A full molt will take 6-8 weeks to run its cycle. So prepare yourself to purchase eggs from the store or buy them from a local farmer whose birds are not molting.
- Broodiness: A hen who wants to be a momma will not lay eggs when she is broody. Her energy goes into keeping those eggs warm and rotating them, then caring for chicks. So if you have any hens who are broody, your egg count will be lower until they are no longer broody.
- Illness: A sick bird will not lay eggs. If your hen has previously lain eggs, then stops, it is likely she is sick if all of her other needs are being met. Most chickens are susceptible to respiratory illness, vent gleet (a yeast infection) and worms, which can stunt egg laying. Check your birds over really well and make sure they are fighting infection.
- Stress: Most hens will not lay if they are stressed. Some ways a bird can be stressed is if new birds are being introduced into the flock. This disturbs the pecking order. An aggressive rooster who won’t leave a particular hen alone will cause stress in the coop. Also, if there are too many birds for the space your chickens will be stressed.
- Dietary Changes: Not only do birds need protein, but they need certain percentages of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, just like our bodies. If this ratio is out of whack it can throw off egg production. If you are buying feed, this is not likely the problem. Typically this occurs with homemade feed. So if you’re making your own feed, be sure you research it well and get your ratios right, so the birds will be able to do what God made them to do.
- Growth Rate: A bird will start laying anywhere between the ages of 18-26 weeks. It is likely your bird simply isn’t old enough. They must grow into egg laying. A chicken’s vent must prepare to pass an egg, her pubic bone spreads to accommodate an egg and her combs and wattles will be rich in color and brighten. If your bird does not fit within these age requirements she won’t lay eggs.
Most of these reasons account for no eggs. The best thing to do when searching for answers is to start at the top of the list and work your way down, slowly eliminating each item. Once you make necessary corrections to treat what is wrong, your chicken should resume laying eggs at her normal rate.
Question: Are your chickens showing any signs on this list?