What to do when your Chickens don't Lay Eggs

What to do when your Chickens don’t Lay Eggs

We keep chicken for eggs and meat. One in a while, the egg supply drops. Chickens stop or reduce their rate of laying. 

We get worried about why we are not having enough eggs for breakfast. The kids keep asking for eggs. You tell them that there are no eggs. They respond by telling them to check in the chicken coop. You tell them there is none. Talk of being a letdown. You wish you could do something to get them chickens laying eggs.

The good news is that there is something you can do to get your chickens laying again. This is limited to the reasons your chickens are not laying eggs. In some situations, the only thing you can do is replace them.  

Let us look at why chickens stop laying eggs.

Why chickens will stop laying eggs

Chickens will stop laying for a myriad of reasons. Some reasons like age and molting seasons are natural. There is little that can be done to mitigate them. Other reasons that chickens may stop laying have solutions and remedial measures can be taken to get your chickens laying again. 

The reasons that chickens will stop laying include:-

  • Molting season
  • Reduced light hours
  • Stress due to lack of enough space and nesting boxes
  • Parasites
  • Diseases
  • Old age
  • Poor nutrition

What to do when chickens stop laying eggs

The good news is that some of the reasons for chickens not laying eggs can be dealt with. The best course of action is anticipating the issues and providing mitigation measures in good time. 

Provide enough space

Chickens need enough space for them to be able to lay eggs. When they are cramped up in a small space, chickens experience high levels of stress. This makes their bodies slow down the process of developing eggs. Remember that egg-laying is a process of reproduction. Chickens and other animals, by instinct, do not want to bring forth their offsprings into the stressful environments, 

Coop and run space for laying hens

Laying chickens need 2 to 3 square feet of floor space in the coop and 8 to 10 feet of space per chicken in the chicken run. The more space the better. Enough space gives the chicken enough room to feel fulfilled and ward off stress. 

Size of nesting boxes for laying hens

Laying hens not only need enough floor space, but also nesting boxes. The boxes should be 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches. Though the size of nesting boxes depends on the size of the chicken breed, 12 by 12 by 12 is a good size for most chickens. They will have enough room to lay eggs and not feel squeezed. 

Number of nesting boxes required for laying hens

Laying boxes for chickens should not only be of an appropriate size but also should be enough for your chickens. Experts recommend 1 box for every 4 chickens.

Chickens will be stressed if the nesting boxes are not enough. They will also squeeze in the available nests. This can lead to broken eggs. And chickens love eating broken eggs, leaving no signs that there were eggs. It is very hard to break the egg-eating habits once it takes root in your flock.

Chicken in an improvised basket nest

Check for parasites

Parasites are organisms that live off other creatures. Most chicken parasites feed off chickens by sucking their blood. The most common chicken parasites are mites and lice. They will attach themselves to the chicken’s body and suck their blood. They will not only live off the chickens but will lay eggs and reproduce very quickly. 

A chicken that is overrun by lice or mites will not only suffer stress and discomfort but also will get anemia. The hen will be weak and will completely stop laying eggs as her body tries to deal with the damage being caused by the parasites. 

It is advisable to check for pests now and then. A practice I call management by observation. I stand in the coop for 10-15 minutes each day and observe if the chickens are eating, walking, or interacting as they usually do.

If I suspect that they might be facing an issue, I investigate further. Once in a while, I will lift one chicken and do closer observations, including running my finger through her feathers. This is a good way to detect any parasites early enough before they overrun the coop. 

Provide enough light

Light, whether artificial or natural, is imperative in egg production. Light stimulates chickens to start producing eggs. The more hours of light, the better. 

During fall and winter as the number of light hours decreases, so does egg production in chickens. Providing supplemental lighting in the coop will keep your chickens laying. A 9-watt fluorescent light with a timer will provide enough light for your chickens. The timer should be set to turn on the light early in the morning. This will provide the needed 14 to 15 hours of light needed for chickens to lay eggs at optimum levels. 

Some poultry keepers prefer to let nature takes its course during the fall and winter seasons. This means they will do without enough eggs. The reasoning behind this is that it will give the chickens time to rest and molt. This break eventually increases the productive lifetime of hens. 

Help the chickens molt. 

As winter kicks in, the length of days decreases. This triggers a process known as molting in adult chickens. Molting is the process where chickens drop all feathers and new ones grow. This is a process of regenerating their protective outer covering. 

During molting, chickens will stop laying completely. No eggs at all. This is because their energy and nutrition switch from developing eggs to growing feathers. Molting is a natural process and there is no way of stopping it. However, there are ways to help birds deal well with molting. 

Feeding birds with feed that is high in protein will help through the molting process. It will speed up the development of feathers. Feathers are 85% protein. Increasing the protein percentage in the chicken feed will help in the growth of the new feathers. The feed should have at least 16% protein. The higher the better. Be sure to reduce the amount of scratch as it dilutes the protein intake. Chickens can only take about 5 ounces of feed per day. If they have too much scratch, they will not take in enough protein. 

During molting, water and feed should be freely available. This helps chickens replenish the energy and protein that is needed to grow the new feathers.

Check for diseases.

Diseases can cause your chickens to stop laying. This is because the chicken’s system focuses on fighting the disease and not egg production. The diseases also weaken the chicken. 

If your hens are not laying, check for any signs of sickness. Signs of sickness in chickens include drooped wings, feather loss, general inactivity, discharges, abnormal droppings, dull and/or closed eyes, ruffled feathers, lying down. Some of these signs are not necessarily signs of sickness but will help you decide if the chickens are sick. Dropped wings might mean it is hot and loss of feathers might be molting. 

When you reach the conclusion that the chickens are sick, you will need to take remedial action quickly. This includes isolating the sick birds so as to stop the spread of the disease. After isolation, you will need to give the appropriate medication and monitor the chicken until it is cured. 

Keep the chickens happy. 

Stressed-out chickens will not lay well. This is because their bodies are not comfortable enough to produce eggs.

Stress in chickens can be caused by environmental issues or threats. Chickens can be stressed when it is too hot or too windy. Predator attacks can also cause stress in chickens. Domestic animals like dogs that chase the chickens and bark at them can be another source of stress. 

If you notice that your chickens are not laying as they should, check if they anything that is making them uncomfortable. Dealing with the causes of stress will get your chickens back to laying at optimal levels in no time. 

Give it time.

Sometimes chickens will stop laying with any identifiable cause. If this happens, just give them time and see if they will get back to laying.  

Cull.

Culling chickens that are not laying is the action of last resort. This is when you have tried everything to get your chickens to lay eggs and failed. Most of the time this will be due to old age. 

This includes identifying the chickens that are not laying and removing them from the clock.

Culling should be done humanely, making sure that the chickens do not suffer for long. 

Final thoughts. 

While going without eggs can be an inconvenience, there is a lot you can do to get your chickens laying again. Getting them to lay again includes dealing with internal and external threats. Be patient with chickens as they go through some tough stuff sometimes. 

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About James

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard

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