About 6 months ago I wrote a post regarding signs of elderly chickens. And in it I explained, on average, how long chickens can live. In addition, I described the physical features and habits of aging birds, including egg laying changes. However, what do you do when chickens stop laying eggs?
Well, there are many reasons chickens stop laying eggs besides old age. Moreover, you can prevent a lack of eggs from occurring in some of the cases. Though, in cases like aging, you simply cannot. Continue reading to find out both why chickens stop laying eggs, and what to do about it.
Why Chickens Stop Laying Eggs
Some of the reasons hens stop laying eggs include
- shorter days or less sunlight
Hens begin laying when the amount of daylight reaches ~ 14 hours a day in early spring. And maximum egg output occurs when the day length reaches ~ 16 hours a day. Thus, when there’s less sunlight, egg laying will drop off.
When hens molt, rather than using energy for laying eggs, they divert it into regrowing their feathers.
Broody hens will stop laying eggs to set on a clutch of eggs in order to hatch the little peepers for their own.
- cannibalism, ie egg eating
Egg eating or cannibalism isn’t when a chicken will stop laying eggs. However, it is a terrible habit where a chicken, or many chooks will eat the eggs themselves. Thus, you’ll go to collect eggs, and there will be one or none.
- extreme temperatures, hot or cold
Either extreme heat or extreme cold will halt egg production. That’s because chickens will need to conserve their energy in either case.
- health issues
Many health issues, including being egg bound, pests, and parasites can cause hens to stop egg production.
- inadequate nutrition
If chickens aren’t fed a proper diet, or if they don’t have access to clean, fresh water daily, then egg production will decrease. Likewise, if they are given too many treats or supplements, egg production can be negatively affected.
- pasture-raised, ie laying elsewhere or hiding eggs
Sometimes pasture-raised birds lay their eggs elsewhere, other than the coop. However, there are also breeds that are known for hiding their eggs, such as the Ameraucana.
Another major reason hens will stop laying eggs is stress. And that includes stress of any kind: a barking dog or a bullying hen. But adding too many members to the flock suddenly can be just as stressful to your hens.
And the last reason hens will stop laying for a season is predators. If one of your birds is attacked, that particular hen will stop egg output for a season. But if you’re missing eggs in a nest, another predator could be a chicken snake stealing eggs from the nests.
- and of course, age
Production birds only lay eggs for about 3 years. However, heritage breeds and others can lay a lot longer. Most of my flock are Ameraucana, and the older ones are over 6 years old. And they still lay eggs. Though, they don’t lay every day like they used to.
Solutions when Chickens Stop Laying Eggs
If you have hens that stopped laying eggs, you can try
- adding artificial light
Some poultry farmers use artificial light when there’s less than 16 hours available for their hens to lay eggs. But some, like me, don’t. Because we use this period as a time when our birds can recuperate.
- switching to a high-protein feed during their molt
This will help your birds convert their energy into regrowing their feathers.
- breaking the brood
If you don’t want any chicks or a broody hen, break her brood. Either make a broody box or purchase one. But all you do is put the hen in one, in full light, away from the flock for several days. And this should effectively break her broodiness.
- getting pinless peepers for egg eating
There are many tricks offered to stop egg eating. But the only one that truly stopped cannibalism in my flock, without having to kill every bird, was pinless peepers. They’re blinders so the birds can’t see what they’re doing. We left them on for 2 weeks. The birds hated them, but they certainly were reformed!
- keeping your hens comfortable in extreme temps
If the weather is very hot, keep your birds cool by adding ice to their waterers. Plus, you can make them frozen treats, like the one here. And if it’s very cold, make sure to winterize the coop. If you need instructions, see here.
- having good biosecurity and cleaning the coop
Other than an egg-bound hen, most health issues that your flock might encounter can be prevented by good biosecurity and a clean coop. However, if you should have an ill hen, quarantine her and take her to the vet. But if you don’t have one where you live, try to find out what’s ailing your bird. And take appropriate steps to help her and the rest of your flock. One of my favorite sites is backyardchickens. Whenever one of my chooks is ill, I check them out.
- feeding a minimum of 16% protein for laying hens
When hens are ~18 weeks old, they need at least 16% protein layer pellets with increased calcium for shell development. And have a dish of oyster shell available for them as well. In addition, limit treats to only ~ 2 tbsp per day to a hen’s 1/2 cup nutritional requirements. Plus, make sure your birds have access to plenty of clean, fresh water daily.
- keeping hens cooped until done laying
If your birds are pasture-raised, and they hide eggs or lay different places, you could keep them cooped up till they were done laying. Otherwise, look under trees, bushes, in barns, and every out of the way place you can think of. Chickens are good at hiding eggs, so you might get kids to help look.
- taking care of the stressor
Having chickens can be like having children. You wear a lot of hats, which means you do a lot of work. You’re a vet, or at least a vet tech, if you live in the country. And sometimes you are animal control. But you’re also a teacher and a student. So, depending on what stress is disrupting egg production, that will determine how you proceed. You won’t use the same solution for a bullying hen as you would a barking dog. That said, separate a bully from the flock for a few days to knock her down a few pegs from the pecking order. Also, proceed with caution when adding flock members; add them gradually. And see how your flock does.
- making sure your coop and pen are predator proof
The best protection you can offer your flock is by making sure the coop and run are predator proof. That means that no predators of any size can get in anywhere. However, if your birds are pasture raised, the only predators that you still have to contend with are aerial ones.
- and finally, just try loving them until it’s their time to go
A female chick is hatched with thousands of tiny ova, which are undeveloped yolks. So, chicks are hatched with all the eggs they’ll ever have. And the majority of hens slow down with egg laying around 6 or 7 years old. There’s nothing you can do to magically get an old hen to start laying eggs again.
But that doesn’t mean she’s useless. Far from it. If you only have older hens, invest in a couple of younger ones. And the senior hens will pass on much wisdom to the younger hens. Plus, older gals are great at weed eating and bug patrol. Furthermore, if you want chicks, and one goes broody, they can be great mothers. That’s because broody hens do a better job than we do at raising chicks.
Aside from keeping senior birds, you can slaughter them. Or you can try to find another farmer or homesteader who will take them from you.
What We do when Chickens Stop Laying Eggs
We saw that chickens can stop laying eggs due to stress, old age, heat and cold, and malnutrition. But illness, broodiness, molting, winter, and predator attacks can also cause hens to stop laying eggs. And cannibalism and snakes can cause eggs to disappear. In addition, there are many different solutions to keep your chickens producing eggs year-long.
We’ve got about 14 or 15 hens who are just over 6 years old. And the boss, Megatron, is ~ 6 years old. He’s the only one who walks with a limp, and has a hard time keeping up with his girls. But that has more to do with his fights with Baby Nay than actual old age. However, I guess those fights did age him.
We keep our birds even when they stop laying eggs at our place. Because they’ve all earned their position just simply by being there. So I guess it’s simply grace and love.
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