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What do You do When Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

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
trees showing a purple sunset

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.

molting black hen outside near a tree

When hens molt, rather than using energy for laying eggs, they divert it into regrowing their feathers.

person touching black hen on nest with baby chick under her

Broody hens will stop laying eggs to set on a clutch of eggs in order to hatch the little peepers for their own.

cream colored chicken sitting on a dirt floor next to a pet crate
This was Ratchet, who never stopped eating eggs.

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
black and white sketch of a mite
Sketch, Courtesy of Paul Smith

Many health issues, including being egg bound, pests, and parasites can cause hens to stop egg production.

  • inadequate nutrition
gold and brown hen eating a digitally imposed pink sprinkled donut
Artwork superimposed, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

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.

mixed flock of chickens in a yard in the shade

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.

white and black dog outside behind a chain link fence
This is a neighbor’s dog, who ‘played’ with a couple of our chickens.

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
black rooster outside with a digitally superimposed cane
Superimposed Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

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
white LED bulb on yellow background
Photo by Riki Risnandar on

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
empty gray Rubbermaid box
A Rubbermaid box with a screen as a lid, with bedding, water, and food makes a great brooder box.

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.

blue pinless peepers

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
some chickens eat dish of purple food outside on grass

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.

juvenile gold and brown chicken
This juvenile hen had a sour crop that was also masking an impacted crop.

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
bag of chicken feed with a brown chicken on the front

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
nest of white eggs next to a tree outside surrounded by leaves, grass, and dead grass
These eggs are from one of our birds in a neighbor’s yard.

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
different kinds of straw hats
Photo by Davis Arenas on

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
close-up of hardware cloth on chicken coop door and coop run
We added extra hardware cloth to the gap between door and wall of run, so snakes couldn’t get in.

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
close-up of a person holding a brown chicken
This is a very friendly hen that Paul named Butter.

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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Hens raising happy, healthy chickens

How to Stop Chickens From Eating Their Own Eggs

Today’s post is about a terrible habit that can afflict our backyard birds. And one that’s difficult to break, that can also become almost infectious. It’s about egg eating in chickens. And if the birds leave any evidence, it gets all over the place, producing a sticky, dirty mess. We’re also going to come up with how to stop chickens from eating their own eggs. But first we’ll cover why they do it.

Reasons Why Chickens Eat Their Own Eggs

broken brown chicken egg in a nest
Photo by Klaus Nielsen on

So why does it happen? Well, let’s assume for the moment that you’ve done your homework, (which I’ll go over momentarily). And you still wind up with missing eggs or egg-eaters. I think the number one culprit is that an egg will accidentally get broken. And voila! Now there’s both egg shell and yolk on the ground or in the nest. Chickens are naturally curious. They check out the ooey gooeyiness. And once the birds determine that the yellow gold inside is edible, they’re instantly hooked.

Now, how would an egg accidentally break? Because that’s important. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes you can prevent egg breakages.

Ways Eggs Will Break

Eggs can accidentally break due to thin shells, either caused by a hereditary defect or nutritional deficiency. If the chicken eggs are breaking due to thin shells, put out some oyster shell for your birds.

Now I’m going to list other reasons why chickens will eat eggs.

Other Reasons Why Chickens Eat Their Eggs

multi-colored chicken eggs in nest
  • Not collecting eggs enough times during the day. If you’re experiencing egg-eating with your chickens, collect their eggs more often throughout the day. The longer the eggs sit outside with the birds, the more opportunity the birds will have to peck and possibly eat them.
  • Not enough nesting boxes. Ideally, provide 1 nesting box per 4 hens. Because, if there aren’t enough boxes, the hens will crowd into the same box, and break eggs.
  • Provide plenty of soft nesting material in the nesting boxes. If the material is squished down and flattened, the eggs could get broken. So make sure to change nesting material as needed.
  • Make sure the coop is dark where the birds lay eggs, because hens prefer laying in the dark. So, to discourage non-laying actions in the coop, organize nesting boxes along the inner-most wall, where it’s darkest. You can also add curtains to nesting boxes. And remove artificial light, if you have it.
  • Feeding eggs and eggshells. There are many sources that say you can give your birds eggshells. However, if you do that, make sure the eggshells are ground up. Because birds have good and long memories. And if you don’t, they’ll figure out where you got the eggshells from. If you feed your birds eggs, cook them first, so it doesn’t resemble what’s in a broken egg.
  • Dehydration is another possible cause of egg eating. The thought is that if a chicken is dehydrated, it will get what it needs from the eggs. So be certain to provide fresh, clean water daily.

Now that I’ve covered the reasons why they do what they do, I’ll go over how to stop chickens from eating their own eggs.

How To Stop Chickens From Eating Their Own Eggs

You might have done all of the above suggestions. And still you have egg eaters. I have read recommendations for culling the egg-eating hen. What do you do if you have several birds that are eating eggs? Even after you’ve done the above suggestions? Do you kill all of the egg eaters?

Some people recommend trimming their beaks. And if you have a steady hand, that might be a good idea.

But when we had several hens eating eggs, even after we started collecting eggs more often, I didn’t want to get rid of all of the hens I loved. They would lay an egg, and then eat it. So I found Pinless Peepers. I’ve mentioned them before. They act as blinders, and they prevent bullying and cannibalism. And egg eating.

Therefore, I ordered them. And once they arrived, we caught the chickens, and put them on their beaks. It wasn’t easy. And the birds absolutely didn’t like them. Most, if not all, of the hens had one on. I think my rooster was the only chicken not sporting a Pinless Peeper. Because he was the only one who wasn’t eating eggs.

It didn’t take long for those blinders to do their work. All of the hens hated them so much and wanted them off so badly. I think we left them on for 2 weeks. But when we removed them, each bird was a new convert.

After using the Pinless Peepers, we ended up having only 2 unreformed egg eaters. One hen of which we gave away to someone who had a lonely rooster. And the other hen died, but not directly as a result of us. Although, we had discussed it.

Thanks for reading this post. Have you ever had a chicken eat eggs before? If so, what did you try?