Chickens are sensitive creatures.
While it’s amazing to have a small egg-producing flock in your backyard, there are several very natural reasons why chickens (hens) stop laying eggs, at least for a while.
The good news is that most times, they start laying again soon. Here are the most common causes.
1. Weather Extremes
I live in North Florida where the summers are brutal. Every August my hens stop laying eggs. The heat is just too much and most of their energy goes to surviving it. Same with cold. If your flock slows or stops laying, check the recent weather.
Don’t worry, this usually works itself out when the weather moderates.
2. Shorter Daylight Hours
This is related to weather. On short winter days, chickens will slow or stop laying. Adding a light to their coop and keeping it lit a couple hours in the evening can help with egg production.
Most chickens molt once a year. It’s creepy to watch but perfectly natural. However, hens will not lay during a molt. Their body needs all the nutrients it can get to generate new feathers.
Btw, here’s an article about molting in case you need it.
4. Poor (Or Improper) Nutrition
Not all chicken feed is the same. There are different mixes of protein, minerals, fats, and nutrients depending on what you want for your flock. Bottom line: wrong mix = no eggs.
Make sure your layers are eating a quality 16% protein layer pellet. Other varieties include chick starter and feed for meat birds. We like the Nutrena brand (no, they don’t pay me, but I wish they would. Pass the word).
5. Trauma or Shock
If your birds have had a recent scare or attack—a hawk is menacing them or a raccoon killed one of them—they will typically stop laying for a while. Again, they usually pick back up a few days after the incident.
Sick hens won’t lay. Most disease in a small backyard flock can be prevented by purchasing vaccinated chicks from a reputable supplier (Murray McMurray is our favorite), giving them quality food and clean water, and providing plenty of open space.
Treat the disease and she may start laying again. I say “may” because chickens are pretty fragile when it comes to sickness. Many times they simply don’t recover. Doesn’t mean they won’t though. Fingers crossed.
This is the only one you can’t fix. A hen’s prime time for laying are her second and third years. After that, her eggs will get progressively smaller until she stops laying altogether.
Some folks butcher their hens after they stop laying, but we don’t. Our girls are free to convalesce into their twilight years.
If you are serious about having a reliably-laying flock, buy sturdy egg-laying breeds from good dealers and you should be fine for the most part.
We prefer Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds.
Questions? Feel free to message me through the HomeDabbler Facebook Page.