Why Are My Chickens Not Laying?

by lance schellpeper

I have 7 hens they were laying every day they are eating laying mash but one day they all just stopped laying at the same time so I thought molting after a week I got two more and they were laying for three days and they stopped at the same time to it has been two months now and nothing they are healthy and in a safe yard with a large hen house we even give them special food to promote egg laying but nothing helps this is really strange they were laying for months before this and are still young

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Why Chickens Stop Laying
by: Sharon

Hi Lance, thanks for the question.

Mine aren't really laying either. From 5 hens I'm getting one egg every day or 3. This is very normal for this time of year, depending on the breed(s) of your hens. In the months since my hens began molting I've gone from having to give eggs away, to buying a dozen the other day. (And they are still going through an expensive bag of Organic Layer Feed each month.)

You've already addressed most of the issues that can shut down laying for a while. The only reason left is that this is part of a normal laying cycle for many breeds of chicken.

In over 2 thousand years of domestication, selective breeding, even "genetic engineering" - a more modern term, the Chicken has been taken from a wild creature with hens laying 6 - 12 eggs per year, to some breeds (Production Breeds) able to lay an egg every 30 hours pretty consistently for a couple of years.

Most chicken breeds have their basic instincts and reproductive cycles still mapped out in their DNA. This includes brooding a clutch of eggs to hatching & caring for their young. This also includes other reproductive cycles, which will respond to varying hours of daylight through the year.

Hens that go "broody", choosing to stay in the nest all day even after eggs removed, are in one of those natural cycles. With eggs needing to be incubated for 21 days, it's only natural a hen would stop laying, once she has produced a "clutch". She generally eats less and can go into what looks like a trance. Some broody hens never leave their nest for days or weeks. We can interrupt this natural cycle by taking the eggs and encouraging broody hens to leave the nest.

The next factor: number of daylight hours. This reaches it's peak in Summer, and it lowest in Winter. Lack of light can signal the brain chemistry of hens to take a break from laying. (Production Breeds have become less and less sensitive to this signal, so are able to keep laying all year.)

The fact is that each hen has hatched with a similar number of potential eggs in her ovaries. If she lays an egg every 30 hours, she will run out of potential eggs in about 2 years. If she takes a break now and then, her productive life will continue longer, but with fewer eggs per year.

So, you have a choice. You can allow your hens to go through their natural laying cycles, or you can trick their brains into laying again - by use of artificial lighting. If you choose artificial lighting, I recommend a full spectrum CFL bulb & a timer. They are cost effective, easy to purchase and set up. For the first two days, I'd suggest leaving the light on all night - providing food and water.

Hens need 8 hours of sleep in the dark. After the two lighted nights, which will unlock this no laying cycle, the light should come on early in the morning, after 8 hours of natural darkness. You should begin to get eggs again very soon. (Always make sure you provide food and water during artificial or natural "daylight" hours to help prevent boredom behaviors.)

Realize that by using artificial lighting during the Fall & Winter, you will need to replace your hens sooner, but you will get more eggs per year/bag of feed. When you need to replace them will be pretty obvious - hardly any eggs or none - even with lighting or in Spring and Summer. I'd suggest a little research into the breed(s) you have so you know their life expectancy & normal egg production.

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