Why No Eggs?

by Patricia
(Baird, TX, Callhan USA)

I have a mixed flock...mixed ages: 3 hens - 2 to 2 plus yrs, 9 hens - 8 months old and 6 young hens 5 months old.

No fences 8 acres free range and coop is built on a cotton trailer bed. 12 nesting boxes, hay on the floor in winter and shaving in summer.
My egg layers did fair until summer and the quit laying. zero eggs. I blamed it on the heat. As the weather cooled down I said my older hens were molting...It is now 30 to 60 degree weather. My newbies are beginning to lay (the eggs are small). Most of the time I get one to two eggs but my older hens are still not laying, not even the 8 month olds. The oldest hens' feathers have been restored except for one that has almost no feathers at all.
I de-wormed them with DE and pumpkin seeds and dusted them and coop with DE. Some of my chickens have diarrhea...could that be from the de-worming?
Can you tell me what I need to do to get them to lay again.

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Why No Eggs?
by: Sharon

Thanks for the question. Wondering if you also got no eggs from these hens last Winter, which breeds you have & if you are sure no predators are getting in and stealing eggs?

Molting is normal this time of year. There are hard molts, like your one hasn't quite recovered from yet, and a more common molt that can go unnoticed except for feathers on the ground. During either molt hens are growing in new feathers, and must do it quickly to keep warm in the coldest months. It would be highly unusual for any chicken living outdoors NOT to be molting this time of year.

I had one hen slow to regrow her feathers, when all the others grew them in fast a few years ago. Her entire back was bare while temps got colder and colder. I was so concerned for her that I bought her a little fleece lined jacket to keep warm. She survived the Winter. When Spring arrived I removed the jacket, she still hadn't grown her feathers in, but soon did in the warming Spring temps.

As you might imagine, growing in new feathers makes a demand on the hens, beyond other times of year. I like to supplement my flock during the molt with more protein & good fat in their diet. Feathers are nearly pure protein. Good fat helps keep skin supple and helps new feathers emerge. I like to give HI-Protein feed & give whole raw black oil sunflower or safflower seeds. Hens with any dietary deficiencies may lay little or stop all together.

The other factor that works against good egg production this time of year is fewer hours of daylight. Since laying eggs is part of a hen's reproductive cycle, it's common for many hens to stop laying eggs in the Fall. Trying to incubate, hatch & raise chicks during the coldest time of year would be difficult. This type of laying cycle - taking a break - is common in most breeds of chickens during the molt & short days (times when their bodies are experiencing other demands, like growing feathers & keeping warm).

Production Breeds like Production Reds, Golden Comets and others, have been genetically engineered to bypass some of their reproductive cycles & instincts, in order to lay all year. These breeds are designed for early maturity and a highly productive, but short lives; about 2 years. These breeds often don't go broody or show maternal instincts. These breeds are most common in feed stores with they sell chicks in the Spring.

To get egg production going again I would recommend leaving the coop light on all night for a couple of nights. Following that I would recommend setting the light up on a timer. Allow for 8 hours of darkness, once they have all gone to roost & sun is down, and have the light come on early in the morning. To prevent taxing their bodies too much I would also supplement their diets as mentioned above.

If your hens are young enough, healthy enough and not laid-out already, you should get eggs soon. When choosing the right breeds of chickens for your needs, when you're ready for replacements, research the best layers for your needs & try to buy locally raised chicks or pullets.

Many breeds vary in egg laying cycles & longevity, as well as being better suited for certain climates.

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