If you’ve noticed a decline or complete stop in egg production, or maybe your chicken hasn’t started laying, it can be confusing and concerning. There are many reasons your chicken isn’t laying eggs, and it‘s usually easy to identify the cause.
A good sign of a pullet approaching lay is the colour of her comb. If her comb turns a bright red colour she’s ready. The reason for the colour change is to show the rooster that she is ready to start laying fertile eggs. Her pelvis will be wider and if you look at her vent it will be moist and pink.
There is also a simple test you can do to check if your hen is laying/ready. Hold the hen firmly and turn her on her back. Put your fingers on her breast bone and work your way down to her vent area. You should feel 2 bones sticking up. These are her pelvic bones. If you can fit only 1 finger upright between her pelvic bones she’s still roughly 4 weeks off laying, 1 and 1/2 fingers mean she’s a little closer, maybe 2 to 3 weeks and 2 or more fingers mean she’s either close to or laying already.
If your chicken has been around a while and you’ve noticed a slump in egg production, then maybe your hard-working girl has reached the end of her laying days. There’s no exact age at which a chicken will stop laying, rather there will be a gradual decrease over time in the later years of its life. Once a hen gets to around 4 years old, the amount of eggs that she can lay starts to slow down considerably, and you will find she doesn’t lay that many eggs anymore. This is a general guide for heritage breeds, commercial breeds have a significantly shorter laying life.
For backyard chickens, shorter days often signal time for a break. Birds may stop laying eggs, lose old feathers and grow new ones. This annual break from egg laying is called moulting
Moulting is the process of shedding and renewing feathers. During moult, the reproductive system of your chickens has a complete rest from laying and they begin to build up body reserves of nutrients.
A moult usually takes between 2 and 6 months to complete and unfortunately, this process cannot be rushed. Some extra protein in their feed (protein bars, calci protein mix) will help the hens a lot during this time.
Diseases and parasite infestations will cause hens to either lay less or stop laying completely. Good parasite control is important and if a hen shows any sign of disease she should be isolated and treated ASAP. Some of the most common parasites that can cause a drop in egg production are mites, lice and fleas, which can be controlled by regularly dusting the hens, their coop and run with a good quality poultry dust.
Internal parasites to look out for are roundworms and tapeworms. Deworm the flock every three months as a precaution. The withdrawal period for most dewormers is 14 days and the eggs laid during that period should be discarded.
The chickens egg-laying process is greatly affected by the amount of light they’re exposed to. Their bodies are extremely sensitive to any changes, and decreasing amounts of light actually indicate to a hen that the temperature is going to drop.
When the light decreases, and a temperature drop is indicated, the hens maternal instinct kicks in and tells them that the conditions aren’t going to be warm enough for their babies to survive. Hence, their body tells them to stop producing eggs.
When hens go broody their hormones tell them to stop laying eggs and incubate and hatch them instead. They will sit in the nest box all day and night, refuse to get up, and steal other hens’ eggs if given the opportunity.
Leaving eggs in the nesting box can trigger the hen to become broody, so make sure to collect eggs regularly.
Stress can be a big issue for hens – not only can it affect their health, but it can definitely cause a slump or stop them from laying eggs.
A change in a hen’s environment can cause egg production to slow or cease temporarily. Even something as simple as changing the bedding over can cause your chicken’s egg production to slow down – it should only be for a day or two though! Your chickens should return back to normal pretty quickly.
If you have predators in your area and they’re lurking around the coop, their presence will probably be stressing your hens out. This will likely cause your hens to decrease their egg production. Mice, rats, snakes, and some other animals also steal eggs, so make sure your coop and run are predator-proof.
Adding or removing birds from your flock will alter the flock dynamics and can cause the chickens a great deal of stress and anxiety for several weeks.
Even if you introduce new chickens to your existing flock properly, chances are your girls will still be disrupted by the new chickens and will go off lay for a few days.
Once you have introduced the new chickens, your girls should be laying again after a few days.
If you are not getting any eggs, but are sure your hens are laying, you might have an egg eater or two in your flock. Look for signs like yolk smeared on the nest box materials.
If you discover this to be the case, up their calcium intake to prevent shell breakage and get yourself a dummy egg for the nesting boxes, once pecked a few times, hens become frustrated and stop trying altogether.
The average laying hen’s skeleton contains 20g calcium and one egg represents 10% of that. Hens do have calcium reserves stored up in their bodies, but if they do not get enough calcium from their food for their eggshells the stores will get depleted very quickly and they will stop laying.
It’s important that laying hens get fed either a proper, balanced layer feed (mash or pellets) or a good quality all flock feed with a calcium supplement like shell grit or calci-protein offered ad lib.
Different brands of chicken feed can have varying levels of vitamins and nutrients. This becomes a problem when a hen has become used to eating feed with a particular ingredient, only to be swapped to a brand that doesn’t include it in their recipe. Salt is one of the most common ingredients that varies from brand recipe to brand recipe – and a sudden deficiency from different feed can reduce a chicken’s egg production.
Keep an eye on nutrient levels if you’re thinking of switching feed brands, and if you do decide to change, do it gradually rather than immediately swapping.
If your chicken isn’t getting the right mix of nutrients in their diet, this will negatively affect your hen’s health and their ability to lay eggs. Try Superfood Blend to balance your chicken’s nutrient intake.
Sometimes, our chickens are born with predisposed medical issues that can affect egg production. One condition is egg-binding, where an egg can become stuck inside the hen. If you’re not sure whether your hen might be egg-bound, gently feel around her abdomen area – you might be able to feel an egg-shaped lump in your hen’s rear. You might even be able to see the lump protruding from their abdomen.
There are ways to give your hen a helping hand if you think they might be egg-bound – adding electrolytes and calcium to their diet, applying lubricant to her rear, and ensuring your hen has a safe, comfortable place to lay her eggs in peace. If unsure see a vet.