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5 reasons why chickens stop laying eggs

If you are keeping chickens for eggs, you want them to be productive. If chickens stop laying they still need to be fed, and that costs money. There are different reasons why a chicken may not be laying eggs.

1. Molt

During molt a chicken loses her feathers and grows new feathers, some chickens look like they have been plucked alive, and others look normal. Molt often starts in the fall (end of September/beginning of October). You will know your hens are in molt if egg production decreases and you are finding feathers everywhere. Molting takes a lot of energy from the chicken, and instead of spending her energy on laying eggs, her energy will be used for the regeneration of feathers.

What can you do?

The chickens just have to go through the process of molting before they start laying again. It helps to feed them a little extra protein, feathers are high in amino acids and the extra protein will give her the amino acids she needs.

2. Light

After molting some chickens start laying again, other do not. Most often this is because there is not sufficient light. Days get shorter and night gets longer. A chicken’s egg production is stimulated by light, and if there is not enough daylight hours she will stop laying. Chickens need about 14 hours of light a day to keep producing eggs, otherwise her system will go into winterstop.

What can you do?

This is just the natural cycle. Commercial layers are given light to keep producing eggs in the winter, but they are also replaced every 24 months (or a little earlier). You can add light to the chicken coop to keep your chickens laying throughout the winter. Make sure you add lighting in the morning, if you add it in the evening they won’t roost when the lights go off because they will be surprised by the sudden loss of light. There are some things that need to be considered though before light is added to the coop. A hen is born with all of the eggs she will produce in a lifetime already in her system, if light is added to the coop she will lay through the winter, but she will stop laying earlier in life. As I said, it is natural for chickens to stop laying in the winter, it is time for their body to recuperate, laying eggs takes a lot of energy and nutrients from the hen.

3. Feed

Too little feed will cause chickens to stop laying eggs. Like people, chickens have a basal metabolic rate, and need energy to keep their bodily functions working. They need extra energy for production. Energy will always go basic bodily function first, and whatever is left will then go to production. If there is not enough energy supplied by feed, production will stop.

Too much feed will also cause problems. Too much energy (calories) will lead to fat chickens, and fat chickens do not produce well. Make sure you don’t overfeed your chickens, especially with treats. Chickens can often regulate their own feed intake, but, just like you and me, snacks are hard to resist.

The wrong feed can also be a problem. In order to produce chickens need sufficient nutrients and minerals. If this is off production will most likely be affected. If your chickens free range (or have an enclosure with plenty of fresh feed) this may not end up being a problem, as they can forage for their own feed.

What can you do?

Chickens should be fed layer feed, and have ad libitum calcium (oyster shells or egg shells) and grit available. Make sure you check your particular brand of feed for how much you should be feeding, and adjust if you are feeding a lot of snacks or kitchen scraps.

4. Illness or pests

Illness costs a lot of energy, the body will first put energy into basic bodily functions, then fighting illness and finally production. Chickens that are sick often produce less or no eggs because they just don’t have the energy to do so.

Another cause for chickens to stop laying can be pests. These can be either internal (worms) or external (mites). Both worms and mites take a lot of energy from the chickens, and eventually they will stop laying eggs.

Whenever your chickens stop laying make sure you check for illnesses or pests, because these may eventually kill your chickens!

What can you do?

Make sure the chicken coop is clean, as well as waterers and feeders. Supply the chickens with clean drinking water. Make sure your chickens have a clean dusting bath that they can roll around in. Check your chickens on a regular basis for pests to make sure you catch it in time if something does end up infecting them. If your chickens are infected you can try natural products, however, if the infection is really bad and the chicken’s health is at risk, chemicals or a veterinarian visit may be necessary.

5. Heat

Chickens will also stop laying when it is very hot. You can tell a chicken is hot when she holds out her wings and pants.

What can you do?

Make sure you supply your hens with fresh, cool, drinking water and a place to get out of the sun. You can also give them some cool treats (like watermelon) to help them battle the heat. Make sure your hens have a place where they can take cool dust baths, this will help cool them off.

If you live in an area where it tend to get hot, make sure you look into heat tolerant hens, these are usually lighter breeds, heavier breeds have a harder time coping with hot temperatures.