My Chickens Have Quit Laying Eggs
So, my chickens have stopped laying eggs. They had only started about three weeks before they came down with a nasty respiratory illness. I have read on several forums that this type of illness can negatively impact egg production. Where I may be facing that, my chickens look and act very healthy. So I decided to do some research and share my findings with you in case your chickens are also on an egg laying strike.
According to a post on The Happy Chicken Coop, there are several different reasons chickens may stop laying eggs. The first reason they discuss is diet. Chickens need about 20 grams of protein per day to produce eggs. This can be accomplished by feeding them a commercial food designed for egg layers. If you give your chickens treats or other grains in addition to their layer pellets or mash, you can also supplement protein with meal worms. An article out of the University of California agrees with this protein recommendation. However, it also mentions calcium deficiency as another potential reason for a drop in egg production. They recommend oyster shell as a free choice option to address this. Of course access to fresh water is a requirement as well.
A second reason for less egg production mentioned in both articles is reduced daylight hours. It seems when hens only receive natural light, they may take a break from laying for around two months anytime between June and December (http://animalsciencey.ucdavis.edu/avian/hens2.pdf). Artificial light in the coop to simulate 14 to 16 hours of daylight is an option to encourage laying, but this is not something I would do. Since I got involved in this chicken venture to live closer to the Earth, then I feel I should also respect the cycles of nature and be patient.
Stress can also cause chickens to quit laying. This stress can come from adding new chickens to the flock, extreme temperature changes, moving coops, molting, becoming broody, or any other event that causes general unrest or stress to the chicken’s system.
Illness, of course, is another obvious factor. If your chickens quit laying and look sick, make sure to isolate them from the flock until you can identify the problem. Chickens can get respiratory illnesses as mine did. They may also have parasites, an infected injury or a myriad of other issues. The Backyard Chickens site has a great guide to poultry illness you should definitely check out.
Chickens slow their egg production over time, so age can be a factor as well. Where this doesn’t apply to my chickens since they are just coming up on about 7 months, it may apply to you. This graph from The Happy Chicken Coop site demonstrates how egg production can reduce over time.
|Source: The Happy Chicken Coop
Needless to say, after doing this research I feel assured my hens will likely get back into the egg laying business. It is fall here so our daylight hours are limited. I think that is the most likely reason I'm coming home to empty laying boxes. However, I just started my chickens on layer mash about a month ago. They do get treats with meal worms so they are not on a strict commercial food diet. Going forward, I think I’ll try some oyster shell to see if that makes a difference. Hopefully with some minor adjustments and patience, I’ll be posting pictures of my egg bounty in a few short months.