5 Reasons Hens Stop Laying Eggs
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What to Consider
After collecting your chickens' eggs day after day, you may notice that colder weather and less daylight lead to fewer eggs in the coop.
Patrick Biggs, Ph.D., a flock nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition, says there's an explanation for fewer eggs in the winter. "Under ideal conditions, chickens will lay an egg once every 24 to 26 hours. Hens might take a short vacation from laying eggs and the reasons range from life stage to when the sun rises and sets," he says. "Some of these reasons are natural while others can be fixed with simple changes. It's up to us as flock raisers to solve the mystery of why farm fresh eggs might be missing from the nesting box."
After confirming that your hens aren't hiding their eggs or building nests outside the coop, consider these factors that can affect egg production.Date Published: November 15, 2017Date Updated: November 20, 2017
Light hours are the most common cause of decreased egg production. "Hens lay best when provided at least 16 hours of daylight, whether natural, artificial, or a combination of the two," Biggs says. Without supplememntal light, hens may naturally stop laying eggs due to a hormonal response as days get shorter. "Some flock raisers use winter as a period of rest for their hens without supplemental light. If you're looking for consistent egg production through the winter months, provide additional light to encourage your birds to keep laying."
Biggs recommends using one incandescent 25-watt or LED 3- to 9-watt bulb per 100 square feet of coop space. If supplementing with artificial daylight, keep your flock's exposure and sleeping schecule consistent by putting lights on timers.Date Published: November 15, 2017Date Updated: November 20, 2017
Biggs says that if birds are stressed, egg production may suffer. "Stress comes in many forms - predators, over-crowding, aggressive hens, loud noises, too much heat or cold, poor nutrition and illness. Check the environment to be sure there aren't stressors in the area."
In order to keep a stress-free chicken coop, try these tips:
1. Predator-proof your coop with galvanized wire and add metal screens on doors and windows.
2. Provide at least 4 square feet of indoor space and 5-10 square feet of outdoor space per bird.
3. Offer one nesting box per four hens with clean, dry bedding.
4. Separate hens if the pecking order becomes aggressive.
Keep temperatures comfortable in the coop, but not drastically different than outdoors. Chickens, especially cold-tolerant breeds, can withstand winter temperatures without supplemental heat. If you'd like to provide heat, avoid raising the temperature more than a few degrees so your hens can adjust to the cold temperature.Date Published: November 15, 2017Date Updated: November 20, 2017
Over-treating and over-supplementing hens can also lead to decreased egg production. Added treats and scraps can dilute the nutrients in a complete layer feed so hens are less able to produce eggs consistently.
"Laying hens need 38 nutrients for consistent health and performance," Biggs says. "Calcium is the most critical for laying hens; she must consume four grams of calcium each day. Complete layer feeds are formulated to provide everything hens need in the correct amounts, but if we provide too many treats, then those nutrients become diluted."
It's better to be safe than sorry, so follow the 90/10 rule: a hen's diet should be made of at least 90 percent complete feed.Date Published: November 15, 2017Date Updated: November 20, 2017
"Molting chickens redirect their energy from laying eggs to growing feathers," Biggs explains. Chickens molt at around 18 months old and annually thereafter -- they lose feathers and regrow new ones. "This results in a brief break in egg production. Molt typically lasts eight to 16 weeks, depending on the bird. Once she has a new set of feathers, egg production should return to normal."
Biggs recommends switching to a high protein feed to help hens through molt quickly. Once egg laying resumes, transition back to a layer feed higher in calcium.Date Published: November 15, 2017Date Updated: November 20, 2017
5. Hen Age
"People often ask us, 'How long do chickens live?' This is a great connection to egg production. While the average lifespan of a chicken is 8 to 10 years, we've also seen well cared-for hens live beyond that," Biggs says. Chickens begin laying eggs between 18 to 20 weeks old and continue to do so for the rest of their lives. "Just like people, as birds age they tend to slow down. Over the course of a hen's lifetime, egg production will peak at about 250-280 eggs during their first year laying eggs. After that, the number of eggs produced each year declines until she retires."
"A hen can continue to be a valued member of your flock after her peack production has passed," Biggs adds. "Retired hens provide great companionship and often become leaders in their flocks, showing younger birds the ropes."Date Published: November 15, 2017Date Updated: November 20, 2017
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