On your homestead, you may notice that sometimes chickens stop laying. Here are some ways to help your chickens lay more eggs by giving them the perfect conditions.
The essentials for lots of eggs are clean water, a good diet, and preferably some space to run about outside. You need to keep them warm, give them enough space to wander and also to lay eggs, and choose the best layers right from the start.
If your birds are not laying as often as you would like, then you need to become a chicken detective for a few hours to see what the problem is.
How Old Are Your Chickens?
If they are less than 4 months old, they may not have started laying yet and you just need to be kind and patient.
Hens become less productive as they grow older, so if you bought all your hens at the same time and that was a few years ago, it is inevitable over time that there are fewer eggs.
Some dual-purpose birds that stop laying can become dinner at that stage, and be replaced with a few younger chickens in the family.
Are Your Chickens Losing Feathers?
Just sit around and keep an eye on the ladies for a few hours for some clues.
If they are molting (losing feathers), you will find feathers all over the coop and hens are a bit grumpy and they often do not lay eggs. They need some time for the process to happen and then laying will start again.
If your hens scratch a lot, maybe they have mites or chicken lice. These creatures feed on the chicken’s flesh and are really uncomfortable so treat the pests with dust or spray, and firm combing and laying should improve.
How Many Hours Of Daylight Are You Getting In The Coop?
Chickens are regulated by the hours of sunshine in a day. If the fall is coming, try using a daylight bulb in the coop when they go in at night.
Time it to come on for a few hours at the beginning and end of the day so the hens feel like it is still summer. This should extend their laying season a bit.
Are You Feeding The Hens Correctly?
Remember that eggs are created by a living bird, and they need a diet rich in calcium to keep laying healthy eggs. Maybe your hens are laying but the shells are really thin.
This is a sure sign that their food is not providing them with enough calcium and nutrients to create the perfect eggshell. Choose a commercial feed that has all the basic nutrients and then top that up with some extras.
Some hen owners feed their chicks dried mealworms, which they love and these provide protein and calcium.
A friend of mine used to crush oyster shells she begged from the local restaurant and then dropped these for the birds to peck at. These provide that extra calcium that hens need.
Corn is another favorite for my hens and they even eat pumpkin leftovers, particularly seeds.
Hens love being outside, nosing about, and scratching at the ground. Allow a part of the coop to have a grassy lawn or a weed patch. Hens love running about outside and they adore eating stinging nettles.
And any worms, caterpillars, or insects they find digging in the soil. They will eat any kitchen leftovers too so make it a habit to feed them any extras from your kitchen.
How many eggs do chickens lay? Be realistic about expected egg production. Know your breed and how many eggs you can expect.
There are 365 days in one year and if you chose Rhode Island Red or White Leghorn chickens you can expect at least 250 eggs per year.
Some Leghorns produce closer to 300 if conditions are perfect. Some Australorp breeds have set records at 360 eggs per year but this is unusual.
Other breeds like Plymouth Rock, Rd Star, Orpington, and Sussex have all been bred to lay their maximum, which can mean 200 or 300 eggs per year and anything in between. That is just their nature. So expecting eggs every day is unreasonable of you.
Happy, well-fed chickens lay regularly and most chickens lay more eggs in summer when the daylight hours are longer than in winter. They tend to rest more in winter, as long nights seem to trigger a hormonal response.
The best thing to do is to check you have a mixture of hens in your coop and even introduce some that lay better in winter, like the Icelandic. That way, your ladies will be under less pressure but you will still have eggs.
Right, get your detective hat on, and let’s go see what’s happening in your coop.
Check Where They Lay Their Eggs
Observe your chickens when they go to lay their eggs. You should train them to use a defined area for laying eggs.
When hens get broody, they may decide to make a nest somewhere else outside. Broody chickens want to have chicks and they begin to make nests, usually in a quiet spot.
Follow any chickens that seem to be wandering and check anywhere they stop for eggs. I once found a makeshift nest on the ground with 2 eggs in there, so I collected the eggs, swept the area, and kept an eye on that chicken.
Broody chickens want fertilized eggs and chicks, which is unlikely unless you have a rooster. These chickens can stay in this laying area for hours every day and peck at you if you try to remove them.
How To Fix This?
Try to cuddle these birds and offer them treats if they come off the nest. Physically pick them up and gently place them on the ground and encourage them to wander normally.
During this period, hens are moody and you need to check that they are eating and more importantly, drinking.
Change the water every day, make sure they always have clean water, and inspect it for any dirt like poo mixed in there or ants, etc. Fresh water is essential for eggs.
Check For Predators Who May Be Eating Your Eggs
Once you know your hen is laying in the right place, then check there are no raccoons, mice, rats, or snakes in there, if those pests are possible in your area.
Snakes are notorious for finding an egg supply and settling in there. Chickens are wise and avoid laying in that space just in case.
Shoo the lurking pests out with gloves on and suitable clothing. Neighbors’ cats and dogs can be troublesome too, and if they worry your hens, they may all stop laying.
How To Fix This?
Check the nesting boxes regularly for predators or pests. Keep a close eye on the coop in the daytime and shoo away unwanted dogs and cats.
Have a word with neighbors if it is a regular occurrence. Happy hens lay eggs, so sort out the disturbance and the hens will go back to what they do best.
Laying Space; Their Nest Boxes
Chickens like nothing better than a routine and the same space to lay their eggs each day. Ideally, these should be inside out of bright sunlight.
The ideal measurements for nesting areas are 12 x 12 x 12 inches. Give each hen enough space to feel comfortable.
My ladies settle into the straw and make a little round area underneath them, lay their egg, and sit on it for a while. Once they move, check and take any eggs laid.
Wherever they lay, check the straw in there is clean, and that no one hen takes priority in the egg-laying area.
How To Fix This?
Our dominant hen used to peck at any other hen who tried to join her so we always allowed the dominant hen to lay first, then lured her outside with treats while the others has their turn.
Has the weather suddenly got cold? It is not unusual for hens to stop laying when the season changes from summer to fall or if a really cold snap occurs.
How To Fix This?
The hens will not lay if the temperature is not right so insulate any drafty areas in your coop, and turn on the heating at night if you use it. Remember that most hens lay more in summer and less in winter too.
As the nights get longer, turning on the daylight bulb will convince the chickens that the day is longer too, which usually means more eggs.
Did You Add A New Hen To The Flock?
It takes a while to settle in a new bird and in the few days that follow, some of the other hens may become unsettled and stop laying for a day or two. Pecking is the name for one hen attacking several others in an attempt to be the dominant hen.
How To Fix This?
Isolate any injured hen for a few days, in a separate part of the coop. By the time she goes back, another hen will be in her pecking position. Intervene if the dominant hen becomes too aggressive by isolating her for a few days.
You know your chickens better by now if you have followed them around for a few hours. You also know how many eggs to expect annually and the importance of examining your birds for cuts or pests. Make sure the dominant hen is not pecking the others too much too.
The best advice is to make their coop the most friendly place possible so they feel at home. In my experience, happy hens lay eggs so keep their space warm and comfortable and feed them food full of enough calcium to make eggshells.
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