Why Is My Hen Not Laying? Reasons Why You May See a Decline in Egg Production
There are several reasons why you may experience a decrease in your flock’s egg production. Most of the reasons fall into a few broad categories: hen health, age and nutrition or environmental factors. Let’s explore some of the most common reasons why hens slow down or stop laying eggs altogether.
Probably the most common reason why a hen stops laying eggs is due to molting. Hens typically begin laying at around 6 months of age and should lay non-stop until they are around 18 months of age. For spring-hatched chicks, that means it will be fall of their second season when they will be ready to molt their feathers. The molt is triggered by a decrease in day length, so it is possible to delay the molt by supplementing the coop with lighting in the early morning hours to maintain 15 total hours of day length. Molting can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months, and during this time a hen will stop laying eggs since her body needs the protein to grow new feathers.
The next most common reason a hen may slow or stop egg laying is because of her age. After her first molt, she will begin to lay eggs again, but never at the same weekly rate as she did prior to that first molt. Each fall she will molt again, and each time she will take longer and longer to recover and begin to lay eggs again. After a hen’s first 2 years, she has laid the majority of her eggs that she will ever produce.
Another reason a hen may stop laying is due to poor nutrition. If she eats a low-quality protein source or does not get adequate calcium or protein, she may stop laying eggs in an effort to maintain her own health. Inadequate nutrition can also lead to egg eating, which then becomes a hard habit to break even after a nutritional deficiency is corrected.
Parasites in or on your birds may also contribute to a decrease in egg laying. Mites, lice and intestinal worms can lower a hen’s resistance to other illnesses and robs her of nutrients, which leads to a lack of good health and therefore a lower rate of lay.
Hens may also stop laying eggs if they feel threatened by predators. I have personally experienced this when I had a hawk doing a daily fly over my farm to see if they hens were free-ranging and he could grab a snack. The hens were so worried about getting attacked by a hawk that egg-laying almost completely stopped in a flock of 30, and very suddenly!
Speaking of free-ranging, are you certain they have stopped laying? Hens that are allowed to free-range may begin to lay eggs in the weirdest places. I once found a hen laying her eggs in an old milk can I have in their yard as decor! Keeping the hens locked in their yard for a few days and only allowed to free-range in the afternoon or evening will help “re-train” them to use the nesting boxes again.
I hope you find some of these points useful as you determine why your flock may not be laying as well as you expected. As always, if you have questions about your flock’s laying ability, chat with our team online at Meyer Hatchery