When chickens quit laying, it can be frustrating to families and farmers counting on the eggs for food and income. There are a number of different factors that influence laying hens and can disrupt their production or even cause it to cease for a period of time. These variables include:
- Shorter day length
- Nutritional deficiencies
As the days shorten in the summer and fall, egg production typically drops off accordingly. Hens respond to the amount of sunlight to which they are exposed each day. Instead of the 16 hours of light they receive by the end of June, in late December light is confined to a mere eight hours a day. As the days decrease, so does egg production.
Provide additional artificial light to the hens to bring their total lighted hours closer to 14 hours per day, using a low-watt light bulb in their henhouse and a timer to keep the hours consistent.
Molting happens about once a year, generally in the fall, when the hen replaces her old feathers and rejuvenates the organ where eggs are made, the oviduct. Allow this process to occur by eliminating the light protocol for about six weeks in the late fall before resuming light to increase egg production.
A hen that is broody, that is, setting on eggs and trying to hatch them, will cease laying. While Leghorn hens rarely go broody, Barred Rocks and Cochins will much more easily. Some breeds are just more prone to broodiness. The problem with a broody hen is that she stops laying eggs. To cure broodiness in hens, collect eggs daily or even twice-daily, look for hidden nests, and remove broody hens form the nesting area when you catch them there. They will start laying again when they break their broody habit.
Age is another factor that leads to decreased egg production and eventually a cessation in egg-laying altogether. If your chickens quit laying eggs, consider their age. Peak production occurs when the birds are just shy of a year old and then starts to slowly decline. By age 2 to 3, production slows down considerably and may even cease, depending on the chicken and her own health. Once hens have ceased laying completely, they are typically culled from the flock (unless the family wants to keep them as pets).
Because laying hens require a balanced diet to maintain egg production, feed them laying mash rations and oyster shell calcium supplements. Both should be available to the hens at all times. Supplements such as table scraps and scratch mix should be minimum to avoid unbalancing their diet.
Stress on a hen can cause the cessation of egg production. Theses stresses can come from moving the birds. overheating, lack of food or water during the day, thread of predators and other unnoticed factors. Keep hens protected from the elements and predators, well fed and in clean, ventilated coops to encourage consistent egg laying.
Young hens properly fed and cared for will produce quality eggs in quantity for the family and for sale. If your chickens quit laying, look into the factors noted here to find the likely cause and get them laying again.