So… your chickens stopped laying eggs? Ours did too, and the good news is, this issue is usually something you can solve and get your chickens back to laying eggs on the daily. There are many reasons chickens stop laying eggs, from illness to stress, to old age. Some of this is in your control as their keeper, and some of it isn’t.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the issue to get to the core of why your chickens stopped laying eggs in the first place.
9 Reasons Your Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs
When your hens have stopped laying, diet is the first thing you should examine. Chickens need access to fresh, clean water all day long, a lack of water for even an hour on a hot day can disrupt the laying cycle. It’s important to also make sure you’re feeding your flock a high quality layer feed and ensure each hen is getting enough to eat every day. Treats such as chicken scratch should be fed sparingly as they can really pack on the pounds without offering much nutrition, kind of like your favorite snacks!
2. Extreme Weather
Extremely hot weather and extremely cold weather can cause a decrease in egg production for your hens. To combat this, try to make them as comfortable as possible by insulating the coop in winter and providing shade and plenty of cool water in summer.
You can also give your chickens some delicious chicken treats to improve their health and well being when the weather gets tough. Hot oatmeal with fruit in the winter will be much appreciated and in the summer chickens just love frozen fruit!
Another reason that your chickens stopped laying eggs could be due to molting. Molting is when chickens shed their old feathers and re-grow bright shiny new ones. This process is taxing on the chicken’s body, and many take a break in egg laying so their body can put its energy into growing new feathers.
Most chickens molt in the fall, but we’ve seen our ladies molt at all different times during the year, some even molt in the winter! Poor girls!
Some chickens molt so lightly you can barely tell it’s happening. For these light molters look for ruffled feathers or bald spots on the head or around the vent.
If your hens are molting, be sure to give them some extra protein, we love giving our hens Tasty Grubs when they’re going through a molt to help boost their system and grow those feathers back more quickly so they can get back to laying delicious eggs!
4. Change in season
As summer moves into fall, the decrease in daylight signals the chicken’s body to lay less eggs. Chickens naturally take a break in laying eggs in the winter and hens can slow down to one egg per week or cease laying all together.
We here at Backyard Chicken Project firmly believe in giving our beloved hens a much needed laying break in the winter, but every chicken keeper has their own views on this topic. If you don’t want to allow your hens a laying break, you can artificially light the coop in the winter.
Our little chicken flock has quite a few silkies in it, so going broody is something we deal with most of the year around here. Going broody is when a hen decides she wants to sit on a nest of eggs and hatch chicks. Some breeds (like silkies) are more likely to go broody and most hens will go broody only once per year, in the Spring.
When hens go broody they stop laying eggs entirely, and don’t begin again until their broodiness breaks or their chicks reach an independent age. Broody hens are easy to identify, they will sit on the nest day and night on a clutch of eggs. Broody hens will often puff up their feathers and shriek at other hens or people who come near the nest. They may also peck at intruders.
We’ve found this to be the worst reason that chickens stop laying eggs, because there’s no fixing it. Just like females of any type, female chicks hatch with only a certain number of ova in them. Once those ova have all transformed into eggs and been laid, that’s it, they’re gone and there won’t be any more. This can happen at any time, but most hens reach this point in their life around two or three years of age.
We have some hens that are 6 years old and still lay eggs on occasion, but have mostly stopped production. They’re just enjoying their retirement at this point!
Hens will stop laying eggs when they are ill. If your hen stops laying unexpectedly, watch her carefully for signs of illness. If you spot any of these signs of illness, be sure to separate her from the rest of the flock and give her some TLC. We like to keep a folding rabbit cage on hand just in case we need to separate chickens for any reason. While chickens are in the sick bay they receive easy to eat foods like yogurt and scrambled eggs and we put electrolytes and vitamins in their water. We’ve had many hens recover from illness and injury this way.
Common Signs of sickness in hens:
- Drop in energy level
- Refusing to leave the coop
- Droopy tail
- Glassy, watery, or droopy eyes
- Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, gasping
- Vent discharge
This handy printable offers even more signs your chicken is sick.
Chickens can become stressed very easily. Like any animal, stress affects chicken physiology and can lead to a decrease in laying. Try to keep your hens stress-free by avoiding swift changes in their environment, protecting them from predators, and keeping them comfortable year round.
Common Stressors for chickens:
- Recent predator attacks/predator nearby
- Moving to a new coop
- Extreme weather
- Adding or losing chickens
Pests are one of the most irritating problems you can have when it comes to raising chickens. The most common pests you’ll encounter in the chicken coop are lice and mites. When chickens suffer from an infestation of lice or mites they will slow down or stop laying eggs.
It’s a good idea to do routine flock checks every month to make sure they aren’t riddled with pests. Check your hens thoroughly for these pests, they tend to congregate under wings and around the vent. Be sure to check the chickens at all times of day, as some pests are only active at night. If your chickens are suffering from pests, it’s best to catch the issue as soon as possible!
So, as you can see, there are a lot of reasons hens stop laying eggs. Some of them are in your control, and some aren’t. Eliminating stress, checking for pests, and making sure your birds are happy and healthy are the first steps to take when your nesting boxes suddenly go empty!
We hope this list will help you identify reasons your chickens stopped laying eggs, and how to get them back on track! If you want to chat chickens, please leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!