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12 Reasons Why Chickens Stop Laying Eggs & How you Can Help

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 and 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.

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A nest full of eggs.

12 Reasons Your Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs

1.Improper Diet

When your hens have stopped laying, diet is the first thing you should examine. Changes in diet are one of the most common causes of chickens stopping or slowing down egg laying. Poor nutrition can also contribute to lack of eggs, or eggs that have thin shells.

Water:

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. In the winter, make sure to keep your hen’s water from freezing

Feed:

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. Even the best treats, including chicken scratch, should be fed sparingly as they can really pack on the pounds without offering much nutrition, kind of like your favorite snacks!

How you can help:

Did you change your chickens feed recently? It may take their bodies some time to adjust to the change.

Are you maybe feeding too many snacks and not enough healthy food? Take a close look at what your hens are eating and supplement or take away as needed.

A hen’s diet should be 90% chicken feed and 10% snacks. Make sure the feed you’re giving them is designated for laying hens, as hens need more nutrients to produce healthy eggs. It wouldn’t hurt to start giving them some free choice oyster shell in a bowl next to their food.

Chickens eating feed.

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. Keep them cool and supplied with plenty of 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 or other winter chicken treats will be much appreciated and in the summer chickens just love frozen fruit!

How you can help:

If your chickens are too hot, read this article for ideas on how to cool them down!

If it’s winter and you feel your chickens are suffering from the cold, check out our post on chicken keeping during the winter months to help warm them up a bit.

A chicken outside in the snow.

3. Molting

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. 

How you can help:

If your hens are molting, be sure to give them some extra protein. We love giving our hens Grubblies 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!

Learn more about the signs of molting and what you can do to help your gals through it. 

A molting chicken.

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.

How you can help:

The shorter days of winter almost always trigger the hen’s body to slow down on egg production. If you really need for your hens to keep laying in the winter, you can add artificial lighting to the coop to extend the daylight hours and trick their bodies into continuing egg production.

Chickens in the snow.

5. Broodiness

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. Sometimes it’s a good idea to let your hens go broody. After all, there are advantages to letting her raise you up your next batch of puffballs

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. 

How you can help:

There are several options if you have a broody hen or two!

  • Once a hen goes broody she may be quite determined to sit on that nest until she has chicks. One option to stop the broodiness is to literally give her some chicks to take care of.
  • Put some fertilized eggs under her and let her hatch them.
  • Try to break the broodiness by taking them off the nest frequently.
  • Let them be broody, they usually get over the impulse in about a month and get back to their egg-laying business.
A broody hen.

6. Age

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!

How you can help:

Unfortunately there’s pretty much nothing you can do to change this situation. Old birds won’t magically start laying again, no matter what you do. Your only option here is to add some new young chicks to your flock so you’ll continue getting eggs.

A chicken.

7. Illness

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.

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
  • Diarrhea

Our friends at Backyard Poultry offer even more signs your chicken is sick, and a handy symptom checker too!

How you can help:

Quarantine the sick hen immediately so she doesn’t pass on illness to the flock. 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. 

A sick chicken in the grass.

8. Stress

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

How you can help:

Try your best to keep your chickens environment the same, and don’t change their routine too often. Let your chickens out to free range if possible, this will allow them to blow off some steam, get exercise, and forage for fresh foods.

Colorful eggs in a carton.

9. Pests

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.

How you can help:

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!

Read these articles for more specific help with your issue:

A red mite.

10. Fear of predators

One reason hens lay fewer eggs or stop all together is fear from predators. If your flock recently had a predator attack, you can expect your hens will stop laying or slow down from the stress and fear of the event. Their bodies may take a few days to a few weeks before they return back to normal after such a trauma.

We’ve known predators to lurk outside of the coop at night, digging or pushing on doors and windows to try to gain entry. All of this adds up to extra fear and stress on your birds.

How you can help:

If you suspect your chickens stopped laying due to fear of predators it may help to put a trail cam or two up around the coop to see if they’re being stalked at night.

Take steps to add extra predator protection to the coop, and maybe keep them from free ranging for a few weeks until things calm down.

A coyote.

11. Adding or losing flock members

To you, getting a few new chicks or buying a few fully grown chickens on craigslist isn’t a very big deal, but to your flock it’s a whole different story.

Adding new members to the flock is extremely stressful not only on the new chickens, but on the original flock too. The chickens will all have to establish a new pecking order and you can expect fights and general chicken rudeness to break out for several weeks or months as everyone adjusts.

This stressful time can mean less eggs for your breakfast.

Losing flock members also affects the flock for the same reason as above, the flock has to establish a new pecking order.

If the flock member was lost due to illness or a predator it can add an extra element of fear for the rest of the flock. It’s no secret that chickens can be cliquey and tend to befriend other birds.

If one of the chickens dies or disappears, the other may get depressed. Some chicken keepers have noticed that this depression can last for quite awhile and can certainly affect egg laying.

How you can help:

Try not to add or take away flock members unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you do decide to add new flock members, follow our step by step approach to introduce them to the flock. This way there’s very little stress for everyone involved.

Chicken flock outside.

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!

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Jappy kabane

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

This was helpful, this hens really need care bcos if you don't take of them you will most probably have a loss as they stop laying eggs. I recently changed their diet and most stop laying eggs n I wonder how long will they take to lay eggs again or they stopped permanently.

Top 40 How Long Can A Chicken Go Without Laying An Egg Update

Sunday 16th of October 2022

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Ashley

Sunday 9th of January 2022

I have 3 hens they are about a year and a half old. I was given 3 chicks that I kept in a separate pen until they were big enough to go in with my 3 main girls. Well they would all fight and couldn't get along. I gave them time, about 2 months, and they just couldn't get along and my main 3 quit laying eggs. Well I ended up giving away the 3 younger ones due to the fighting and causing stress. This was 2 months ago and my girls still aren't laying. I'm wondering if they could still be stressed from the new ones coming in then leaving or if it could be our recent weather. We would have days almost 70 then back down to 30 for about a month back and forth. Now winter has fully hit. Any advice on which you think it could be?

Meredith

Monday 10th of January 2022

Hi there, If I had to guess I would say it's totally related to the weather and the season. The constant changes in temps don't help, but really what causes chickens to stop laying this time of year is the lack of light. Their bodies automatically stop laying so they can focus their bodily energy on staying warm and surviving instead of laying eggs. If they don't start back up laying in the spring I would worry more, but it's almost definitely due to winter at the moment. We're only getting 1-2 eggs a day from our flock of 18 at the moment.

Monique

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

I live in the tropics so we don't have seasons as you've described the. Do you have any information on caring for chickens in tropical climates? Or do you know of any good online resources? Thanks so much, this information already helps a lot.

Marion Bragg

Sunday 19th of September 2021

I have 4 x 8 month old hens, 1 hen broody for past 6 weeks, staying in nest box with 2nd hen sitting on top of her. All have stopped laying eggs, they continuously peck each other's feathers leaving bald sore patches. They are free range, no change in diet.

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