Why Are My Chickens Not Laying Eggs?
“Life as a backyard chicken keeper is fantastic” you chuckle to yourself as you walk towards your chicken coop (in your Pajamas). You’re almost salivating at the thought of starting your day with tasty organic fresh eggs…again!
Except this morning…there are no eggs in the nesting box! Don’t panic. It happens.
There are many reasons for your chickens slacking off and not laying eggs. Season, pecking order, health, stress, and even light are only a few factors affecting egg production.
This guide will help you crack the case behind the lack of eggs in your backyard, so you can get your hens back to work ASAP.
When its the Hens Fault
When you don’t see eggs, you usually think, “What’s wrong with my chicken?”. Let’s investigate why the hens themselves can be responsible for no eggs in the basket.
How well do you know your breed?
Of course, all hens lay, but some breeds naturally lay more than others. It depends on the breed. If your chicken is a Speckled Sussex or an Australorp, expect production almost daily. These are some of the best egg-layers in the business, laying around five eggs per week.
Other breeds, like the Phoenix or Sumatra, may look impressive, only lay about 100 eggs per year.
If you haven’t already, read up on the yield that you can expect from your breed. Our chicken breed guides have got you covered.
Age is Not Just a Number
Chickens generally start laying at around 20-24 weeks. Some start later, others earlier. It depends on the hen.
Have you considered that maybe your chicken is still too young?
Be patient. It will happen.
The other side of the coin is that your hens may be too old and need to retire. Hens produce the most eggs in their first year of laying. After two years, production declines.
Older hens lay fewer and ultimately stop laying after around 6 or 7 years (1). So you need to know how old your chickens are, especially when shopping for mature hens
It’s Not The Hen….It’s The Season.
The next culprit is the season. Whether it’s the time of the year or a natural chook phenomenon, this is a common thing and one of the reasons why your hens are producing eggs.
In Or Out Of Season
Not all chickens lay throughout the year. Egg production is optimal when the climate is not too hot and not too cold. Generally, this would be around spring.
During the winter months, expect low to no egg yield. That is unless your chickens are cold-hardy, like the Plymouth Rock.
It’s uncomfortable enough for hens when they molt. Their bodies become sensitive. So cut your girls some slack for not laying during this time every year.
They’ll resume egg-laying when they’ve got their new feathers sorted.
You can maintain continuous production by planning layer rotations. Have 2 or 3 sets of hens at different life stages, so they don’t molt and stop laying at the same time.
This way, production continues even through molts and changing seasons.
Was it Something I Did (Or didn’t Do)?
Try to reflect on your role as a keeper. Did you tick off all the boxes for being a good chicken owner? Here are a few thought exercises.
The Chicken Coop
Egg laying is not a public affair. Hens need a quiet private place to lay.
Choose a good coop design.
Here are some features to consider:
- Include comfy nest boxes.
- Add curtains to keep broody hens out and prevent the horrid egg eating habit. Yikes!
- Make nesting boxes accessible from outside for easy collection.
- Predator-proof your chicken coop. You don’t want to lose eggs to raccoons or other predators.
Stressed chickens don’t lay well.
Hint: If your hens are extra clucky, they’re most likely stressed.
Isolate your layers from other chickens that stress them out in a mixed backyard flock. Other flock members higher in the pecking order like the Rhode Island Red can be bullies!
Needless to say that hens need to be healthy to be able to lay efficiently.
Commercial breeders vaccinate laying hens to prevent sicknesses such as Mycoplasma gallisepticum. It is a common respiratory disease that leads to low feed efficiency and egg production (2).
Sometimes, It’s The Little Things
Small things get overlooked all the time. Unfortunately, these tidbits can also have the most significant impact.
Daily Dose of Sunlight
Did you know that sunlight plays a crucial role in egg production?
If your hens are laying fewer eggs, they possibly aren’t getting the ideal hours of light per day that they need. Sunlight stimulates reproductive hormones in hens, which starts up egg production (3).
For maximum egg production, 16 hours of light is needed during peak egg production period.
You can use artificial light if sunlight is not available. (Maybe you keep your chickens in a dungeon or something.)
Exposure twice a day, in the morning and evening, should do the trick.
Chicken not laying eggs? There might be a parasite infestation in your flock (4).
Common parasites are:
- Several varieties of mites
- Intestinal worms
Regular de-worming and coop cleaning prevents this issue.
Make sure also to choose a good chicken feeder that’s easy to clean. Change the water daily, so your girls are not ingesting bacteria or parasite eggs.
Apple cider vinegar is a common addition to the hen’s water supply. It acts as an immune booster thanks to its mild antibiotic properties.
Now let’s talk about what to feed your chickens.
Laying hens need a special diet to optimize their production. Giving them good quality layer feed is one of the most crucial aspects of raising hens for eggs.
The best organic chicken feed for layers contains essential nutrients for laying quality eggs.
Here are the essential trace elements that layers need and why they are crucial (5):
- Salt- maintains body fluid balance.
- Calcium- for developing eggshells.
- Vitamin D- for calcium absorption and usage.
- Protein- to meet the dietary amino acid requirements.
- Fat- an energy source and helps digest vitamins.
The elements listed above are not always available to free-range birds. Supplementing good layer rations to a free-range diet is still best.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why chickens stop laying eggs. A lot of the time, they are a combination of factors.
For example, the age of laying depends on the breed. Heritage breeds take longer to mature. Expect them to start laying at six months, two months later than others.
Before you get a flock of layers, make sure you read up on their basic needs. It’s the best way to avoid egg-laying issues down the road.
You can encourage your hens to lay eggs by providing two things: good quality feed and a comfortable environment.
You are what you eat also applies here. Good quality feed and fresh, clean water translate to nutritious, excellent quality eggs. Nutrient deficiency leads to a drop in production.
Hens lay better when they feel safe and comfortable. Try to:
Provide the right amount of nest boxes in the coop.
Let them out into the sun.
Cut stress factors like predators or bullies.
Basically, just keep your girls healthy and happy!
An egg-bound hen has a formed egg stuck inside her oviduct.
Egg binding is a serious concern. It can happen if your layer is obese or not ready to lay (pre-mature). Sometimes an egg is just too big to lay.
If your girl doesn’t eat or drink and starts to waddle like a penguin, call your vet! This situation is very uncomfortable for the hen. It can even kill her if you don’t address it.
You can tell a hen is too old for laying based on her physical features.
A senior layer has loose dull plumage compared to the young ones. Her legs are scaly, wattles and comb a faded red.
The most definitive sign would be that her “well” has gone dry. Check her cloaca.
Layers have moist cloacas to push out the eggs smoothly. If her opening is dry, your girl is ready to retire.
Hens retire from laying when they are around six years old, but they can live up to 10 years!
Yes, you can give your layers table scraps, but it depends on the food.
Some people’s food is not suitable for chickens. Things like processed food and spoiled food can make them sick. While avocado, chocolate, and potato peels are just downright toxic.
Other scraps can be beneficial for your girls. Give them things like:
Salad greens and legumes- increases vitamins, increases the egg nutrition value.
Herbs- boosts immunity.
Pumpkin/sunflower seeds- increases protein intake.
Don’t just give your hens anything, and be sure that you don’t overfeed them. Obesity leads to a drop in egg production as well as health issues.
Give good scraps in moderation, preferably just as treats.
- How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs? Goals for Laying Hens. Retrieved from: https://www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed/education/detail/how-long-do-chickens-lay-eggs-goals-for-laying-hens
- Vaccination A Means of Protection Against Infections In Egg-laying Hens. Retrieved from: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/vaccination-means-protection-infections-egg-laying-hens/40495/
- Lighting in Poultry Production. Retrieved from: https://www.agritech.tnau.ac.in/expert_system/poultry/Lighting%20in%20Poultry%20Production.html
- Common Poultry Parasites of Backyard Hens. Retrieved from: https://www.theveterinarynurse.com/review/article/common-poultry-parasites-of-backyard-hens
- Factors Affecting Egg Production in Backyard Chicken Flocks1. Retrieved from: https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2147/2015/03/Factors-Affecting-Egg-Production-in-Backyard-Chicken-Flocks1.pdf