Throughout the year we always are happy to collect the amazing the littles gifts our hens lay for us. But when a day comes and you only found a few eggs (if any at all) instead of the usual amount, we start to ask the age old question, "Why are my hens not laying?" Here I have written the most common reasons your flock has decreased in its egg production, be it sickness or natural reasons.
Molting is probably the second most common reason for decrease in egg production. It is a natural period where a chicken will lose its old, worn out feathers to replace them with cold hardy new ones. It is also a time where a hen will revitalize its oviduct, the organ which produces the hen’s eggs. Molting normally occurs during the fall, but can occur in at any time a bird or flock is stressed (lack of water, lack of food, no space, or a predator attack). For more on molting read this article: What Happens When Chickens Molt?
Gracie the RIR going through her annual molt
Decrease in daylight hours
After June 22 the daylight hours start decreasing until the reach the shortest day in December. The decrease in daylight hours usually cause hens to molt (around the fall) and reduces egg production majorly. Some hens will continue to lay some through the winter after their molt, but most will rarely if not stop completely. You can keep egg production going through the shorter days with an artificial light in the coop for over 12 hours at a time. Though many people do this I personally never have, I look at the winter decrease in laying as a hard earned break that my girls deserve. If you do want to read more about keeping a light in your coop to continue laying please read this article: Winter Egg Laying & Lighting
During the shorter days of the year I get a decrease in egg production
Broody Moody Hens
This reason is probably my favorite, but that is because I have OCD (Obsessive Chicken Disorder aka I suffer from chicken math). When a hen is broody it means she has the natural inclination to hatch eggs. Some breeds of chickens tend to go broody more than others (Silkies, OEGBs, and Cochins being known for being excellent broody hens and Leghorns and Red sex-links rarely if ever go broody). One way to try and prevent broodiness is by collect all eggs daily, also making sure your hens are not going off to lay in a secret nest. Hens that are broody tend to sit in the nesting boxes for long periods of time rarely getting up to eat, drink, and poop before going back to sit. To read more on broody hens please read these articles: Encouraging or Discouraging Broodiness, Broody Hens
Poor nutrition can be a major cause of decrease in egg production. Feeding them an unbalanced diet does not give the birds the right minerals and nutrients (usually the lack of Calcium and Vitamin D) to lay good eggs or any at all. You should feed your birds Layer Feed (DO NOT feed your laying hens’ starter or grower feed) and a side dish of crushed oysters for them to eat if they would like. Also a daily fresh supply of clean water that is always accessible is absolutely necessary for laying hens. For more on what (and how much) to feed your hens read this article: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/feeding-options-at-different-life-stages
Once a hen reaches the age of 2 or 3 the slowly decrease in their production, but just because the decrease it does not mean that they stop all together. Some hens will continue to lay till they are 8 years old! But some may quit sooner. Older hens molt more often and longer, they also have a higher chance of becoming “egg bound” or having a “prolapse” which are problems that happen in a hen’s oviduct. If you are keeping chickens only for commercial use, then it is best for you to find homes (or cull) your hens when they grow older.
Chipmunk an old mix, laid rarely in her old age.
If a hen is sick, her drop in egg production is usually a sign. Along with lethargic birds, coughing/wheezing, lack of activity, lameness, lack of color in comb/wattles, and death. If your bird is sick try and figure out what she has and treat her. If you cannot figure it out or it is extremely sick try and contact a vet who will look at chickens. To ask about sicknesses please go to this forum: or read these articles: Chicken Injuries & Diseases
When a bird is under any stress its egg production usually suffers from it. Things that can potentially be stressing your birds out are: Lack of food/water, fright, heat, a different environment, and a small space. The best way to keep your hens happy is to have a predator proof coop/run, that is well ventilated, and with a constant availability to food and water. (Maintaining a
Healthy Flock, Housing & Feeding Your Chickens)
There is also the possibility that your hens are laying but either:
Ø Snakes or rodents are eating the eggs
Ø Your hens are laying in a secret nest in the run (or yard if you free-range them)
Ø You have a hen that is eating the eggs
Hopefully, now that you are done reading this, you have found the answer to your question. I hope your egg production starts up again soon! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post below in the comment box.