28 chickens and only 5 eggs a day!! What gives?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by kmlmgm, Oct 16, 2013.

  1. kmlmgm

    kmlmgm Out Of The Brooder

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    I have no idea what I'm doing wrong, my husband will freak out if I have to start buying eggs again! I have a total of 28 hens. Let me start by saying that at least 12 are juveniles, I expect nothing from them for months. I have a few, maybe 6-8 that are legitimately in different stages of molt. The problem is, we were getting 10 a day, I can't figure out what changed. I DID see roundworms about 2 weeks ago, but it was in one poop, I examined many more and have since seen nothing, but that is only in the chicken house. They free range during the day, get locked in at around 6:30pm. They are very well taken care of, get a lot of cooked veggie scraps from our waste, eat a nice diet of forgage and I have food in their feeder, just in case. The food is a blend I cam up with myself, but it has a minimum of 22% fat, 17% protein, and I supplement with oyster shells and fish meal powder. They look good, except for the ladies in molt. The water is fresh every day, and I wormed them via the water the day after I saw the worms. I see an egg everyday with a very thin membrane that has usually broke open, someone lays it early in the morning before they go outside. I live in upstate NY, days are getting darker but, so far, weather has been pretty mild. I have a mix of RR's, Salmon Favoerelles, RSL's, and Golden Comets. WHAT is going on?? Is it normal this time of yera in the northeast for egg production to dip?
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Are the 16 laying age birds all the same age?
    I would say it's normal. The temperature has little effect. Day length is what stimulates production. With 8 molting (and maybe more if they're all the same age) that means you're getting 5 eggs from 8 birds and with the shorter days that isn't a bad percentage. 62.5%.
    I had 21 laying age birds of various ages but 7 were POL pullets, 4 were broody, 2 were shut down after a predator attack and most of the rest were molting. I got down to 1 or 2 eggs a day.
    Some of the pullets have now started only 2 are broody now and some are almost done molting so I'm up to about 5 a day now. After molt is over, I'll probably add a little light to kick start them again.
    I had to buy about 4 dozen eggs. The first time I bought eggs since 2008.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    You did not mention how old those other 16 are, but yes, it is normal this time of year for egg production to drop anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, not just where you are. As always, there are different possible reasons.

    The big one is the molt. It’s not always possible to tell a hen is molting by looking at her. Some are such slow molters they gradually lose and replace their feathers and always look pretty nice. It wouldn’t surprise me if you have more molting than you think.

    It’s not unusual for a pullet to skip the molt her first fall/winter and keep laying throughout the winter. I had some last year that started laying in early December, the shortest days of the year and I do not add supplemental light. Hopefully some of those pullets will kick in before too long and help ease your pain.

    If it has been a long time since they molted, like maybe they were pullets last year and laid through the winter, they can cut back on production. They need to recharge their bodies. But this usually involves a mini-molt. This time of year, they should go into a full-fledged molt and not mess around. This is why I don’t use supplemental lighting, to give them a chance to molt and fully recharge. But if it is possible, you might consider adding light to kick-start those pullets once they are old enough to lay and the others are in full molt.

    I don’t know what your weather has been like, but some hens stop or greatly reduce laying in weather extremes, either hot or cold. Even if they are not molting, some just slow down when the days get shorter. That could be part of it.

    Since yours free range, it’s possible one or more have decided to hide a nest from you. That’s pretty common when egg production consistently drops.

    It’s possible you have something taking the eggs, some type of egg predator. Usually when you have this the loss is not consistent. The hens don’t necessarily lay the same time of day each day. These predators normally don’t hang around each day for their quota of eggs and disappear when they get their daily quota. You tend to get some pretty severe spikes when you have a predator, plus many will leave broken shells or other evidence behind. You can’t totally rule out a predator in what you describe but a human egg predator is about the only one I’d think would be consistent.

    I really think it’s a molt, though I can’t rule out just a drop in production this time of year or a hidden nest if it is pretty consistent. I guess a predator is possible but I don’t consider that likely with no evidence left and it being pretty consistent.

    Good luck!
     
  4. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

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    I would add that the diet sounds like it is not sufficient to provide the right levels of nutrients to maximize egg production, and that also will have an effect on how long it takes your birds to recover from a molt. Birds that forage extensively tend to get lower energy and protein in their diet. In addition, it is very difficult to balance a home made diet, as there are many nutrients in addition to energy and protein that need to be balanced properly. Providing a layer ration as the primary part of their diet should allow increased egg production. They can survive just fine on a diet of that kind, but will not produce as well.
     

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