3 weeks- no eggs

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by possumblossum, Nov 8, 2013.

  1. possumblossum

    possumblossum Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 11, 2010
    Blount Co., TN
    I have a menagerie of breeds and ages- Aussies, Easter Eggers, RIR, BR, BSL, RSL, and mutts ranging in age from 9 months to two years. There are 27 hens/pullets. About a month ago, egg production bottomed out. I had been free-ranging with only minimal feed in the evening, so my first thought was that they had moved nests into the brush. I started penning everyone up at night and turning them out mid-day. No improvement in egglaying...so I thought maybe they weren't get sufficient nutrition with the free-ranging. I started back on free-access to 16% layer pellets. No affect.

    I've examined every nook and corner of the coop to verify there are no predator holes. I've dewormed and added light. So now I have 27 hens penned up 24/7 with free access to water and feed, and a heat lamp on them 24/7. I haven't had a single egg in three weeks and no one's even going to the nest boxes. Each box has a nest egg in it. No change to location or nesting material. No one's molting....


    Any ideas?
     
  2. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    Apr 8, 2008
    Ohio
    A couple of things stand out to me...
    You say your birds aren't moulting--are you sure? I would guess that your birds are moulting, even if it's not a hard moult. It's the right time of year for it, and your birds are the right ages for moulting. Also, one of the things that commercial layer houses do to throw birds into moult is to restrict their feed. I'd guess that they weren't getting enough to eat outside, which coupled with the declining daylight threw them into moult. They are also on a really low-protein diet. 16% is the bare minimum protein in my mind, and not enough during moult. Try adding some protein--either feeding a higher protein diet or adding some other protein supplement. It's actually difficult to maintain a layer flock on nothing but pasture unless you've planted the pasture specifically to address their nutritional needs.

    You say you added light--did you jump them from no added light to 14 hours a day all at once? It doesn't work like that. When adding light, you need to bring the amount of light up slowly to allow for the chickens to respond by making certain hormones. It takes a long time for that to happen. Most research-based sources recommend increasing the light by 30 minutes per week max. I increase mine by 15 minutes every three days. When increasing light, make sure that you take into account the fact that natural day length is decreasing, so you have to do the math to make sure you're actually increasing the light the amount you think you are, if that makes sense. And, I have to ask--do they have light 24/7? If so, research shows that more than 18 hours of light actually depresses egglaying. Even if you've done it correctly and brought up the light slowly, it can take several weeks after the chickens are getting 14+ hours of light before their hormones are at the correct level for you to get eggs.

    Also, I'd get rid of the heat lamp. Temperature has no bearing on egg production. Only the hours of daylight matter. Heat lamps stop the birds from acclimating naturally to cold winter temperatures. Think about how you would feel if you came into the house after working outside in the winter and couldn't take your winter coat off--chickens wear their winter coats 24/7. Also, if your electricity goes off and your birds are accustomed to having a heat lamp, it will be really hard on them. Finally, heat lamps are a huge fire hazard.

    You've also changed a lot of things about your birds' lives. Where they spend their days, their feed, their temperature, deworming. Chickens don't like change. Just as hens that are sold often stop laying for several weeks at their new owners' house, you may have accidentally made your problem worse.

    Finally, here is a "sticky" thread from the top of the forum that may help. https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/423023/why-arent-my-chickens-laying-here-are-your-answers

    My advice? Turn off the heat lamp. Let the birds free range again. Give the chickens as much higher protein feed, like Flock Raiser + a dish of free-choice oyster shell as they'd like to eat (free choice). Put your lights on a timer and cut the light down to, say, 12 total hours a day, and start raising the light 15 minutes every three days. Be patient (the hardest part, I know). Chickens that are moulting often take 6-8 weeks before they start laying eggs again.

    Also, you're not alone. My current laying percentage is 30%, down from 85% this summer. The girls are killing me!
     
  3. possumblossum

    possumblossum Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 11, 2010
    Blount Co., TN
    Interesting... This is my seventh year raising an egg flock, always with free range and supplemental 16%. I've never had a flock-wide simultaneous molt. And have converted to full-time light every year in the middle of October. I keep pretty good records on production the molt has always come at the beginning of July and then at the end of August/ first of September. My production has never dropped below 50%. 2013 has been the mildest, wettest year in East Tennessee since the Civil War (we hit our annual rain fall in May and only reached the 90's four days), so I guess it's just a natural adjustment.

    The most bothersome part is the Aussies that were hatched out in March. I hatch them every Spring and they usually carry me through the Winter. This is the longest they've ever gone without starting to lay.

    I've opened the pens back up to allow free-ranging again and have set the light to stay on 0600-2000. With my work schedule, trying to do the 15 minutes increments just isn't feasible.
     

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