chicken stopped laying - anything I can do?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by AaronK, Dec 12, 2010.

  1. AaronK

    AaronK In the Brooder

    Sep 14, 2009
    I have two Red Star hens, about 2 years old. One of them stopped laying several weeks ago and I dont think she has layed since. She is the "pecked" of their small flock, but has been for a a year before that and was laying very well. Some things I noticed about her lately:

    1. she eats and drinks the regular chicken food (pellets) but does not seem as interested in "treats" recently - stuff like kitchen scraps, etc.

    2. her feathers are not looking as nice as they did a few months ago - more around her tail than anything else. theyre not exactly *bad*, just not as full looking as say, the ones on her wings.

    3. the rest of her behavior is pretty much fine - she's alert, no signs of any sickness that I can easily tell.

    4. For a while I thought she was egg-bound, but she poops fine and doesnt show any other signs that I've read about.

    5. This hen was traumatized at ~4 months old by presumably a racoon. She made it out alive and went on to lay very large eggs very regularly for the next 1.5 years. But now, no eggs!

    I do give them ample access to grit+oyster shell, but I dont know how much the two of them actually eat. Every few days the one that lays well (~5 eggs/week) will lay a soft-shelled egg. I dont know why they wont eat more of the shell+grit mix.

    So my questions for you helpful folks are:

    1. Anyone know what's wrong with my chicken?
    2. could it be that BOTH of them arent taking in enough calcium? But I cant exactly force feed them the oyster shell...?
    3. Are there any recommended nutritional supplements I can try? Their food (southern states layer pellets) already has vitamins in it...

    Anyway, thanks for your help!

  2. Sounds like she may be starting to molt.
  3. HHandbasket

    HHandbasket The Chickeneer

    Quote:It could be a molt. When they molt, their dietary needs change (they actually need more protein), they lose some feathers, and they take a pause in laying. They might not be eating the shell & grit mix for a couple of reasons--they tend to gravitate toward what they need, and if they are taking a break in egg-laying, they may not be eating the calcium because they don't need it right now. They protein needs are increased during a molt because they are trying to regrow new feathers.

    I have not experienced this myself yet as this is our first year of having chooks, but I have seen several discussions about it here on the BYC forum and have read about it in a couple of different books.

    I'm sure your girls are fine, and I hope they start laying again soon.
  4. Terri O

    Terri O Songster

    You dont say if you have light on them. I am not sure about your region but here in the North we must provide artificial light (for a total of 16 hours a day) in the winter in order for the birds to keep producing eggs. Maybe this is the problem along with a molt? Terri O
  5. AaronK

    AaronK In the Brooder

    Sep 14, 2009
    Thanks for the fast replies!

    I did think of molt, but for several weeks? As in 5+ weeks?

    they are housed in a chicken tractor and only get natural light. A year ago they laid nearly as much in winter as they did in summer. Could one year of age at this stage in their lives make so much of a difference?

    what's a good way of providing more protein? I heard that cat food is a good "quick fix" but I'd rather not be feeding them cat food on anything but an extremely temporary basis :) well at least they wont be having hairballs (that's what my cat need) ;-)
  6. HHandbasket

    HHandbasket The Chickeneer

    I give my girls scrambled eggs to up their protein when they need it. We have one barred rock girl who is showing all the signs FINALLY (at around 33 weeks!) of being ready to start laying, has almost overnight developed a comb and wattles and is squatting for us daily, so we are making sure she gets a li'l extra protein. We also eat a lot of quinoa ourselves, which is a grain that is very high in protein, and I give the girls my quinoa leftovers, as well.

    When I give them scrambled eggs, I make sure they're completely cooked all the way through. Once they get used to any kind of taste of raw egg, they could turn and start eating their own eggs, or so I have been told. That could very well be an old wives' tale, but I'd rather err on the side of caution. [​IMG]
  7. AaronK

    AaronK In the Brooder

    Sep 14, 2009
    eggs - of course [​IMG]

    that did remind me: I do often find this hen in the nest box looking like she wants to lay. When I say often I don't mean multiple times per day, but more like "on a daily basis."
  8. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Sounds like a combination of the molt, decreased daylight, production bred bird starting to "burn out." I would guess that she will start laying when the daylength approaches 14 hours but a a decreased rate as compared to last year.
  9. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I have several who are molting or have just molted fight now. My Leghorn got about 90% bare and it took about 3 months. She still hasn't started laying again though she's been a 6 per week layer for about 3 years. Some of the others look really ragged, and with some I have to look closely to realize they are in a molt. Just from this small flock it is obvious they don't always read the book (they are different ages) and drop feathers in the order the book says they should. In addition, Red Stars tend to "burn out" earlier than some others, though of course yours could be different. In the end, they are very much individuals.
  10. AaronK

    AaronK In the Brooder

    Sep 14, 2009
    thanks for all the input. as the owner of such a small "flock" i probably overthink/overworry about these sorts of things that I wouldnt even notice with a larger group.

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