Chickens not laying, at least not like they should.


Sep 17, 2015
Let's start with some background. I have a mixed flock totaling 14 (BR's, Buff O's, and Black A's) in south east PA. They are twenty months old. My set-up is a mobile coup which has roosts and nest boxes inside and an electronet surrounding to which they run free in every day. Every three days the whole thing gets moved to a new spot of pasture. Their water is clean and fresh. They have free choice ground(not pellet) feed. Currently I believe three are broody....ugh. I am getting four to eight eggs a day. for the last few months! We just went through a spell of three week straight 85+ degree day time temps. Last week was cooler. We moved to a new house and brought them with us three months ago(I don't suspect stress from this). I don't suspect parasites, but I will check vents tonight. If I were to do one thing over with building it, it wouldn't have 1/2" hardware cloth for the bottom, as this doesn't let the manure properly drop though. I do clean it out when it gets bad. Thoughts?
Ps, the picture is before the move, when we had more.... some were lost to predation to which I added some string on top of the net, zig zagged back and fourth. Also the brown tarp is no longer on it. Their only shade is under the coup.

That coop looks tight for that many birds, they could be stressed from crowding. Broody hens don't lay, so that certainly would contribute to less eggs as well as the season is beginning to wind down and poorer layers will have probably quit already in order to molt. They could probably use more shade too. Just a few ideas. Hens lay best on their first season and production goes down each year.
I would say that it's too small for them too, if it were not for them being able to get out during the day. They only go in to lay and at night, so I'm not sure that crowding stress is an issue. Also, aren't heritage breeds supposed to continue their lay for a few years, as opposed to hybrids which lay really hard, then quit?
If you got them from a hatchery then they are more of a production strain than a true "heritage" strain. They will still lay as they age but production will definitely decrease.
If you got them from a hatchery then they are more of a production strain than a true "heritage" strain. They will still lay as they age but production will definitely decrease.
That's an interesting point. The obvious next question is where to get true heritage breeds? I got them as pullets from a local breeder....who is no longer in business and therefore I cannot contact.
Even heritage breeds have a big decline in production after the first two seasons. They will continue to lay for a few more years but at a decreased rate. High production birds will often quit totally after two seasons, so heritage do tend to lay longer. I prefer hatchery stock as they lay better in my opinion. Private breeders often focus on looks over production. Many of my heritage breed hens quit laying by age 5.
I forgot to add that I found my hens got deficient on layer feed, and I got better production when I switched to higher protein feed. I now feed an all flock ration 18%, with a separate bowl of oyster shells for the extra calcium needs.

I think the key is the age of the birds. 18ish months is the classic time to molt and take a break from laying. You didn't mention molting, some birds it's very obvious and some birds it's pretty subtle.

Buff Orps aren't stellar layers anyway. The Rocks and Aussies are usually laying pretty well up to this point. The natural cycle for chickens is to start laying around 5-6 months, lay straight through a year +, then molt and take a break for the winter. Egg production resumes in the spring, with a slight drop in production. That continues, laying in the spring/summer/fall and taking a break to rest and recharge in the winter, each year production tapering down.

Heat may be a factor, too. Try rigging more shade or cover for them.

What are you feeding? If it's layer, you might try a bit more protein and see if that helps.

Any chance a predator is stealing eggs?
No a predator is not steeling eggs. They have shade under the coup for all of them to go, so not sure that is the case here. I haven't seen any molt yet.
Was gonna say prime time molting age and heat/shade, but donrae got it covered.
Just under the coop may not be enough shade IMO.
The heat is hard on them, I think that they expel so much of the water they drink trying to shed heat from their bodies that there's not enough left to make eggs.

ETA: Molting is not always blaringly obvious..and they can stop laying before they start shedding feathers.

Not sure how they get up on, and down from, those roosts, looks tight but no idea of scale.....
.......not that that has anything to do with slow down of laying.
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