drop in egg production

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by nellynelly, Nov 16, 2013.

  1. nellynelly

    nellynelly Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 8, 2012
    Bogota, Col
    i have a mixed age flock of 15 hens (13 are laying) and 5 new chicks. we were getting 5-7 eggs/day. this week, that number has been 2-3/day.

    as i see it, the only change has been the hatching of chicks. also, an adolescent rooster has started attracting the attention of the rooster of the group (the young one is going to be removed soon). could that impact production?

    we are in the tropics (5 degree north), so short winter days do not really exist. and yes, i have searched the run for hidden nests

    thank you for any ideas
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I did a quick check. Looks like only 41 minutes difference in your longest days and shortest days. I don’t know if that is enough to induce a molt or not. Do you see extra feathers flying around?

    Chickens tend to go through mini-molts after they have been laying for about a year. They don’t necessarily totally stop laying but they do cut back quite a bit when they go through a mini-molt. It’s not an exact calendar and varies some per hen but maybe you have a combination of things, not just one thing causing the problem.

    Also, the number of eggs a hen lays follows a certain curve. When a hen starts to lay after a molt or just when a pullet just gets old enough to lay, her egg production builds up to a peak and then gradually drops off. After 11 or 12 months of solid laying without a molt the average productivity of a flock is about 50% of peak. Egg quality can deteriorate too. That’s why commercial egg operations often force a molt or replace their laying flock about this time. Productivity drops to where profits are just not there.

    That’s all the molt stuff and you’ve mentioned hidden nests. The next thought is maybe something is getting the eggs. It sounds like it is pretty consistent, not up one day and down another. And they don’t take all of them. I don’t know what specific predators you have in Bogota but that doesn’t matter. Some will leave evidence of egg eating behind and some won’t. The chickens may be cleaning up the broken shells if it is something that would leave shells, but that’s kind of sporadic. They don’t always do a perfect job.

    Some things will take eggs without leaving a trace. I find that a snake will visit and eat a few eggs than stay away a few days while it digests those eggs, then comes back for more. Production appears to go up and down. It’s not consistent. Up here canines (fox, coyote, dog) will take them without a trace. A raccoon may carry them off also but they usually don’t carry them far. You should find a pile of broken shells somewhere relatively close if you have something like a raccoon. A human will also take eggs without a trace. A fox or coyote is more likely to take a chicken rather than eat the eggs while a skunk or possum prefer the eggs. Do you have a pet dog that has learned that the egg song is an invitation to a snack?

    I’ve never known production to drop from a hen hatching chicks or from having young cockerels come of age in a flock, but I guess it’s possible. Anything that causes stress can cause a drop in production. Adding new chickens or taking some away can change the pecking order but baby chicks shouldn’t affect that. Any change to their daily routine can cause stress, like changes in housing. Running out of water for a day or so can cause it. Maybe a scare from a predator? I’ve seen that effect when I put some in the freezer and change the pecking order but that’s normally just a one day drop, not something steady.

    I’ll mention that they don’t lay when they are broody but I really think you know that one. Also the older they get the less they lay.

    I don’t know what is causing your drop in production. If it is consistent the only animal I’d really suspect is a dog or a human. If it is stress related it should be short-lived unless it triggers a molt or mini-molt. It may have something to do with age or some type of molt.

    Good luck figuring it out.
  3. nellynelly

    nellynelly Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 8, 2012
    Bogota, Col
    thank you for the great in depth answer.

    we don't really have predators here. the only risk would be the farm dogs, but two 80 lb german sheppards would leave some evidence if they were able to penetrate the run fence. maybe snakes, but i have never seen one at the farm. also, the other flocks are not having a reduction in production.

    no more feathers in the coop than usual. also, the birds dont look ratty like they would during a molt. maybe the mini molt you spoke of.

    i dont want to consider human. only people that have opportunity would be the four employees (or there kids). all of which live at the farm and are very trusted. if they wanted, they have opportunity to steal much more than a few eggs a day.

    thank you again, will let you know if/when production is back to normal.

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