Easter Egger Not Laying and Stressed - Steps To Take?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Wishapup, Nov 15, 2013.

  1. Wishapup

    Wishapup Chillin' With My Peeps

    815
    34
    141
    May 1, 2013
    Canada
    I have a smallish flock of 20 birds. Assorted, mostly Black Sex-Link, Silkie cross, bantam, BR, RIR. In October, we added 3 hens to the existing flock: one Rhode Island Red, one Plymouth Rock, and one Easter Egger .

    We were told that they are all eleven months old, and that they lay regularly, except for the EE who lays "once in a while".
    She looked scruffy compared to the other two when we got her. I had posted about her condition earlier and concluded that she was molting. The RIR/BR have adjusted seemingly well, and have laid eggs. However, the EE has not laid a single egg. She also appears to be the most stressed after two weeks of integration. She spends a lot of time outside in the run even though it's cold. She's pretty shy and gets pecked by the other hens (though not badly)--I never see her behaving assertively at all. I've tried to help her, but it's hard when she's scared of me. I can't give her treats without stressing her out. My other birds know not to be afraid and will grab the treats before she even notices them.

    She was originally roosting with the other birds at night, but now she's sleeping in a nesting box. I know it's a bad habit, but I know how stressed she is and can't decide whether I should stop her yet. I know she's improved since the first week.

    It doesn't sound normal for an 11-month-old chicken to only lay "once in a while", but I'm not sure. [​IMG]
    Could they have meant she hadn't been laying because she was molting? What other reasons could cause this in an otherwise healthy-looking bird?

    ...I really want to get a blue egg from Anabelle, but it doesn't look like it will be happening very soon.
     
  2. fried green eggs

    fried green eggs Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,904
    64
    181
    Mar 25, 2011
    S.E. Michigan
    My guess is she is being picked on by the other birds and that is why she is sleeping away from them. Stress can cause them not to lay and make them more likely to get sick so, watch her closely. Most EE are not high egg producers compared to some of your other breeds and shorter day also slows laying. If I have a few offish type hens I drop treats a little bit away from me for them so, they don't have to compete with the brave friendly hens. Gradually the shy ones start coming closer and closer to me for treats and learn it's OK. Hope this helps. [​IMG]
     
  3. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

    381
    56
    136
    Mar 13, 2013
    Kentucky
    My Coop
    I'm not an expert on this yet but I'll give you my perspective. I have a chicken as well, Luna, who has yet to lay an egg. She is not as old as yours, just 32 (8 months) old so it's possible that she's just not ready/mature enough to lay yet. When chickens lay their first egg can vary GREATLY from 17 weeks up until a year. But in any case, Luna is also the lowest chicken in my flock's pecking order. She always has been. Even when I brought in 6 new hens that were 2 weeks younger than Luna, she still somehow ended up lower than all of them in the pecking order.

    What I've done is make sure she gets enough food. I set out 2 separate water/feeders. I'd also get just a little dish of food and water special for her and basically draw her away from the flock and feed her so she could eat and drink in peace and so I knew she was getting food in her. She's able to get enough food herself these days and is better at mingling with the other chickens but in the past, she did not. So, I would feed her separately in the morning and at night. When I gave them treats, I'd keep a little stash for just Luna and I'd again, draw her away and feed her her own little pile of treats behind a barrier so the others could not see her, a barrier like a tractor tire or the corner of the barn. It is AMAZING how quickly she learned that when I was handing out treats, she would wait at the side for hers. I'd call her, "Luna, Luna, Luna" and start walking away and she'd follow to get her special, solo treat.

    She also had trouble on the roost. All the other chickens would pick on her, no one wanted her to roost next to them. She finally picked a spot on the very end next to the wall. Often, she's by herself in that spot next to the wall. If there were other chickens in the way so she couldn't get to her spot, she'd fly up on my shoulder or head while I was preparing the coop for the night. If she flew up on me, I'd walk over to the roost, scoot the other chickens over and help her get in her spot. Once she was in her spot, she would generally be OK as she would just put up with the pecking/scolding by turning her head towards the wall. She was at least protected on one side that had the wall, which is why I think she liked that spot.

    Over time, she's gotten better with the other chickens. She no longer needs her own little stash of treats as she fends for herself to get treats with the others now. She can almost always manage to get to her spot on the roost. She doesn't need to be fed morning and evening separately. I could be totally wrong, but I think the attention I gave her had something to do with increasing her confidence and/or helping the others accept her more. I'm in some ways viewed by the flock as highest in the pecking order so possibly giving her attention helped her in some ways.

    Integration is tough on the chickens and takes time as they work out the pecking order. Unfortunately, someone has to be on the bottom. But to make it easier, maybe try some of these things I've mentioned. Make sure she can get food and water without too much conflict with the other chickens, which can be a second feed/waterer if you don't already have this. Feed her alone separately if necessary or you think that will help. In terms of roosting, I'm sure you're right, she's sleeping in the nest box because it's where she feels safest. Make sure you have adequate roosting space where she can roost by herself if she needs to. If not, you might (if you have enough space) add a lower or second roosting bar. This is what Ridgerunner does, one of the most experienced flocksters who posts really helpful info in this forum. He has a second roosting bar because the chickens can be especially brutal on the roost and it gives the lower in the pecking order chickens a safe and more peaceful option for roosting.

    I really would discourage her from sleeping in the nest box. It's just a bad habit because you end up with poopy eggs. And once this habit is formed, you basically have to block off the nest box at night to break the habit. Then, you have to get up early enough to open it back up in the morning so those that use the box can use it, else risk them starting to lay outside the box as you know how stubborn/creatures of habit these chickens can be. I have one chicken who can only lay in one box and one box only. If I were to block off that box, it would upset her greatly!

    Also, you probably know this or already did this but providing as much space as you can will help your little chicken get away from the others so she can either be alone or at least not super close to those that pick on her the most. Lots and lots of space is a key in helping an integration proceed successfully. Also, ensure there are barriers for the chickens to hide behind and/or things for them to fly up on to get away from the others.

    Two weeks also, may not be long enough to complete an integration. Sometimes, it can take a lot longer than this. So, keep an eye on things. If she's getting picked on to the point of a good number of feather lost or especially blood, that's not good. The whole sight of blood, as I'm sure you know, can cause the other chickens to gang up on her and possibly do her great harm and even death.

    Anyway, hope some of this is in some way helpful to you. Perhaps others have suggestions too.
    Guppy
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
    2 people like this.
  4. Wishapup

    Wishapup Chillin' With My Peeps

    815
    34
    141
    May 1, 2013
    Canada
    I agree that she's probably starting to sleep away from them because of the pecking. Her two "friends" that she came with are the only birds that she seems to spend a lot of time with, and those two have been totally accepted and are usually huddled in the centre of the big group.

    Good to know they aren't high egg producers! We have a light set-up to keep the chicken waterer from freezing--we put it up maybe a week ago, like we have every year. Do you think that would be helpful for her? I also have some chicken stress medicine powder that is supposed to be added to the water. It probably wouldn't hurt to add it to the major waterer, I guess, especially as one of my roosters is also stressed right now.

    Thank you for the tips! [​IMG]
     
  5. Wishapup

    Wishapup Chillin' With My Peeps

    815
    34
    141
    May 1, 2013
    Canada
    I get what you're saying about the separate feeding/watering...I already do this with a couple of chickens, namely the smallest. My two year old Sex-Links are HUGE and 2 of my bantams hens are really tiny. The 6-month old hen has always been given treats, etc., so it's not a problem for her. I call her name and she flies up to the perches by the laying boxes to get her special food. I've noticed an improvement with this--she's more assertive--so after reading your comment I want to try it with my EE! Another bantam hen is probably 4-5 years old. She has toe problems, but after several years she can defend her position in the flock. She's not very flighty because of her toes, so she has learned to stand and peck back. She's unpredictable, but will sleep usually on the waterer perch (not too high and warm because of the light!). She sometimes needs special food too, along with my stressed roo. [​IMG]

    I've been watching Anabelle and it doesn't look like she's bleeding at all, fortunately. I know though, that she spends a lot of time outside in the run to avoid that. I thought her feathers would be very pecked-looking by how she's behaving, but they're not. She's so shy that she goes out into the run when I feed my girls! So it's very hard to isolate her and give her special treatment. I think I might distract the others with food, and then try to give her some treats.

    I will stop her from using the next box and try to provide a new roosting area. It's possible that another bird or two might use it with her, or I hope [​IMG]

    I'm really fortunate in that I think I have a good amount of space, but I want to add a roost and rearrange some things. Currently, I have a long-ish roost (problem with that is the chickens simply form special groups along it), perches by the nesting boxes, two little perches by the waterer, and a run.

    Thank you so much for all the detailed information! [​IMG]
     
  6. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

    381
    56
    136
    Mar 13, 2013
    Kentucky
    My Coop
    You bet, glad to help! I know what you mean about the longish roost and the chickens forming special groups along it. My roost is similar, about 8 feet long. In the past, one group would roost on one end and another group on the other end. I think the groups are OK and normal, though. I guess I view this as a good thing. They know who they're comfortable with and so they crowd together with that click, away from the others. I've noticed that over time, they intermingle more and more, especially as they all reach maturity and finally settle on a pecking order. But it takes a long time. In my case, I integrated 2 flocks and it took several months for them to integrate. It wasn't until they all reached maturity that they finally became one flock. But even now, they'll sometimes separate into their 2 sub flocks. Pretty common, as I understand it.

    Anyway, great luck to you! You obviously care about your little chickens so anything you try will be in the right spirit.

    Guppy
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
  7. Wishapup

    Wishapup Chillin' With My Peeps

    815
    34
    141
    May 1, 2013
    Canada

    Thank you, Guppy! You've been a great help. I'm going to try some of your suggestions with her...here's a picture I took today:

    [​IMG]

    Her neck looks scruffy, probably from pecking.
     
  8. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

    381
    56
    136
    Mar 13, 2013
    Kentucky
    My Coop
    She's a pretty little chicken. I hope she finds her way to a good place in the pecking order and with your help, I'm sure she will.
     
  9. Wishapup

    Wishapup Chillin' With My Peeps

    815
    34
    141
    May 1, 2013
    Canada
    An update on this chicken: She has improved a lot in the last week! She's noticeably fatter and her feathers look beautiful--they've darkened in colour from yellow-brown and dark brown to a rich dark red/dark brown pattern--her colour has either changed, or she's just grown in a lot of those pecked/molting areas.

    As far as feeding, I now have 4 (out of 20) birds that come up for special feeding in the morning: 2 of the smallest bantam hens, the "defeated" rooster (his 3 sons have taken over), and Anabelle. She's not as shy as I thought she was--she's actually one of the few chickens that will "talk" to me and look right at my face. She's also improved in the pecking order, because today I noticed her pushing away a couple of other birds from her feed.

    Thank you for all the suggestions! No eggs yet, but if her condition continues to improve like this, I imagine she will start. [​IMG]
     
  10. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

    381
    56
    136
    Mar 13, 2013
    Kentucky
    My Coop
    So glad it's working out for you and Annabelle. Great job helping everyone along!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by