Easter Eggers barely laying; is it our feed and/or rooster?

Canterbury Hen

May 17, 2017
So last August we bought five newborn hens: two Welsummers, and three Easter Eggers. (Plus two cursed roosters, but that's for another thread.)

Since I rent with roommates who don't like chickens and my mom recently bought rural property forty five minutes away, it was always understood she would raise them. We bought two coops big enough to house 5-6 chickens eat: The two Welsummer hens and rooster go in one coop, the three Easter Eggers and rooster go in the other.

Now I read many, many chicken breed guides (online and library books), and most of them said that hens typically start laying around six months, mostly during seasons with long days (long summer days = more egg-laying). Also that Easter Eggers were super prolific layers, while Welsummers were just decent layers.

Despite this, after nine months, and well into spring, it seems our two Welsummers lay more eggs than our three Easter Eggers. Each morning my mom finds two chocolate speckled eggs in the Welsummer coop (makes sense; two chickens), but only one or two small green/blue eggs in the Easter Egger coop. I also noticed that our Welsummer eggs tend to have harder shells, while our Easter Eggs tend to have very thin shells (and not as rich yellow yolk).

For the thinner shells, I'm guessing they aren't getting as much calcium? I've talked to her about giving them oyster shell grit for calcium. As for nutrients, she pretty recently switched them from egg laying mesh (which they grew up with, after getting starter chick mesh) to egg laying pellets, which I'm guessing is not as good?

I also personally suspect it has something to do with our horrible Easter Egger rooster, Oneg, who lives in the coop with them. He's a really big bully, and pecks at them, beats them up, and does... uh... other things to them all the time. They all have missing and ruffled feathers because of him. Today, I also discovered that they tend to hide out in the nesting box during the day to avoid being around him (as he likes to strut in the chicken run). Maybe the stress from his bullying and/or being in the dark all the time tells their lizard brains to tone down egg laying production?

Also, whenever I give them treats I also noticed he tends to hog most of them for himself (he only really lets the "head hen," Peepers, do what she wants, and that's because she's fearless), and I noticed when Bluebeard and especially Condor, the lowest chicken on the pecking order, tried to eat or take too many treats, he'd peck at them. Do you think he could be discouraging them from eating enough, and thus they don't lay as much because they don't have as much food?

Of the Easter Egger hens, I noticed Peepers the "head hen" who gets the most food has a nice large comb, while Bluebeard the beta has a small comb, while Condor the omega has practically no comb. I'm also pretty sure poor Condor gets the least food since she's at the bottom of the pecking order, and can only sneak nibbles when the others have eaten their fill and/or their backs are turned. (She's definitely in the nesting box ALL THE TIME to avoid being picked on by the others.) If Condor and Bluebeard's combs are small, and they seem to not get as much food as the "alpha male and female" (Oneg and Peepers), could that be another reason they don't lay as much?

My mom thinks we might have gotten dud layers since we got them so cheap at My Pet Chicken. (Ordered newborns online and had them mailed to us for a few bucks each.) But I don't wanna believe that. My friend ordered a bunch of newborn hens from My Backyard Chicken and they're all prolific egg layers. (Of course, she and her mom take waaaay better care of them than my mom does when I'm in the city.

Basically, do you think if we got them premium egg laying mesh, gave them oyster shell grit, gave them lots of calorie and nutrient-rich treats (cracked corn, seeds, oats, berries, leafy greens, etc), and/or got rid of the rooster that's bullying them so much, they might start to blossom as confident young adult hens, and start laying better?
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I have Easter egger chickens who lay every day and their eggs are light blue. I feed them Dumor Layer Feed from tractor supply and meal worms every so often. Also, having only a couple hens to one rooster might not be a good idea. I have 4 EE, 1 Olive Egger, 4 RIR, 2 RIW, and 1 Barred Rock hens with my Barred Rick Rooster. Your EE hens might be getting over bred. Also are your EE's Bantams or Standard Size? And I must say, Not all EE's lay every day. Some lay only 4-5 eggs a week. Just depends on the quality genes that made the EE's. Also my chickens all came from Cackle Hatchery.
So, the egg laying you're getting from your easter eggers is normal. Chickens do not usually lay every single day. Getting two eggs out of three chickens is normal. Getting one egg out of them every once in a while is also normal.

That said, you have a rooster issue. First and foremost, three hens are not enough hens for this one rooster. As you have seen, it leads to overmating, causing a loss of feathers, stress, and even possibly injury. On top of that, he is bullying them, keeping them from eating, and they are so terrorized that they are hiding from him.

Get rid of him. There's no reason to have him unless you want to hatch chicks, and it doesn't sound like you have room for more birds so I don't think you're planning on that. You may find that they lay more when they are not so stressed from the rooster.
It sounds to me like your cockerel could well the be a significant contributory factor. The suggested roo to hen ratio is 1:10, so over-mating and acting like a jerk, in terms of food aggression is likely to cause significant stress to your EE pullets.

You may wish to consider the following:
  • Ensure that there are multiple feeding stations available
  • Sufficient run space (assuming they do not free range) - 10 sqft per bird is the recommended minimum
  • Give the EE cockerel a time-out on his own for a few weeks
  • Cut out treats for a while
If you have no particular wish to breed from your EE cockerel and you are not prepared to buy more pullets, then consider getting rid of him.

I'd doubt that the low egg production is related to the layers feed, since your other birds are laying well.

I'm sure other members will be along to provide additional advice.

Good luck

ETA: Sorry, other members posted while i was typing and I did not see the notifications :oops:
There is never a good reason to keep a bad rooster. If you can't rehome him, I suggest you invite him for dinner, maybe barbequed with Sweet Baby Rays, sweet Vidalia onion sauce.

Totally agree with Pyxis. I think you will find the hens respond very well to having their tormentor eliminated.
Thank you so much for the input, everyone.

I knew it was that cursed cockerel. I talked about this in my other thread, but my mom brilliantly decided to get only six chickens - five hens, one rooster - when she first ordered the newborn chicks from My Pet Chicken.

I personally didn't know roosters need ten hens because a) I didn't want a wretched rooster at all, b) she ordered it without consulting me first. Of course, my mom has an abysmal track record of making decisions before doing research (her attitude was, "Well, let's get the chickens and then we'll wing it as we go along"), so it wasn't until a few days ago that she said "Oh, I read somewhere that roosters need at least ten hens to remain calm." Me: *headdesk*

We also didn't find out till they all hit puberty that My Pet Chicken sent us an extra rooster, and by then I had become emotionally attached to him so my mom wouldn't get rid of him. Even after I said time and time again "It's okay if you get rid of him," she keeps declining to do it. It's driving me crazy.

I've been pleading with my mom for weeks to get rid of that wretched thing, but she won't do it. Her boyfriend LOVES male animals (male dogs, intact stallions, roosters, etc), so she got a male just for him, and he loves both roosters because... I dunno why. But she won't upset him by getting rid of one or both of them.

I'm passing this along though. I knew he was bad for the hens, but this outright abusive and I can't abide by this anymore. I'm done with this cockerel. If I have to make him "disappear" myself, I'll do it.
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Also, sorry to keep calling them by the incorrect terms. I keep forgetting it's "pullet" not hen, and "cockerel" not rooster. Force of habit. -_-
I'm in agreement with everyone else and as Drumstick diva said - no reason to keep a nasty boy. Sounds like it might be up to you to sort out mr.nasty. It's a job i am not looking forward to TBH but necessary! Good luck!
A rooster does not need 10 hens, that myth has taken hold and just won't let go. You have proof of that, look at what's in the other coop and how they are doing. I still think he's a serious problem.

How big are those coops, length by width? Usually when they advertise a coop is good for 6 chickens it's good for two, maybe three at most. How much room they have has a direct bearing on behaviors. I think that is one big problem you have, room.

Easter Eggers are not a breed, they are simply chickens where the hen should lay a blue or green egg. There are no breed tendencies, no production tendencies, no tendencies other than they should lay a colored egg. There are no standards for what makes an EE other than egg shell color. I do think it is possible and even likely production will increase without that male in there.

The form of the feed is irrelevant, it's the analysis that counts. They make commercial chicken feed by gathering all the ingredients and grinding them to a powder. That's called mash. To make pellets they wet the mash to a paste, extrude it through a die, and flash dry it. To make crumbles they partially crush the pellets. The ingredients that go into the feed determine the nutrients in it, the form is more about how you physically feed it.

Some roosters and cockerels are great with hens, even of there are only a couple of hens in the flock. Breeders often house one rooster with one or two hens throughout the breeding season and don't have these problems. That's a long way from 10 hens per rooster. But some roosters are brutes, some hens are also, by the way. it sounds like that EE cockerel is one of those, he is not behaving the way he should. The situation is probably being made worse by overcrowding. Some people have those same problems with over 20 hens and one rooster. Personality has a lot to do with it. Him hogging the food tells me he is not right.

You are in a rough situation since you are not in control. I don't know what you can actually achieve. One thing I'd suggest is to expand how much room they have if that is as small as I think it is. I don't have a square feet per chicken suggestion, what I'd try to achieve is to give the pullets enough room to avoid that cockerel other than hiding in the coop all the time. That would probably take more room than you can provide. I'm not sure how effective it would be anyway if he is as bad as you say, but behaviors do sometimes change with more room.

Since you can't get rid of him as he is not yours, maybe build a third coop/run. House him in it by himself, or maybe try it with the head hen and see how that goes. It's possible they will get along. Or stick both males in there together, a bachelor pad.

it could help if you can set up feeding and watering stations inside and out. At least that they can eat and drink in peace.

In the situation you are in I can't come up with anything you can really do, you are not in control. It's hard watching.

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