Egg Laying Mystery

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by JAK Rabbitry, Oct 28, 2011.

  1. JAK Rabbitry

    JAK Rabbitry Chillin' With My Peeps

    Before you say so.... yes I know there's currently a thread on why your hens may not be laying. I found incredibly unhelpful, and tried to post my own story and got no response.
    Also multiple times in the past i've posted questions only to have someone respond with links to other threads or websites. And often those threads have 100+ posts....i'm sure the answer may be in there somewhere but really I'd just like a straight answer or your personal opinion.

    I have a laying flock of about 50+ birds. They'ce been laying very well for me the past 2 years or so. The oldest birds are about 2 years old, the youngest around 6-7 months. I band them all with a new color each year/hatch so their ages are accurate to within a few months.

    I have an assortment...mostly EE's that are crosses between an Ameraucana rooster and assorted brown layers (gold comets, barred rocks, etc). Thre's one little white leghorn in there, a welsummer cross, a couple gold comets, etc.

    They live in an enormous coop....I joined together two old barn stalls and the aisle between them to make a 22'X14' sized coop. The cieling is also around 10' high. There's a whole wall of perches, a little cove with nest boxes, and there's a screen door on each side to let sunlight in. But that's not all! They are also given 24 hour access to a 22X20 foot outdoor run. I sprinkle their scratch out here, and also pick for them grasses and weeds to toss in. They also get the occasional produce parts or the end pieces of the bread.

    I feed a mix of mostly layer pellets (kalmbach) and mix in a little bit of oats, and cracked corn. But it's about 80% layer. I've had the on straight layer before and they occasionally went off feed....so I added some 'spots' of more 'interesting' things to peck at. They also get a little bit of beet pulp every couple days. Though I haven't fed it for the last week or two. no change.

    They're all fat happy birds from what I can tell. I also worm them with ivermectin every 6 months. The coops are regularly dusted with DE. And and the birds are externally treated for parasites every 6 months as well. I can't find a single mite or flea on anyone. In fact they just finished their molt about 2-3 weeks ago and every looks like a chicken supermodel.

    About 6-8 weeks ago egg production hit a wall. and within a week had completely stopped. Not a single egg from a single bird.

    So i've ruled out molting since they ALL completely quit weeks before and after their molt. You'd think with a flock this big I'd get an egg here or there at least. but NOTHING.
    Also ruled out daylight issues since they have so much outdoor time and the coop is so open with the screen doors as well. And since this problem started long before the daylight really started to wane, I dont really think its the issue. It gets dark here at 730. Thats still plenty of light for the occasional egg isn't it?
    Parasites aren't the issue.
    No one is broody.
    Everyone is well fed.

    Also i'm n the process of moving. So about 2 weeks ago, half the flock was moved to a friend's barn down the street. They are now in a large rubber matted horse stall. Still getting plenty of light and food. Still perfectly healthy. I got one egg the day after I moved them. And nothing since. I've been slowly moving the birds over in groups each weekend. I no onl have about 5 hens left to move.

    No eggs from each side.


    Ok so now the big question...what could possibly be the problem? And yes, I think there's a problem. Since my seemingly perfectly healthy birds are not doing what perfectly healthy birds do. And chicken feed is just too expensive to simply be feeding the birds.
     
  2. OldGuy43

    OldGuy43 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Since you asked for an opinion I'll give you mine (no matter how ignorant and misinformed it may be). You moved them. Hens do not like change.
     
  3. JAK Rabbitry

    JAK Rabbitry Chillin' With My Peeps

    Then you didn't read the whole story. They hadn't been laying for many many weeks BEFORE I moved them.
     
  4. Yay Chicks!

    Yay Chicks! Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I agree. No matter how nice the digs, chickens will generally stop laying for weeks after being moved.

    Also, with molting, it is not uncommon for them to stop laying prior to you seeing evidence of the molt and to take a little more time following the molt to get going again. It can be pretty individualized.
     
  5. JAK Rabbitry

    JAK Rabbitry Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'll say again. They were not laying a single egg for at least 6 weeks before the move. At which point they had all been in this coop for over 18 months.

    I just find it hard to believe given the variety of breeds and ages involved, that all 50 birds completely stopped laying for 8 weeks due to molt. I have never had this problem in the past, in any way shape or form. Even under teh worst accumulation of problems, I still got the occasional egg or two during the week. There's been absolutely nothing for 2 months.
     
  6. Pele

    Pele Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think you have a mixture of things happening to make the 'perfect storm' so to speak.

    Between the moulting, the daylight waning, and the moving, I think the hens are so scrambled that they don't know which way is up. If it were just one of these elements affecting them, I think you are right and they would have resumed laying again. But if you combine everything, their lives are being continually disrupted in a series of events so that they've stopped laying for longer than they would have.

    I'd give them another couple of weeks to settle. They won't still be affected by the molt (which probably started this mess), and they'll calm down from the move (which continued the situation), and if you did use some Golden Comets to cross them with, they should still produce in winter months, just at a slower pace.

    Hens have taught me the value of patience. Which for me was a hard lesson [​IMG].
     
  7. CrazyCatNChickenLady

    CrazyCatNChickenLady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Or a serious case of egg eaters..
     
  8. binders

    binders Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was also thinking egg eaters until I saw that there were no eggs at the new place also. I think Pele is right with the "perfest storm" idea. Hope they settle down for you and start laying again. Maybe giving them so light in the morning might help to get them started.
     
  9. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Here's my 2 cents worth. I agree that you'd think you would get at least a few eggs. My egg production from my older flocks hit a wall a few weeks ago too (molting and day length) but I still get about 30% or more from them.
    That said, it takes a lot of protein to make feathers and eggs and very few birds can do both. Feathers are over 90% protein and eggs contain a lot. Oats and corn are only about 10% protein and very low in the amino acid methionine, one of the most important for making feathers. That's why methionine and lysine is added to poultry feeds to supplement that in the constituent grains.
    Layer feed is normally about 16% protein (depending on brand).
    If your birds are truly finished molting they still need time for their bodies to recover.
    If you read the label of any commercial layer feed it reads something to the effect "This is a complete ration for laying hens and no supplemental feed is needed for optimal production" - that is gospel and should be taken to heart.

    You seem very concerned and I would be too so this is what I would do.
    Eliminate everything that diminishes protein intake. I would feed layer supplemented with a grower feed - preferably 20% or more like a flock raiser. I don't worry about them not liking the layer feed, they'll eat when hungry and be getting the nutrients they need. Giving treats including scratch to chickens is like giving kids a choice between a brussel sprout and liver dinner or ice cream and cookies. I wonder what they'd choose.

    Once they start laying again I'd add light to come up to about 12 hours.
     
  10. carrlr

    carrlr Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I do find it strange that this happened to a flock of 50+. I've seen it with my group of ~18 though. I like to call it the triple whammy. In a molt, daylight hours shortening, and colder temps (at least for Illinois). If I hadn't had it happen for the third year in a row, I wouldn't believe it myself. A variety of seemingly healthy birds all stop laying at roughly the same time. My initial thoughts were bugs, disease, or egg eaters. None of which turned out to be the case. The first year, I did nothing and when the day light houls began to lengthen with warmer temps, the laying began. Last year, I added a few hours of supplementa light, and in about a week they were laying again. This year, I'm doing the same and hoping for like results.
     

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