Egg production down summer heat, moulting or from free ranging

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by texas hiker, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. texas hiker

    texas hiker In the Brooder

    Jun 22, 2009
    East Texas
    Egg production went from 8 - 12 eggs a day to just a couple a day.

    My wife and I moved to a rural area a couple of weeks ago, which means the chickens went from a 6 X 18 run, to several acres of free range. The hens have a mixture of wooded areas and open field.

    A good number of the hens seem to be moulting. Some have recovered their feathers, while others are just now getting some new feathers in.

    Laying pellets are available to the hens, but they prefer to forage. A scoop of laying pellets has been in the feeder for 3 or 4 days now. When the hens were confined to the run they would eat nothing but laying pellets and some hen scratch from time to time. When confined they would go through 2 scoops of laying pellets everyday. But now, a scoop has lasted almost 4 days.

    My flock includes:

    4 – Rhode Island Reds
    2 – Silver Laced Wyandotte
    2 – Barred Rocks
    2 – Australorps
    2 – Black Jersey Giants
    1 – Speckled Sussex

    No roosters

    My location is southeast Texas. We are also in the hottest time of the year right now with daytime highs in the upper 90s / low 100s and high humidity.

    Why is egg production down? I suspect that it is related to the moulting and summer heat. But what about diet? How much fewer eggs do free range hens lay as compared to confined hens?
  2. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland
    Chickens can and does get a lot of food from foraging, but the quality of the food they find may not be enough to keep them in full production. This change in diet, the high heat and a few of them molting could all play a part here, as all are causes for non-laying and reduced laying, but I suspect with them free ranging they may also be hiding eggs somewhere in hidden nests. I used to let my hens free range full time over quite a large area and I often had to go on egg hunts. I once found a well hidden nest with 18 eggs in it. If possible, keep an eye on the hens, if you hear the "egg song" see if you can figure out where it is coming from. That may lead you to any hidden nests.
  3. alana124

    alana124 Chirping

    Jun 22, 2011
    Upstate NY
    Hi Texas Hiker! Your hens are lucky to have so much room to roam. I would suggest the following based on what I do with my girls. I have 7 older hens (5 RIR and 2 Plymouth Barred rocks) that provide me with 5-6 eggs a day. I don't allow them to free range until 12:00 noon when I know they're finished laying. Till then, they hang out in their run which is attached to the barn. I give them scratch and mealworms and oyster shells to snack on to keep them busy in the morning. My birds don't eat much of their feed either since, once I let them out, they're filling up on the ton of grasshoppers, baby birds, mice and grass around the property (they range on about 1 acre). In the evening they return at exactly 8:30 pm to their coop to roost.

    We had a spell of high heat and humidity (3 weeks or more here in NY state), and the egg production decreased considerably. I was getting only 1 or 2 eggs, sometimes 3 a day if i was lucky. My birds didn't moult however, so I would think your birds change of scenery and their new life style has thrown them for a loop...a happy one, though!

    My birds had a hard time getting their egg count up, but once my 3-month old Buckeye roosters started crowing, the hen's egg production increased to 5-6 eggs--not sure if it's the rooster, or the fact that the weather has gotten cooler and more tolerable for the egg increase.

    THUS, in a nutshell...I would suggest keeping your hens confined until they're finished laying before letting them out to free range; I would blame the weather, and also take into consideration that your chickens' environment has changed thus contributing to their diminished appetite and egg laying. Also note, that birds allowed to free range all day and roost at night outside will lay their eggs where ever they want. You'll have to look for them.

    hope that helped
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    If you are providing feed, then their needs are being met. Insects are a great deal of protien, and when my birds are in June-July-August they eat less commercial feed.

    While it might be the heat or molting, when I start missing eggs, it is almost always that the girls are laying somewhere else. Hens tend to lay in one place for days, weeks....then for some unknown reason, they will change spots. I have 4 nest boxes, and frequently they will favor one box for a long period of time, and then change. Not in frequently, I have had to go out of the coup/run to find a new nest.

    If they are free ranging during the day, I think they have created a nest out in the field. Spend a morning out there, and wait til you hear the egg song, that is an easy way to find a secret nest. The way to get them to lay where you want is to lock them up for a couple of days, they will lay in your nests, that becomes the 'new right place'. And you can free range again.

    Hope this helps

    Mrs K
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2013
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    It could be a combo of heat, change in environment, and possibly molting, but I'm also thinking you need to confine them or go on an egg hunt. Free range birds are great at hiding nests.
  6. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Quote:Add the impact of shortening day length to this list, and you have most of the possibilities.
  7. shotzy007

    shotzy007 Chirping

    Apr 4, 2013
    I pray you are getting better, I have been talking about donating blood for years, its time, thanks for the reminder, God Bless you and keep you strong.
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Thank you! Took another 2 units of blood and 1 of platelets yesterday...................

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