Entire flock has stopped laying? Help!

smithc43

In the Brooder
Mar 10, 2019
4
22
26
I am hoping some more experienced chicken owners can give me some insight. We have a flock of 10 hens; 4 buff orpingtons, 3 barred rock, 3 plymouths. They are 6 months old and have been laying regularly for about 2 months. Up until about 2 weeks ago we were getting 8-10 eggs a day.

Now to the problem.....2 weeks ago egg production suddenly declined rapidly. We are now only getting maybe 2 eggs a day. The birds have plenty of space. They are free roaming about half an acre. They have a clean coop, clean water, and are fed new country organics layer feed with free choice access to oyster shell. They are all acting normal, not plucking/moulting, healthy red combs. We do have one broody orpington, but none of the others are broody.

Why did laying stop? Should I be concerned about parasites? Not sure what to do...
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,851
21,993
907
Southeast Louisiana
You don't say where you are located so it's hard to consider climate effects. It's not unusual for them to cut back laying during severe weather.

The main reason for a reduction if laying is the molt. At that age it seems unlikely but it is still possible. It could be a full-fledged molt caused by the days getting shorter or a molt caused by some kind of stress, either a mini-molt or full fledged. You say they are not molting but I'll still mention it.

A pretty common occurrence for chickens to not be laying is that they are hiding a nest. That's a major drop for this reason, usually the drop isn't that dramatic. Still, it could be an issue.

It is unlikely parasites would cause that big a drop that quickly. Parasites don't generally cause a problem until their numbers build up to high levels. That is unlikely to happen to all the chickens in the flock that quickly. It's always a good idea to check for mites and lice. You can take a fecal sample to a vet so they can check for worms.

There are some diseases that can cause them to stop laying. Some of these cause deformed eggs, not just that they stop laying. Since yours are acting normal this is pretty unlikely.

A possibility is that something is getting the eggs. Most critters that eat the eggs leave some evidence, either shells or a wet spot. It's possible the chickens could clean up shells but wet spots are still probable. With that many eggs i would not expect the chickens to eat all of the shells.

The critters that typically take the eggs and leave no trace are snakes, canines, and humans. Depending on where you are in the word you may have other candidates. I've had snake problems. Typically a snake eats some eggs, how many depending on its size, then it stays away while it digests them before coming back for more. For reference, a five foot rat snake ate 4 at a time. If it is an everyday thing it is not a snake.

If it were a fox or or coyote I'd think you wound be missing chickens, not eggs. However some dogs will eat eggs but not harm the chickens. Does a dog have access to your coop?

The thought of it being a human is kind of creepy but that's for you to access.

So what can you do? Since yours free range, try locking them in the coop/run for a few days. If you get eggs you know they are hiding a nest or that you locked a critter out.

You can mark a few eggs and leave them down there. If they disappear you know something is getting the eggs.

You can install a game camera and see what you can see.

These things can be hard. I wish you luck.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
99,180
138,627
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
They are free roaming about half an acre.
Free range birds sometimes need to be 'trained'(or re-trained) to lay in the coop nests, especially new layers. Leaving them locked in the coop for a week or so can help 'home' them to lay in the coop nests. Fake eggs/golf balls in the nests can help 'show' them were to lay. They can be confined to coop and maybe run 24/7 for a few days to a week, provided you have adequate space and ventilation, or confine them at least until mid to late afternoon. You help them create a new habit and they will usually stick with it. ..at least for a good while, then repeat as necessary.
 

smithc43

In the Brooder
Mar 10, 2019
4
22
26
You don't say where you are located so it's hard to consider climate effects. It's not unusual for them to cut back laying during severe weather."

The critters that typically take the eggs and leave no trace are snakes, canines, and humans. Depending on where you are in the word you may have other candidates. I've had snake problems. Typically a snake eats some eggs, how many depending on its size, then it stays away while it digests them before coming back for more. For reference, a five foot rat snake ate 4 at a time. If it is an everyday thing it is not a snake.

I am SW Virginia. Weather is pretty mild and although temps have dropped some this month, we are still in the 70s-80s.

I've thought about critters but I know it is not dogs or humans. We live tucked back in the woods and have game cams facing the front of the property so we know if people come on the property. The chicken/goat yard is fenced and we have dogs of our own so I don't see how a canine (or really any animal) is getting through our dogs/a fence without leaving evidence. Since it is every day, I'm thinking there is no way it's a snake. Although maybe a snake is contributing. We have the ability to separate the chicken/goat yard into two separate yards. I'm thinking I'll put the chickens in the smaller yard where the coops are to limit the places they can hide eggs and see what happens.

We used to keep fake wood eggs in the nest boxes but when the orpington got broody we took them out. Is it possible that the broody bird has somehow caused the others to stop laying/?
 

sunrise.superman

Songster
Sep 24, 2018
172
481
132
Loveland, CO
I've never had that happen.

I had a BO and a cochin both go long term broody at the same time and were so snarky about the nest boxes that the others were off for a few days and then found a new collective place to lay.

The shortening days going into fall are telling all critters to prepare for cold weather. Even though it's not such a huge change for us it's a big signal for their bodies to start some major changes.
 

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