Help a new chicken family with hens that won't lay!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by gac870, Dec 4, 2010.

  1. gac870

    gac870 Hatching

    Dec 4, 2010

    I want to start by thanking you for the incredible resources you provide online for a beginner chicken family! My family bought chickens the first and second week of May this year. We bought 3 barred rocks and 3 easter eggers. We had a 50% death rate and ultimately ended up with 2 very healthy barred rocks and 1 easter egger that is now healthy but at one point was hurt by a stray neighborhood animal rather badly. In any event I am writing with a question about egg laying. The easter egger is 30 weeks old and the barred rocks are 31 weeks old. we have never had an egg laid by any of the birds. The birds were on high quality grower feed until about 6 and a half months of age and then we switched to a similar quality layer feed. The birds have 2 types of nesting boxes and four boxes in total. Three of the boxes are 5 gallon buckets and one of them is a cardboard box that is very sturdy and looks like a traditional wooden nesting box. The birds have a fully enclosed living space that includes 64sq ft of free ranging space and an attached coop area that is 16sq ft each of which have roosting bars. We are careful with loose yard free ranging because of the animal attacks we have encountered and tend to only let them loose in the back yard (about a half acre) when we can watch them. I feel like I have done everything right but am still not getting eggs. I thought that perhaps I am getting a critter who is stealing my eggs. I put golf balls and ceramic eggs in the nesting boxes to see if those would be stolen, but those have never been taken. Also I feel it is unlikely that some critter has stolen every single egg laid before I have even had the opportunity to see one. The only thing I can think of now is that my chicken tractor is placed in front of my dog run. When people like the meter man or mail man go by the dogs get worked up and bark. Perhaps this could be stressing the birds out? I have read many reasons that a hen may not lay, but it seems unlikely that all of my hens would fall into these exceptions. It is also important to note that none of them look like roosters nor do they crow. In fact, my birds are very quiet unless I am working in their space or I am out in the dog run at which point they just make subtle squawking noises. I am almost ready to quit and sell my tractor and set up, but don't want to give up. Is there any help you can give or any suggestions about what I may be doing wrong?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

  2. welasharon

    welasharon Songster

    Jun 28, 2010
    North Florida
    If you read through here for a while you will see that many folks' hens have either drastically cut back on laying or (as is my case) stopped completely. It's the season (unless you are in another part of the world)! Three of mine never started laying at all and the other three have stopped. Some people's have started back some have not. I think the more you have the better your chances that somebody will lay of course. You may try moving the tractor to see if that is a factor.
  3. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Believe if it were me I'd get them as far away from the dogs as I could then wait til spring and cross my fingers.
  4. Lesa

    Lesa Songster

    May 28, 2008
    Upstate NY
    My birds have not been bothered by my barking dogs. What behavior do the chickens exhibit, when this barking is going on? Do they seem stressed? Have you checked every possible spot in the run and coop. My first new layer, left her's behind my chip barrel in the coop. Don't give up. Spring is coming!
  5. chin up! i wouldnt throw in the towel until spring
  6. WA4-Hpoultrymom

    WA4-Hpoultrymom Never enough coops...

    Feb 5, 2009
    Monroe, WA
    My Coop
    Hens need at least 14 hrs of light a day to lay. With the shorter winter days, many hens don't lay this time of year. You can try providing them with supplemental light in their coop by putting a light on in there on a timer to add the extra hours of light needed to get them up to 14 hrs a day. But at this point, you may end up waiting until spring. FWIW, I just had a 40 wk old wyandotte lay her first egg and I do add supplemental light!
  7. cybercat

    cybercat Songster

    May 22, 2007
    Greeneville, Tn
    If their combs and faces are bright red (fire engine red) then I bet they are laying outside when free ranging. To fix that lock them in coop for a day or two no run time. That should get them laying in nest boxes. If you do not have fake eggs in boxes get some and put them in. Hens like to lay where others have. Fake eggs trick them to use nest boxes by looking like a hen layed there. You can use golf balls for this or wooden eggs.
  8. al6517

    al6517 Real Men can Cook

    May 13, 2008
    I find it hard to believe you haven't gotten a single egg, you may need to actually look closer at some other factors. hen's like to be comfortable in all respects before they lay, A tractor isn't the otptimal situation for laying, stress and safety is a factor if they they don't feel well they won't lay.

    WTS my first thought since your birds are new to laying is you may have the dreded EGG EATER!!!!!!!, if at any time they ever accidently broke an egg they figure out real quick that it taste great and you will never ever see an egg ever, you can't cure an egg eater, and I don't care what anybody else say's you just can't.

  9. FiveHens

    FiveHens Songster

    Apr 7, 2010
    Hens do not lay in winter.

    They need at least 14 hours of daylight in order to lay eggs. It could be that, with you getting your girls in May, by the time they were of laying age (~October), the days were too short for them to start. One easy way to fix this is to put a light on a timer in their coop, so that it turns on around 4:00-5:00 in the morning, for however long is necessary relative to the daylength that you are getting there now. This additional light should lengthen the daylength to 14-16 hours for them (14 minimum). You want to run the light in the morning, not in the evening, so that the chickens won't get confused when they try to put themselves up for the night.

    We noticed our egg production starting to get down around 1-2 eggs/day, and it was back up to 4 (for 4 hens) within a week after adding the light.
    Don't give up! You will get eggs--they're just taking their own sweet time.

    Best of luck! [​IMG]

    BTW: I would not think that a barking dog would scare your hens off laying.
  10. bantyshanty

    bantyshanty Oval Office Courier

    Oct 6, 2009
    S.W Pennsylvania
    Welcome, George!

    First, it would be helpful, somewhat, to know where you live. If you can go to your "profile" page, and edit your personal info. to state which part of which country you live in, it will help the folks you write to give advice on your coop, run, yard, predator advice, etc. That goes for lighting, too.

    Wherever you live in the continental US, the daylight hours are too short right now to stimulate egg production in pullets that have not thus far laid.

    If you can rig up some artificial lighting in the coop for about 6 hours in the day total, such as 5 pm to 11 pm, it should provide all the light you need to get them laying, depending on where you are.

    If your coop is too far away from the house to run an extension cord, try some battery-operated LED lights (Christmas lights).

    Home Depot carries these ($6 each), and I run 5 sets in the coop, all bunched up into light bouquets, on rechargeable AA batteries. They last about 2 weeks on one charge, so far.

    This will likely be enough to stimulate egg laying, and if it doesn't work, you can always use the lights to decorate some trees far from the house [​IMG]

    If they don't lay, then stress may be the main factor to work with. Probably it's just lighting.

    Hope this is helpful.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2010

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