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Help...need opinions...hens will lay, then stop, then lay...not sure if it's the weather or what?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by DawnB, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. DawnB

    DawnB Chirping

    Hi all...I have an issue (or, maybe not...may just be impatience). Oh, and I'm in northern MI...

    So, I adopted a flock at the end of August (12 hens...they're around 2yrs old). The move to our place was traumatic at best. They stopped laying for over a month and went through and early "molt" if you will (they were so plucked over they really didn't lose that many feathers). They started laying again at the beginning of November. I averaged 6-8 eggs a day.

    As it got dark earlier, they stopped laying (around 1-2 every other day at best). We gave them a rest because they were still feathering out. Laying was sporadic at best. We put a light in the coop at the end of Dec. and eggs picked up. I was back to averaging 4-8 eggs a day.

    Now, all this time, I've feed grower feed and they get supplemented with a good amount of veggie scraps. Up until mid-Jan, they were out in the run regularly. Now, tho, we've got a ton of snow and they don't even venture out on the few nice days.

    The eggs were 4-8 a day on average until a couple of weeks ago...now I'm down to 1-2 every couple of days. Nothing has changed with their feed. At about the same time as the downturn, we got hit with some really weird yo-yo weather. It'll be 40deg on day and -20deg two days later. They've been closed up in the coop a little more often because the wind has been wicked (50+ mph winds that just drive the snow into the pop door).

    The ONLY thing I've done different is add a bit of vitamin into their water and swap out my 5gal water bucket to a rubber pan (that I fill at least 3 times a day) because the big bucket was freezing solid!

    So, opinions please...are they stressed because of the weather, of being shut up in the coop, not enough water? They're eating and pooping well and, while there are some signs of picking...it's only on my bottom-most roo and one hen...the others are fat, dumb and happy. I do have a pair of geese that are in with the chickens...would they stress the chickens out (they are just coming into mating season)?

    Or, (bigger question)...is this just all normal and am I just being impatient?



  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    The birds themselves are pretty tough with respect to temperature, especially on low side. When temperatures get really cold they will reduce egg production. That is reason commercial egg producers invest in environmental controls during hot and cold parts of year. My birds also do the yo-yo bi as well.
  3. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Songster

    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    My grandfather kept his hens for four years or so in his operation. Each age had its own pen. The chicken house was unheated, It had a timer for lights that he didn't use while I was growin up. When we gathered the eggs each pen had its own basket, so he could tell how each pen was laying. Well most days there were more then three baskets would hold so using four was necessary anyway. In the winter you could see the production slacking off. The pullets of course kept going with only a little slow down. The older hens went through their molts, with the noticeable drop in production. The yearlings came back fastest. By this time of year they all were Purty much coming back on line with the longer days. But being this time of year with spring starting to push at winter the weather had its ups and downs. When the weather got cold, snowy and miserable, I think I remember right, even the pullets slowed a little and the older ones did a noticeable drop. Now i really didn't sort and keep track of the numbers, that was my grandmother then my mothers job. But for a kid a lighter basket is something.

    To answer your questions. Yes older hens can lay in spurts normally even if the weather stays the same. Laying can be affected by the weather, lack of enough water or not the right food mix for the weather. In your case watering three times a day, water isn't much of an issue. In winter with its higher calorie needs, a ton of vegetables may be crowding out the carbohydrates and their calories. The weather yo yo hasn't helped. Don't know the breed you have, but most breeds aren't too stressed if they have to stay in an adequate coop. Still the change of not being able to do what they are used to has some effect. Don't know if the geese are stressing them. Finally they are older hens the bumps will effect them more then pullets. So taking a long winded way just to say, normal.
  4. RWise

    RWise Songster

    Dec 25, 2012
    Oakhurst Oklahoma
    Some of my older girls, in the cold weather, I do good to get 1 egg a week from them, the young girls give me 7 a week! I just switched to game bird grower feed, seems to have helped the older girls.
  5. DawnB

    DawnB Chirping

    Thanks to everyone...that's kind of what I figured because of their age. They are all barred rocks, by the way. I know they can lay well...the folks we got them from always had an overabundance of eggs (we used to buy our eggs from them).

    This is our first venture into chickens, so I wasn't sure. We'll see how they do as it warms up a bit (hopefully that will be sometime soon). I'm getting another 15 chicks next week, so we'll get to start from the beginning and see the difference [​IMG].

    Thanks again!

  6. dandelionheart

    dandelionheart Songster

    Sep 15, 2010
    Lafayette, Indiana
    With regard to the water, if you are worried about the freezing, I'm assuming that you don't have a heated pan? We have a big metal puck looking thing that goes under our 5 gallon metal waterer and it works well. Just wondering if you have tried that. Our girls (all a little older) haven't laid an egg since fall... I'm really looking forward to an egg... I haven't been able to bring myself to buy them!
  7. RWise

    RWise Songster

    Dec 25, 2012
    Oakhurst Oklahoma
    LOL, my dogs wont even eat those things from the store,,,, they look like eggs but they dont smell like eggs,,,,

    I have increased my flock by hatching my own eggs, 14 littles (9 weeks old) in the yard now and 40 more in the bator (go to lock down today). The chicks that have hatched here roam farther than the birds I have purchased. It has been fun to watch them grow and I can hardly wait until they start laying!

  8. DawnB

    DawnB Chirping

    I made some of the cookie tin heaters that worked well for my waterers until it hit the -50F mark with the wind chill (even without...it was close to -30). I just gave up trying to keep the bucket from freezing. It's not a big deal. With the temps being so low, I make an egg run at least a few times a day to keep them from freezing/splitting. I just take some water to top off the pan. Seems to be working OK so far.

    My girls are just keeping up with my boys' appetite, but just barely. My kids can go through a half dozen eggs in a sitting, so c'mon ladies! [​IMG] Let's start popping out those eggs! I did get 4 eggs yesterday, but I haven't gotten anything yet today. My goose is laying, but it's only helpful if I can FIND the eggs (she keeps burying them in the litter, dumb bird). It's funny. I just realized how much longer it's staying light out. My boys went out to play in the snow at 5:30p last night and it was still light out when I called them in an hour later. I'm hoping that this above anything else will help prompt more eggs...we'll see!

    I get my first batch of chicks next week. We're very excited to watch the process from the beginning. Should be an adventure...that's for sure! This batch will double my number of chickens, but by the time they're starting to lay, I'll probably cull a few of the really slow producers for the freezer. I'm hoping it all balances out in the end.
  9. Not only will older hens produce fewer eggs, they produce fewer eggs in response to temperature extremes.
    Older hens also tend to have fallen prey to chicken ills of one type or another and those ills all results in fewer eggs.
    Looking at your location I think that your hens are doing well.
  10. DawnB

    DawnB Chirping

    Yep, can't complain...they gave me 3 more today.[​IMG] I'm just ready (and I'm sure they are too) for the snow to melt..

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