Hens about to get the boot. Egg production WAY down. HELP!

Ckahler

Hatching
Mar 12, 2015
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0
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I need some help. We have 29 hens and 1 rooster. They were all laying nicely until September. We were getting roughly 18-22 eggs a day. Our hens are now 18 months old except for 4 that are just 8 months old. In september we had some start molting. The majority of them are done molting. Their feathers look great. We upped their protein during the molt. They get fed and watered regularly. Nothing in the environment has changed. They have access to be outside all day in a fenced run and no issue with it being too dark for too long. Temps haven't been too cold either. We have literally tried everything we can think to help and support them. We are now only getting 2-6 eggs a day. Any ideas? There is no fighting among them. We are stumped. These hens are costing us an arm and a leg and with no reward. Can anyone give us some suggestions? This is our first set of hens so we really have no idea what may be causing all of this.
 

ChickenCanoe

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I'm betting most of those 2-6 eggs a day are pullet eggs from your 8 month old birds.

It is caused by them being 18 months old, the obligatory molt that happens to all chickens their second and each subsequent autumn and the laying hiatus that follows until days start getting longer. It isn't cold but the relationship between day length and dark period.

Lengthening days = stimulus to lay
Shortening days = dormancy

You have 2 choices, add a light on a timer to incrementally increase day length or wait till after the winter solstice.
Days will start getting longer after Dec. 22.

I guarantee that you'll have eggs coming out of your ears in 2 or 3 months even without added light.

ETA
I have light added in two coops. One I started about 6 weeks ago and almost all the birds in there are laying.
The other I started about 4 days ago. I should be starting to get eggs out of them in the next week. There are 3 units with no added light and just a couple laying age birds and none are laying

My timer comes on at 5am till 8am and again from 4pm to 6 pm. The 13 hour day is sufficient since the day is longer than night.
 
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ChickenCanoe

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To take the mystery out of it, here's a brief rundown of the science behind day/night length and the impetus for ovulation.

Light exposure to the retina is first relayed to the nucleus of the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that coordinates biological clock signals. Fibers from there descend to the spinal cord and then project to the superior cervical ganglia, from which neurons ascend back to the pineal gland. The pineal gland translates signals from the nervous system into a hormonal signal.

The gland produces serotonin and subsequently, melatonin. That's the hormone that affects the gonads for sperm production and ovulation in females. An increase in melatonin causes the gonads to become inactive. As photoperiod in relation to day vs. night is the most important clue for animals to determine season. As light lengthens, the gonads are rejuvenated. The duration of melatonin secretion each day is directly proportional to the length of the night because of the pineal gland's ability to measure daylength. Besides reproduction, it also affects sleep timing and blood pressure regulation.
 

Egghead_Jr

Crowing
10 Years
Oct 16, 2010
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It's the lingering molt for sure. You could try adding light to aid in stimulating them but I don't bother and just wait for late January and increasing days.

Hens are great until they molt. It's a good idea to cull/sell half the hens each year and replace with pullets. Will keep you in eggs each winter and rotates out the flock so you never end up with layers more than 3 years old. That age and they are beloved pets as few keep up the laying to warrant calling rent paid after second adult molt.
 

ChickenCanoe

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I wanted to add that I have some older hens that lay well. Just not right now. I have a lone Ameraucana that is over 6 years old. With added light last year and after her molt, she started laying eggs by the end of December. I got 5 to 6 eggs a week from her from December till September. I expect the same this year.
As Egghead said, you can rotate flocks like commercial operations do, or if you have some great layers, just let them take a break and they'll reward you in spring/summer.
 

Ckahler

Hatching
Mar 12, 2015
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0
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Thanks for the replies. That makes a lot of sense. We were going to rotate out at 2 years but may look at doing an earlier rotation next time. We have several breeds Some lay much better than others for sure. We will wait it out and look at culling some and adding new in the spring.
 

junebuggena

Crowing
Apr 17, 2015
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Long Beach, WA
Thanks for the replies. That makes a lot of sense. We were going to rotate out at 2 years but may look at doing an earlier rotation next time. We have several breeds Some lay much better than others for sure. We will wait it out and look at culling some and adding new in the spring.
During a hen's second summer is usually when they will hit their peak for production.
 

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