Hens Stopped Laying After Stressful Episode

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Annie's Backyard Flock, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. Annie's Backyard Flock

    Annie's Backyard Flock In the Brooder

    I need advice:

    I went on vacation for 9 days. I had a relative stay at my house to take care of the dogs, cat and chickens. He is a college age guy, so I tried to make it as easy as possible. I have a feeding system that requires only minimal attention. Water needed to be replaced every other day. I have an automatic pop door opener and a nice run. The hens lay usually in morning and one lays in late afternoon. He was all set.

    As they say "best laid plans". Well, on the 3rd day, the pop door opener stopped working; this meant he had to get up before noon to open it. Well, you guessed it, that didn't happen. The morning egg collection turned into the 2pm only collection. There were then smashed eggs the next day when he went to tend the hens. The light that maintained the 14 hours of "daylight" was unplugged so into winter mode they went. I assume you're getting the picture.

    I came home on the 9th day late at night. He had closed them up for the day. 5 eggs were collected and all seemed right in the world. I went to bed.

    I got up early the next morning so I could tend the coop before church. I was excited to say good morning and collect eggs before I went off to play hand bells. Well, what I found was no water in the coop and no food in the feeder. I have no idea how long they were without water/food. I immediately cleaned out nesting boxes, filled food and water, provided BOSS, veggie scraps, TLC, etc. I apologized up and down. Cooed to them and showered them with affection.

    As of right now, they haven't laid a single egg since Saturday. I know stress has cause this. My questions are:

    How long will it take for them to bounce back and start laying again?
    Have I permanently screwed them up?

    I was getting between 4-6 eggs a day from the 6 hens. HELP! [​IMG]

  2. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    As you suspected they can stop laying after any disruption of their routine. The time it takes them to get over the stress depends on the individual bird; some are able to shrug off the stress faster than others.

    The light being unplugged may have forced some of your hens into an early molt, in which case you could be waiting awhile for them to resume laying. Generally when a chicken molts you will notice the lack of egg production before the bird starts looking scruffy.

    ETA: I had basically the same thing happen to my hens back in April, but instead of the light being turned off it was turned on. I don't add light in winter, but do have a light in the coops that can be turned on in case I have to be in the coops after dark. My caregiver turned the light on one evening to check on things and failed to turn it off. When I got home and turned the light off, sure enough my hens went into a molt.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2011
  3. poseygrace

    poseygrace Songster

    Apr 29, 2011
    Wow I bet you wanted to ring that kids neck! My chickens are my babies and I would be royally ticked if someone did that to mine. Sounds like they went on strike! Hope they pick back up for you soon.
  4. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    They will come back to normal after a few days more than likely, stress as already stated will indeed cause this as will lack of fresh water for a spell.

  5. Annie's Backyard Flock

    Annie's Backyard Flock In the Brooder

    Well, the hens have not laid an eggs yet. It is now 5 days. Hoping that they snap out of it. We have had a few more "conversations" since they stopped laying. I have put them back on the schedule that I had them on before I left. I guess I'm worried about leaving for a vacation again. I don't want to be "cooped" up (ha, ha) and I have to visit the in-laws to check on them periodically. I have left before but had 3 adults rotating as "Chick Checkers". I guess that I am going to have to go back to adults.

    What happened is truly my fault; I take full responsibility. I am the adult and I guess I put too much faith in a 19 year old. He had the dogs, cat and house along with full time school and part time job. Raising chickens is not something that you do halfheartedly. You need to be committed and My husband, my friends, and I take it seriously.

    Anyway, everyone, say a prayer, cross your fingers, or whatever you may do to help out others. It's getting cold and I'm hoping they aren't molting; I'm hoping they're just on strike. Their point had been taken!
  6. Annie's Backyard Flock

    Annie's Backyard Flock In the Brooder


    On Wednesday the 30th, I finally got an egg. Each day since then, the girls have been "coming back on-line". The RSL and Barred Rocks are producing each day. The Marans are still on strike. I found both pin and flight feathers of all kinds in the coop.

    I'm hoping that they are just saving up for "special" eggs for me.
  7. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas

  8. lorain's fids

    lorain's fids Songster

    Jul 9, 2011
    New Jersey
    Wow, A bad way to end a (hopefully) good vacation. How did the other animals do? Wondering what his "excuse" was for letting this happen.
  9. TheMomChef

    TheMomChef Hatching

    Dec 3, 2011
    Annie, while I'm sorry you had this experience, it's encouraging to see that an episode of stress can last this long because it means my girls aren't on strike for good. Our stressful episode was a hawk that dove in the middle of the flock while they were scratching around the yard. They still scatter at the slightest noise so they're watchful. But, they've stopped laying entirely and it's been about a month. I don't know how to help them.

  10. Annie's Backyard Flock

    Annie's Backyard Flock In the Brooder

    I am now getting 4 eggs each day. The RSL and Rocks are doing really well. The shells are perfect in size and color. The Cuckoo Marans have not laid an egg since the 11th of November. I really am wondering why. The one Marans is the leader and the other is the lowest on the pecking order of the adult bids. Each night, I check their crop and they are full. I've given them all their favorite treats, warm oatmeal on cold mornings, BOS, extra protein, vinegar in their water, grit, calcium; you name it, I've done it. So, I have no idea how long your girls may stay on strike.

    I am sorry for your hens experience. It is my fear that I get a visitor from above. I have falcons, hawks, eagles as well as fox, coon and other sundry rascals. I am hoping that they get over it soon.

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