Hens stopped laying - mystery?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ShadyHoller, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. ShadyHoller

    ShadyHoller Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 12, 2010
    Willamette Valley
    (First, my apologies for asking a question that I'm sure has already been answered somewhere in the archives)

    A month ago, our hens took a break from laying when we had our only real heat wave for an otherwise colder-than-than normal summer. (Yeah, I know, most of the country was scorched while our tomatoes rotted in the rain. Go figure.)

    I figured that was normal, and I had experienced something like it before. It got so hot, the birds would just lay down in the shade and hold their wings out, trying to let some heat out. The last time it happened, they started laying again as soon as the heat wave passed. But not this time. It's now been a month, the weather is now definitely autumn, and we are only getting one or two eggs a day from 9 hens. Here are the things I think I have ruled out:

    - external parasites: I have dealt with both northern fowl mites and lice before, and we don't have 'em. The birds appear totally healthy.
    - predators: there is no sign of disruption in the hen house, and no egg shells anywhere on the property, as far as I can tell.
    - age: most of these girls are two years old, which means they got half a summer of laying last year and this was their first full summer. I know they will start to slow down, but I have had much older birds lay better than what I'm getting now.
    - day length: sure, I know they will slow down some in the winter, but that doesn't explain the sudden halt in production. It's like someone flipped a switch, and they went from egg factory to nuthin'.
    - nutrition: they get the same nutrition that has worked for us for years. We've got one feeder of milled layer ration, one feeder of whole wheat grains, free feed oyster shell, huge pasture, constant stream of garden scraps, including lots of cabbage and those mushy tomatoes I mentioned earlier.

    I appreciate any and all opinions. Thank you for helping me answer this riddle.

    (edited to add the following)

    I guess it's possible there's just a perfect storm - the combination of a heat wave, the shorter days, and two year-old birds. I guess what threw me was the way the laying turned off just so suddenly (back in early September, before the daylight hours were very short) and never came back. Also, I should have said there's no sign of molting yet, but that could be a possibility.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2011
  2. TigerLilly

    TigerLilly I failed Chicken Math

    Jul 18, 2010
    Central Florida
  3. chickflick

    chickflick Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 10, 2007
    Chickens need 14-16 hrs of light to lay. Days are getting shorter, so that may be a factor. Are your hens molting? They don't lay while molting. I have 21 hens that should be laying. With the shorter days and countless hens molting, I'm getting 4-6 eggs a day. You are not alone. [​IMG] You could put a light in the coop, but make sure you have it come on in the morning. If you put a light in the coop on a timer, the light will shut off and the hens might not be on the roost yet. Keep in mind that a break from laying is a good thing for your hens.
  4. TrystInn

    TrystInn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 16, 2009
    Southern Arizona
    You are dealing with shortened daylight, offer supportive light at the beginning and end of each day and they should return to laying.
  5. mstricer

    mstricer Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 12, 2009
    They are probably molting, it is a normal process and you should let it takes its course. I know some people say give them more light they will lay, but chickens have cycle they go through, molting is one of them, some chickens lay in the winter no problem with the daylight shrinking, some don't. I have both. I only have one girl laying right now because she is young, all the rest are molting or one is tending to chicks, to which as soon as she is done, will probably start to molt. Don't worry I sure they will lay again.
  6. hudsonhousechicks

    hudsonhousechicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 2, 2010
    My hens did the same thing. I have four that have laid well ever since they started laying - approximately one year ago. Then summer hit and the temperatures soared. We had a week where it hovered between 110 and 114. A cool day was between 100 - 107. The heat lasted for a few months. They all stopped laying and soon enough started moulting. They won't lay while they molt and may not lay for a few months. I only an Orpington that continues to lay and a Sussex that's trying, she'll go to the nest everyday but will only give us an egg every other day. I can't wait until they are all back on track.
  7. wbruder17

    wbruder17 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 7, 2010
    Portland, OR
    Greetings fellow Oregonian. I'm with you in Portland! There are several issues I will list...I have 18 hens and am only getting between 1 and 4 eggs a day right now.
    #1...yes, the length of day matters, especially iin the climate we have. The sun almost never comes out. They need vitamin ,D not just daytime.
    #2... they are in moltiing season, and even if they aren't in a full molt, they will slow dowwn or stop.
    #3...they get depressed, the same as we do, when our already too short summers come to an early end and it starts rainiing again. I don't want to lay any eggs right now either, facing the dismal prospect of another 9 months without seeing the sun

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