Hens Stopped Laying

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by bcmama, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. bcmama

    bcmama Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have 6 hens that began laying last December and are about 17 months old. Just lately though they have pretty much stopped laying. Could it be that they only laid for one season and they are done? I'm sad about this.
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Many people's flocks are molting now. Mine are; I haven't gotten an egg in a month. You will probably start seeing feathers everywhere soon, especially if they haven't gone through a major molt yet. It's also the time of year they usually decrease their production. There are other possibilities, such as a major fright or stress, they started saying them in hidden nests, a snake or similar is stealing the eggs, or even a human is stealing them.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/423023/why-arent-my-chickens-laying-here-are-your-answers/0_20

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/580915/for-the-new-folks-that-havent-experienced-a-molt-yet/0_20
     
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    It's normal for hens to take a break for the winter at this age. They'll start back up in the spring, and this cycle will continue each year.
     
  4. micah O

    micah O Chillin' With My Peeps

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    yes dont worry
     
  5. bcmama

    bcmama Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good to know on all fronts. I was hoping they weren't broken ;). There are two that still have feathers but they look pretty scraggly. Not the naked chicken look I thought came with molting. Anything I can do for them?
     
  6. Shades of Blue

    Shades of Blue Chillin' With My Peeps

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    you can feed them a bit more protein to help them during a molt but it really is not necessary. The daylight hours are decreasing and almost all my girls have quit laying. I am going to wait until after Christmas and then start adding a bit more daylight to their day by extra lighting on a timer. They should have 12 -14 hours of light per day. My girls are roosting by 3:30 pm these days as it is starting to get dark so early. I didn't give them a rest last year and kept extra lights on and they laid eggs very well. This year I am going to let it go for awhile.
     
  7. bcmama

    bcmama Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have been making them suet cakes and they are on high protein crumbles. Maybe I should add some extra light.
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    You could give some game bird feed, either as their feed or as a treat. It has a higher protein %. I feed them some cooked fish or finely cut meat scraps some days. They don't need the calcium in layer while molting, and layer is not a very high protein %.
     
  9. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    17 months is right on time so rather than being broken, they're doing exactly as most breeds do - molt their second autumn and every one thereafter.
    I say most breeds because I have a breed that molts their first autumn also, I also have an extreme cold hardy breed that molts in January.
    Molt is rarely a naked bird - they lose feathers in a pattern by design so they don't have to be completely naked. Normally they just look scruffy and skinnier.

    Suet cakes are probably too much fat.

    Hopefully the high protein crumbles aren't a layer feed. Check the guaranteed analysis on the feed tag. It should be about 1% calcium. If it is about 4% that's too much.

    It won't help to add light while they are molting because they still won't lay. Adding light simulates lengthening days which does stimulate lay. However, feathers are 90% protein, eggs contain about 6 grams of protein. It's difficult to make eggs and feathers at the same time. Furthermore, during the molt is an opportunity for hens reproductive tracts to take a rest and repair itself. Commercial operations have housed layers on a long day or sometimes an ahemeral day to get the maximum number of eggs. It isn't because they are concerned about the bird's welfare but to maximize profit- after all, in most cases they'll be slaughtering the birds in another 18 months.

    I don't imagine that the majority of backyard people are planning to force lay till the birds are played out, cull and start with a new flock every 2 years. Some do though.

    When first timers brag about how well their birds lay during the first year of production, I have a standard response: "~~A word of caution to new chicken owners with great laying pullets. Don't expect 300+ eggs after the second year. You'll be disappointed, no matter what breed you have."

    Having chickens is usually beneficial for the birds and the owner. It should be fun and instructive. It's not hard and shouldn't be a time of constant worry. It helps immensely to learn about ones charge's characteristics, life cycle, nutrition, reproductive systems and metabolism. It's preferable to learn those things before one takes the plunge but at least shortly after starting the enterprise.
    It's not just about the eggs - if it were, we would mimic the intensive cage systems that send $1.99 a doz. eggs to the stores.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2013
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