Just ONE hen stopped laying-- could they need a molt?

Elise

In the Brooder
11 Years
Feb 12, 2008
24
0
22
Our 13-month-old Buff Orp, Winnie, stopped laying about ten days ago. She seems perfectly healthy, alert, good appetite and everything. She doesn't have any mites. I've palpated her abdomen regularly and, in my inexperienced judgment, it feels normal. I don't see any signs of eggbinding or internal laying. Yesterday she was displaying laying behavior, and was going into the next box and digging around, although she never did lay. Today her vent looks redder than usual but everything else still seems normal.

We think she may have laid an egg without a shell or membrane a few days ago, because there was what appeared to be some egg white on her butt fluff and some yolk on her nose. I am 99% sure she's not laying regular eggs and eating them. We have four other hens of the same age who are still laying as usual. They get layer crumbles, plenty of fresh water, scratch on cold mornings, veggie scraps, yoghurt, etc.

Help! I don't care about the egg production, but I'm starting to become really concerned about Winnie's health. Is it possible for a hen to "take a break" from laying for a little while, and then resume normally? Could she be having trouble forming the shells (they get oyster shell but the last egg she laid was a little brittle)? Or could she have just... stopped being able to lay?

There may be another part to this-- could they all be ready to molt? We got them last year in late February as day-olds, they began to lay in August/September and had a mini-molt, and they've been on 15-hour days all winter. Several weeks ago, Winnie suddenly lost a patch of feathers on her neck, and the other girls have been shedding a few more feathers than usual and looking a bit scraggly, although nothing extreme. Our black sex link has a tiny bare patch on her neck too. Winnie's feet and legs are also totally bleached.

I understand the whens and hows of molting, but considering they've been on artificial light all winter, what if we dropped their light down to natural 12-hour day lengths right now? Would they enjoy a rejuvenating molt for a month or two and then begin to lay once the days are longer? The main question is, could Winnie's laying be related to this?

Thank you for any help you can give!
 

meriruka

Songster
12 Years
Oct 18, 2007
1,388
8
171
I've found with my Red Stars, their first molt was not all that bad. They looked a little ratty, but that was it. 2nd year, I thought they were dying, they looked so bad.

I don't put mine under artificial light, so they get a break in winter, then they lay all summer.

Could be the change in seasons or she's just tired out. Seems like you're keeping a close watch, but you might try to add some high protein things (I give mine a little bit of cat food) maybe some yoghurt or even poultry vitamins might give her a needed boost.

Hope that helps......
 

grandmachicken

Songster
11 Years
Sep 15, 2008
117
6
144
Williamson, GA
I got my first chickens last September from our local animal control, where they had been abandoned. There were 4 of them together, 2 large black and gold hens, 1 smaller, but not quite bantam, gold, penciled-looking hen, and a large beautiful golden rooster. They were so pretty, I just had to have them. So I rescued them.

It took about 2 weeks before I started getting eggs. First, one egg a day. A few weeks later, 2 eggs a day. But it took about 6 weeks before the largest hen to finally climb into a nesting box and actually produce an egg. She was in fine health up until then, her behavior just the same as the others.

Lots of things can make a hen stop laying for a while. Any kind of stress, which could be moving to a new home or even being really scared. We had a neighborhood dog (ours) attack the hens a few weeks after we got them, and all of them stopped laying for a few days. It's also normal for them to just take a break, for no reason we humans can determine. Hormones, bad weather, just a bad mood.

If she looks and acts well, try not to worry. Just keep a good eye on her, which it looks like you are already doing.


Christi
 

Elise

In the Brooder
11 Years
Feb 12, 2008
24
0
22
Quote:Well, like I said, they did have a little mini-molt when they were around six months or so. Do you think this could be a molt? I think we're going to put them on natural light from now on so they do get a break over the winter. I don't want them to get overstressed. Are there any issues that switching them to natural light right now could cause?
 

Cara

Songster
12 Years
Aug 30, 2007
3,267
4
221
NM
The scraggly neck feathers are most likely caused by your rooster (hope you have one!).
 

Elise

In the Brooder
11 Years
Feb 12, 2008
24
0
22
Quote:Hmm. I can't imagine it could be due to any sort of stress, they're very safe in their enclosed run and nothing frightening has happened to my knowledge. Everything has remained the same, as well (no moving, no food switch, etc.)

It's so hard not to worry!
I'm afraid she's sick, laying internally, or eggbound. But it's been nearly two weeks-- wouldn't she be showing signs if there were a problem?
 

Elise

In the Brooder
11 Years
Feb 12, 2008
24
0
22
Quote:No, we don't have a rooster
We DID, because one of our "shes" turned out to be a "he", but we found him a nice home elsewhere.
 

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