Losing weight and not laying eggs

Shawn sanders

Hatching
Oct 23, 2018
2
1
4
hello My name is Shawn I Currently Own 3 hens and one roster. Two of the hens have stopped laying eggs and I noticed all of the including the roster are losing weight. They have access to there food all the time and get scratch in the morning and the afternoon.
Any ideas on what could be Causing the problem.
 

staceyj

Enabler
Jan 1, 2017
7,998
45,721
1,152
Coastal NC
My Coop
My Coop
Hey there. :frow Welcome to BYC. @rebrascora is an educator here. I don’t know about the time difference but she’s in the UK so be patient. She’ll be by.
Just the other day she had a very eloquent explanation of her personal theories about molting season and the things you’re describing as being puzzled by and worried about.
I wish I could remember which thread it was in.

By tagging her name though, she’ll be notified of my comment. Maybe she can repost it here. It was very interesting.
 

rebrascora

Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
7,127
8,756
556
Consett Co.Durham. UK
Hi Shawn

How old are your chickens? In their second autumn/fall at roughly 16months old and each year thereafter they will cast many of their feathers and regrow new ones. Some birds do this very slowly and gently so that you hardly notice other than them looking a bit rough, whilst others have a harder moult and can look pretty shocking. There is a thread here on BYC for people to post photos of their worst moulting birds and whilst we have a bit of a giggle at some of them looking like porcupines rather than hens, it is an important seasonal event for them and can make them feel under the weather.
It seems odd to us that they lose their feathers right when the weather is getting cooler but I believe that it may be to shed any external parasites before the winter when they are cooped more and have less opportunity to dust bath etc due to climatic conditions. Growing new feathers takes lots of nutrients, so they do not have enough to produce eggs and feathers, hence going off lay. From watching my birds they also seem to eat less food and more greenery at this time of year and their poops are often much more runny than usual and I have a theory that perhaps they also purge their digestive system to reduce the level of internal parasites in their system. This is just my opinion from watching my hens but they do definitely go off their food a bit at a point at which you would think they need to eat more and they go through greens with much more enthusiasm.

Are you are judging their weight loss visually because they will obviously look thinner with less feathers or are you actually weighing them? I would just be interested to know if they do in fact lose body mass as well as feathers as I haven't gone to that trouble to test my theory.

Anyway, if your birds are of the age I described, ie. over a year old, then their behaviour may be perfectly normal. I would say however that I have concerns about your feeding regime. Scratch is a treat and as such should be severely rationed. They will eat it in preference to their regular feed which means that they will not be eating a balanced ration. Scratch is high in carbohydrates and low in protein, so the more scratch they eat, the lower their daily protein intake. Eggs and feathers and muscle all require protein, so it is very important that they get enough. Added to that, scratch does not have as high a level of calcium as formulated layer feed, so the hens can become deficient in calcium and eventually may start to produce eggs with thin shells or no shell. This can lead to reproductive ailments, especially if an egg breaks inside them. Added to this, the higher carbohydrates in scratch can cause them to store the calories as fat, which gets deposited in the abdomen and around the organs and can also lead to major health issues and even sudden death in the case of Fatty Liver Haemorrhagic Syndrome. I appreciate you are saying that your birds are losing weight but they still may be storing fat in their liver. Free ranging birds and flighty breeds like leghorns are more able to burn off those surplus calories whereas bigger heavier breeds are more at risk of Fatty Liver Disease. It is not worth the risk however to feed scratch on a regular basis and twice a day is really putting them at risk in my opinion, so I would strongly urge you to reduce it to a tablespoon per bird once a day at the most.

It may also be that your birds have a problem with internal parasites and a faecal float test by a vet or your state veterinary diagnostics lab would give you information on that. It runs at about £10 here in the UK for such testing and a combined sample from all your birds can be tested rather than each individual bird unless you have one that is looking particularly unthrifty, but by far the most likely cause of your flock's symptoms at this time of year is moult.
 

RWise

Songster
7 Years
Dec 25, 2012
1,270
1,009
216
Oakhurst Oklahoma
How old are these birds?
IF they are 18-22 MO it is time for their first hard molt (they will molt each year after this). They will (usually) stop laying and loose many feathers, could look like they are loosing weight. IF they are molting it is normal, give them a high protein feed,,,
IF you are on the north side of the planet, the days are growing shorter, and this also stops most from laying, many (I do) use lights in the winter to keep the young girls laying while the older crew molts.
 

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