Molting chickens not laying eggs

kathianddoug

In the Brooder
May 25, 2019
6
3
11
Help. Our chickens started molting about 3 months ago. I read that they don't lay eggs then. But they are still not laying. We live in the Northeast and the daylight is shorter so I wonder if that is the problem although last winter we got some eggs.
 

wamtazlady

Crowing
8 Years
Jul 18, 2013
1,768
2,318
326
Kalispell MT
First, how old are your chickens?

Pullets going through their first winter tend to lay all winter long. When they approach their second winter they will go into molt and stop laying. Some are back to laying in a couple months. Others wait until the days get longer to start laying again. My chickens always seem to be in the second category. If they haven't started to lay beforehand, your chickens should start to lay in February or March at the latest.

If you want eggs year round it is a good idea to get some pullets every year. I have a friend who rotates his chickens. First year he gets breed one. Second year he gets chickens from breed two. Third year he gets chicks from breed three and begins to cull the breed one chickens. That way he always has pullets laying through the winter. He gets the different breeds so he knows which ones to cull.

At the moment I have 3 pullets and one older hen a neighbor gave me. The pullets are all laying. The hen went through molt and stopped laying. When she was done with molt she laid a couple eggs and as winter was approaching she stopped laying and has not laid another egg. I am sure she will start up in a couple months or so. All my chickens lay a different colored egg so it is easy for me to know which ones are laying.
 

kathianddoug

In the Brooder
May 25, 2019
6
3
11
First, how old are your chickens?

Pullets going through their first winter tend to lay all winter long. When they approach their second winter they will go into molt and stop laying. Some are back to laying in a couple months. Others wait until the days get longer to start laying again. My chickens always seem to be in the second category. If they haven't started to lay beforehand, your chickens should start to lay in February or March at the latest.

If you want eggs year round it is a good idea to get some pullets every year. I have a friend who rotates his chickens. First year he gets breed one. Second year he gets chickens from breed two. Third year he gets chicks from breed three and begins to cull the breed one chickens. That way he always has pullets laying through the winter. He gets the different breeds so he knows which ones to cull.

At the moment I have 3 pullets and one older hen a neighbor gave me. The pullets are all laying. The hen went through molt and stopped laying. When she was done with molt she laid a couple eggs and as winter was approaching she stopped laying and has not laid another egg. I am sure she will start up in a couple months or so. All my chickens lay a different colored egg so it is easy for me to know which ones are laying.
They are 18 months old. They started laying when they were about 6 months old. So it looks like we'll have to wait until late winter/ early spring for them to lay again?
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,058
22,746
907
Southeast Louisiana
They are 18 months old. They started laying when they were about 6 months old.

That is good information. Some pullets will skip the molt their first fall/winter and keep laying until the following fall no matter how short the days and without supplemental light. Sounds like that is what happened to yours. You probably have dual purpose "production" breeds.

The normal cycle is that adults molt in the fall when days get shorter and stop laying. That's instinctive, their instinct is to lay eggs and raise chicks during the good weather months then replace worn out feathers in the fall and use the nutrients they would use for eggs to grow feather instead. Then when the days start to get longer it's a sign that warm weather is on the way so they start laying again.

But we domesticated them. We started breeding for more egg laying and less going broody. We feed them so food is plentiful year around. We provide housing to protect them from the weather and may even provide extra lights or heat. Many still have those basic instincts but by breeding and the way we manage them pullets may lay through their first winter. Hens may never go broody or some may even go broody in the middle of winter.

It's hard to say for sure what chickens will do any more. It is pretty consistent if you don't mess with light that adults will go through the molt in the fall, maybe start in September, maybe December or in between. Some hens will wait until the days get longer to start laying after the molt is finished, some start pretty soon after the molt is finished. I've had some finish the molt and be back to laying in November or December. Some wait for warmer longer days. Since the days are getting longer already and your pullets laid through the shortest days last winter I would not be that surprised if you saw eggs pretty soon, but it may still be a few months away. You just don't know for sure what a hen will do.
 

kathianddoug

In the Brooder
May 25, 2019
6
3
11
They are 18 months old. They started laying when they were about 6 months old.

That is good information. Some pullets will skip the molt their first fall/winter and keep laying until the following fall no matter how short the days and without supplemental light. Sounds like that is what happened to yours. You probably have dual purpose "production" breeds.

The normal cycle is that adults molt in the fall when days get shorter and stop laying. That's instinctive, their instinct is to lay eggs and raise chicks during the good weather months then replace worn out feathers in the fall and use the nutrients they would use for eggs to grow feather instead. Then when the days start to get longer it's a sign that warm weather is on the way so they start laying again.

But we domesticated them. We started breeding for more egg laying and less going broody. We feed them so food is plentiful year around. We provide housing to protect them from the weather and may even provide extra lights or heat. Many still have those basic instincts but by breeding and the way we manage them pullets may lay through their first winter. Hens may never go broody or some may even go broody in the middle of winter.

It's hard to say for sure what chickens will do any more. It is pretty consistent if you don't mess with light that adults will go through the molt in the fall, maybe start in September, maybe December or in between. Some hens will wait until the days get longer to start laying after the molt is finished, some start pretty soon after the molt is finished. I've had some finish the molt and be back to laying in November or December. Some wait for warmer longer days. Since the days are getting longer already and your pullets laid through the shortest days last winter I would not be that surprised if you saw eggs pretty soon, but it may still be a few months away. You just don't know for sure what a hen will do.
Thank you! Lots of good information.
 

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