Only 4 - 6 eggs a day from 14 hens. What's up?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by fiddlebanshee, Aug 6, 2013.

  1. fiddlebanshee

    fiddlebanshee Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 11, 2010
    Frederick, MD
    I have 16 adult hens ranging in age from almost 2 y/o (11) to 14 mo/o (5). Two of the 2 y/o got broody about 2 weeks ago. They are setting in a communal nest box but are not sitting on eggs, since I have no rooster. Ever since they got broody my egg production plummeted from 10-12 eggs a day to 4-6 eggs a day. The eggs that I am getting are mainly from the 14 month olds plus an occasional one from the dominique or the wyandotte.

    All chickens combs are red. They have no parasites or worms as far as I can tell. They are otherwise active, healthy and doing their chicken things all day. They roam 1/2 an acre and have 24/7 access to food, water and oystershell.

    I have roamed the 1/2 acre to find an outside nest to no avail. The coop is super secure so it is highly unlikely that any critter could get in to eat the eggs, even snakes cannot get through 1/2" hardware cloth.

    So a couple of theories but I'd love to hear other ideas as to what might be happening:

    1. could the broodies be bullying the other hens out of the nesting boxes? I find about 2 of the 4 eggs under the roosts and not in the nest boxes. After 1 week I put in some dividers so that the other chickens had options on where to lay in private but it hasn't really increased the number of eggs.
    2. could the chickens or the broodies be eating the eggs and not leaving any trace? I'd think the straw would be wet and sticky if they broke and ate them. I haven't seen/felt any of that. It would also get smelly pretty fast, I'd think. I inspect the broodies' nests a couple of times a day and collect the 1 or 2 eggs that she may have stolen from the other hens. I would be able to feel if there was a massive breakage.
    3. should I search the 1/2 acre again inch by inch to find a nest?
    4. could it be that the 2 y/o are done laying already? And all at the same time?
    5. Edited to add: The weather has been on the cool side for the midatlantic in late July, mid 70s, low 80s for the last 2 weeks. The weeks before it was hot and humid. Could the change in weather have anything to do with this?

    I'm stumped. My egg customers and I would like to figure out what is going on, rectify and ramp up production again. Any thoughts are appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2013
  2. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Texas
    "Ever since they got broody my egg production plummeted from 10-12 eggs a day to 4-6 eggs a day."

    That explains why those two hens aren't laying. Make sure there are plenty of laying boxes for the other hens. I think you mentioned you have already done that, though.

    Is it possible that your older hens are about to start moulting?
     
  3. fiddlebanshee

    fiddlebanshee Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It's a possibility. But I've not seen many feathers. And all of their combs are red. Would the combs not be paler if that was the case? Maybe because the weather was so cool they thought it was fall already and time to molt?
     
  4. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I found this information.

    "During autumn, many household poultry keepers, particularly people keeping poultry for the first time, are puzzled because egg production markedly declines or ceases despite their laying birds appearing healthy. This seasonal decline in egg production occurs when birds go into a condition known as the 'moult'."

    "Mature birds normally undergo one complete moult a year, usually in autumn. However, this can depend on the time of the year that the bird started laying."

    But it may be something else.

    It seems most logical that the two hens going broody changed the behavior of the older hens. Maybe you should try moving the two broody hens to an isolated spot, if possible. Then you can see if the behavior of the other hens changes.
     
  5. Mark1

    Mark1 Out Of The Brooder

    I'd bet they are moulting. I had the same thing happen recently, the older hens (2years) started moulting.
    I didn't notice much except a few extra feathers in the coop and run, a drastic drop in egg production, and a few feathers out of place on the hens.
    After almost 3 months of moulting the production has started to pick back up.
     
  6. fiddlebanshee

    fiddlebanshee Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 11, 2010
    Frederick, MD
    UGHHH Three months! Oh well, I'm glad that my teenage anconas should be laying in about 6 weeks. The ameraucanas may take 2 months before they're ready, and the welsummers and black copper marans may take 4 months.

    I will remove the broodies to the brooder once the welsummers and BCMs are in with the ancona and ameraucana girls in about two weeks I hope. We'll see if that makes a difference. The brooder has pdz, and no straw, maybe that'll break them out of it.
     
  7. Mark1

    Mark1 Out Of The Brooder

    Ya, I know, it took a LONG time..My Easter eggers that are the same age were laying almost an egg a day, they just started to moult now. All my new hens that are about 20 weeks old have really started coming on strong so they are taking up the slack.
     

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