production down, numbers don't add up

gadus

Songster
Jul 28, 2015
127
25
104
Maine
I bought 6 Australorps last summer to add to an existing flock of 16, bringing the totals to the following:
3 Black Star
2 Red Star
6 Americauna
5 Buff Orpingtons
7 Australorps
--------------
22 total

The Australorps started laying in late November while all the others are about 1.5 years into their egg-laying careers. Without them, I had gotten daily egg totals in the first year of the others' laying in the low to mid teens.

Many molted over the winter but only one BO is in molt currently.

Last week I had as many as 12/day, my highest in a long while and the average until this week was around 10/day. This week the average has dropped to around 8/day and today it was 7; 7 eggs for 22 birds.

They have not used the egg boxes (5) in quite some time, preferring to lay behind the plastic sheet which is stapled to the stud cavity but is loose and flapping enough to nest behind. There are typically two clutches of eggs in the course of the day, one having most of the eggs, the other 2-3.

I discontinued artificial light several months ago when the light stopped working.

I am feeding them game bird feed, 18% but will be switching back to 16% next go-around.

I'm wondering if the coop is too small (8X8) and they are feeling too stressed to lay normally? When I go in to the coop several times a day, there are typically 5-6 birds in there jockeying for a spot like airplanes in a holding pattern.

Thoughts? Shouldn't I be getting more eggs even with the majority of the birds entering their second year of laying?
 

bobbi-j

Enabler
11 Years
Mar 15, 2010
15,885
33,174
1,092
On the MN prairie.
You have 22 chickens in an 8x8 coop? Do they have a run or free range? That is definitely tight quarters for that many birds. It's possible you have egg eaters. They could be too stressed to lay. It could be that some just haven't started back up yet. Check for lice and mites. Are all their combs and wattles nice and bright red? Those are the ones that would be laying. If the combs and wattles are shriveled and pale, they're not laying. If they free range, they could be laying anywhere outside the coop. If you them in a run, how big is it?
 

morganalefae

Head nut at the nut house
May 2, 2017
1,067
1,990
281
Leicestershire UK
It's down to the each hen how much they lay. I'm wondering what is game bird feed? is it different to chicken fed? (sorry never heard of game feed) and if by doing artifical lighting if they has them all thrown off maybe? are they free range?
 

gadus

Songster
Jul 28, 2015
127
25
104
Maine
They have a big run, are outside daily, though somewhat constricted by the piles of snow. Plenty of room outside to get away from each other. The young birds' heads are definitely showing they've been pecked at by the older birds.

There are bright combs, yes, as well as dull ones. No evidence of egg eating yet.
 

bobbi-j

Enabler
11 Years
Mar 15, 2010
15,885
33,174
1,092
On the MN prairie.
They have a big run, are outside daily, though somewhat constricted by the piles of snow. Plenty of room outside to get away from each other. The young birds' heads are definitely showing they've been pecked at by the older birds.

There are bright combs, yes, as well as dull ones. No evidence of egg eating yet.
How big is the run in feet by feet? Do you have places where the younger girls can get away from the older ones? In a coop that size, I don't think they can get far enough away for the older ones to think they're showing the proper "respect".
 

1 acre willows

Songster
Jan 15, 2018
150
134
111
Montana
I'm having the same issue, have 21 birds 9 don't lay due to either age, sex, or broodiness. Was averaging 6 to 8 a day now I'm down to 4. Made roll away boxes, and no signs of breaking. Mine free range the last half of the day and I feed 1 part finisher to 2 part layer for a few more days and all the finisher is gone and I'll go to straight layer.
 

gadus

Songster
Jul 28, 2015
127
25
104
Maine
The run is not the issue-plenty of room. The coop may be.

What I don't understand is why they no longer use the nest boxes. If anything, I would think that these spaces would be perfect for a bird looking to stay away from the others and lay in peace.

Instead there's always about 5-6 in the coop at any one time, waiting not always patiently for their turn. I mean even a large coop could feel like a threatening place given this scenario.

I wonder if stress can actually reduce the number of eggs a chicken will lay, i.e. cause a physical change in the bird which may impact the egg-producing characteristics.

Of course I'm conscious that the coop needs to be a tad bigger but they are always let out early so there's not too much waiting around in cramped conditions. And then at night, they fly straight up to the roost and that's it.

I don't expect miracles and I know I can't ever figure out chickens mathematically but even if my 2nd year birds are at 60% that's still 7 eggs/day plus whatever the younger birds contribute; Australorps are supposed to be extraordinary layers.
 

theoldchick

The Chicken Whisperer
Premium Feather Member
11 Years
May 11, 2010
32,134
19,133
867
Age, Diet, living conditions, egg thief.

Age: some breeds lay sporadically as they get older. Super layers burn out about 1.5-2 years of age.
Diet: Layer feed is best for laying hens.
Living Conditions: small space equal stress and may contribute to egg eating.
Egg Thief: vermin running off with your eggs and that includes the scaled kind and the two legged kind.

And you might have a hidden nest somewhere.

Good luck!
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
99,157
138,537
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
I'm wondering if the coop is too small (8X8) and they are feeling too stressed to lay normally?
I wonder if stress can actually reduce the number of eggs a chicken will lay, i.e. cause a physical change in the bird which may impact the egg-producing characteristics.
Stress can reduce their overall health as well as make not feel 'safe' enough to release an ova.

What I don't understand is why they no longer use the nest boxes.
Older birds(laying or not) can harass/chase the youngers away from the nests. I have an older bird in 'jail' right now for doing that.

Basically the crowding is probably your main issue,
was discussed when you added the birds, now you are seeing it.
Wonders if all are getting adequate feed/water due to pecking order/bullying.
Having a larger run can help, if it is accessible in all weather(protected from snow and wind).
Sunlight is also an issue, it's fairly early yet just past solstice(12 hrs daylight), some of my older layers are come back into lay this last week, some are not there yet.
 

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