Puzzling chicken behavior - hens aren't laying and Roos aren't crowing

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Laura1166, Oct 12, 2009.

  1. Laura1166

    Laura1166 In the Brooder

    Jun 18, 2009
    Osceola, MO
    I apologize for all the following details, but I think they are necessary to see if someone can help us figure this out.
    We bought 93 acres a year ago August and got our first batch of chickens as soon as possible. We built them a nice spacious chicken house right away and left them to free range within a 4 or 5 acre clearing. It was the heavy bird rooster special with some hens included, 56 total. We had a very healthy batch. The roosters were crowing all over the place and had started in on the hens as we started butchering them. They were about 4 months of age. By the time it was all said and done we 11 hens and 2 roosters (I know, one too many, but the boys had fallen in love). The birds we butchered were full of meat and tasted great.
    In Feb. we ordered 50 Brown Leghorns (straight run). We lost a lot of them to coyotes, but had about 25 grow to adulthood. The roos were crowing before we butchered them and then we recently got rid of the 12 hens, because they were laying their eggs in the woods which wasn't very helpful to us.
    In March we ordered 25 RIR and 25 BR, straight run. Some have been lost to coyotes over the summer. We butchered these roosters last week at 6 mos. of age. Even though they were a heavy breed, they were not very meaty. We butchered them much later because we never saw them mature into adult roos. They never crowed and they never tried to mate with the hens.
    In June we ordered 50 more fry pan special with some hens included, and 15 guineas (which have been reduced to 8).
    SO... just in case you aren't staying up on all the math, we now have maybe 100-125 chickens.
    The problem is that none of the mature roosters that are left are crowing, even the two from the original generation have stopped. And none of the roosters are chasing the hens.
    And none of our hens are laying. We might be getting 2 eggs a day. The RIR and BRs should have started laying in Aug. or Sept.
    Our original batch of hens have been molting, and should be finishing up soon, because they look like they've made a complete transformation. Could the RIR and BRs be molting and not producing as well too, even though they are so young?
    Could it be that we have too many chickens - we have the 4-5 acre clearing, but they are free to range far beyond that?
    Could it be a disease?
    Could they be deficient in something? We have been feeding them layer and scratch and they have a ton of bugs and plants to eat. We also have supplemented their water with ACV.
    Why aren't our roosters being roosters?
    Thanks for listening and any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated.

    *sorry, this may not be the most appropriate catagory, it's my first post and weighing heavily on my mind.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2009
  2. lovetocook

    lovetocook In the Brooder

    Mar 12, 2009
    Washington, NJ
    I don't have any experience with your problem but you might try posting it in Chicken Behaviors section. Someone there might be able to advise you.[​IMG]
  3. lauralou

    lauralou Songster

    Dec 10, 2007
    Central Virginia
    Well, as far as your poor egg production, it's just that time of year. If you don't supplement light in the coop, egg production suffers as the days grow shorter. It's also possible that you have birds laying in places other than their nestboxes. But you have already been through that, so I'm sure you know. [​IMG]

    The pullets that should have started laying in August and September, well, nobody told them that. It's possible that they won't lay until spring. That happened to me with a batch that I hatched last year. It was no big deal because there were only 5 of them. Sounds like you have a lot more to feed over the winter, so I understand your concern.

    As far as your roosters not crowing, I have no idea why that would be. Mine have always loved to crow their heads off. I have wished and hoped that they would shut up! I'm kinda thinking, Lucky you!

    Sometimes when the hens aren't laying, they aren't receptive, they aren't putting off the appropriate pheromones, or for whatever other reasons, the roos don't mate them. Maybe it's even that the roosters' hormone levels are less in autumn.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you aren't seeing any signs of illness, then your situation sounds pretty normal. Annoying, but not too strange at all.

    Maybe someone else will have other ideas to help you out. [​IMG]
  4. k2chickens

    k2chickens Songster

    Apr 22, 2009
    New Castle, Indiana
    how cold has it been getting where you live?
  5. Laura1166

    Laura1166 In the Brooder

    Jun 18, 2009
    Osceola, MO
    Well, the weather could be a contributing factor. Our garden has suffered too, because we aren't getting a lot of dry sunny weather. We had our first freeze this last weekend, kinda early. The area has been unseasonably cool this year and other local farmers have complained of low egg production.
    I'm wondering if it is combination of things though, because these roosters were underweight at 6 months and never crowed and our 2 big guys look a little thin too. Now we are thinking worms, because we haven't done anything to treat them up to this point and I have read that free-ranging birds are the most susceptible.
    What's your favorite de-wormer?
    I had another friend recommend Fertrell products - he swears by them, so we are going to get some Fertrell feed today.
    I wish I had thought of this when I gutted all those roosters last week, and I could have done more of an inspection. Can you see the worms in their poop? I don't see any, and the vents look clear of worms.
    Thanks for all your help! I'm going to post this on the behavior board too. Next time I'll be more organized. [​IMG]
  6. Godiva

    Godiva Songster

    May 17, 2007
    I think you have all sorts of contributing factors going on. The roosters are definitely not interested in mating with birds that aren't laying, they will show dominance but no mating. It is almost as if those birds are invisible. My roosters don't crow if they are not feeling well ie. mites, lice, worms... so worming and checking for lice might be a good idea. Also how many feeders do you have? If there is too much pressure on a few feeders with that many birds there may be some that are not able to get to a feeder without having to face more dominant birds. Many times the roosters that are lower in the pecking order do not develop the same, combs will be smaller and they will avoid crowing to avoid being attacked by the main guys. Crowing is a statement of intent to get some girls in many ways...
    And as mentioned by someone else, if they are moulting you will often find that their crowing quits for a while... But I do think that worming them all would be a good start, and checking for other parasites. And of course sounds like the weather may have added to the whole situation..

    As far as the laying.... each breed is different and within each breed different strains will differ a lot as to when they start laying, and if it coincides with shorter days then they may only start laying in the spring. Also, again, the feeder situation could mean that birds are not getting sufficient nutrition... just a thought because I don't know what you are doing in that arena. What is your feeder set up? How many birds per feeder and how far apart? THat can make a BIG difference when you have a large flock and varying ages... even in a much smaller flock actually.
  7. geebs

    geebs Lovin' the Lowriders!

    Sep 28, 2008
    Roosters need light to be fertile...but not to crow.... that is an oddity. I recently found a change in my own roosters activity due to the changin of the season... My roosters are quieter than normal and they are not mounting hens... I know from experience that if I put light on them... all will return to normal.... same with the egg laying... Haven't had a good breakfast in weeks. [​IMG]

    Good luck

    I would do a parasite check anyway.... I always "winterize" my flock, which means parasite removal, both internal and external... Fall cleaning and winterizing the coup and turning the lights on for winter.

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