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Something happened, but what?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by NTBugtraq, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    So about a month ago my layers were giving me a good 13-18 a day. Not spectacular (there are 50 birds 20 weeks or older), but decent.

    Then we had a ridiculous cold spell, temperatures lower than had ever been recorded. The run/coop was well protected, so I don't think they got blasted, but after 2 days of cracked frozen eggs, I have had nothing more than 4 eggs a day since.

    Why 4? They all got whatever stopped the rest from laying.

    Its been a month now, and production has not recovered. In case you are wondering, they have had lighting to simulate 15 hours a day since winter began.

    Any suggestions?
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Lighting all winter can sometimes mess them up. Laying well through winter is not natural. They probably need some time to recover as laying is quite taxing on the body, and most hens can't keep it up continuously. Give them what they need both physically and mentally and they will lay as much as they are capable of.
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    When ever mine have a drastic cut in egg production, it is a hidden nest.

  4. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    My oldest layer is only 30 weeks old, so I don't really feel I have been forcing egg production on them. Is it laying continuously that you believe is taxing, or laying in winter? If continuously is the issue, how long to you feel is reasonable in a given 12 month period?
  5. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    Mine are all inside pens, so no way for them to have a hidden nest...but thanks for the suggestion.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I know 30 weeks is young, but have you seen a lot of feathers flying around? Sometimes stress can cause a molt. I don’t think that cold by itself would be enough to cause a problem this wide spread, but did the water maybe freeze where they went more than a day without water? Did you maybe lose lights for a while? However unlikely you need to eliminate the possible. Molting is the number one cause for chickens to stop laying.

    Number two cause is hidden nests. Just double check on that if you would. But after a month that nest should be knee deep in eggs. They can be pretty creative on hiding nests but there are limits.

    Is something getting the eggs? Many critters (raccoons, skunks, possums, rats) would leave evidence behind, like egg shells or maybe a sodden mess. It’s possible the chickens themselves are cleaning up the egg shells, they will sometimes do that. But most critters are not that consistent. They will come in and take what is there but the hens don’t always lay at the same time every day. If it were these critters you could expect to see some days with good production, some with bad. It should vary, not be steady.

    It’s possible you have a chicken that has learned to open an egg to eat it. The rest of the flock often joins in eating an egg after it is opened, that doesn’t make them an egg eater. It’s the one that opens the egg for them that is the problem. I had an egg eater once. She would only open about two eggs a day and a few of the other hens would join her in eating them once opened. They sometimes did not leave much egg shell behind but there were usually some bits and there was a soggy mess in the nest. I’d put this pretty low on the list of possibilities but it’s possible.

    Some critters do not leave evidence behind. I think we can eliminate a snake this time of year. Besides a snake is not consistent. They eat what they can then stay away for a few days while they digest them before they return. I’m way too familiar with the pattern of a snake. You don’t have a snake problem, but I’m eliminating the possible.

    Canines like fox, coyote, or dog will make eggs disappear without a trace. You still have the consistency issue, besides a coyote or fox would most likely be more interested in a chicken dinner. Some dogs however eat eggs but don’t bother chickens. Do you have a pet dog with access that has learned the egg song is an invitation to a snack? Not likely because of consistency but not totally unreasonable.

    Another critter that will take eggs and not leave a trace is a human. Kind of creepy I know but it is a possibility.

    Some chickens just shut down in extreme weather, whether the heat of summer or the cold of winter. It’s not just the lights but other factors are involved. Some pullets tend to lay throughout their first winter without stopping production but that’s some, not all. That cold snap may have been enough to put the brakes on for some. To me this is most likely unless you are seeing a lot of feathers flying around. They are just on strike until the weather warms up, then production should fire back up.

    One other possibility I can think of, disease. Some diseases will cause hens to stop laying. Not all hens are always affected, some just have immunity. Normally when this is the cause they don’t just stop production immediately but you can get some weird eggs as the disease progresses, either shape or brown egg layers might lay white eggs. Also they usually act sick, lethargic, fluffed up, standing around and not active. If yours are not acting sick this is probably not it, but it is possible. I think I need to mention it.

    That’s all I can come up with. Usually it’s just a matter of patience, frustrating as that can be. Good luck!
  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Continuously laying is the most taxing, breeds that lay almost every day like the various sex link hens will often burn out and quit laying at two years old. Laying through winter can also be hard because of the need to stay warm and produce an egg. The first laying season hens don't require light and will lay straight through.

    Ridgerunner has mentioned some good ideas. As far as the molting, many birds will go through a neck molt in spring so look to see if your hens are missing feathers around their heads.

    I didn't think you were forcing your hens to lay. Chickens start and stop laying by the length of daylight, when artificial lights are used they can often throw off the natural balance that the chickens body follows, so it could interfere enough to cause some halts in the system, especially since this time of year is when they are beginning to rev up production.
  8. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    Lolz, please don't take this the wrong way, but have you left any idea unaddressed?

    No feathers, no hidden nest, no intrusions...so according to your suggestions it must be disease. Not sure how I find that.
  9. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    Well, I was getting 15 eggs a day up till mid February, then we had a ridiculous cold spell, and it dropped to 4 eggs a day. But ok, you say I may have stressed them??
  10. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Not stressed, but maybe caused a hiccup in the system. I really think you will see them picking back up within the month. Most laying hens will start and stop throughout the season for various reasons, sometimes we just never know why.

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