They just won't lay. What is wrong?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by QChickieMama, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. QChickieMama

    QChickieMama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 1, 2011
    I have a bunch of laying hens. Some young (<1yr), some medium (2.5yrs), and some older (>3yrs). Out of 14 hens that can lay, I'm getting between 0 and 4 eggs per day. This has been since mid-summer. Ugh. I'm ready to eat them all and start over with a fresh bunch in the spring, I'm so exasperated.

    The 4 older hens were giving 1 per day. I think 3 have just quit laying altogether.

    The 7 medium hens are the ones I fully expect to produce for me. They're beautiful. Australorps and 2 mixed breeds.

    The 3 youngsters hatched just before Easter, so they can lay. But only 1 or 2 of them have. Don't know what's with the 3rd one.

    So what to do?

    I'm giving them Nutrena layer pellets, occasional scratch, occasional wild game bird crumbles to boost their protein. I've kept giving the kitchen scraps just to the older ones since I gave up on their laying a while ago and wondered if the irregularity of scraps messes up their laying.

    They all get well water like all of us.

    They're all in moveable chicken tractors that get moved nearly every day, except the 2 mixed breeds who are in a fixed pen.

    Any recommendations for me? I just think it's so sad that I'm at the grocery buying 3 dozen eggs every week for my family.
  2. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

    Feb 18, 2011
    Do you have them under lights? Are the older ones molting? I would expect the first year pullets to be laying through the winter if they have started, but your others are all of an age where I would expect them to have been or be molting... and with the shortening daylight hours to stop laying anyhow. Also, older hens just don't lay as well which is why most commercial producers cull them so early, three year olds they expect to lay about 70% what they did at a year old, 5 year olds 50%.
  3. QChickieMama

    QChickieMama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 1, 2011
    No lights. And yes, the older ones have been molting. I even think the younger ones have molted. Does this mean I can hope they'll kick it into gear in a while?

    Also, when I come down to see them mid-afternoon, sometimes they're roosting. What's with that? Shouldn't they feed all day?
  4. Choco Maran

    Choco Maran Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2009
    Ribera New Mexico
    It is probably just from the molt. I have had several three yrs. and old and have not seen any reduction in egg production. They usually start slowing down around three but will not stop. Out of 6 older hens I get between 4-5 eggs a day.

    You should put a light in the coop, as hens need between 12-14 hours of light to keep producing eggs. Once a molt has started there is nothing that can be done to stop it just speed it up. I have had great response when I add Some DE. in their food. This helps to increase the production of feathers. By adding extra protein to 24% this will also help as it takes more protein to produce feather then a egg. Hope this helps
  5. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    Your oldest 2 groups are molting. The process of molting takes a lot out of them, and since feathers are mostly made of protein, they cannot replace their feathers and lay eggs - something has to give, so it's the eggs that go. (they kind of need the feathers) Once their feathers are grown back in, they need to get their body weight back up to a safe level before they can resume laying. The whole process can take several months. The average for my flock is about 3 months, some are a bit quicker, some a bit slower.

    The good news is, yours should be close to starting back up. Watch their combs, when they go from the pale, shriveled comb from molting to a bright, red comb - they will be starting again soon.

    Your younger pullets might just be taking a bit longer with the shorter days to begin laying. I'm in the same boat. I have pullets of mixed ages that have not started laying yet and the oldest ones are 36 weeks now.
    1 person likes this.
  6. QChickieMama

    QChickieMama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 1, 2011
    Can't figure how to put a light in a mobile chicken tractor. I have 3 of them. Battery-powered? Solar panel on top? Haha. Hey, maybe I'm on to something!

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