They were laying, added light, now there's much fewer laying happening

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by barnbum7, Nov 5, 2016.

  1. barnbum7

    barnbum7 Out Of The Brooder

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    Six hens--7 months. We've been getting 4-6 eggs a day--usually 36 a week. We decided to add supplemental light--just two strands of Christmas lights to make their day at least 13-14 hours long. It's very soft--I even have to turn on the other bulb in there to clean. Plus--our coop is a bubble in a large barn so it's dark for a long time because there are no windows. It's open all around the top--but the lights are off in the barn all day. The light helps them know it's really day[​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    . That's been happening for a month. Suddenly there were 2 eggs, then 4, then 2, then 3.

    We did make a change in their door to the run--just added a rod so the wind can't get in so easily. They adjusted to that well. And a week later we put up two tarps on the outside of their run--just where the door is to help with cold wind when it starts. I also recently changed the nest box cushion--same stuff, just fresh. No one poops in them, but I wanted to pamper them. lol It's soft hay, shavings and herbs--bay leaves and lavender. All these things happened within two weeks. Very small changes to me--but maybe not to the hens?

    They have always laid eggs in every box, but now only lay in the middle one.

    Ideas? Suggestions?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Many pullets that age laying this time of year will continue to lay all through winter, skipping the molt. But “many” does not always mean “all”. Even though you added lights, it’s possible one or two are going through a molt. Molts usually start around the head. Some chickens lose their feathers so fast it becomes pretty obvious, some lose them so slowly the only way to tell is if you see some extra feathers laying around. Even if they don’t molt, some just slow down in the winter and lay less frequently.

    After molt, the next most common reason for chickens to stop laying is that they are hiding a nest on you. I imagine there are a lot of really nice hiding places in that barn.

    Way down the list is that something is taking the eggs. When this happens it’s usually not very consistent. You might notice a big drop one day but not the next. If something is taking the eggs, most critters will leave evidence behind, either egg shells or a wet soggy spot. It’s possible your chickens could be cleaning up the egg shells after a critter but it’s not all that likely they will be consistent in cleaning up all evidence.

    One critter that will leave no evidence is a snake. They swallow the egg whole. But the normal snake pattern is they eat a few eggs and leave for two or three days to digest those before they come back for more. I’ve had the misfortune to experience that a few times. Yours does not sound like a snake regardless of weather.

    Canines will swallow an egg whole, but most canines (fox, coyote) are much more likely to be interesting in the hens themselves. It’s probably not them. But some dogs will ignore the hens and eat eggs. Does a dog have access to your nests?

    The only other critter that normally leaves no evidence is a human. How likely is it that a human is consistently taking a couple of eggs a day?

    So what can you do? If the coop is big enough you can leave them all locked in the coop itself all day to see if you get more eggs. If you do that means they are either hiding a nest or you have locked something out that was getting the eggs. You can mark a few eggs and leave them down there. If the marked eggs disappear, something is getting them. You can go on a treasure hunt but they are really good at hiding those nests.

    A lot of the time it’s not that easy to figure out what is going on, but most often this time of the year in the northern hemisphere it is the molt, even with pullets. Good luck!
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    The most common reason for decrease in laying at this time of year is quality and length of daylight. Your barn is dark anyway, but I'm betting it's much dimmer at this time of year, and soft supplemental light is still no substitute for natural daylight.

    How much time do they get outdoors each day?

    But the changes you've made, although very small to you are still changes to chickens. Chickens detest, detest, I tell you, change of any kind! It's in their contract!

    I would look for ways to increase the quality of light, and make sure they're getting adequate food and water during the time they're awake. They should eventually adjust to any changes.

    But also look at their living quarters. Make sure there are no pests such as rodents and lice or mites making things miserable for them. This also affects laying.

    Also, if they had a scare by a predator, that could affect laying. Make sure everything is secure in that regard, especially look for very small openings both up high and down low where owls could get in or raccoons or weasels or skunks.
     
  4. barnbum7

    barnbum7 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 16, 2016
    Finger Lakes
    Thanks for both your replies!
    No one is molting yet--no extra feathers around.

    They don't have access to the inside of the while barn--just the coop we made them. I thought about hidden nests--and there really aren't many places to hide one, especially now that they've scratched up most the grass in the run--and I've scouted the coop and run to check. They occasionally lay an egg outside a nest--but it's always in the coop and so very easy to see--like in the sand. lol

    Chipmunks used to get in--but they are gone. Now I can tell a mouse is sneaking under the walls from the displaced sand/shavings--but I've been slowly adding small stone piles every place they dig under. Nothing bigger could get into the coop. There's 1/2" hardware cloth all around the top opening. The door to the run is locked every night and the barn is shut at night--for horses too. We have no immediate neighbors--on our side they are a mile away in both directions... so I'm ruling out human troubles. ;-)

    So--maybe it's the dark coop and we need to brighten it up. On dreary days I leave the bulb on all day while I'm at work. mostly because it seems to me to make things more cozy. They do head out to the run in the morning even when it's pretty dark, but like to start roosting when it still seems bright out in the evening. They are outside from sunup to 30 min before sundown.

    Oh--and I have three waterers going at all times. One big one in the run, a big one in the coop, and a smaller one in the room between the two. They get Nutrena layer feed 24/7. Plus, they get a treat of black oil sunflower seeds and mixed grains twice a day. They had many garden treats this summer and they just polished off a pumpkin.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2016
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Also, you could have a rat stealing eggs. But, I agree that lighting is your issue. That should be stepped up in wattage, 12 - 14 hours/day.
     
  6. barnbum7

    barnbum7 Out Of The Brooder

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    Rats--ewwww. I see where a mouse or rat get into the coop-- much smaller hole than the chipmunks--and I'm blocking them daily. We have a cat who is a great mouser--but mice get into our hay mow in the upstairs of the barn. But, the mice only get into the coop at night when there are no eggs in there.
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Instead of small rocks, which digging rodents are able to move, use steel wool to plug cracks and small openings.

    Another cause for the drop-off in eggs may be a temporary rest and reset which chickens take after laying regularly for a stretch.

    If there are rats running around during the night, I can tell you how off-putting that can be if you're a chicken, and even for humans. I used to be a park ranger and I had some very "primitive" housing half the time. In more than one place, I experienced rats running over the top of my head while I was in bed at night. If I had laid eggs, it sure would have made me stop![​IMG]
     
  8. barnbum7

    barnbum7 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 16, 2016
    Finger Lakes
    Ooo--I can get some steal wool--thanks for that. The stones always block--but they find another place to try.

    I noticed they were all working later and later with laying, so I first thought they were making a switch to mornings and that set some back. but a rest period sounds good.
     
  9. barnbum7

    barnbum7 Out Of The Brooder

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    One dozen less eggs last week. Bummer. We'll have to buy some. And, in my stupor from being sick, I forgot to open the door to the run yesterday. Thankfully I was home earlier than usual. Sigh.
     

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