Was going to start free ranging today..until...(update..we did...PICS)


8 Years
May 14, 2011
Smoky Mountains
So the plan, over a week ago now, was to keep them in the coop for a week and then start letting them out a few hours at a time, see how they do. We currently own a rooster, 2 (probably) mixed breed hens not laying yet, 3 8 month old brown leghorns, and a barred plymouth rock hen. All except the leghorns were purchased at auction 2 Saturdays ago, and the leghorns were purchased from a farm where they were 100% free range the following Monday.

The plymouth rock laid Monday for the first time while we were out getting the leghorns. The leghorns started laying Tuesday (all 3). After that, we were only getting 2 eggs a day from the legs, and 1 from the plymouth. Then this past Friday, nothing, and nothing until yesterday when the plymouth laid again (it's brown, so we know where that one comes from, LOL). But all 3 leghorns are now not laying. The last any of the 3 leghorns laid was Friday late. I had figured they were going to reset Sunday, but nothing, and nothing so far today.

When we first started this, we planned on having mostly pullets, so we had purchased grower feed. Once that plan went out the window with the purchase of the 3 layers, we switched to layer feed. We also went (Wednesday or Thursday) from feeding them a couple times a day, to having a feeder in the coop so they have the ability to eat whenever they want. We also have given them some treats, like corn cobs and some kitchen scraps.

So the big question is, should we let them out today, as planned? Or should we wait to see if the laying starts again? Just find it strange that all 3 leghorns stopped laying at the same time....
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Hmm. Could something be getting into your coop and eating the eggs? Like a squirrel or a snake or something? I had a similar problem last year with my RIR flock, and lo and behold, I caught that stupid black snake crawling out of the nest box with three egg-sized lumps in his belly.
Wow, that's crazy. I guess it's possible, but unlikely. Since we're new to this, and I'm a stay at home dad, I'm kind of loony about checking all the time and then jumping for joy every time I find an egg

So any predator would have only very small windows to get out there and do that, and then they'd have to do it more than once a day. I'm not saying our coop is predator proof, because it's not (we'll do better next year). I just don't know....
I'm new to the chicken thing but is it possible they all went broody and secretive? Maybe they ARE laying but have them stashed in a nest somewhere and are taking turns sitting the eggs.
I've checked the whole coop, which isn't that large to begin with, so that isn't it. A couple factors in them just, maybe taking a break, is that I changed feed, and we have had a pretty wild swing in temps lately. Early last week we set a new minimum high temp for the day in the low 40's, and yesterday it was 86. A normal temp swing each day can be 55 to 85. So not sure if that has anything to do with it.
I recently took a hen from my brother's flock and added it to mine (he knows and I didn't steal her
) It took a few days before the hen was used to the new environment and started laying again. The hen was immediately allowed to wander the yard and I just made sure she was in the coop at night. Only took one night and now she goes in the coop every night on her own. So I would think that your hens know by now where their home is and why not let them out? Since you are not getting eggs at the moment maybe they will be happier free and start laying more eggs in a few days.
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Have you noticed any crows around, hoping on the coop or around it? I had crows that did this and they would wait for them to do the egg song and bamb they where in the coop and taking the eggs as soon as the hen got out of the box. Or there could be something bugging them at night. Hens dont lay if something is pestering them and they dont feel safe. Its hard to tell you why the exact reason is, so many factors to it.
maybe the eggs you received from them at first were already formed or in the process of forming before they were moved. They could have stopped due to the stress of the new environment or something else could have stressed them.

If they are used to the coop I would let them range for an hour or 2 before time to roost for a bit and let them slowly get used to the yard area.
Once they get back into a routinee they are familiar with and are more comfortable at their new place you should start getting eggs again.
I have never limited the time they spend out of the coop. Maybe it is a good idea to do that. I just have opened the coop in the morning and found that the hens always entered the coop at night since they seem to know it is their home. They never seem to wander too far away from their home, they are curious but seem a bit cautious at the same time.
I agree with BooBear. You finished putting this flock together less than a week ago. It takes longer than that for them to settle in and start laying again. The eggs you got at first were probably already in process. I just added some adults to my flock from the same flock my adult hens came from last fall....the adjustment is not easy. Additionally you may have changed feed as well as environment.

They probably will be happier free ranging but in the interest of being able to find the eggs you might want to wait until late afternoon to let the ladies out. I'd give them another week or two before getting worried. I've posted this elsewhere, but red peppers don't hurt them and sometimes help induce laying. Make sure they aren't crowded, have good food and water available and soon you will be wondering what to do with all those eggs. Good luck.

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