Where are my eggs?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Lelilamom, Mar 11, 2017.

  1. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Earlier this winter our roo was killed by a hawk and a few days later I noticed a significant decrease in egg production by our then 32 hens. Then the cold weather hit, then snow. Then we lost another girl to a hawk a few weeks later, and more snow. By the last snow storm I was lucky to be getting 3 eggs a day out of 31 hens. But the weather improved and the days got longer and we started seeing more eggs. Some days we'd get a whole dozen. Then the hawk returned and the eggs decreased again. The hawk came back four more times, three times I rescued the hen, and but yesterday, I was too late. The last two weeks I've gotten 1 to 3 eggs a day. Some days I don't get any at all. The last two days it's been bitterly cold.

    I do see an occasional broken egg shell in the nesting boxes. Yesterday I cleaned the coop and put in fresh hay, laid thickly for extra warm. Today, only one egg, no broken shells, no sticky yolk.

    All hens are of laying age ranging from 1 year to 5 years. No one is broody or molting. Coop is unlit and unheated but well insulated, the temp is always 10 degrees higher than outside. I feed them layer pellets and plenty of vegetable scraps as do several of my neighbors. They have three waterers, two 5 gallon and one 3 gallon, all heated.

    Is the cold and constant predator attacks to blame? Do I have a very savvy and thorough egg eater? Or is there another explanation?
     
  2. CascadiaRiver

    CascadiaRiver Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would say the cold and hawks are your cause, and do remember that chickens can slow production in times of stress and sadness due to loss :(
     
  3. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    There seem to be several factors at play here. One would be the stress of repeated hawk attacks (what are you doing to prevent that? Are they free ranging when this happens? Are you able to pen them in a covered run for awhile to discourage the hawk?) Every time you lose a chicken, the whole dynamic of the flock changes, and chickens don't do change well. They prefer to have things stay the same - forever. Another thing to consider is the ages of your birds. The older ones will naturally decrease in laying from year to year. They may shut down sooner for winter, and take longer to start back up again.

    You could possibly have an egg eater. Or, if they free range, they may be laying elsewhere. I'd put golf balls or ceramic eggs in the nest to encourage laying there, and maybe discourage the egg eater. If they free range, wait until late afternoon to let them out (if you have enough room in your coop/run area to keep them locked up for an extended period of time) and watch the ones who take off for points unknown. I've found several hidden nests this way. It never worked for me to obviously follow them, though. I had to watch from a distance to see where they went. I swear they can hold an egg in if they want until they get to their spot and make sure no one is looking! If they're laying out in their range area, keep them cooped for a few days (again, only if you have plenty of room for them, or that's going to cause more problems) to retrain them to lay in the nest boxes.

    One winter I had a major decrease in egg production. In the spring I found out why. My coop sat on the ground, had a wooden floor. I did the deep litter method (I didn't even know it had a name at that time!) and went to clean out the coop. There were several holes in the floor, and when I looked down, it was just crawling with rats! Honestly - those brazen little buggers would poke their heads out through the holes to see what I was doing! (Ever play "Bop'em Gopher"? I had my own little version of that going on...) With safely placed poison, we did get rid of the vermin, but to this day, I get ooked out when I think about it. The point of that whole story was that the rats were taking my eggs and eating the feed, and drinking the water.

    I also think that major swings in the weather can throw them off. Like I said, they don't do change well. Mine will show a decrease either way - if it suddenly goes from cool extremely hot, and the other way around.
     
  4. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The coop is large and raised off the ground on 3/4" plywood. I clean it every 2 weeks as the hay gets so matted down from the hens spending so much time in there these days. I've only found one egg buried in the hay this winter. The run is 25' x 6' x 8' and completely giftwrapped with chicken wire and has a metal pitched roof. Oh! That's the other thing that happened this winter. We had a wind storm that ripped the roof off the run and we had to screw it back on. That scared them so badly they didn't come out of the coop for two days.

    They have a 2000 sq ft fenced free range grassy area with two large oak trees and grape arbor (which incidentally never produces grapes). I've kept them secured in their covered run for three days at a clip and still only gotten 6 - 8 eggs total for the three days. I've had them secured since Friday afternoon when the Redtail got one of my Wyandottes and have only gotten one egg so far - again no broken shells, no yolk, no evidence of an egg eater. I'm going out this morning to let them out to free range and I'll see how many eggs their are. So far, I don't have any good ideas about deterring the hawk. The free range area is quite large and open - it's our backyard! I saw a post with chicken teepees. I'm thinking of trying that. And I saw an idea of stringing Fishing Line up - I'm trying to figure out how to secure that over the free range area.
     
  5. Spartan22

    Spartan22 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    @Lelilamom 2X - seems to me major factor is their age and sense of security. Your year old ones should be on production high now that daylight is longer but since they were anxious most of the time their hormones dictates otherwise. The older ones will lay sporadic 1-3 eggs a week but it depends also what type of layers you have. Since you have a nice covered secure run maybe keep them in for 2-3 wks and see if production goes up.

    I know in my case, when a hawk got in the chicken run couple of springs ago, my hens went on "strike" for few weeks until they felt secured, its self preservation instinct. Our hens doesn't drop production because of temps, more on the length of daylights.

    Hope you get the hawk situation solved.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017
  6. et22

    et22 Out Of The Brooder

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    I agree with a lot of those reasons too. But chickens also need 15 hours of light a day to keep laying through out the year. That may be a factor too. Since you said that your coop was unlit. I know many people who had unlit coops and there chickens would stop laying because they didn't get enough light. It could also be from the stress of the hawk.
     
  7. BIggoMamma

    BIggoMamma Out Of The Brooder

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    Put a light and a battery operated radio in there. They have to be relaxed and the longer the days and daylight the more they lay. Set the radio to talk radio turned up loud, can often repel predators. Get some dollar store solar garden lights and put all around the coop. The outside lights also discourages predators. Shoot predators.
     
  8. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We don't light the coop on purpose - and maybe that is to our detriment. We are trying to keep as natural environment as possible for our hens. I personally believe that providing unnatural light makes hens produce eggs when they shouldn't and shortens their lifespan - hence 5 year old Red Sex Links, 4 year old Amber Rocks, etc. I did however think they'd lay SOME eggs during the winter, and not NONE. I did get eggs last year, about 70%, 7 out of every 10 hens, during the winter. The hawks only started coming around this winter. We'd been lucky I guess.

    I've gotten rid of fox, skunk and opossum, but unfortunately I can't shoot hawk. It's illegal.
     
  9. song of joy

    song of joy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Predator attacks can have a substantial influence. One of my hens was attacked by a hawk while free-ranging with the flock. I was able to rescue her, but the stress of the situation appeared to affect not only her but also two of the other hens. They didn't lay eggs for 3 weeks, and that was just from the stress of a single predator attack that resulted in no loss of flock members.

    Age also plays a role. In my flock, I've noticed 20-35% reductions in egg laying from year 1 to year 2, and about 15-20% reductions in egg laying per year after that. That is without supplement light, as I don't use light or heat in the coop. With increasing age, their "winter breaks" also get longer, with some 2, 3 and 4 year old hens taking 4 to 6 months off.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
  10. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Update - I've kept them locked up since the Redtail killed one of our GLWs less than two weeks ago. I let them out for 15 - 30 minutes and stay out with them and then herd them back in. Yesterday I collected 9 eggs. Out of 29 layers, it's still pretty poor, but 16 of my hens are two years old or older, so I know they aren't going to lay regularly.

    Stuck in a coop and 25 x 6 x 8 covered run (they are attached and can go back and forth freely) has made them pick at eachother's feathers too. It's a no win situation. But my fenced in chicken yard has 2 feet of snow in it. I doubt they'd run around anyway. Even a gust of wind sends them back into the coop for an hour in terror. My poor girls.
     

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