Why did my 19 chickens stop laying?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by MuckyMeadowFarm, Nov 11, 2013.

  1. MuckyMeadowFarm

    MuckyMeadowFarm Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 11, 2013
    Brooks, Maine
    This is my first post here. We have 23 chickens: 19 laying hens and 4 roosters. The breeds include Leghorn, Australorp, Bared rock, Ameraucana, Dominique, and some mixes of these. We have never had a problem with our chickens laying until about 2 months ago, when we "adopted" 8 more chickens from our friend. 4 were from a brood of ours, but 4 others were completely new to the flock.

    Well, since we adopted these chickens, EVERYONE has pretty much stopped laying in the coop. We are lucky if we get one egg a day- with 19 laying hens! I realize the weather has gotten colder, and the added stress of new chickens may have slowed production- but to only one egg a day? And it's a different color egg each day from white to brown (but no green). Before the "chicken adoption", we were getting a steady 8-9 eggs/day including green.

    We were concerned that they were laying somewhere else, as we found a pile of ten white eggs under my husband's tractor. We have search everywhere the chickens go (they are free range), but cannot find eggs anywhere! We have a big coop, with 8 nest boxes, and added a nest box outside in the woods where they hang out thinking they wanted somewhere more private- but no one has layed there.

    We have found egg yolk in one of the nest boxes, we may have an egg eater on our hands. But could she really eat 19 eggs a day?
    Do you think more than one chicken is eating eggs? How are we going to figure out which chicken is eating eggs? And if it is an egg eater, why don't we ever find green eggs in the coop, only brown and white?

    Today is day 3 of confining them in the coop/run. So far we have only collected 4 eggs in 3 days, only white and brown. Still no green eggs... What is going on?

    Please help- we are at our wit's end!!!
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    So you have at least 2 laying now.
    I'm sure it's a combination of things.
    Most likely the stress of the new introductions caused a temporary stoppage timed to being in November with the shorter days. Also the older the birds get the longer their winter break. How old are the layers?
    Are any molting? Are you seeing a lot of feathers?
    Egg eater is a problem. You should be able to see evidence of eggs to get an idea of how many were laid so you have to count those toward your production numbers even though you can't eat them.
    Do you add a light to extend the day?
    Another possibility is the new birds brought an illness.
    Were the new birds laying before you got them?
    What are you feeding? If most aren't laying and with 4 roosters I would stop providing layer feed and switch to a grower.
     
  3. MuckyMeadowFarm

    MuckyMeadowFarm Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 11, 2013
    Brooks, Maine
    The layers range from 2 years old to 6 months. We have only noticed one chicken molting, not seeing a lot of feathers. We don't add light to extend the day- that is a good idea. The new birds were laying, but the previous owner mentioned "there was an egg eater but I broke the habit". I don't think he did... We are feeding exclusively layer pellets. How would switching to grower help?
     
  4. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    The 2 year olds should be molting around this time of year. My older birds will take 2 or 3 months off and then lay like gangbusters when days get longer. First year birds lay right through.

    The grower will do a few things. For any that are molting, it will help with the new growth. It may also help discourage the egg eating if one of the causes is a craving for protein.
    Most importantly, 4% calcium in the diet is too much for any bird not laying whether it be a hen taking a break or a rooster, not just young birds.

    Putting them on a grower and providing oyster shell on the side for those laying to choose is the recommended way to handle the situation.
     
  5. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    Have you read this thread? It's a "sticky" at the top of the forum. https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/423023/why-arent-my-chickens-laying-here-are-your-answers

    I would guess your birds are reacting to the light levels as well as moulting. Even if you don't see a lot of feathers around, they may be losing them. Feel them all over to see if they have quill-like pin feathers.

    As far as adding light, you'll want to do that slowly and on a timer. Right now we in North America are getting about 10 hours of light a day. For most hens to lay well, they need a minimum of 14 hours of light a day. You'll want to step up your light 15 minutes every three days or so. I add 18 minutes in the morning, wait three days, then add 18 minutes to the evening, so on and so forth. The reason it's 18 minutes instead of 15 minutes is that as I'm adding light, the natural day length is decreasing and you have to account for that as well as add more light, if that makes sense. It takes time for chickens to build up the necessary hormones after you increase their light levels, so it may take six weeks before you see more eggs. Six weeks will also allow them time to grow in their feathers, too. Here are some references:
    http://umaine.edu/publications/2227e/
    http://www.sp.uconn.edu/~mdarre/poultrypages/light_inset.html
    http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/09/supplemental-light-in-coop-why-how.html

    While chickens are moulting, they have higher protein requirements. You can either switch to a higher protein feed like grower or Flock Raiser, or feed a lot of high-protein treats like meat, fish, and eggs. Also, check your protein in your layer pellet. 16% is the bare minimum, IMO. If you can feed something closer to 18%, your birds will do better. I'm lucky enough that the local feed mill's store brand layer pellet is 18%, and I've seen a real difference since I switched my flock last year. During moult, I mix in a 35% protein meat bird grower supplement for my ladies.
     
  6. ambo

    ambo New Egg

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    Nov 11, 2013
    Belfast
    I am having a problem with my 3 girls. None of them are laying, they are well old enough and have plenty of room in their coop and the run of my whole garden. I must confess I probably over feed them, with feed Plus all of our scraps or unused veg (discoloured lettuce etc) they eat grass, bugs too so they are big girls but healthy and happy running around. I do have a dog who doesn't bother them (she has a sniff and disappears again) nothing to stress them out. They roll around the grass and sand bit for them to play in.. So they are happy girls. The drinker I have for them goes so quickly so I also have a basin in the coop which they bathe in but I've noticed they occasionally drink is this the problem? Or would slightly dirty water not make a huge difference. They have a place for laying but don't go near, do I need a different laying box or what is the problem? Really upset that they haven't started laying? And hope I'm not doing something to stop the laying. :( please help.
    Chicken newbie
    :) thanks
     
  7. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote: How old are they and what breeds?
    What do you mean by overfeeding them? Are you giving scratch grains? Have they been on layer feed and if so, for how long?
    Birds maturing this time of year often start much later due to day length.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
  8. ambo

    ambo New Egg

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    Nov 11, 2013
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    They are about 6 months the 2 big ones Are white Sussex and the smaller one is a bantam Sussex!
     
  9. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    Six months is a normal time for birds to begin laying. And as ChickenCanoe said, the declining day length will push back their first egg unless you use supplemental lighting. Some pullets even hold off until spring.
     
  10. ambo

    ambo New Egg

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    The bantam is slightly older and is capable of laying as she did about 8 weeks ago just 1 egg then none more since??

    What do u suggest I do??
     

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