Would adding new chickens cause my current hens to stop laying?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Coopmom56, Apr 28, 2016.

  1. Coopmom56

    Coopmom56 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My little flock of four hens, who have laid pretty faithfully since last August, have pretty much stopped laying consistently. Where I used to get 3-4 eggs daily, now I'm lucky if I get one. Here are the variables - maybe all of them are part of the problem:

    1. I have added four young (8-weeks now) pullets to a pen right next to the run. They are not mixing at all yet, but they can see each other.
    2. Two hens, one right after the other, have gone broody. The first hen is laying now (I think) but the other just got out of chicken jail earlier this week. I don't expect her to start laying for another week, so that's part of the egg decline.
    3. One of the other two non-broody hens had a little sneeze/cough for about two days, just long enough for me to get ready to medicate her, but she stopped and so I didn't. She never had any discharge from eyes or beak and she is foraging and acting her same bossy self now.
    4. I have found two soft-shelled eggs under the roost about a week ago. One was intact, the other had probably been there for a few days. I don't know who the culprit is. Probably one of the two non-broody girls.

    None of my older hens, who are all just now a year old, are acting strange. They are eating and drinking and free-ranging normally. So many new things, it's hard to figure out what's going on, right? What's your opinion/advice? And sorry for the long post. :(
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2016
  2. Mountain Peeps

    Mountain Peeps Change is inevitable, like the seasons Premium Member

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    With all these changes, you shouldn't wonder at all why your hens have stopped laying. The stress of adding new birds, plus the broody hormones all tell a hen's body to stop laying eggs. I would, first of all, make sure all the birds are receiving fresh food and water each day. Make sure the hens are receiving both calcium and protein in their diets. Unfortunately, you probably won't get many eggs until the new birds have settled into the flock and everyone knows their place in the pecking order.
     
  3. Coopmom56

    Coopmom56 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, Mountain Peeps. I am feeding Purina Flock Raiser, which has 20% protein, I think, and giving oyster shell free-choice. They have plenty of water in a two-gallon cooler with a Britetap waterer, which I replenish every couple of days, way before it runs low.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Free ranging.....and new 'intruders'(gasp!) in the coop....they may be laying out in range area.
    Might try keeping them confined for a few days.
    Softshells could be from stress..... from the little infection and/or the newcomers and/or the weather spiking hot in spring.

    Chicken don't much like changes, but usually get over them pretty quick.
    How long have the chicks been in coop and how did that coincide with the laying and sneezing issues?
     
  5. Coopmom56

    Coopmom56 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the reply, aart. The new girls are not yet in the coop/run, they're in a separate pen right next to the run. I'll check the yard for eggs, but I'm out there pretty often and haven't seen any yet - not many places to hide them in the west Texas buffalo grass where they free-range. It's probably a combination of all the things I listed. :)
     
  6. countryladyNH

    countryladyNH Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have 4 buff orpingtons that are now 1 1/2 years old. We bought them as chicks together. We added 2 more buff chicks this past spring. They are now fairly full size and will probably be old enough to lay in early fall. The problem is my other hens were great layers, even laying 3 to 4 eggs a day all winter and with no artificial light, which suprised us. All early spring, ditto. We took all the advice to introduce the 2 new girls to the flock back in May, keeping them in a cage just next to the run, and when we finally put them in the coop to sleep at night, at first it was in the cage on the floor, with a little perch. The other hens could see but not get at them. We did this for several weeks. Finally after at least 3 weeks, we let them out of the cage to free range with the others. There seemed to be minimal issues. They would stay to themselves and when a treat would be put out and the other older hens would advance toward them in warning, they would run away. They co-mingle now, but wait until the other hens have moved on before they move in for a share of the goodies.
    At night they are all in the coop together. We usually have to lift them onto the perch because they are still a little fearful, but we make sure they are next to one particular hen who is pretty friendly and there have been no overnight 'issues'.
    MY PROBLEM IS THIS;
    Our 4 original hens pretty much stopped laying eggs about that time in later May, and it's still going on. I have checked everything. They are not sick or moulting. I clean the coop run everyday.
    They are wormed, and are worm free.
    No one egg-bound.
    No one broody.
    They are not laying hidden eggs outside. Honestly it went from great egg production to almost 0.
    We are lucky to get one egg in a day.
    It's sad and distressing to say the least.
    We've heard this can happen when you add new birds to the flock but that was over a couple months ago now, and they all seem pretty used to each other.
    Our hens laid their first eggs last August, so they should be in prime producing mode. We don't know what else to do. Also, there have been a couple 'soft' eggs laid on the poop tray at night, and one 'regular' egg, but that was a tiny little thing. This was not an occurrence before...
    Wondering WHY our 4 hens pretty much stopped laying and when they will start again...
    Worried in New Hampshire!
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    They may be laying out in range area to protest the newcomers.
    .....and sad to say, molting season is upon us.

    Do a butt check and if they look to be laying lock 'em up.

    Free range birds sometimes need to be 'trained'(or re-trained) to lay in the coop nests, especially new layers. Leaving them locked in the coop for 3-4 days (or longer) can help 'home' them to lay in the coop nests. Fake eggs/golf balls in the nests can help 'show' them were to lay. They can be confined to coop 24/7 for a few days to a week, or confine them at least until mid to late afternoon. You help them create a new habit and they will usually stick with it. ..at least for a good while, then repeat as necessary.

    Vent Appearance:
    Dry, tight, and smaller - usually not laying.
    Moist, wide, and larger - usually laying.

    Pelvic Points, feel for the 2 bony points(pelvic bones F-F) on either side of vent:
    Less than 2 fingertip widths apart usually means not laying.
    More than 2 fingertip widths apart usually means laying.
    (Spacing is relative with chickens size and humans finger size.)
    [​IMG]
     
  8. countryladyNH

    countryladyNH Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks so much for the reply.
    We have done checking and no, no one is laying outside anywhere.
    We checked for anyone being egg bound---no...
    They are all fine.
    The hens laying have all been laying for a year. The new ones aren't laying yet.
    We just can't understand why the 4 originals aren't laying like they were---and it was so sudden.
    One or another of them will lay an egg, but as mentioned, we're lucky to get one in a couple of days.
    NOTHING like it was. Sometimes they even go in and sit in the nest box for an hour or more and then leave and no egg.
    No one is broody.
    ALL of them had been egg cellent (sorry, lol!) egg producers, and as I said, they are only just 18 mo. old.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Finding a hidden nest by looking for it is not always successful.
    That's why you check the vent and pelvic bones to see if they are laying,
    then if it appears they are laying from the exam you actually confine them.
    You're not just looking for egg binding,
    but the spacing of pelvic points and condition of vent.
    It takes some practice but is pretty darn accurate.

    Eggs are basically a seasonal food.
    More in the spring/summer, less in the summer/fall, none in the fall/winter.
    An adult chicken molts once a year, usually starting around 18 months and usually in the late summer to late fall as the days begin to shorten. They do not lay when molting and as they transition from egg production into molting you can get some funky eggs.
    It can take several months for a bird to complete the molt then get back into condition to produce eggs again. They will often start laying again as the days lengthen after winter solstice, or they may wait until spring.
    Hope that helps.
     

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