Reduced Egg Laying
So your hens have just stopped laying as much...
There are MANY things that could cause this. The three things that I usually tell people are:
- MOLTING-- while hens are molting, their egg production goes down. Molting occurs late summer or early fall and can last anywhere from 14-16 weeks. Purebred hens can stop laying completely for 2 months, however if you have hens that are bred to lay eggs, then they may just slow down and never stop. The breed of the bird really matters when if comes to the amount of eggs you get from them. If your birds are molting out of season, this is usually due to stress (see below).
- NUTRIENTS-- make sure your hens are getting the proper amount of food, water, calcium, vitamins, etc. Feeding them an egg-laying ration is the best way to ensure all of this. However, if your egg production is down, you should still offer them an outside source of calcium. This source can be limestone, ground oyster shells, or even recycled chicken egg shells. If you want to use the chicken egg shells, you need to make sure they are completely dry and that they are crushed up small. If they get wet they will mold, and if they aren't small it could encourage your flock to egg eat, which you don't want! An egg-laying ration from your local feed store should be have the nutrients they need, but keep in mind if you have older hens or hens who eat grain and grass, they need supplemental calcium.
Make sure your birds ALWAYS have food and water. Dehydration just for a few hours can cause hens to stop laying for a week. If the weather is cold, chickens need more carbohydates than usual.
- STRESS-- my hens stop laying as much when they are stressed out. Either about food, temperature, predators, etc. If you don't feed your chickens in a certain pattern it can reduce the amount of eggs you get. If they go without food for several days, they can stop laying for even longer. Make sure to have water and food for them out at all times. Stress also can be caused by overcrowding. To lessen stress you can sing or talk to your birds whenever you approach. Also handle them very carefully. Don't make major changes all at once- make them slowly so the birds can get used to them one at a time. Bad weather can cause stress.... if it is affecting your birds heavily you can get vitamin supplements to help them cope.
The above three are problems I have typcially, but here is a direct quote of some other common problems from another website.
"A problem often encountered with smaller flocks is poor egg production or sudden drops in production. There are many possible causes for low egg production, and often it is a combination of a few different factors. These factors may also influence egg size and shell quality. The items discussed below should be examined and corrected if necessary.
- Feed which is poor in quality, with nutrient deficiencies and imbalances, can lead to reduced egg production. Protein, energy, and calcium are the more common culprits. An extra calcium source, such as oystershell or limestone, is usually required with diets made up of poultry supplement and grain. Also, if hens run out of feed or water, a drop in production could result. Toxins contained in the feed may also cause a drop in egg production.
Lighting programs which are not appropriate may cause problems. Low production may result if the pullets are reared with daylengths that are too long, or there is no proper increase in daylength to bring them into production. Daylengths which are too long may result from sunlight coming into barn windows. Hens may stop laying eggs if daylengths are decreased at anytime during the production period.
Sudden changes in temperature can affect egg production. Hot temperatures may cause a reduction in feed consumption, leaving the hen with insufficient nutrient intake to produce eggs. Both sudden increases and decreases in temperature will stress hens, and could adversely affect production.
Poor ventilation may cause a build-up of gases which might cause a drop in egg production. High stocking densities will also adversely affect egg production.
The age of the birds will also affect how many eggs they produce. Commercial pullets begin laying eggs at 19-20 weeks of age, and peak production occurs around 24-26 weeks. The hens in smaller flocks may not start until later. Production begins to drop slowly after the peak and by 72 weeks of age is down to 70% of the hens laying in a given day. The hens will eventually cease to produce and go into a moult (lose and replace feathers). Following moulting, hens will lay eggs for at least a second year. Egg production after a moult will be approximately 10-15% lower than the first year.
Various diseases will cause a drop in egg production. These include infectious bronchitis, mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) and avian encephalomyelitis. Parasite infections such as coccidiosis and mites can also cause a reduction in production. If a disease is suspected to be present, a veterinarian should be consulted."
Good luck! If you don't find an answer here, feel free to e-mail me!