Why Your Chickens Aren't laying
I am assuming that you have already done your research to figure out which breed of chicken best fits your expectations for egg laying. Having said that, egg laying depends on a number of factors which we will discuss below.
Make sure your hens are being fed a good, complete feed like a "laying" feed or "layer ration". This usually comes in either pellet or mash form. Something to take note of is that your chickens are a lot less likely to waste the pellet form and it is least likely to degrade, nutrient wise, because of its solid form.
A complete feed (layer ration), will not only have the sufficient protein for layers (around 16-20 percent) but it also has a complete vitamin and mineral package; everything your chickens need to lay their peak amount of eggs. The labels are usually clearly marked for the feed's purpose. If you have a question about whether or not it contains the vitamin/mineral package (which is what makes a complete feed 'complete') then read the ingredients. If you see a lot of mumbo-jumbo that looks like chemical names, that's going to be the vitamin/mineral package.☺
The feed should be fresh so that the nutrients haven't degraded. Remember, these are the building blocks of eggs. Check either for a date of manufacture on the bag, or inspect each bag carefully for telltale signs of oldness like excess dust, musty smells, etc.
The success of your laying "team" also depends on lighting. To keep up good production, hens need 14 hours of light a day. That's why so many people find their hens cease laying in the winter; because that's the time of year when we experience less daylight hours. You can 'trick' them into believing that there are 14 hours of light by turning the lights on earlier in the morning to make up a full 14 hour daylight day. It is best to do this in the morning, rather than evening, because the hens can wake up quickly, but finding roosts after the evening "blackout" can be stressful to them. The lights in my chicken coop are on a timer, which ensures that the light comes on and shuts off at exactly the same time every day, which puts the chickens on a regular schedule and doesn't confuse them or cause unnecessary stress.
Disease problems can occur under the best of conditions. Often one of the first signs of disease is a drop in egg production. Other symptoms of disease include dull and listless appearance, watery eyes and nostrils, coughing, molting, lameness and mortality in the flock. Remember some death is normal over the period of a year in any flock.
However, if you suspect a disease, contact a skilled veterinarian for help in examining your flock and get an accurately diagnosis and treatment.
Your best protection against disease is to buy healthy stock and keep them isolated from other birds. Buying adult poultry and introducing them to your flock is asking for trouble. If you wish to increase your flock, buy chicks from a reputable hatchery or hatch some of your own eggs. Adult birds can look healthy and carry diseases.
♦ Aging Hens
Production hens can lay efficiently for two laying cycles. However, after two or three years, many hens decline in productivity. This varies greatly from bird to bird though. Good layers will lay about 50 to 60 weeks per laying cycle.
Any stress such as moving, handling, changes in environmental conditions or fright can contribute to, or be the main cause for egg production declines.
♦ Chilling. Chickens do not handle damp, drafty conditions well. Prevent excessive exposure to wet, drafty conditions during colder months.
♦ Handling or moving. Once the laying flock is in place, limit any unnecessary moving or handling. Switching roosters or changing the pens population will also disrupt the pens pecking order and cause some temporary social stress in your flock.
♦ Parasites. If external or internal parasites are present, get proper diagnosis and treatment.
♦ Fright. Limit the movement of children, dogs, livestock and vehicles around your flock as well as loud noises to prevent frightening the hens.
♦ Predators also can stress the birds and create a decrease in production.
After a hen has been producing eggs for several months, she becomes increasingly likely to molt. Molting and egg production cannot happen simultaneously, so when a hen is molting, she stops laying eggs.
Molting gives the hen a well needed rest from laying eggs and hens lose their feather and grow new ones during this time too. At the same time, the hen’s reproductive tract is rejuvenated, allowing it to increase its rate of egg production and produce higher quality eggs when it returns to lay.
Under natural day lengths, molting tends to coincide with the change in season so that hens molt in the fall after they cease egg production due to declining day lengths.
During molting time, it is normal for all the hens in a flock to go out of egg production and molt more or less at the same time.
However, if artificial lighting is provided, a hen may molt at any time of year. If this happens, she should return to lay in several weeks.
Remember, your hens bodies take care of their problems first before they start up the egg assembly line again. Otherwise, once you've set up your coop for your girls' comfort and health, you should hopefully see the eggs soon.